When there’s nothing planned for dinner, my husband can open the fridge and cobble some things together for a delicious meal. I, on the other hand, open the freezer and pray there’s a pizza. I’d say I’m a creative person, but it seems to be lost in the kitchen. It helps me to have a menu planned.
Let me say first that I don’t always get around to planning a full menu every single week, but I’m getting better and better about it because it’s such a huge help when I do! It saves money, we waste less, and I don’t have to panic every day at six o’clock.
This is my jam:
1. Reference a sheet of my frequently cooked meals.
2. Plot out my menu on paper.
3. Find ingredients in my recipe binder.
4. And make my grocery list.
… instead of what I used to do:
1. Wait until there is not one crumb left in the fridge and decide I must make a menu.
2. Think of all the things I can make. That’s about two days worth.
3. Ask Marcello if he has any ideas. I don’t like any of them, so that wasted 5 minutes.
4. Look on Pinterest. Maybe that recipe would be good. I’ll have to remember to buy sesame oil.
5. This is taking too long, so my kids distract me and I have to rescue the cat from the boys’ plastic swords.
6. Well, we have to feed children, so we have to go the the store whether I’m done or not!
7. Wait, what ingredients do I need? I think I can remember …
By having a list of my meals and a binder of my favorite recipes printed out, I can get this done in 10 minutes or less now. And I am finding that this 10 minutes makes my week a bajillion times easier. Bajillion.
Here’s how it goes:
Dinner idea list
I used to wrack my brain for dinner ideas when I was making a menu, or search through my recipes to come up with something. But the problem was I don’t have cheeseburgers or salmon fillet in my recipe pile because they don’t really require too much instruction, so I was forgetting about simple meals.
So, of course, I made a list. Because that’s what I do. Your printable is at the bottom of the post.
I also keep this healthy snacks list handy when I’m making my menu. I made it when I was pregnant, but it still works now!
I keep a binder of recipe printouts and magazine pages that I’ve already tried and I know we like. I put them all in a binder to create my own personal cookbook. (I don’t even bother putting in complicated recipes that I think I might try one day when I have time. That day won’t come. And if does, I won’t be cooking.)
I like to put the printouts in plastic sleeves so I can wipe away food splatters.
I added little tabs with categories like: casseroles, Italian, Mexican, Asian, meat, soups, sides and dessert.
Now that I have a dinner idea list, making a menu is pretty simple. And having all my recipes together makes writing out my ingredients on the grocery list easier too.
I write the list right there on the menu sheet. I usually take a picture of it on my phone to take to the store.
I added this mini command center just off the kitchen recently and it’s working really well for us. I hang my menu on a clipboard here. I love that I can take it down and write on it easily.
I save the completed menu after the week is over too, so I can use it again in the future.
Here are the printables! Just click each image to download the high-resolution image. There are more menu variations in this post.
Do you have a menu routine? Or any favorite easy recipes to share with this non-cook?