You Can Count On It! (An Introduction to Menu Planning)

When my mother-in-love passed away, Copper’s brother read a moving tribute to her at the funeral service. In that beautiful ode to his mother, everyone remembered with him that we could always count on Lola “just like chicken on Sunday”. Copper and his brother grew up knowing that chicken would be served for dinner on Sunday and homemade sub sandwiches would be on the menu Friday after grocery shopping.

I don’t know if Lola’s menu planning strategy went beyond that, but I do know that menu planning can be a wonderful way to build memories in your home. For years my family enjoyed a large lunch out with friends on Sunday afternoons after church. We didn’t require a big meal after retuning home, so we made big bowls of popcorn to munch on throughout the evening. These days we know that Copper will make waffles on Monday morning. Nachos happen Saturday night, Tacos on Tuesday, Dani will make a yummy treat on Thursday, and Sunday nights now are “Wild Dinner” (my youngest son, William, came up with that term for our Sunday evening every-man-for-himself left over and snack fest when he was younger). You can count on it!

I’ve found menu planning to be budget friendly, time saving and stress reducing. I save money by buying things, for the most part, when they are on sale. My menu plan includes all of the perishable items in my refrigerator so less food goes to waste. Quick, easy to prepare or crock pot meals are planned for especially busy days so we aren’t tempted to buy pizza or head to McDonald’s. The time I might spend standing in front of my refrigerator or freezer before meal time trying to figure out what to have for dinner is available to spend in other ways, and I’m able to get meals on the table on time without the stress of last minute decision making.

I plan all three of our daily meals and I post the menu plan on the fridge. Everyone can see what we’ll be having, and it makes it simple for the cook to check the list for any advance prep work that can be done, meat that needs to defrost, etc. It helps the picky eaters know ahead of time that dinner won’t be their favorite so that they can remember (or be gently reminded) to bring their best attitude to the table anyway. My boys were taught to say, “Mmmmm, this looks delicious”, to the cook even if they weren’t totally convinced.

Menu planning is a great tool. As with all tools, you need some time to learn to use it properly and to best advantage. You’ll need to work with it a bit to find the best way to use menu planning to fit the needs of your family and household. One size does not fit all!

Menu planning is your servant, not your task master. Menu planning is not meant to be just one more thing added to an already overloaded homemaker’s “to do” list. Some gals do just fine preparing meals and feeding their family without a written plan, and that’s great! In that case, there’s no need to plan ahead.

However, for those who know that they do better with a plan, or for those who want to learn more, this series is for you. Over the next few weeks, Lord willing, I’ll be writing two menu planning posts each week. We’ll look at the various methods of menu planning, strategies for different seasons of the year and for different seasons of life, how long to plan, how much to plan, and finding the time to plan. Be sure to let me know if you have any particular questions or concerns, and I’ll try to answer those, too.

I’ll do my best in this series to help you use menu planning as a way to look well to the ways of your own household.

(Click here for the complete Menu Planning Series.)

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21 comments to You Can Count On It! (An Introduction to Menu Planning)

  • I have to tell you it was a bout two years ago that you, yes you inspired me to begin menu planning. When the school year gets busy, and I am in the classroom more then my own home ~I often forget the benefits of a menu plan. Now that it is summer, and our budget gets tighter, it’s a great reminder on how I will spend my first few days of Summer vacation! (Planning out a month at a time if possible ~ at least 2 weeks.)

    I would LOVE a blog post on your favorite budget friendly meals!!

    • I’m thankful that the Lord gave you inspiration here! All of our meals are “budget friendly”, Sheila. πŸ˜‰ It’s hard to share those, though, because what is inexpensive in one part of the country might be high-priced elsewhere. You can check out my Monday Menu Plan posts and see if you find things there that would be budget-friendly in your area.

  • I have to have a plan. It takes the stress out of my evening. Before I leave for work each day I get the dinner plans started. When I come home, I already know what the evening holds. Makes life so much sweeter!

    • Good for you for using some time in the morning to make your evenings easier. It must be nice to be at work and know that dinner is already planned and ready to go when you get home.

  • I love menu planning and have starting doing it again when I read some old blog entries of yours. It so takes away the stress of worrying about “what’s for dinner”. I look forward to reading more of
    your posts.

  • I too was inspired by your menu planning posts a few years back and have since incorporated a system that works for us. Having a plan has set me free in so many ways! And you are so right about saving money. I hope many benefit from this series of posts.

  • Michelle

    I’m really looking forward to this. I’ve never been a menu planner, but I have an 8 year-old daughter who is a natural planner. My dh and I have been looking for ways to encourage her and since I’m definitely one of those who is tempted to buy pizza when I don’t know what else to fix, I can see that it would be an all-around blessing to our family. πŸ™‚

  • I do monthly menu planning right now and I don’t know how I would survive if I didn’t! At this point I only plan dinners and 2 lunches a week; I would love to hear more about planning 3 meals a day and what you do when there are unexpected leftovers or we get invited over unexpectedly on a Sunday.

    • I will be addressing planning three meals a day, and why I do it; and I’ll also talk about what to do when life throws us a curve (like being blessed with an invitation on Sunday). I hope your questions will be answered then.

  • Hi Cheryl,
    I plan for a couple days at a time because I cook small simple meals for 1. I cook for Dave and then cook for myself something different. We are a quite a pair with our different diet needs.LOL Somedays he doesn’t eat as much as others so I never know how much leftovers I will have. This helps me not waste anything.
    I am going to enjoy your menu planning post.I have started saving sample menus that I find in magazines or get in the mail as ads from diet companies.They give me great ideals.
    Have a wonderful day.

  • Spacebunny

    I think menu planning is fantastic in theory, but unfortunately in my life it’s only theory. We do have two days a week that we always have the same thing – homemade pizza on Friday nights and Brupper (breakfast for supper) on Sunday nights, either waffles, pancakes or french toast are the menu that night. Because of where we live I have to shop almost everyday and cram my fridge for the weekend because everything is closed on Sunday (yay!). So I usually plan my menu as I’m wandering through the store thinking about what I’m hungry for that day ;^D

    • I love breakfast for supper! Brupper – cute! Menu planning isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t, necessarily, for every season of life. It sounds like you’ve got a great handle on things and that you’re doing a good job of working with what you’ve got. Way to go!

  • I’m right there with the changing of the season meal planning, Cheryl. Oatmeal and cream of wheat doesn’t do well in the summer. LOL We do more bagels and cream cheese, smoothies and toasted cheese (WW eng muffins with shredded cheddar put under the broiler for a couple minutes until toasted). These are good stand byes, but my kids have been looking up crepes recently, so we may delve into those. :0) Right now I’m starting to look at the July and August menus. My dad and his wife plan to come to our home in July. He has some nutritional needs that need addressed, so it also helps get me prepared ahead of time too. :0)

  • […] you an idea of some of the things you should consider when it comes to menu planning. As I said in the introductory post, menu planning is not a one size fits all […]

  • […] on the cob, corn porridge and casseroles based on corn, for more than a week, too.) One commenter on this post, is currently living in a situation where she must shop for her meals a day at a time, so she plans […]

  • Cheryl,
    I found the ink to this series on Kendra’s blog, and the timing could not be better! Love how God works things like that. πŸ™‚ Have to get to bed now, but I look forward to catching up on the series tomorrow!