“Cheryl – I’d love to plan my menus in advance. But with my part time job, running kids to soccer practice and just keeping up with the laundry, I never seem to find the time and we end up eating fast food. Any suggestions for how I can find enough time to do menu planning? ~ Deanna”
First Things First
Menu planning does take time, but it’s also a terrific time (and money) saver. However, it doesn’t have to take hours of time every week, and it doesn’t all have to be done in one sitting. Menu planning can be done in just bits and pieces of time throughout the week. You will need to have some sort of system in place to record your thoughts from those little snippets of time, but it doesn’t have to be fancy.
If you have a smart phone, use it! There are oodles and oodles of free apps out there that can help you keep track of ideas for meals. If you have one you love, great! Use it! I use Evernote for a lot of things each and every day, so it only makes sense that I use it to keep track of menu planning ideas, too.
Whether you use an app on your phone, a program on your computer, a small notebook you keep handy throughout the day, or the pad of Post-it Notes you keep in your purse, here are three menu planning tips for busy moms.
Plan just one day at a time.
A good time to do this might be right after dinner the night before. You might work best by planning the evening meal as you’re enjoying your morning coffee. Either way, just plan what’s for dinner! Are there left overs that can be made into another dish for dinner? What’s in the freezer, fridge and pantry? Can you do any advance prep work now (chopping veggies, loading the crockpot, etc.) to make getting dinner on the table quick and easy?
If you’d like to plan more than a day at a time, here are some ideas to help.
Keep that notebook, Post-It Note pad, or smartphone app handy to make note of an idea when it pops into your head. How many times have you thought of a dish you’d like to make and told yourself, “I’ll make that for dinner this week.”, but then you forget about it? We all do that! Write it down when you think about it. Don’t wait!
When you see a recipe, or even just a picture of something that looks yummy, write it down. Did the kids mention wanting hot dogs? Write it down. You noticed a marked down package of pork chops at the store and bought them. Make a note right then and there – Yes, in the grocery store! – to use them.
Routine can be your menu planning friend.
A repeating weekly plan can really streamline menu planning. I explained this method before. In a nutshell, you assign each night of the week, or at least each weeknight, with a main dish category. It might look something like this:
- Monday – Chicken
- Tuesday – Pasta
- Wednesday – Beef
- Thursday – Casserole
- Friday – Fish
- Saturday – Pizza
- Sunday – BBQ/Grill
You’d choose the main dish categories that would most please your family. You might choose to include “crock pot” for one night. Or, if you’re enjoying triple digit temperatures like we are, you could include “main dish salad” for one night’s dinner.
We all have busy seasons of life that can make menu planning a challenge. I hope these three menu planning tips for busy moms will help make menu planning a snap when life is full.
Menu planning – another great way for us to look well to the ways of our households.