Menu Planning Tips

A well-planned meal is a stress-free meal. Get tips for easy menu planning.


If our readers are anything like me they are busy working, busy parenting, and busy living. Rushing around between classes, picking kids up from various activities, or working long hours can throw a wrench into meal preparation.

One way to ensure your work gets done and dinner still gets on the table is to plan out a weekly menu. I know it sounds exhausting, almost intimidating, but bear with me. Throughout this post are tips from a real-life mother on how to stop stressing over dinner.

I interviewed Rachel Ervin, a Charleston area local who just happens to be my sister. Rachel has two children—a three-year-old and an eight-month-old—yet somehow she manages to plan her family’s evening meals two weeks in advance. I started inquiring into what her menu planning process looked like, and these are the tricks I gathered:

Tip #1: Find an application or organizational tool that you like using. Google Calendar is a great place to start. Set up a calendar specifically entitled Menu Planning, and don’t be afraid to color-code. The great thing about Google Calendar is that it will sync with your mobile phone and tablet. This allows you to access the calendar—complete with meal details—while at the grocery store.

Tip #2: Plan your menu one day and shop another. This is a great tip for menu planning moms. If you can plan the menu on a weekday, then perhaps you can find a day to venture out to the grocery store while your children are elsewhere.

Tip #3: Have one or two staple meals. For example, if your family likes pizza, make every Friday pizza night. The more staple nights you have, the fewer details you have to plan. Another idea is to have one leftover night a week. This not only relieves you of planning one meal, it also helps clear out the refrigerator before your next trip to the store.

Tip #4: Make a list of all the ingredients you will need for your meals. Whether you are planning for a week, two weeks, or just a couple days at a time this will save you from making multiple trips to the grocery store. Jot down everything you'll need even if you already have it in stock. Then take your list to the kitchen and start checking off what you already have. Once you've finished this process, create your final shopping list. This ensures you don’t accidentally forget any of your ingredients.

Tip #5: Make smart food choices. If you need broccoli within three days and the fresh broccoli is on sale, stick with fresh. If you need it a week from now, frozen lasts longer. Just do the math. This is where that handy Google Calendar comes into play. If you can’t remember precisely what day you need broccoli, pull out your phone or tablet. All the information you need, including ingredients, should be at your fingertips.

To read more about Rachel Ervin’s meal planning process, visit these links from her personal blog.


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