Menu Planning Made EASY!

by on February 7, 2011 · 15 comments                       

Saturday lunches are the highlight of the culinary week in our home.  We often invite friends over, fill the table with wholesome, nourishing and delicious fare, and thoroughly enjoy both the home-made food and our time spent leisurely together.  It sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?

Well, during the week, it’s a different story.  Lunch can easily become the neglected meal… a snatched snack that we grab on the run as we go about the business of getting other things done.  But it doesn’t have to be this way.  Some simple meal-planning strategies can help to make lunch a success every day!

Why would a busy person like me take time to pre-plan meals?

  • A plan will save time and mental exertion wondering if the family is getting proper nutrition.
  • Good planning improves your efficiency, helping you to prepare staple foods in many ways, while still including a variety of foods in your family’s overall diet.
  • Menu-planning streamlines the grocery shopping experience by helping you make a grocery list in advance.  Being prepared allows you to go to the store less often and spend less time and less  money while you are there!

Ok, you’ve convined me that menu-planning is a good-idea!  Now, how do I actually do it?

I’m so glad you asked!  Start with a simple form to write down your meal choices. It’s helpful too, if the  form has space to include a shopping list for the ingredients you’ll need. You can make your own menu forms, or choose from any of these free ones that I found during a quick Google search:

Money Saving Mom

The Project Girl

Menus 4 Moms

Whichever form you choose to use, you’ll want to plan your meals out about one week in advance.  While planning, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Raw fruit or vegetables should be included in every meal.  Include a tasty dip if you have picky eaters because your family needs the vitamins and enzymes that are only found in raw food.
  • Eat a wide variety of unrefined foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds)
  • Strive to include a variety in color, texture and taste experiences.  Nature has a neat way of packaging different nutrients in different colors, so eating a raingbow of food is a great way to get a variety of nutrients!  Including a variety of taste expereinces in each meal (sweet, sour, savory, or bland) will satisfy the appetite and discourage over-eating.
  • Keep it simple.  Simplicity is a strength of character that leads to a well-lived life, and in this case, to a well-packed lunch!  A simple lunch can be as nutritious and appealing as a complicated lunch, but complicated lunches cost more and take more time and work to prepare.  So go easy on yourself and keep it simple.
  • Rotate your menus.  You don’t need to write a new menu every week for the rest of your life.  Once you’ve developed 2 or 3 weeks’ worth of menu ideas, it’s ok to go back and use the same menus again.  Nobody will notice that they are eating exactly the same lunch as they ate three weeks ago.  I promise!

weekly menu planningInspired? Additional resources and an over-view of three different menu planning systems can be found on Food Your Way.

With your menu forms and just a little planning, it’s so easy to bless the people you love with food that’s both nutritious and appetizing!

Editor’s Note – Thanks for this awesome post Alina Joy! Even more menu planning  help – for those of you not great at coming up with your own recipe ideas: you can use a menu/recipe site that will do much of the work for you! Here are two of my favorites: Christine Steendahl’s The Menu Mom and Aviva Goldfarb’s The Six O’Clock Scramble.

Alina Joy and FamilyAlina Joy Dubois is wife and mother to a vegan, gluten free family. The family moved out into the country and her husband recently quit a career in software to open the “Good Old Days Farm” in Blue Ridge, Texas. They grow fruit, vegetables and herbs, raise honeybees and make handcrafted soap. To follow the goings-on of the farm, please visit the Good Old Days Farm Blog.

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1 Mandi @ Life Your Way February 7, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Thanks so much for including Food Your Way as a resource! This is a great overview of the benefits and how-tos of meal planning!
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2 Kelly Lester February 7, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Our pleasure Mandi! Love your blog!

3 Alina Joy February 7, 2011 at 3:41 pm

I really enjoyed the post that is linked to here, Mandi! I got some great ideas from it, so Thank You! I loved today’s egg carton crafts too! Just last week I posted about how our family uses recycled egg cartons to teach phonics. You can use the same egg carton game for teaching multiplication, addition or subtraction.
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4 Aviva Goldfarb February 7, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Thanks for the great article and for mentioning my site The Six O’Clock Scramble as a resource. We love EasyLunchboxes, too, Kelly!

5 Alina Joy February 7, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Aviva, Kelly introduced me to The Six O’Clock Scramble today! I love that people can customize their menus on your site! Our family is vegan, gluten free and we have one with a nut allergy and another with a fruit allergy. Those kinds of challenges make menu planning a daunting task and you make it so easy! Yay! =)
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6 Alison Moore Smith February 8, 2011 at 2:01 pm

We have planned meals for…ever. I even teach classes on meal planning — it’s something lots of people are interested in. Learned it from my mom. The weeks I don’t bother to follow the plan, are pretty crazy.
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7 Alina Joy February 10, 2011 at 12:51 am

How wonderful that your mother set that example for you! Menu Planning is so much easier than the “wander-down-the-grocery-aisles-throwing-whatever-you-find-into-the-cart-then-come-home-and-wonder-how-you-can-possibly-put-all-this-random-stuff-together-to-make-something-half-edible” approach that I used for years and years after we got married! You inspire me to be a good example to my daughter!
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