My husband and I are pretty busy during the week. This makes it hard to come home from a long day at work and classes to cook a healthy meal. Especially one large enough to last for the next day or two. This past fall semester we fell off the menu planning bandwagon but we plan too get back when the semester starts again in January. I have today to complete the planning for January and February, March and April might be pushing it.

Why menu planning?

Save Money

Last year we got Microsoft Money Plus and I realized that we’d been taking too many unnecessary trips to the supermarket. At one point I was at Harris Teeter 3-4 times a week for things that I could have gotten over the weekend and spending more money thereby putting us over the allotted grocery budget. By planning our meals for the week I was able to spend only what we needed for the week and in most cases that means the basics like chicken, fish and vegetables. We stocked the basics like milk, bread, cheese etc etc bi monthly but would shop weekly for the menu depending on the recipes. This way I wasn’t running to the supermarket like a maniac after work and/or classes buying things I probably would cook that week but wanted to have options. If you’re also a fan of the envelope method, this plan works perfectly in that you’re able to break down your grocery funds weekly and remain under budget. I’m a visual gal so the above calendar works very well for me.

Save Time

As I mentioned above, Ive spent many a evening in the supermarket roaming the aisles trying to figure out what to make for dinner. Since I would often have no idea about what we already had I would spend more time trying to cook up a recipe in my head and then hunt for the ingredients. With menu planning I am able to print out my list of ingredients for the week, go to the supermarket (ex: Saturday or Sunday) and shop for the rest of the week.

Lose Weight

Ladies I know I have your attention! When you plan your menus, you’re not roaming the supermarket aisles on an empty stomach. And we all know that you don’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach because that leads to impulse buys that will often sabotage our diets. You can also extend this to include breakfast and lunch. This way you can pack your lunch and plan what you will have for breakfast and avoid those midday snacks that’ll bust your diet or healthy eating plan.

How do I get started?

For the techies you can just open up an excel sheet and enter the dishes on the days you plan on cooking. Excel also allows you to place the recipe in the COMMENT section of the cell so that when you hover the mouse over the cell, the recipe pops up.

Example:

Otherwise I’ve seen notebooks, whiteboards and the like. Still the calendar is the most popular from what I’ve seen. You only need something that will enable you to write down your recipe and the ingredients along with the day of the week.

Here’s a printable one from FrugalVillage:

http://www.frugalvillage.com/images/stories/menuplanner.jpg

Given my schedule it isnt possible for me to cook every day of the week. So when classes are in session I cook every other day with enough to have left overs. My husband then cooks on Fridays, Saturdays in the summer. This semester he’s volunteered for 2-3 days in the week because I won’t be home until 10pm on those days. This system works pretty well for us because again we’re so busy so we have to share the duties in this area.

Happy Planning!