Dinner is stressful at our house.

My hubby and I work all day -- usually get home at different times and struggle to get dinner on the table before 7:30 p.m., each night.  I'm not sure how my parents got dinner on the table at 5 p.m., every weeknight -- but it's just NOT practical in my world.

About a month ago, I decided to test the idea of planning the week's menu in advance.  Now, I don't know how we functioned without it.  Just the knowledge that we KNOW what's happening for dinner -- has removed stress from our whole family.  Yeah, something THAT simple.

It's also helped our budget.  We LOVE to cook -- but aren't so good at preparing for cooking -- so someone is usually at the grocery store 3-5 times each week.  By planning in advance, we've seen our grocery bill go down by about 20%, especially since we build in things like using leftover rice INTO the menu.

It also gives us a chance to be more adventurous with our food -- even on the weekday.   And, since we can plan it out -- we make sure to thoughtfully include better food (like adding fish to the rotation, cutting out some of our fattier go-to options, buying and actually USING veggies).

Try it for three weeks.  If you want to contact me, I'll even send you the template for the menu we post on the fridge each week.  You can add you own pictures and items (by the way -- the picture represents who is doing the cooking that night).

The 1-2-3 Steps to Menu Planning

  1. Set aside one hour on Saturday morning (or whenever) to plan the next week's menu
  2. If we find a recipe we want to use, we print it out and we keep that week's recipes in the kitchen for easy access
  3. Think about how you can use leftovers or re-use things (if you use 2 scallions on Monday, make sure you have a way to use the rest by Friday).
  4. Look at sale circulars to see if there is something yummy that is on sale that you would like in the menu.
  5. Plan your shopping with your menu.  It totally freaked us out when we looked in the fridge and didn't see a whole lot there.  It was just the stuff we needed for the week plus condiments and sandwich stuff for Darin's lunch.  The benefit:  we haven't thrown away ONE rotten tomato or other veggie in over a month!
  6. Figure out what you want to do with the $$ you save -- and the TIME you save, too!