Menu planning

I thought i’d share with you a system I use that really has been such a time saver when it comes to doing our weekly shopping and meal planning. I won’t lie it takes some setting up BUT once done it will save you so much time.

I have 12 weekly menus. 6 for winter months and 6 for the summer. Each menu has on it 7 evening meal’s, 1 soup (for lunches) and 1 tray bake (for after school snacks). On the back of each menu is a shopping list for that week. I have a seperate list for items we buy weekly milk, bread, cereal, lunch box items etc.

Sitting down in one go and planning 84 different meals is quite a task. You may prefer to do one a week for 6 weeks and file them away MUCH less laborious!

Here are some hints and tips that might help your planning.

  • Consider regular weekly activities that mean you don’t have much time to cook (e.g after school clubs or days you work late). Plan to use a slow cooker on these days or put jacket potatoes in the oven on a timer.
  • Theme your days. I find this helps me come up with ideas better. For example meat free Mondays, jacket potatoes on Wednesday’s, world food Saturdays, freezer Friday’s.
  • Cook in big batches and save either for later in the week or in the freezer for another week. I like to do this with bolognaise and chilli using the slow cooker.
  • Have a frugal week up your sleeve. There’s always times when you have an unexpected cost (the car breaks down or a household appliances breaks) and you need to tighten your belt for a while. To have a menu you can wip out with a super cheap shopping list ready prepared can ease the stress just a bit.
  • It’s old fashioned but cooking a roast dinner on sunday and planning to use left overs throughout the week really is an efficient and frugal way to feed a family.
  • Some meals are quite time consuming to prepare. Lasagne for example but here is how I do it. I make a double batch of bolognaise in the slow cooker on Saturday. We have spag bol for tea and I put half the bolognaise in the fridge. On Monday I make cauliflower cheese and make double the amount of cheese sauce I need. With my left over bolognaise and extra cheese sauce I assemble my lasagne. Pop it in the fridge (it’s better made a day in advance some how) and on Tuesday I have a ready made lasagne that just needs baking.

If you need some inspiration for your menus here are some if my favourite sources of inspiration.

  • BBC good food – such a treasure trove of great recipes. I have a note on my phone with links to some of our favourite recipe’s for quick access.
  • I picked up some great modern recipe books at my local library.
  • If your a fan of slow cooking i can’t recommend this book enough. Slow cooker favourites by BBC good food.
  • Nigella express was one of the books I picked up at the local.library and have since bought a copy.
  • If you really get stuck suggest an recipe swop with a friend. You give her one of your family favourites and they give you one of theirs – everyone is a winner.

Now all I have to do it sit back and enjoy the fruits of my hard work. I am enjoying cooking our new menu’s and feeling excited to try some new recipes each week instead of the same things over and over and the hard work of planning our meals and writting a shopping list is done.

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