The Bell Family

Random ponderings on God, life, and the humor all around us

Menu Planning


Before we moved to Louisville, our dinners looked something like this:

Whatever scraps we could put together, PB&J, frozen pizzas, the occasional trips to the store to buy the ingredients for a specific meal we decided we wanted at the last minute, or fast food.

Shortly after moving here, I was introduced to a new concept–menu planning.  I was blessed to be in a church with several godly women who lovingly showed me how much more efficient I can be with my time and money (and health) if I would just set aside consistent time to plan our menu.  Now, it took me a couple of years to get the hang of a system that works for our family, but I will share with you what we do.

After trying everything under the sun, we found that planning one week at a time worked best for our situation (some women plan for a whole month!).  Each Thursday I sit down and plan our menu for the next week (Monday-Sunday) and then we shop on Friday or Saturday.

One trick I have learned is to keep breakfast and lunch simple.  We usually just eat cereal and some fruit for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch.  I do keep some non-perishables like soups or mac n’ cheese in our pantry for those times sandwiches just don’t sound appealing.  Then on the weekends I will spice things up a bit, so really I’m only planning two breakfasts and two lunches.  Most of my other planning is for dinners.

I begin by checking my calendar to see if there will be any special events (i.e. guests coming over, a holiday, or a meal at church).  I plan for those events first and put the date beside that meal so I remember it’s not flexible.  If we will be eating somewhere else, I know I only have to plan six dinners instead of seven.

An intimidating factor for me was finding variety, so here are a couple of solutions.  First, I make sure I have at least one protein, vegetable or fruit, and carb with each dinner.  It really helps keep the meal balanced.  Each week I also plan a Mexican, Italian, chicken, and ground beef meal.  Then I always have what I call the something-else meal where I’ll fix tuna, pork, cheese, or whatever I find interesting.  During the colder months, I try to plan a soup each week.  This helps make sure we’re not eating pasta each night and allows Bill to get his meat (he doesn’t think chicken qualifies).

The other thing I try to do for variety is plan something new each week, a recipe I’ve never tried.  It keeps me from falling into the same patterns over and over.  Then one night a month I will plan a gourmet type meal where I really try to challenge myself and cook something special and a little more difficult.

Each morning, I look at the menu and decide what we are going to eat that night so I can pull meat out of the freezer, throw something in the crock pot, or do any other necessary preparations.

I keep all my menus on the refrigerator during the week and then they move to my planner.  I use the old menus often to be reminded of meals we haven’t had in a while and as a way to make sure we don’t have meatloaf three weeks in a row.

For those of you who have never tried planning your menu, I know it can seem a little intimidating at first, but I would challenge you to begin with baby steps.  Just start planning 2-3 meals a week and find what works best for you.  Even with the time I take planning each week, I save so much time and money in the end.  No more quick trips to the store, non-planned eating out, wasted money on food you bought but never ate, or falling into boring or unhealthy eating patterns.  I am so grateful to the women who pointed me in this direction, and I would encourage you to follow in their footsteps.


3 thoughts on “Menu Planning

  1. Thank you for this! Gray and I normally try to do two week planning, but when life’s lil’ interruptions come, they sometimes get sidetracked and things get wasted 😦 Last week, I actually took a day off to try to accomplish some stuff at home – one of them monthly menu planning. Remind me to call you and tell you about that lil’ adventure….

    Anyway, it has helped, but we had to tweak it a bit and still do the 2-week planning, but it was a lil’ easier this time. I definitely will utilize your tips to try and help us get a bit more organized 🙂

    Thanks again,

  2. You certainly have exceeded me by far in many areas, and this is one of them. I don’t mind keeping the house clean and doing all the yard work, but meal preparation just never has been my favorite thing. I always feel so unoriginal even though I do try new recipes quite often. If you want to send cold chills down my spine, just tell me I have to cook for company. EEEEEEEEEEEK!!!!! I’m so glad you enjoy cooking and that you like to entertain. It’s a wonderful way to show your creativity and hospitality.

  3. Hey Courtney,
    here is a link to a blog I read and I thought of your menu planning when I read it. so here!!

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