Back to school is here for some or almost here for others. This always brings around the concern for lunches, rushed dinners, schedules, and all the other things that come with school. For me, the key to success for our days is having a solid plan. From planning out the mashed up schedules to weekly menu planning.
My husband works in a school, so we have had to worry about the school routine for a while now. Our girls are still too young for school, but we still go through all the motions thanks to daddy’s schedule.
With school coming back in session for us, the need for solid routines is coming back into play. Summer always brings about a fun, different pace, but the return of a familiar, more structured pace is welcome too. I have gotten my calendar back out and have scheduled our month of September and wow is it already full!
I have also jazzed up our trusty weekly menu planner so it is a little more exciting on the fridge. It just adds a little something to the plain version I had before. I am actually going to share that with you today! More about that in a minute.
One thing I have done over the years is weekly menu planning. I wasn’t the best at it, but over time, I have become much better after some trial and error.
The key to menu planning is being aware of the weekly schedule. The two really do go hand in hand. The reason for this is: if you have a busy or late day, chances are an elaborate meal isn’t in your best interest; don’t get me wrong, it’s do-able, but it likely won’t be a pleasant experience. I save my more elaborate meals for earlier days for days that have less on the go.
I like to have an arsenal of different types of meals: stove-top, oven, BBQ, slowcooker, quick, lengthy, etc. We mix new and favourite recipes in our plans. I include breakfasts and snacks. I consult everyone eating for ideas (at least those capable of giving an opinion).
When the flyers come out for the coming week, I sit down with them and see if there are any sale items I could use to create a meal. I have my favourite stores I look for. My rationale for starting with the flyers is: if I can save a little on the weekly groceries, great! If it helps spur meal ideas, even better! At the very least, it is a springboard for the planning process.
From that point, I take suggestions for meals or snacks and then I fill in the gaps.
Really, weekly menu planning isn’t that difficult. It is easy to throw some meals on a page and walk away from it. But, it isn’t as easy as that.
Some challenges include: having the forethought to see what evenings (suppers especially) will be busy; when things outside your control derail your plans; or when you just don’t feel like sticking to the plan.
Read more: Why grace is the secret to planning
The biggest part of the complications is to know that your plans will not always work out. I plan meals with ingredients that need to be eaten sooner for the first part of the week. That way, when my plans are derailed, I just shift the missed meals to the following week. This ensures all the purchased ingredients are used and no meal goes uneaten.
In time, you learn to foresee some of the challenges before they arise and plan accordingly. There are actually many benefits to weekly menu planning.
8 benefits of weekly menu planning
1. Less stress
I don’t know about you, but when things are not planned, I get stressed out. I get flustered trying to last minute plan things – especially when certain foods are frozen and we need to eat! Stress can lead to anger if you are hangry on top of it all.
2. Eating well
By weekly menu planning, I can plan out balanced meals and snacks to ensure our family is eating well for the week. It gives me some control so that we aren’t just pulling things out of the fridge or cupboards and eating all the favourites early in the week and leaving nothing for the end of the week (thus resulting in eating anything we can find in the pantry).
3. Keeps you organized
Can I just say how fabulous it is to go to my menu plan, look at what is for supper, and pull anything out to defrost the night before. How wonderful it is to look at the menu plan and just make what is on the page? It completely takes out the last minute guess work and allows you to plan accordingly. I just know what is for meals or snacks and all I have to do is make it. I also know that I have all the ingredients on hand; This is wonderful because I don’t have to stress last minute grocery runs.
4. You can receive help
If the menu is laid out well, if you are sick or otherwise occupied, you can have help step in. Your spouse, child, family member, or friends can come to your aid and know what is planned and they can set out to help with food responsibilities. If you have many commitments, this can be especially nice so everyone is on the same page and can work together to make sure your family is fed.
5. Only one grocery trip weekly
One thing that can derail well-intended plans is having to make a grocery run because you don’t have all the ingredients. When I menu plan, I make a grocery list of everything I need – and I check for all potential ingredients. By only going once, I save time, energy, and money (fuel for the extra trip and potential extras you may see – especially if you are hungry).
6. Helps form good habits
I found that by starting my planning journey with my weekly menu plans, it really opened my eyes to the planning world. I became more intentional in my plans and was able to decide if the plans were reasonable or achievable. It started me down the planning path.
7. It shows children good habits
If your children see you planning and making lists, and especially if you involve them in the process, they are likely to learn the skill and see value in it. They can also take ownership of the things they are eating because they have given input.
8. It gives you freedom
Okay, now you probably think I’ve lost it. Freedom and menu planning in the same sentence? For me, I find freedom because I don’t have to stress about meals and snacks in my day. I can put lunches and snacks together so they are easy to grab by my husband. I don’t have to worry about helping anyone know what they are eating and when. For suppers, I pull out frozen items the night before so they are ready for meals. I have more time because I’m not stressed about supper plans. I also have the freedom to move the meals around if I need to or delay days if last minute things pop up – for example, we eat out with family who have passed through town.
Free weekly menu planning printable
I have been using this planner or a variation of it for years. It isn’t hi-tech or over the top. It is simple and sweet. And it is just what I need to get through the menu planning process.
I give it to you today to enjoy and hopefully find as much use in it as I have over the years. Please let me know what you think after you’ve used it a couple times. Remember that your plan is a guide and to give yourself grace if the plan falls apart. Just this week, I had to rearrange everything on my weekly menu planning sheet.
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Many blessings to you!
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Please feel free to comment below with your favourite meals when menu planning, how I can pray for you, or any other comments!