Tips for Weekly Menu Planning

A week’s worth of lunches and snacks for me and my hubby.

One way that my husband and I try to save money is by not going out to eat very often. This is difficult for us, as we both used to love going out for dinner at least three times a week. Plus, my husband works right next to some amazing food carts in downtown Portland. HARD STUFF.

But, eating in restaurants adds up. Every weekend I sit down and create a menu plan and grocery list for the week ahead. When I get really savvy I will also look up the deals at our local grocery store to help me make my plan for the week. Most the time though, I just shop at a grocery store with consistently low prices and a plentiful bulk goods section.

Some people like to stick to the same types of foods every week. While it does make grocery shopping easier, it drives me batty to eat the same thing week after week.  So, I’ve put together some tips that I have found help me in my menu planning. Over the next few months I am going to try to share some of my favorite menu plans with you along with some recipes.

Free Printable Weekly Menu Planner

Tips for Successful Menu Planning

  • Take stock of your pantry and freezer before planning your weekly meals. Try to use items you already have before running out and buying a bunch of new things. Keeping a good rotation of your food will help maintain the best food quality. 
  • Plan on using items that will go bad faster (certain fruits and veggies are prone to do this) in the beginning of your week. 
  • Don’t fill every day with labor intensive meals (even if they all sound delicious)— You’ll not feel up to taking an hour to make dinner at least one time in the week. I try to fill three out of seven days with some of my favorite standby meals that I can make without looking anything up and with minimal effort. Then I create three days worth of more interesting dishes, some of which end up going into my standby meals if they are good enough. And, finally, I pick one day for leftovers or an everything-from-the-fridge stir-fry. 
  • Pick meals that use some of the same ingredients. While you don’t want every meal to be the same, you also don’t want to buy several different ingredients. If one of the meals that you are excited to make calls for a pound of chicken, but you know that buying three pounds of chicken is a better deal over all then try to add in another chicken dish for the week. Or plan on freezing your leftover items for future use. 
  • Write your meal plan down, create your grocery list after you’ve made your weekly menu, and then stick the menu somewhere you will see it. Before I got into a good habit of posting my menu plan, I would purchase all the ingredients I needed for certain meals and then end up wasting part of it because I didn’t follow my plan. 
  • Plan on easy to make breakfasts and lunches. I typically spend one day over the weekend cooking up a storm and putting away things like breakfast burritos or sandwiches in my freezer. I also make up a week’s worth of snacks and lunches for myself and my husband and put them in the fridge. This is something I don’t make time for every week… but, when I do the whole week goes smoother!
  • Buy in bulk as much as possible. My local grocery store has an amazing bulk section. I can grab a lot of my staple items for much less money than the packaged items. 
Hopefully some of those tips help you in your weekly planning. I’m the type of person that learns from doing or seeing examples. SO, I really hope to have up my weekly menu plan a few times in the upcoming weeks with explanations of why I did certain things. I hope to add more tips on how to be successful at making and following a menu plan. I’ll most likely also add the many fun recipes I work with while menu planning.
In the meantime… I got out my sketchpad and had some fun the other day creating myself a menu planner. I like to print off several pages of my menu plan, fill it out, take the grocery list to the store, and post the menu plan on my fridge. Please feel free to download and use the printable in your home. 
How do you approach your weekly grocery shopping? Do you have stand by meals you go to when in a pinch?
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