Menu plans aren't written in stone. So you're dodging cramps on the "big" cooking day? Swap it out with Pizza Night and go to bed early with a cup of herb tea.
With meals planned and ingredients on hand, it's easy to juggle your menu plan when circumstances require. Staying flexible--while being prepared--brings calm to the kitchen!
Make It A Habit
Simple or not, a menu plan won't help you if you don't make one. Weekly menu planning is a good candidate for a new habit: an action on "auto-pilot" that you engage in without thinking. Need to learn how? Check out Habit, the Household Wonder Worker as a guide to building new habits for an organized home.
Get into the habit of planning menus before you shop, and you'll get hooked on the ease and convenience--an addiction of great value!
Recycle Menu Plans
After you've made menu plans for a few weeks, the beauty of the activity shines through: recycle them! Organized by main ingredient--chicken breasts, say, or chuck steak--completed menu plans make it even simpler to plan and shop for a week's meals.
Tuck completed menu plans in a file folder or page protector in your household notebook. Next time fryers are 99 cents a pound at the market, pull out the plan you made this week. Done!
Group Plans by Season
Over time, weekly menu plans will setting into two major groups: menus for warm weather, and fall/winter menus. Try to assemble six to eight plans for each menu "season"; most families do well with that much variety--and no more.
For instance, a great special on ground beef signals grilled hamburgers and burrito bar during warm-weather months; spaghetti or cabbage rolls during the cold season.
Include both variations in your menu stash for re-use next time you spot ground beef at a bargain price--whatever the weather!
Make the Move to Monthly Menu Plans
Once you've flexed your menu planning muscles with a few weekly plans, consider moving from weekly to monthly menu plans. It takes only a few more minutes to add the additional three weeks to your plan; doing so saves time all month long.
Longer-term menu plans are slightly more complex, relying as they do on freezer and pantry. But by reducing trips to the store--and maximizing use of food on hand--they bring superior savings and convenience.
Build Your Pantry Power
Longer-term menu planning brings new emphasis to household food storage areas: refrigerator, freezer and pantry.
Brush up on your pantry power with our Beginner's Guide to Pantry Pride; keep tabs on stored foodstuffs with free printable pantry inventory and freezer inventory forms.
Maintaining an organized pantry offers many advantages for the menu planner. Keeping stocks of bought-on-sale staples lowers food bills and speeds meal preparation. Unexpected guests are no problem when you can turn to the pantry or freezer for hospitality supplies or a pre-prepared entree.