Friday, March 30, 2012

To menu plan or not to menu plan

To menu plan or not to menu plan? That is the question!  Yes, I have done it over the years and no, I don't do it nowadays. I'm not sure what happened. I follow so many bloggers who menu plan and I'm in awe. I put my reason for not menu planning down to experience or just having one less thing to do but I found it quite time consuming to menu plan. I'd allocate an hour or so on a Saturday afternoon, for example, one weekend and the next weekend would come and go before I got the chance again. Things always pop up when you have young children.  There are, of course, many ways to reduce the time spent taken to menu plan.  I'd say these 'seasoned' menu planners have got it down to a fine art.

The times I have menu planned, I've loved. Menu planning is great for using up what you already have in the fridge and pantry. Knowing in advance (yourself and the family) what's for dinner makes things so much more organised.

My biggest problem is my 'fussy one' and it's just about the biggest waste of time for me to set out a week's menu when there's just no way she'll eat any of it. I've had probably near on 40 years experience of cooking and maybe 20 or more years of preparing a regular evening meal so I guess I can look at what's in my fridge and throw something together. With the invention of the internet, my job is so much easier. I can easily search for a recipe based on the ingredients I have on hand or use one of my many cookbooks for inspiration.

Sometimes the ingredients 'speak' to me. For example, whenever I have lamb, I automatically think of Greek food. Vegetables that cook quickly when sliced thinly always say 'stir fry me'. Your root vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes and carrots say 'stew me or soup me up'. (No wonder I hear voices all the time with all of this food speaking to me!) 

The weather will also depict what's served for the evening meal. For example, on a hot night it's salad or a barbecue or I will use an appliance that doesn't generate much heat. If I've got chicken, I'll make skewers. If it's a cool day, I'll get the slow cooker on for a hearty meal of comfort food.

Buying your vegetables in season also helps me decide what will be on our plates each meal. Don't worry. The 'fussy one' gets a little bit on her plate to try, with much hostility, but we don't push the issue.

There are so many great menu planners out there in the blogiverse that freely offer their templates and printables to help you menu plan. Whichever way you do it, menu planning or not, always use what you have, substitute, substitute, substitute and don't run out to pick up that one ingredient you need to make a recipe. That's when you'll often spend more than you have to.

menu board idea

Write it on a piece of paper, a blackboard, a photo frame, online, in your diary. Do it weekly, monthly or 3 monthly. Develop a card system where you write down your family favourites or the recipe's page number from a recipe book. Get the family involved and let them choose. Designate one night a week as 'take out' night but make it at home. No matter if it's written down or done on a whim like I do, this will help you save money along the way and help you THRiVE.

This post is part of domesblissity's THRiVING - Thrifty Living feature.



  1. Oh Anne its SO good to have you back. And what a great subject you picked. My husband and I were just talking about planning our menus the other day. We are so out of the habit since he retired and pretty much make meals by the seat of our pants. Oh that last sentence doesn't sound very But you know...the last minute thing. By late afternoon I get so tired that I don't want to always cook but with the menu plan then I could start it early in the day and it'd be ready by dinner. THANKYOU for this great post and it is a reminder that we'd probably eat better and save more if we did. Love it.

    Also I so appreciated your beautiful email letter and information. Your mother seems like such a special special person to me. And I truly believe that Families are Forever. That gives me so much comfort in times like this.

    Big loves and hugs my dear friend,


  2. I have to admit, I don't get menu planning. I think the essence of eating fresh, local, in season, is to do the foraging first, in the garden or the local greengrocer or Farmer's Market or butcher or fishmonger. See what is cheap and gorgeous because it is at the peak of season. Pick it up fresh and cook as soon as possible after, relying on the produce rather than the recipe to shine. Do a major pantry restock with basics every month or so, so that it is just a matter of shopping for fresh key ingredients.

  3. I wish I menu planned more often. When I do, I make less trips to the grocery store, spend less money and get more prep. done early in the day. Also, there is no thinking, it's already decided. I do find it incredibly time consuming though. I try to do it, but some weeks, like this one, I scrap the whole thing and whip together what I can quickest every night.

  4. I kind of do/kind of don't menu plan.

    At the very least I think within a week pasta meal, chicken, vegetarian, roast, fun (eg pizza, burgers, taco).

    I know lots of people who go meatless monday, CP Thursday, chicken Tuesday which works for them.

    I think menu planning works best for people with structured lives who don't enjoy cooking...not people who think "Oh a a marked down eggplant/chicken/lamb shank, what can I do with this?"

    Very glad to see you back Anne.

  5. I awarded you the Versatile Blogger Award. Check it out


  6. Every time I try meal planning I don't stick to the plan. So now I plan in my head a couple of days at a time. It seems to work ok for us


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