Menu planning is definitely one of the best ways we save money on our food budget and limit trips to the store. We love to look for new recipes when we plan our weekly menus. However, sometimes this gets too time-consuming and we skip a week of planning. This results in a hectic week. My husband has become a master at making a great meal from ingredients in the house, but that is hard to do every day.
I have read about people who plan for the whole month instead of by week. (See Kosher on a Budget’s posts on menu planning, which include monthly planning.) We decided to do our own version of this and have done it for the past three months. We are not cooking for a month and freezing, but rather planning a month at a time. We can adjust as needed with special events and invitations out for Shabbos, but at least our plan for the whole month is done.
We still use our same system of planning with certain types of meals once a week. See my post “Menu planning.” However, we added a step before picking recipes for each week.
1) Get out a few cookbooks, recipe binders, and your favorites binder. See my post on “Here a recipe, there a recipe.” You will also need a blank piece of paper.
Look for ideas of what you might like to eat that month. Record your ideas, the cookbook name, and page number on a sheet of paper under categories for each type of food. Be sure you choose four recipes for each category (and 8 for the double category). Our categories are:
– Soy/Eggs/Meat/Beans (2 choices a week)
– Shabbos Main Dishes
– Shabbos Sides
– Shabbos Veggies.
* Adapt these to your own family’s likes and needs.
I then tag each recipe with a thin Post-It tab.
2) Assign each dish to a day on your weekly plans. Here is my Menu for Week form for recording our meals for the week. (You will need to print four of these for each month.)
Be sure to check to avoid having dishes of the same type in one week. For instance, we love Egg and Bean Burritos (which we categorize under Soy/Eggs/Meat/Beans), but wouldn’t want to have it the same week as Refried Bean Burritos.
3) Pick one Weekly Menu to start with and then make your grocery list for that week. Hopefully many of the items you need will be in your stockpile.
Here is my Grocery List form which makes it super easy to shop because everything gets categorized by type of food. You can change the order as needed for your favorite store.
4) Check your coupon organizer for any about-to-expire coupons that you might use that week. Add those items to your grocery list.
5) Go to the store with your list and coupons in hand!
Then each week for the rest of the month all you have to do is Steps 3, 4, and 5!
Please share any comments you have on how you menu plan and what works for you!