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Monthly Menu Planning

September 9, 2013

I’ve mentioned before on Facebook about planning my monthly menu and a number of people have said that it sounds like a lot of work or something that they could never do.  But really it is easy and I think, in the long run saves so much time!  So, I thought I would give some ideas to help you busy ladies out!  I know there are some people who just don’t like to plan anything ahead of time and would rather work on a weekly or daily basis or rely on the weekly coupons to help plan the menus. 

This has been a progression for me… It started out as just a list of our normal meals made into categories, beef, chicken, pork, fish, and non-meat.  I HAD to have a list of something because it would come time to prepare a meal and I would be incapable of thinking clearly!! No really, I would try to come up with ideas and they just would not come and it seemed that when I did finally think of something, we didn’t have the main ingredients!  That was our first week of marriage and I decided that was NOT going to work for me. (How did my mom make that look so easy??)  So, I made the lists…. that worked for awhile, about 4 years! 
We moved to Costa Rica and I was getting ready to have a baby and needed a little more planning.  Walking to the grocery stores makes you a little more conscious of making sure you get everything you need for the week! So, I had a weekly menu to go off of that I wrote down in a notebook.  And that worked well for a while.  And then I saw this on Pinterest!  What an AMAZING idea!!!  But oh my, the work involved was a little much for me at that time.  Slowly I came to the idea in the picture below and I love it.  Where we live, this has become a necessity for me to keep my sanity. (I’m one of those planner people.)  We have to go to the capital to buy butter, cheese, paper goods, most of our meat and a number of things that we just can’t get up here in the mountains.  We try to limit our shopping trips to once every month or two.  Really, it saves us a lot of money in the long run because it is inevitable that when we go the store I will find some American thing that they haven’t had before and want to buy it, because you just never know if they will have it again. (And most of the time, they don’t!)  Well, too you know how sometimes things just “jump” in your cart!  The food comes alive! Seriously!   So anyway, here’s what I do…Sept2013 007_552

The last week of the month I plan for the following month, usually it just takes an afternoon.  Our big meal of the day is lunch, so I have to plan accordingly for that.  I print out a Word document calendar to use.  Above each day of the week I write the type of meal we will have on those days.  And then I get to work.  The very first month would be the hardest since you are starting from scratch.  I plan a meal for every day of the week, knowing there will be days we will have leftovers.  The meals I don’t make in this month will go onto the calendar for next month.  I really LOVE trying new recipes so, I generally don’t repeat the same recipe within the month and only a few will we have 2 months in a row.  But if you repeat meals, then you have less planning to do!  While I write the recipes names on the calendar, I make up my monthly grocery shopping list too.  I never make anything that has things I don’t normally buy in the recipe, so it’s a matter of calculating the quantity for my normal monthly grocery list.  After it is all written out, I put it in my 8×10 picture frame.

Sept2013 001_551 

This month we have Sundays- crockpot meal, Monday- beef, Tuesday- beef, Wednesday- any type, Thursday- beef, Friday- chicken, Saturday- pork or fish.  Chicken is a little pricy compared to the other meats, so I try to limit to just once, sometimes twice a week.  I used to do a non-meat day to save some $$, but hubby likes his meat. Smile  I generally try to write side dishes as well to go with the meals.

For breakfast I try to do the same thing each week.  For example, every Sunday we have eggs, every Monday is oatmeal, every Tuesday is some kind of breakfast bread, Wednesday is pancakes, Thursday is a rotation of homemade granola cereal or pinto (a Costa Rican dish), Friday is some form of eggs and Saturday is Oatmeal.

For us, dinner is really light.  We do leftovers some of the time, but I have a list of different ideas, like fast soups,  tuna cakes, tuna sandwiches, quesadillas and such like that.  Those usually don’t make it onto the menu, but I’m trying to work my way into doing that as well.  If you have ideas for meals like that, PLEASE, PLEASE tell me!!!  

Sept2013 007_552


The cards hanging on the bottom are the recipes for the week.  I do my weekly grocery shopping on Monday and do try to get as much as I can up here instead of the capital.  So, on Saturday or Sunday I will pull out my recipe cards (I’m still working on getting them all printed out… haven’t gotten there yet!)  for the next week.  The first group is breakfast recipes, the second is lunch and the third has my dinner list and also all the things I want to make that week.  I make my own bread, buns and granola so those stay there every week.  (Making those every week you would think I would have the recipes memorized by now, but I don’t!  Maybe it will stick one of these days!)  I make my grocery list from those recipe cards.
Doing the calendar has helped me so much with getting things together the night before that need to be prepped; like getting meat out of the freezer or putting everything in the crock pot the night before to be put on first thing in the morning.  And also with planning my day the night before, I know what time I need to start preparing lunch.  And yes, there are times where I just don’t have the time to make what was on the calendar or it really doesn’t sound good, so I do a bit of switching.  I allow it flexible but I really enjoy having the structure.  

So, there you have it!  Hope this can be a help to some of you!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Elsy permalink
    September 9, 2013 9:42 pm

    I started doing this a while ago, and it cut my grocery bills in half!! I love it! However, I’ve found that if i do repeat some of the meals, or line up recipes that use the same ingredients, i can try new meals using less money because it uses up the same ingredients as my regular meals…..

    • September 11, 2013 8:14 pm

      Isn’t it great?! I love that it saves money too!

  2. September 10, 2013 10:54 am

    I want to do this so badly! Hopefully, now that you’ve taken the time to simply spell it out for me (THANK YOU!!), I can get my act together and start implementing this wonderful idea in our house! Love you and thanks again! I know it took time to write all of that out and we appreciate it!! 🙂

    • September 11, 2013 8:13 pm

      You are welcome Kell! I hope it will work for you! (And thanks for the comment!:)

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