Embarrassingly Effective Meal Planning Tip: Create a Menu

Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap  —  February 5, 2014 — 15 Comments

Back in November I got it into my head somehow that I should make a list of all the things I like to cook to make it easier to plan our meals. Seeing as I’m the type to sometimes get wrapped up in a project and take things a bit too far, the next thing I knew I had spent several hours designing and writing a restaurant-style menu. Even the descriptions are flowery. I knew that it was cheesy and over the top so I didn’t blog about it or even mention it to anybody other than Nick and my friend Cassie (who I knew would appreciate it because she shares my love for this sort of thing), but three months later I’m shocked to say that I still refer it to it almost daily. Even Nick has remarked that he really likes referring to it when we plan our meals for the week every Sunday. So I pushed my dignity aside to share it with you in case you’re in need of some help with meal planning.

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Before writing this post I updated it quickly by deleting the few items I find I never actually make and adding a few more that have been in rotation recently. Jack seems to prefer variety in his diet which is a challenge for me because I would happily repeat the same breakfast-lunch routine day after day ad infinitum. Breakfast is especially hard because, you know, I just woke up and Jack is hungry and so are the cats and the dog needs to go out etc. etc.. If I try to feed him oatmeal every day he starts throwing it on the floor so I refer to the menu to help me keep it fresh.

To summarize how we use it, I keep most of the ingredients for all these meals on hand. If I find myself unsure of what to make for breakfast or lunch I take a look at the menu to remind me of my options. Nick and I sit down to plan our dinners once a week and we consult the menu then, too. Nick says it feels like ordering in a restaurant.

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If you’ve got more ideas for easy and healthy toddler breakfasts please share! And if you think this is the cheesiest, most useless waste of time ever, well, I agree with you on the cheesy part but I’ve found it useful.

Update: if you’d like to get a better look at the text of the menu you can download the PDF by clicking here:¬†menu

Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap

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15 responses to Embarrassingly Effective Meal Planning Tip: Create a Menu

  1. You are adorbs :)

  2. Simplicity at it’s finest! I have a binder that I never open so I think this is a perfect solution. I’m going to get a menu together!

  3. I LOVE this idea! I was literally thinking the other day about making meal planning easier and I knew you would have some good ideas. I use allrecipes.com and pinterest, but both can get ridiculous to sort through. Since it’s just me, I usually just make big portions of things and eat them for several days. I can usually eat the same thing about 3-4 days straight and it doesn’t bother me, but then I don’t want to see it again for months.

    • Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap February 5, 2014 at 1:54 pm

      I am so surprised at how many of you like this idea! I thought I was a total nerd (I am a total nerd, but apparently I’m not alone!)

  4. Is there a way to enlarge the menu? I’d love to see your meal ideas to give me some meals I can rotate into our sometimes boring routine.

    • Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap February 5, 2014 at 1:54 pm

      I’m embarrassed by the flowery descriptions, but I took a deep breath and uploaded it as a PDF anyway. You can download it by clicking the link I just added at the bottom of the post.

  5. Love this! I’m pretty sure Ryan and I have been talking around this idea for months…”You know what would be great? A list of all the stuff we know how to make…” “What do we normally eat for dinner? We should write that down….” “We need a list of some kind… yeah, one with all the stuff we know how to cook….”

  6. Side note, you make your own pizza dough? Beast mode.

    • Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap February 6, 2014 at 7:58 am

      It’s not a frequent occurrence–maybe once a month. I made bread for the first time recently and had a hard time not devouring it all in one sitting!

  7. I love the “flowery descriptions”! They make it feel like a real menu. I’m 100% stealing this idea.

  8. Bridget from Cali May 2, 2014 at 11:33 pm

    Rock on! A simple approach to something that can be complex. We have to figure out a way to give our taste buds a rotation, use the perishables from our shopping cart, maximize our labor, and stretch our dollars. Waiting last minute to make a meal only adds to our stress. Unless you are a top chef, nobody wants to be stuck preparing elaborate meals. And, none of us can really afford waste. I want to master this skill. I’ve always enjoyed cooking, but I can’t be bothered extending that much effort for only myself. I don’t mean that in a sad, pathetic way. Just that left to my own devices, I have better things to do. I am happy to graze all day –a yogurt for breakfast, a taco or two for lunch, a loaded baked potato for dinner and snacking in between. I am probably more finicky than your darling son, but I can eat the same thing every day and be content. Worse, I am a starchetarian (a vegetarian who favors potatoes, rice, pasta, bread, etc.) who is trying to modify my evil ways. I do eat dairy, so that gives me a lot of flexibility. However, the texture of mushrooms and most soy grosses me out. I don’t mind preparing meat and such for others. I like the idea of having a heavy cooking day to make that pot of beans or roast some kind of meat to be able to incorporate in other meals throughout the week. My circumstances have recently changed, but I anticipate returning to private service in some capacity soon. I was trying to assemble a repertoire of dishes that could suit a child, an elder, or an entire family. This gives me a great place to start. Thanks!

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