You may, or may not, have noticed the return of our Dinner Menu tab at the top of the blog.
I took it down a while back as I wasn't sure was anyone remotely interested in what things we like to eat for dinner! Since it came down I have had quite a few people ask if it could come back again, as well as asking how I go about making up our weekly meal plans. One friend even joked that she thought they might be eating sandwiches for dinner every night without a little bit of inspiration - she shall remain nameless, but she knows who she is :0)
So. Why bother with a meal plan? I know I used to always have a rough idea what we were going to have for dinner every night, but inevitably there would be days when 5pm would come round and you would find me staring in the fridge wondering what I could rustle up. Or the days when I had thought about having a certain something for dinner but hadn't remembered to take the meat out of the freezer. Or how about the days when you decide what to make and then on starting it, realise you don't have everything you need in.
You get the picture.
Getting my weekly dinner plan out of my head and onto paper really makes a huge difference.
Another big benefit of making and sticking to your meal plan, is that you should end up paying less on food shopping. No more popping down to the shop to get the one thing you need for dinner then coming out with another £15 worth of stuff! Who can run into the shop and buy just that one thing they went in for?
I make our weekly menu up on a Monday and write it out on our menu board in the dining room.
I also write it up in my home management binder (oh, don't worry, I have a whole other post in the pipeline about that!)
A great resource I have found for my binder is Listplanit. I love this site for all my household organising needs. You do need to pay a subscription (£10 a year) but after that you can print out any one of their hundreds of lists, as often as you like. If you don't fancy paying for it, then I have also used Donna Young Printables. She has a good selection of free printables for household management as well as homeschooling.
So here you are, pen in hand, ready to write up your weekly menu and then your mind goes blank. What do we like to eat for dinner? What are everyone's favourites? What can I make without even thinking about it?
This is where your 21 meals list will come in handy. Apparently everyone has 21 meals that they make and rotate as their family staples. Try and think of them and write them down on a list, either a lovely pre-printed chart or simply a list of paper.
I actually had a few more than the 21 so just continued on the other side!
The list above also has space for you to write in which cookery book you would find each recipe in. i didn't fill mine in because, since I make these so often, the recipes are in my head.
Following on from my 21 meals list, I have another list which I have adapted to become my 'Recipes I want to try' list. I love my cookery books. Every time I got a new one I used to read through it thinking 'I must make this soon' and of course 'soon' forgot which ones they were. Now when I get a new book (or magazine), I sit with a notebook and write down all the ones I want to try, including page numbers, then write them on this sheet in my folder.
This means I have two lists of meals that I can choose from for our menu.
The final page in my meal planner section of my folder is the monthly meal plan. I have this simply so that I can see at a glance what we have had for dinner the last couple of weeks. I haven't decided if I prefer the grid or list style yet though!
One final factor when making up your meal plan is perhaps a bit obvious, but do check what is in your cupboards too! I do our weekly food shop on a Thursday so I know that the meals for Monday to Wednesday need to include things we already have in. From Thursday's meal onwards I add things we need to my shoping list.
Oh yes, one final hint. I try and plan ahead for leftovers. On Sunday we almost always have a roast (either chicken or beef). I buy a big piece of the meat and then we can usually get Mondays dinner out of it too, as well as a stock for some soup. Like this week, we had chicken on Sunday and chicken fajitas on Monday. Two for the price of one!
And that's about all there is to it. Once you get into the swing of it, it takes up no time at all and you will feel the warm glow of domestic goddess-ness sweeping over you!