If you hate menu planning as much as I do, you are going to love this kick butt plan to NEVER have to do it again.
Menu planning is the suck. AmIright?!
It takes sooo much time and brain power.
When I try to menu plan, that little voice in my head that seems to remember every piece of advice I have ever heard, just won’t stop.
“Be sure to plan from what you have on hand. Don’t forget to plan from what’s on sale. Make sure to get something the kids will actually eat. Don’t go over budget.” Blah blah blah.
And just giving up and not menu planning, isn’t the best idea either.
You might just throw a bunch of random expensive things in your cart at the store only to discover three days later, that all you have to feed your family for the rest of the week is boiled eggs and chicken nuggets. It happens.
How to Never Have to Menu Plan Again (and Still Eat Well)
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This to-menu-plan, or not-to-menu-plan problem bothered me for years, until one day I had this so-simple-it-just-might-work idea.
Why not automate menu planning by rotating menus?
So that’s exactly what I did.
I created 8 menus full of things my family regularly eats and loves with simple ingredients.
I created four 2-week menus that feature cold weather foods and winter produce, and four 2-week menus for warm weather foods that feature summer produce.
The files are on my computer and have companion shopping lists- now all I have to do is print the shopping list every payday for the right menu, mark off what we already have on hand, and buy the rest.
So simple. So awesome.
I just used the shopping list from the free printables subscriber library, made a new copy for each list and clicked “save as” to give it a name that corresponded with each separate menu.
And the best part is- now this is pure genius – I made a master stockpile list of all the grocery items from all the menus (plus household staples like peanut butter and jelly!).
When an item from the master stockpile list goes on sale- I buy enough to last my family 6 weeks or more if I’m able.
Now that’s what I call saving time and money.
I know it will take some leg work in the beginning, but after you are done, you are DONE. If you want to automate menus that your family will love and save yourself a lot of time, follow the steps below:
Step 1: Create One Menu
Create a menu you will use this week (or pay period- depending on if you despise shopping and want to do it as little as possible).
Include meals that you typically eat. Exclude anything too expensive or new.
For help coming up with the meals you will use, check out this list of over 100 common menu items here, or try this list of 50 no-prep healthy meals for when you have no time. Or you could even just use a pre-made menu plan from this list of free menu plans that are healthy and budget friendly.
Another great tool, if you want to use freezer meals for your menus, is to become a member of Once a Month Meals– they have the best recipe selection of healthy and kid-friendly freezer recipes and they will even create the shopping list for you.
Once you are done creating the menu, be sure to save the file to your computer and name it. I gave my menus names like “Summer Menu 2” and “Winter Menu 4.”
Step 2: Create One Shopping List
Write out a shopping list that includes EVERYTHING you will need to make everything from your menu- even pantry staples like salt.
Save it to your computer with a similar name so you know which shopping list goes with which menu, such as “Summer Shopping List 2” or “Winter Shopping List 4.”
Step 3: Repeat Steps 1 and 2
Create another menu and corresponding shopping list every week or any time you need a new menu, until you have at least a month’s worth of meals for the current season.
I like to have enough for two months just for added variety.
Some of the meals are repeated favorites, but they are not in the same order and I’ve include more buffer-type meals that help us not get sick of a certain type of food.
Step 4: Enjoy Your Menu-Boss Status
Rotate through your menus, enjoy the variety of meals, and bask in the fact that you NEVER have to menu plan again.
You could also compile your shopping lists into a master stockpile list to help you save money.
You will never have to weigh the not-menu-planning versus menu-planning debate in your mind again.
Just follow the four step plan, and before you know it, you will be feeding your family home-cooked meals every night and saving money- without having to ever bother with menu planning.
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