I have tried and failed at Menu Planning a few times in the past, but I think I've figured out a good system to make it work for me.
Meal Planning Is Great Because..
a) You're not stuck wondering what to make every night
b) You plan your meals, so you shouldn't need to run out to the grocery store for missing recipe items multiple times a week
c) You should notice a reduced grocery bill, since planning should eliminate unnecessary groceries that you may buy
d) You should also notice less food waste in your home, as you're only buying what you need, therefore eliminating food spoilage
Why I've Failed In The Past..
a) I don't stick to my meal plan
b) I only plan meals for dinner, when I'm home everyday for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.
c) I create a meal plan, but then I don't write my grocery list at the same time (meaning I'm still buying useless things)
This week I've created a meal plan for my lunches and dinners. I still haven't planned breakfasts or snacks, which I should, but I think that it will still work out well for us.
Some Suggestions For Meal Planning Rookies (like me)..
a) Really think through your week. What days of the week are you normally tired? Plan an easy meal on that day! Plan harder/more time consuming meals on days when you know you're usually refreshed.
b) Try to plan one meatless dinner per week. Try also to plan one big dinner, where you can serve your leftovers for lunch.
c) Start a Recipe Binder/Computer File. I have started one and it is amazingly helpful. I have folders on my computer for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. I am slowly adding my favourite recipes into each of these folders. When I plan my meals at the beginning of the week, I pull out this file and scroll through my recipes to create my menu for the week. If I didn't have all of my recipes in front of my face, I'd probably only stick to/remember about four of them. This means I'm constantly making the same four meals all the time! If you have ten or even more of your tested and perfected recipes in each folder, you'll always be changing up what you make and keeping things fresh.
d) If your budget allows, try out a new recipe twice a month. I think once a week is just too much for me, but I do like occasionally trying a new recipe to add to my repertoire. This means that it's constantly growing.
Free Meal Plans: this site will e-mail you recipes and a meal plan each week. Not economically-friendly in my opinion, and you could end up with some real duds. But, it's worth it to try out some of the recipes.
Menu Planning Article: great article that goes a bit deeper into the benefits and how-to's of meal planning
Meal Planning Template: There are some really intense templates out there. This is just a simple template I found!
Eat-Right-Ontario Sample Meal Plan: great sample meal plan to give you an idea of what a plan "should" look like. Again, I don't plan my snacks because I stay home and would really rather not. But, you can plan as much or as little as you want!
So there you have it, some ideas to help you stick to Menu Planning! What are your tips for Meal Planning?