As with most things these days, menu planning is everywhere. You can find any number of templates online and if you are a type A planner, I recommend you use them.
Amy, at http://simplysugarandglutenfree.com/meal-planning-made-simple/ has some great resources on menu planning.
I am going to share with you my version of menu planning. It is very simple and for some people may not be enough, but it works for me and I hope you find this helpful.
Breakfast and lunch: I do not meal plan for breakfast and lunch. Our breakfast usually consist of granola, oatmeal, corn grits, bacon, pancakes, salami and cheese, and eggs. Our kids dictate what they want for breakfast and I make sure to have these things on hand at all times.
Lunch is usually leftovers, fish sticks (Costco has amazing fish sticks that are from sustainable sources), sandwiches, organic hot dogs (Costco!), dumplings, ravioli with homemade pasta sauce or salad. I try to have at least a couple of these items on hand.
Dinner is the meal that I menu plan. And as I menu plan, I do my grocery list. If I do a grocery list, I find that I don’t miss anything and I stick to my list. I try to plan two days ahead of my shopping so that as I do baking, cleaning or other meals and snacks I add anything else I might not have thought of while planning dinner.
Here is a sample of a spring dinner menu for 9 days:
1. Frittatas - http://ellysaysopa.com/2012/06/13/frittatas-for-two/
2. Tortellini with Balsamic Brown Butter - http://www.loveandoliveoil.com/2009/12/tortellini-with-balsamic-brown-butter.html
3. Pear, ham and goat cheese pizza ( I use Lavash bread as a crust and broil for a few minutes.)
4. Spicy basil chicken - http://ellysaysopa.com/2012/06/05/spicy-basil-chicken/
5. Mushroom pizzas (a favorite in our house) - http://ohsheglows.com/2010/08/31/mushroom-masters-a-tournament-of-taste/
6. Carrot-Apple Ginger soup - http://ohsheglows.com/2011/05/03/carrot-apple-ginger-soup/
7. Two evenings this week we are BBQing with friends, we’ll share sausages and kale chips.
8. Balsamic Chicken with Spring Vegetables - http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/04/balsamic-chicken-with-spring-vegetables.html
9. Korean beef tacos - http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2011/11/slow-cooker-shredded-korean-beef-tacos.html
I try to do about 10 days worth of dinners. I do not assign dinners to certain days of the week. I just do whatever strikes my fancy.
I try to do menu planning around the seasons. For example, I don’t do peppers in the middle of winter or squash during the summer.
If I have some sort of produce that will go bad fast, like basil, I will try to do those recipes first so that I don’t waste produce.
Besides menu planning as way to creating a grocery list that I actually stick to, I find it cost effective because I don’t order out. This is especially true during the summer. It gets hot and we are outside so long into the afternoon/evening that I often don’t feel like coming up with something to eat and then making it. I often do salads because they are quick and easy. If I want meat on my salad, I will cook it early in the day and keep it in the fridge until it is time to eat or we will grill.
I also use my crockpot. I realize that that sounds crazy, but the summer is the best time to use a crockpot. It doesn’t heat up your house and again, you don’t have to throw together a meal at the last minute.
I hope that these ideas help you as you organize your life. It certainly helps us.