Menu-Making as a Lifestyle

It took me years to take the plunge; I’d been talking about it forever: “Someday I’m going to plan out our meals ahead of time — I’m going to make menus!” The barriers to menu-making are many:  It takes a time commitment up front; it takes organizational skill and a focused mind; it helps to have a few tools in place. This can be a tall-order for a working mom.

Nevertheless, once the time was right, and I finally took the plunge, I haven’t regretted it in the least. I’m still learning how to not only make the menu but also to follow it! It does have to be flexible for our ever-changing schedule, but ultimately, I prefer life with menus to life without them.

Here are the tools that have helped me:

  • A large, dry-erase calendar board and markers
  • 3-4 fantastic cookbooks
  • One hour of free time
  • A pad of paper and pen in order to simultaneously make a grocery list

Once a month I sit down with those tools and take a precious hour to dream up the menu. I take several things into consideration as I do this. I try to incorporate food we already have in the freezer and items that take pre-planning, such as dried beans. I schedule crock-pot meals for days when I know I’ll get home too late or too tired to want to cook. I try to think about my three year old and her likes and dislikes; I choose my battles ahead of time!


I consider our nutritional needs; I incorporate meat every other day or so, so on vegetarian days I need to provide other strong sources of complete proteins. I think about what’s in-season and what may be on sale at the grocery store or farmer’s market. I also rotate complicated meals with simpler meals so that I’m not in the kitchen for many hours on any given day.

Another tip is to sit down and go through your favorite cook books for some go-to recipes. What are the meals you could reasonably eat every other week or once a month? Make a list of those recipes and attach it to your menu-calendar; this can make the actual menu planning session go really fast.

Start out simple. You could start out only planning dinners, for example. If you are a cook who loves to decide the menu the day-of, then just have a list for the whole week made out ahead of time, and choose from one of the various options; that way you can plan-ahead, but still have some wiggle room. I never plan breakfasts, and I always end up switching around meals. Each family has to decide what works best for them.

Once you incorporate menu-making into your lifestyle, it becomes routine. For a family on a tight budget, menu-making is a must. Food is the one area that can revolutionize your budget—you would be amazed how much you can save if you eliminate eating out and pre-packaged foods from your lifestyle. The nice thing is that good health and frugal living can go hand-in-hand for the menu-making family.

Moms Living Thrifty Disclosure

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