If you’re like me, you still haven’t figured out how to cook “whatever” or “I don’t care.”

It’s not a place to be ordered from either.

What I do know – in that fifteen minutes spent going through every kitchen cupboard, or going back and forth with your spouse, maybe both, dinner could have been well underway.

It all comes down to a bit of planning ahead.

No, I’m not talking about meal planning or prepping. I’m talking about menu planning. This doesn’t mean we have to become short-order cooks in our own kitchens. It’s a lot like meal planning except that we don’t commit to cooking a certain meal on a certain day of the week. Everyone eats the same thing where possible. The goal is to simply narrow down choices.

You’re no longer asking “what do you want for dinner?” You’re asking what would you like out of these options – knowing you have what you need in order to follow through.

This helps with four things: planning a grocery list, saving time around mealtime, reducing food waste, and sticking to your budget.

How to make a weekly menu

There really is no one size fits all solution to making a weekly menu. However, here are some suggestions on how to get started:

  1. Grab a pen and paper – or phone with a notes app if that’s how you work best
  2. Look at what’s currently in your pantry, fridge, and freezer. What needs to be used up? Are there any meals you can make from these or other ingredients you have? What are you missing?
  3. Next, grab some inspiration from your local flyers! Do you see anything on sale that you can incorporate? If you don’t have flyers on hand – you can download a free app called Flipp
  4. Using your list of current ingredients, the flyer, and thinking about your household favourites, create your menu. Personally, I add seven meals to my list so that I can choose one for each day of the week
  5. Add any missing ingredients to your grocery list. Bring! is another free app I love! They have categories similar to the departments you’d find in your local grocery store. All you have to do is tap items to add them to your list – which can be shared with someone else.
  6. Put the menu somewhere visible so that you can see it. That way it’s not lost or forgotten. If living with others, you can also put it somewhere central in the house where everyone can see it such as the fridge.
  7. When planning your day, choose what meal you’d like ahead of time in order to give yourself time to thaw, marinate, brine etc.

Here’s an example using one of my printables (but any sheet of paper will do just fine of course!):

Other Tips

  • Plan meals where leftovers or extras can be used back to back – for example, BBQ chicken and the next day chicken fried rice
  • Prioritize meals with ingredients that are due to go bad sooner
  • Create a go-to list of your household favourites for inspiration. While this may seem trivial, it really helps when planning
  • Avoid including everyone in the process as it may end up taking longer than it needs to – it depends on the dynamic of the household of course. Personally, I run mine by my spouse once I’ve drafted it in case there are any objections, but I do the planning on my own
  • If needed you can include others by asking them to contribute to the favourites list so they don’t feel their favourites will be left out

Conclusion

Using this method, you can tackle your menu for the week, your grocery list, and prevent food waste. It can also help your budget a great deal by reducing the urge to order takeout or making unplanned trips to the store (especially whilst hungry).

For those that like to plan all three meals ahead of time, here are a couple more examples of what that could look like:

Personally, I only put dinners on my menu, but I created this printable for those who like to do all three!

I hope you’ve found this helpful. Happy planning!

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If you’d like to check out my printable meal planner package on Etsy – here’s the link.

You might also like my post on weekly planning – an effective way to get organized!