Menu Planning

The Big Question:
What’s for Dinner?

If your household is anything like mine, then one of the biggest questions of the evening is: What’s for dinner? Previously I would rationalize why eating out is deserved, encourage Thai or sushi take-out, settle for a Trader Joe’s salad pick-up or grumble about having nothing in the pantry. In addition to facing this impossibly difficult question, I would also battle against my terrible impulsivity to eat sweet treats immediately upon entering my home. Well, I have discovered a secret: Menu Planning.

About a year ago, my boyfriend and I stayed the night with our dear friends Lauren and Alexis. We woke up Sunday morning to find them looking through a giant binder of recipes – a collection they had gathered throughout the years from Bon Appetit, Epicurious and various cookbooks. We asked what they were doing, and they shared: Menu Planning. Menu Planning is a simple, yet brilliant concept. On Sunday, you sit down and decide what meals you will be making for the week ahead. You do all your market shopping on Sunday, so that you can avoid long lines at 6 o’clock each weekday, avoid near accidents in crowded parking lots and most significantly, avoid the stress of the question: What’s for dinner?

I recognize that it takes time to review recipes and decide on three to five meals in advance (let’s be realistic – you need to award yourself with at least one night of take-out per week), but let me tell you – best decision I ever made! I find that when I know in advance what my meal options are, I am more efficient in the kitchen and less likely to snack on treats that I know I will regret later. Here are a few samples of Menu Planning:

A Few Menu Samples

Menu planning has been a true time (and life) saver. I want to share a couple of tips that I used when beginning this lifestyle change. First: Get yourself a binder and dividers. I would recommend labeling each section by the food type (salads, soups, sandwiches, meats, seafood, desserts). And then, start saving your recipes. I collect recipes from everywhere – from cookbooks, to magazines to food blogs. Second: Find recipes that have a reasonable number of ingredients. While my eye will occasionally gravitate towards an elaborate or fancy entrée, I have come to realize that simple can be just as good (and far easier at the end of a workday). I look for recipes with ingredients that I already have in the pantry or for recipes with ten ingredients or less. Third: Do not save recipes that you will not make again. I have a habit of saying to myself: “I might try that again another time,” knowing quite well that I will not. Once you start collecting recipes, you may quickly find your binder becoming full. I encourage you to go through it and toss the recipes that you will never use.

My Recipe Binder

My Recipe Binder

And there you have it, a simple, yet brilliant concept for the kitchen (and life): Menu Planning.

Enjoy making your own Recipe Binder!

Enjoy making your own Recipe Binder!

5 thoughts on “Menu Planning

  1. Lu

    Thanks for the inspiration, Mere! I got my menu planning binder today, complete with pretty tabs. 🙂 A few quick questions: 1) Are you using pockets/slip sheets to save your recipes to the binder or 3-hole punching or both? 2) When you go grocery shopping, are you pulling out of your binder each of the recipes for the week to take with you to the grocery store to make your list, or some other method?

    Reply
    1. Meredith Post author

      I’m so excited for you Lauren! Menu planning is really such a helpful life tool. In response to your questions: (1) I only use pockets/slip sheets for recipes that cannot be 3-holed punched (smaller than the standard 8.5×11 paper), or special family recipes that I want to be super protected. Otherwise, I just 3-hole punch and pop into my binder. And (2) When I menu plan for each week, I make a grocery list with all the ingredients for the week. I then tab the recipes I’m planning on for the week for easy access each night. I hope this helps – and please share your tips with me! Happy menu planning!

      Reply
    1. Meredith Post author

      Great question Kristi! I too have fallen off the wagon (several times). I have two suggestions for you: (1) start with simple meals with minimal ingredients and (2) revisit your favorite and “go-to” recipes. These might make the planning process easier as you jump back into your routine. Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

      Reply
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