For schooling, I'm teaching 2nd grade, Kindergarten, and Preschool curriculums...it's gonna be fun and busy!! As I sat down to plan our year, I realized that just putting together our school day schedule is like a puzzle. Then you add other outside activities to mix, and things can get complicated pretty fast!
So this year I decided to put together a 4 week menu plan with a shopping list. Using a free downloadable menu planner from over at MoneySavingMom.com, I put together breakfast and dinner plans for the whole month. (Lunch seems to be easy: usually leftovers or cheese lace with fruit for me, and sandwiches, fruit, cheese cubes, and sunflower seeds for the boys.)
It took me several hours to put it all together. I settled down at the kitchen table with my notebook full of our I Want to Thrive! magazines, our booklets, and a notebook full of my favorite recipes from the website. I have already tagged my favorites with sticky notes, making the planning a little easier.
My goal was to come up with four weeks of recipes with very little overlapping. I also tried to mix and match recipes in the same week that use some of the same ingredients. For example, I never seem to use up the lettuce or cabbage I buy for one recipe, so spreading it out between two just makes sense and saves a little money too.
Breakfast for dinner is always popular so I am including that in the month two times. It's pretty easy to make, so I planned it for an end of the week dinner...when I'm low on energy! I use either the fabulous and popular pancake recipe my husband whipped up (Jim's Fluffy Pancakes) or the light and fluffy Golden Waffles recipe included in our Beautiful Brunches Booklet. Add some pre-cooked Costco Bacon to that, with some fresh-cut fruit and we have a fun dinner!
The meal plans include dinners for Monday through Friday, with an eat-out dinner every other Friday. On the weekend we slow down the pace. Saturdays mornings are usually pancake breakfasts, and dinners are easy "picky dinners" - usually grilled cheese sandwiches (Cheese Lace for me) with fresh fruit bought at Costco that morning. On Sundays I serve leftovers for our lunch after we get home from church, with popcorn & apples for dinner that night. These easier weekend meals create a more restful atmosphere so we're ready for another week come Monday!
After I had figured out what meals I would be making each day, I put together a shopping list by looking at each recipe. I make a copy of the whole page before heading out to shop on Saturday, and add any other items we need for the week. (You could also take a picture with your phone to refer to.)
At the top of each week's menu plan, I wrote which things to make ahead of time, like meatballs or muffins. I also put question marks after the items that we should already have on hand, just to double-check that we have it.
We are two weeks into the menu plan, and I'm really liking it! Doing the planning once and having ready-made shopping lists each week is totally worth the trouble at the beginning! I'm less stressed on the weekends. I have more time to relax and rejuvenate for the coming week instead of trying to come up with meals each Saturday when I could be using that time to shop.
It's going to be a good school year! And who knows, I might just keep using this menu plan for more than the school year. It seems to have enough variety and favorite meals to keep everyone happy...But if the kids (or us!) starts to complain about having the same thing over and over maybe I'll put together another 4 week plan to mix things up...
Happy (almost) fall!