Meal planning

It's the beginning of another month, and time for me to plan and shop for the whole month. Yes, I meant to do it over the weekend, but it just didn't happen, so I'm doing it today. But I said a month ago I'd share my 'system' and I'm just now getting around to it, so no surprise that I'm behind on anything else.

I started planning by the month about a year ago. My first few attempts took hours as I deleted and rearranged meals to get the variety I was looking for. About six months ago I tried a new strategy that allows the variety I want and takes just a few minutes a month.

My menu starts with a template of seven columns with four rows per column. I designate each day as a certain 'category'. These can be changed to suit anyone's preferences or schedule.
Monday in our house is 'Meaty Monday'  - especially if it's something that would have leftovers to use during the week or in lunches.
Tuesday is 'Family Favorites' night.
Wednesday is 'Whatever Wednesday' (in other words, leftovers),
Thursday is Soup/Salad/Pasta
Friday we eat out
Saturday and Sunday have been for grilling - but I may change that as the weather changes, although we grill regardless of the season.

Next, I made a master list of all the meals we may want to cook.  I divide all the options into the same categories so all I have to do is choose four (or five, depending on how many weeks are in that month) items from each category and plug them in to the appropriate day of the week. I've already plugged in breakfast and lunch choices for each day that go well with the dinner category and fit our schedule, and those choices don't change month to month.

The fourth row is for after-school snack ideas - like fruit and cheese, homemade yogurt and granola or deviled eggs.

I usually plan one dessert for Wednesday (an added treat for leftover night), and one on the weekend. The weekday one is usually something simple - fruit and cream, homemade ice cream, chocolate mousse (yes, it's simple the way I make it), etc, while the weekend one is sometimes, but not always, more extravagant.

To shop for the month, I buy all the non-perishables, meat and anything that can go in the freezer for the whole month as well as vegetables, eggs, milk, cream, etc for the meals I've chosen for the first week of the month. At the end of the first week, I'll choose what I want to cook for the next week, and buy vegetables, milk, etc for that week, and if I've planned well, not much else.

I hope that makes sense. I'll try to post a sample. I've shared it with a couple of friends and they tell me it's working well for them. If you try it, let me know how it works for you.

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