Planning and organizing a weekly menu keeps chaos out of the kitchen

You know those days? The ones when your feet are moving too fast before you’ve had a cup of coffee or even had time to think? Meals are the last thing on my mind and probably yours too!

If you use what I’ve learned – you’ll be able to have that much needed cup of coffee and even get in a shower.

I want to share some of the ways that help me keep weekly meals feeling a lot less chaotic. I stay on track, don’t overspending on groceries, and can invite guests over during busy seasons without unnecessary stress. It also means we don’t eat out because I had no plan for dinner!

I am a list person, there is something so satisfying about crossing something off when I have accomplished it. The weeks I take the time to plan out my meals and get a clear plan, I handle the kitchen and cooking far more successfully. Recently we had a short season where I was on a strict food plan for my health, my husband decided to do Keto and I have a growing 15 year old boy in the house.

While most would say I am crazy – I made different lunches to fit everyone’s eating plan and then our dinner was a joint meal that would still work for everyone. In order to stay at peace through this craziness I made a menu board on our chalkboard wall. You can apply this same principle with your meals, or incorporate lunch options for the kids school lunches. I used our pantry doors (which were ordinary doors) and painted them with chalkboard paint to create a central place for our meals to be listed.

There are other options if you don’t want to do something this extreme. A paper menu, a cork board menu or many other options are out there for keeping a meal plan together.

Meal Planning Steps:

  1. Start by taking inventory on what is left in your fridge. What meats are in the freezer that need used up. I make a list of these items 1st as a starting point for my planning.
  2. I shop at Costco and buy meat in bulk but if you do not have the ability to do this there are other ways you can save money. Plan your meals around the meats that are on sale at your local grocery store. The grocery store near us often does a BOGO on certain meats.
  3. Make a plan and write it down. Are there easy meals you know your family loves? I have a list of family favorites I rotate between. Some weeks I keep it simple and only cook meals that I am familiar with and can put together with little effort. Other weeks I feel like being adventurous and trying new recipes. There is no perfect formula – the key is making it work for you and your family! Some of our favorite easy meals are chicken enchiladas, chicken saffron soup, steak skewers and smashed potatoes
  4. Create a grocery list. Once you have made a menu for the week go down each meal and check to see what items you still need in order to complete the recipe. Even though this feels a bit time consuming, it will save you money, time and additional trips to the grocery store later in the week. Going with a list keeps the costs down so you don’t end up buying things you don’t need or maybe already have in your pantry

Here is how I work the system to fit our schedule. I write out each day with a lunch and dinner. In this case it was different for each person. Every one at our house usually makes their own breakfast since we all get up at different times and everyone is old enough to be self sufficient! If you have little kids who like to have choices this could be a great way to make a list of school lunch options that they can take in their lunch.

My OCD personality would prefer to follow each meal to the day I planned for but that’s not real life. Either our schedule changes and I don’t have time to cook the meal I had for that night, or I missed an item on the list and haven’t gone to the grocery store and have to make a last minute change.

I like to visually see what is going on and as we eat each meal I cross it out. This helps for when we skip around for some reason. I can always glance back at the menu and see what I have to cook with.

It’s a simple method keeps me in order. It eliminates me not being wasteful and making sure we cook through the whole menu, using the supplies I already have. When it comes to lunches I can tell the kids they can pick from the items not already crossed out.

If we have an unexpected meal out I will skip a meal from the weekly plan that doesn’t have as many fresh ingredients in it or a meal that calls for meat from the freezer, which can stay there until the following week. It is a great way to keep me at peace and know that no matter how crazy life gets, everyone will be fed and my kitchen will be a happy place with a lot less chaos!

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