I have started planning my meals monthly. It is helpful for lots of reasons, but most of all because I have everything out and I'm in planning mode anyway. I find it easier to just write down everything all at once.
I have also assigned categories for days. This also makes it easier to assign a meal for each day. I grocery shop on Mondays which is why it is the beginning of my week.
Tuesday: Mexican (enchiladas, tacos, fajitas, burritos, etc.)
Wednesday: soup (in winter) or grilled (in summer)
Thursday: leftovers (but is often switched with Wednesday)
Friday: pizza, pasta, Cajun
Saturday lunch: usually sandwiches or leftovers
Saturday dinner: float day to use up anything still left in frig or maybe a freezer meal
Sunday lunch: fish
Sunday dinner: veggie or dessert (odd weeks), main dish (even weeks)
So here is the next month that I am in the process of planning. Ps. Look at that new table top. Love love love. Pictures of the finished table coming as soon as I move it into the kitchen where the light is better. I ended up painting the base last night on a whim and I love it too!
1. Fold a sheet of paper on half. Draw a line to divide in half. Week one will be up top. Week two on the bottom. You could do this on separate sheets of paper. But I love having it all in one place.
2. Write days of the week on one side. Grocery list is on the mirror image side. This way you can look at your meal plan and see what groceries you will need without flipping the paper over.
3. Write the date for all Mondays. Compare with calendar and write down any special events (such as Jared's birthday). I write down any event that will be near dinner time (choir, ESL, meetings, etc.) or would keep me from making dinner (such as a doctor appointment at 4pm).
4. Flip the paper over and repeat step two and three for the next two weeks.
Now several people have told me, "I could never plan that far in advance because I like the freedom to choose what I am making as the mood strikes." Well guess what? I change my meal plan ALL THE TIME, but usually within categories (for example: enchiladas might not appeal to me, so switch the chicken meat into tacos or burritos) or sometimes I switch categories, but that is a bit more tricky because you might not have all the ingredients (I try to stock a lot of basic stuff in case I need to switch meals for some reason).
I also switch the days of the week often. Tacos are not always for Tuesdays. They might be planned for that day, but if the meat is marked down and needs to be used on Monday, Monday just became taco night. This happened yesterday. :)
If the only day it is supposed to rain is grill day, I bet grill day is moving to a different day. The same for soup. Soup is better on cold days, not the random 70 degree day in the winter. Move stuff around. Make it work. The point is to have all the ingredients on hand to make several meals.
Also, I plan meals sometime and that meat isn't on sale, but some other meat is on super mark down. I change my meal plan in-store as I shop.
Here is my meal plan from last month. See how things move around and get crossed out and changed? I keep it on my frig. I take it down Saturday or Monday morning and do my grocery list, take it to the store with me, and IMMEDIATELY hang it back up on the frig.
I have really liked the broad view monthly meal planning gives you. I don't have to try to remember what we just had the last couple weeks and try to avoid repeats because I can see all the weeks.
Do you meal plan? What have you found works for you?
I think I am going to start planning lunches a bit more. Eleven o'clock always sneaks up on me and I can't decide what to make the boys. Any ideas for quick boy friendly meals? :)