One month ago I set up a new menu plan - one that covers three months of menus. After using it for one month now, I am wanting to post an update on it. It has worked great - I am so thankful!
I've used a variety of menu plans over the years, always trying to have a plan that fits the needs of our family the best. Our needs are different now (in our "empty nest" years) than they were when we had our six children at home, but the basic need of having three meals a day has not changed. And maybe more than ever, I need to have a plan in place, or our meals become neglected.
The beginning of October I prepared this sketch of a plan, picking out my favorite recipes for the fall/winter seasons, and placing them all on a three-month menu chart.
It took a few hours to do this, but now the plan is in place for the three months of October, November, and December. (And I will likely use the same cycle again, with a few changes, for January, February, and March.) Besides the chart of the main dish menus, I also prepared a chart listing a few ideas for each week for breakfast, lunch, sides/salads, breads, and desserts.
Now that I have a general plan of which recipes will be used each week, it has been much easier for me to fill in my weekly menu chart (below). Referring to the three-month charts, I've been filling this weekly chart in by hand and also writing down groceries needed for the week. I've been very flexible with the three-month chart, and all the recipes do not get used each week, (also I like to try out new recipes fairly often), but the choices have been there for me if needed. Such a help!
This plan has been very helpful to me this past month. However, to make a three-month plan work, a person needs to consistently purchase food items when they are on sale, and have a supply on hand in the pantry and the freezer. This is something that is possible for me, as I have two freezers and also a pantry in the basement. If freezer space and pantry space is limited, then it is probably most economical to plan your menu week-by-week, using food items that are on sale each week.
So many benefits to menu planning, whether a person uses a three-month plan, or a monthly plan, or a weekly plan. (And I have used all these types.) The biggest benefits for me are:
Less stress weekly, or daily, trying to figure out what to make for our families.
Less trips to the grocery store, as we are planning ahead.
Less money spent eating out.
More food in the freezer (consistently baking, for example, helps me have muffins, breads, and desserts on hand when family comes over, as well as for unexpected guests.)
More to share with others - baked goods, as well as freezer meals (as often one recipe for a main dish is enough for two meals).
More joy in the kitchen, as my biggest challenge (deciding what to make) has already been taken care of for three months at a time!
Thanking God for all that He provides for us so that we can have meals on our table, and thanking Him for menu planning ideas, enabling us to love and serve our families and others.
What does your menu planning look like? And what are the benefits for you and your family?