I don’t mind menu planning. It’s really a good thing to do, because if you already know what’s for dinner, you’re less inclined to pick up something on the way home. What’s time-consuming for me is the shopping list: gathering all my recipes and checking the ingredients, looking through my pantry to see what I already have, and later in the week realizing that someone ate an ingredient I needed for a meal.
I came across an idea from NannyGoat that was so incredibly smart I almost fell out of my chair. What if you organized your menu plan into a spreadsheet that you could also use as your shopping list? Brilliant! Then you can easily see what you need and what meal it’s for.
Let’s try it out.
Here’s my menu plan for one week.
Day 2: Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
Day 3: Summer Salad with Garlic Toast
Day 4: Family Style Chili (makes extra to freeze for later)
Day 5: Eggs, Bacon, and Roasted Red Potatoes
I only plan five dinners for a week’s menu. The other two nights are something easy: leftovers, dining out, or a meal from the freezer. Most of these meals feed two to four people. If you have a small family, you can have leftovers for lunch. If you have a larger family or hungry teenagers, you might want to make extra.
Each week I include beans, eggs, or pasta to balance the cost of the more expensive meals. I also make sure to double or triple the recipe for at least one entree. This makes it easy to invite friends over, take a meal to someone who is sick, or freeze servings for later.
But this is the part I think will save time and help the most:
The Shopping List, Recipe Links, and Cook’s Notes
(Click for the full, printable version)
The five meals are listed across the top, and the ingredients are organized down the side. I can quickly see what I need to prepare each meal. On the right side is a total of all the ingredients. Before I go to the grocery store, I can print this list and highlight the things I need to buy.
Update: Printables! Print a blank form that you can fill in with your own menu.
If you’re in Dallas, watch the CBS news on Tuesday night. I’ll be on in an interview about Small Notebook and our annual No Spend Month challenge coming up in July. The interview airs on CBS channel 11 tomorrow at 10:00 p.m.