Menu planning for busy people

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I’ve had a request from another blogger: (rawbitsoflife is the blogger, and I’m very excited) to share more about my menu planning that I talked about in my post entitled “Time“. So here it is!

I’ve not always been organised, it has taken years to get here! This post is to encourage and hopefully help all mums everywhere. It may not suit your lifestyle either. I can say with certainty that meal planning is awesome! Once you get the hang of it, like everything else.

As a working mum, thinking about cooking and what to cook is pretty low on the list of things that I enjoy doing. I’m busy, and I want to spend valuable time with my family. Years ago, before the birth of my first child, I purchased a book called “Table Tucker”. It is based on an amazing concept of a full year’s dinner meal plan, including shopping lists, recipes and other really handy tips. I don’t use it anymore for the following reasons;

  • Allergies in our family
  • Food preferences of my children
  • The recipes don’t cater for a consistent amount of people.

These things may not apply to you, and you can read more about it here.

So, the principles of how I meal plan are:

  • Shopping day is Friday.
  • I only cook on Fridays (for Friday and Saturday), Sundays (for Sunday and Monday), and Tuesdays I cook 2 meals (one for Tuesday and one for Wednesday and Thursday).
  • I plan for 4 weeks at a time and repeat the menu for the season. I’m working on Autumn’s menu at the moment.

4 weekly planner

The Food:

  • First I plan the dinners. I need 16 dinners that don’t repeat, that means that we won’t eat that meal again for 3 weeks.
  • Then I plan the weekends. Because we have more time on the weekends it’s nice to have less basic lunches.
  • Next is snacks – morning tea and afternoon tea, and I only plan 2 weeks which then repeat. The same for weekday lunches.

The Extras:

  • Then I write out shopping lists for each week, by food type to save time, e.g. dairy, veg etc. I include on there things like nappies, toothpaste, toilet paper etc that we may need.
  • This time round I’ve also made a binder with recipes. Some of the meals we haven’t tried yet, but by the second month the menu will be finalized. Some aren’t on here because I know them well enough not to need to type them out. Like Fish and Chips, beef burgers, Beef Roast and Veg etc.

Menu contents
Shopping day:

  • On my shopping day I grab the list, cross off anything I don’t need and stick to it!

Pro’s about menu planning this way:

What’s nice about this system (although it sounds tedious) is that:

  • Everyone knows what’s for the next meal time. And you can switch it up.
  • The shopping lists are done. No more impulse buys. And anyone can do the shopping.
  • It saves me a lot of money because I stick to the list and don’t buy unnecessary items.

Here is what my very basic week one looks like:

week 1
Cons about menu planning this way:

  • It could be too structured for other people.
  • There’s a fair bit of work involved to begin with.

I’m no nutritionist nor are we super super healthy, but we try! I’d love to know how you meal plan to save time and money.

Not convinced? Here’s a whole series on how to meal plan.

If you liked what you read, please take a look for encouragement for mums here.

42 thoughts on “Menu planning for busy people

  1. I am in awe at how organized you are.
    Now days, with it being just my husband and I, we kind of wing it. I usually shop every 3-4 weeks and stock up on the things we commonly use. Then I plan a dinner one or two days in advance. We usually eat what I cook for two dinners or a dinner and a lunch, because I find it hard to cook just enough for two. When the kids were still at home I usually did a two week menu for dinners but breakfast and lunches were not really preplanned. It was usually cereal for breakfast and they often got lunch at school or packed themselves a lunch to take. As they got older I had to insist that they let me know if they were not going to be home for dinner because I would cook a large meal and because they were working or had other plans there would be no one there to eat it.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I can’t tell you how much things change. The last time I was with all 4 together was in November for Thanksgiving. Last week I tried to plan a family dinner with all and even though I gave them 3 weeks notice only one ended up making it. (At least she brought hubby and grandbabies 🙂 ) Most times I can see one or maybe two at a time. I really miss having them all together. One thing I do hear from them a lot is how they miss my cooking. HA! Anyway YES, ENJOY THEM NOW. The time goes soo fast.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I am a mother of a teenager and also have a full time job. Your list really inspires me and I I’ll soon make a meal planner of mine and share it with you.

    Deciding what to cook and then accordingly buying grocery and food items is indeed the best way to stay organised, save time and energy and also avoid stress buying. Thanks for the idea.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Great organization! The food category is what my wife and I spend the most money on! We go to the grocery store and spend $40 here, $100 here, $60 there…. It’s all random! I actually already went to the store this morning and spent $7 on creamer and doughnuts!
    I would love to try this some time! God Bless!


  4. Woooow. I increasingly think of adopting your method to save time and money, but I still cannot get past both of your cons – a lot of work ahead of time, and the most important to me – spontaneity. I tried pre-planning my meals for the week, but after 2 days I am tired and have a taste for something off menu. And what then? The cooked food goes to waste and I have to slave away to cook (or buy) something I want to eat.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes they are very big cons. You have to do what fits with your lifestyle. This weekend we have been invited to dinner at a friend’s house, and I’ve needed to shift the plan slightly. It means that the meal I was going to make for Tuesday, I’m now going to freeze for next month and everything else moves along by 1 day. Also it has to fit with your timing too. I work 3 days a week and don’t get home till a quarter to 6 and we have 2 small children. When we get home, dinner needs to be ready to go!

      If you do implement something like this, please share with me as I’d love to know!

      Liked by 1 person

          1. Well, currently I’m living in a cheap flat in Thailand with no kitchen, so I go out to eat for lunch and dinner because a meal here only costs $2-4. Back when I was in New Zealand, though, I would just think about what meals I wanted over the next two or three days, make myself a list, and try not to deviate from that list. The grocery store was on the way home from work and I lived in a shared house so it wasn’t any trouble to do frequent shopping trips and I didn’t want to take up too much fridge space by stockpiling food.

            Liked by 1 person

  5. An intriguing discussion is definitely worth comment. I do believe that you ought
    to write more about this subject matter, it may not be a taboo matter but generally folks don’t discuss these
    issues. To the next! Kind regards!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment. I have nearly a full series on this topic if you would like to read more on this topic. Simply select “Meal planning” from the drop down menu. I look forward to your thoughts.


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