25 Days To A More Organized You: Menu Planning

Cracker Barrel's Grilled Chicken Tenderloin Sandwich (see more penny-pinched recipes)

Probably my number one way to make my life just a little more organized as well as pinch quite a few extra pennies each week is taking a few minutes to make a menu each week. There's just something about having a plan in place that makes eating at home so much easier, so even if I don't stick with it perfectly, I at least have a few ideas of meals that can easily be made on a busy week night. Here are a few tips if you're new to menu planning:

  1. Look at your weekly calendar to decide which nights you'll have time to cook a “bigger” meal and which nights need to be dinner on the go.  If you know you'll have no time for a “real meal”, consider sandwiches or soup for dinner.
  2. Determine what meals you can make based on what you have stocked in your pantry. Every few weeks, I look through our pantry and come up with at least 6-10 recipes that I can easily fix without heading to the store. Then, in a pinch those are always available instead of racing out to the store!  I also try to come up with recipes of any “leftover” items that I can use out of my fridge so that they don't go to waste.
  3. Look over the sales ad at your favorite store and see what items are on sale to determine your menu plan. While I try to keep my freezer fairly well stocked with meat, occasionally I'll find a great price on something we wouldn't normally buy so our menu switches to a new recipe idea. If there's a great deal on chicken, plan a chicken recipe, but if pork's on sale come up with a great pork recipe. (I love these Slow Cooked Ranch House Pork Chops!)
  4.  Plan more than one week at a time, and re-use the menus your family loves. If you have several meals that your family really enjoys, make sure to add them in frequently, and ask your family's suggestions on their favorites dinner ideas to make your menu planning go more smoothly.
  5. If you use an online calendar, add your menus to the calendar to help keep you on track.  By having those meals easily accessible, you'll become more accountable and know you need to get cooking. 😉
  6. If you have a recipe that calls for a specific item that you don't regular keep at home, try to make another recipe using that same item during the week so that it doesn't go to waste. If we have Mexican for dinner and want sour cream to top our tacos with, I'll also add Baked Potatoes to the menu plan later in the week so that any extra sour cream doesn't go to waste (or you could always use that extra sour cream to make some Honey Bun Cake . . . ) 🙂
  7. Take advantage of free printable menu planning guides. There are a ton of great printable online resources for menu planning, but here are a few of my favorites:
Do you have any other tips on menu planning? I'd love to hear what your favorite recipes are to rotate, and any other suggestions that you have. I'd love for you to take a minute to leave a comment and share!


Looking for more ways to get organized? See previous 25 Days to a More Organized You:

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  1. It doesn’t hurt if you add a little note to the meals about the things that need to be thawed. That way you can remember to take them out early in the morning or the night before. It saves time and a lot of stress if you know ahead of time that you need to thaw the chicken or veggies.

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