I learned the concept of menu planning when I was a young girl. I watched my mother jot down dinner ideas, browse her recipe binders, survey the pantry, freezer & fridge for ideas. Now years later, I get the joy of preparing the meals in our home. Here are a couple of suggestions if you’re looking to begin a weekly menu plan:

1. Have a set time/place to plan. Creating a routine is a good way to ensure you’ll stick to it months down the road. For me, it’s usually Tuesday afternoon. I can expect my grocery stores weekly ads to be in my mailbox Monday or Tuesday for the beginning sales on Wednesday.

2. Know your kitchen. Like my mom taught me, know what you have in your cupboards, freezer and fridge. I always check the fridge for items that are a little past their prime or about to expire. This will allow you to save money as well as clear out the fridge to allow room for the weeks groceries.

3. Browse the weekly ads. Stores like Safeway deliver a weekly sale ad to me each week. (If you don’t receive one in the mail, check their website, it’s viewable there!) I always take a look at it for deals and ideas. A couple of weeks ago peaches were on sale so I took the opportunity to make a peach tart. One week avocados, green onions and corn were on sale, so I created a Mexican fiesta around that.

4. Mix it up. We try to limit our meat intake, so for us I plan on eating meat once or twice a week. That gives me some boundaries on what to plan and on which days. Non meat days can consist of a vegetable stir fry one day, broccoli soup & salad the next, or homemade pizza. An easy way to change it up is asking Isaac if there is anything special he’d like for dinner that week. If you have kids, ask them as well; bless them by adding their dinner of choice to the menu. Another way to mix it up is to try new recipes. (search cookbooks, food blogs, ask friends or here) Although, the best way I have found to diversify our dinner table is to shop seasonally. Farmer’s markets are a perfect way to shop within the seasons. Here is a wonderful resource listing all the local produce in your area if you don’t have local farmers markets near you & have to seasonally shop at your grocery store.

5. Traditions. Creating a meal for your family is a real privilege. There is much room for creativity, fun and surprises. A couple of ideas that I incorporate in our home is a fancy dessert every Friday, candlelit dinner just because, occasionally playing music via Pandora, highs & lows (talk about the best part of our day & the worst). Last week I read a quote from Elizabeth Elliot’s Let Me Be a Woman that really encouraged me, ‘The home you make and the atmosphere of that home is the world he comes back to from the world of his work. Let it be a place of beauty and peace.’ I have been trying to put this to wisdom to use in my home and specifically around dinner time, since we eat as soon as Isaac walks through the door. :)

Images: sammyw