I've come across so many blogs and website that advocate the need to plan a menu. I have done this on and off for the past few years, but never stick to it. Sometimes it seems like there aren't enough hours in the day (or perhaps way too many options on Pinterest) to sit down and plan something concrete- including a calendar and a grocery list! Just thinking about it makes me stress out, but it is effective! Really, there is no better way to try out all those pinned ideas from around the web. Where to start?
I've noticed that the best way to stay within budget and keep things simple is to create a sort of theme for the week. I don't mean that you should bust out the Mexican sombrero and piñata to set the mood for a week full of south of the border delights. Pick and choose recipes that have similar ingredients- this way you don't have to have a grocery list so long-that it becomes impossible to get it all checked off with a restless toddler in the shopping cart and a limited budget to boot.
After looking over your recipe boards or browsing your favorite blogs for ideas- make a menu. I usually try to make enough of some stuff to have as left overs for another day and always, always have an easy meal day. Even if it means mac and cheese out of the box! Let's face it, some days there is no time or energy to cook an elaborate meal- so just prepare for this and don't be caught off guard. Overall I will try to keep it to 4 or 5 recipes, usually dinner because breakfast is always something simple like oatmeal or scrambled eggs and lunch can be left overs.
Time to take on the grocery list. I usually write down the recipe name, along with the required ingredients and measurements (especially if it's like a can of beans or crushed tomatoes), you always want to make sure you will have enough of the ingredients. I then proceed to break down the ingredients from all the recipes into my grocery list which usually consists of 6 categories: Fresh Stuff; Dairy; Meats; Canned & Dried; Frozen; and ETC. Make sure you don't write the same thing down twice because it's in two recipes and note how much of one thing you need if they come in specific sizes (e.g. 2- 6 oz. can of tomato paste).
Once the list is composed, go through the stuff you already have at home. Maybe you have a lost can of pasta sauce hidden somewhere that you have listed on your grocery list. As you find things at home that you don't need to buy- cross them off the list.
That's about it! The most important part of all of this would have to be to keep your menu posted or easily accessible so you don't forget what you have planned. Also, DON'T FORGET THE GROCERY LIST AT HOME! You can't imagine how many times this has happened to me and I just decide to wing it- I end up buying things that look good and forget many of the ingredients for some of my recipes.
Now it's time to put it to use! That includes me... happy planning!