Menu Planning 101 ~ Putting it all Together

Welcome to Part 3 of my Menu Planning 101 series. This series is designed to get you in the kitchen, start planning, and help feed your family delicious home cooked meals they will enjoy. Part 1 discussed why we should menu plan and part 2 included almost 40 links with meal ideas for your family.

Last week you submitted your 15 meals, great job! This week we added five more meals to our list, and came up with some side dishes our families enjoy. Believe it or not, by making these 2 lists you have already begun to menu plan.

You should have 20 meals and a variety of side dishes to help create your menu plan. I would suggest printing out your meals and sides and putting them on your fridge or pantry. This will help you make your grocery list.

The next step is to pick 5 or 6 meals to make for your week. The reason I suggest 5 or 6 meals instead of 7 is because you will probably have leftovers one night, or a night you don’t feel like cooking. If you plan for 7 meals and only make 5 some people tend to view that as a failure. It is not, and I will let you in on a little secret. When you see my menu plan each week, I guarantee that one of those meals will not make it to the table. We always have a carry over meal, either due to scheduling, sick kids, work schedules, or an abundance of leftovers. Last night we were supposed to have sloppy joes, we ended up having macaroni and cheese with smoothies, and we will eat the sloppy joes tonight. Plan for 5 meals and you won’t get discouraged.

Your week does not need to run from Sunday to Saturday, make your plan based on what works for your family. I tend to grocery shop on Tuesday or Wednesday, so my weeks usually run from Tuesday to Monday.  I like to link up to Menu Plan Monday because it keeps me accountable. It is not a requirement to link up, however is is an amazing resource for finding new recipes and new blogs.  There are weeks I don’t feel like menu planning, but knowing it is something people like to read on my site keeps me going when I don’t feel like doing it.

You can assign meals to specific days or just assign meals to a specific week. Personally, I come up with several meals for the week, but don’t plan out the days. I did in the past, but I found that our schedule changed so frequently that we would end up eating out because I wasn’t able to get the roast in the crock pot on time. In my fridge there are usually ingredients for 2 or 3 meals. I decide the night before or that morning what we are having for dinner. I also post it on a board in my kitchen so the family is aware of the meal plan as well.

Once you have created your plan, it is time to shop. Next week I will cover shopping, food storage, and sales, and stockpiling. If you have a post about those topics or you want to write one, I will add a MckLinky so you can link up with your post next week. There are so many great ideas for keeping a well stocked kitchen and getting your grocery budget under control, I am sure we can all benefit from each other.

Time for my 5 extra meals and sides.



  • Wild Rice
  • Rice
  • Cheesy Potatoes
  • Baked Potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Pierogies
  • Salad
  • Broccoli
  • Green Beans
  • Peas
  • Corn on the cob
  • Pineapple
  • Watermelon
  • Applesauce
  • Macaroni
  • Fries
  • Squash
  • Cantaloupe





  1. Question about picky eaters that this prompted – what about when children like the sides, but not the main dish?

  2. You are so organized! I am truly inspired!! Thanks for all your comments.

  3. You have a great list! That taco bake does look delicious! I may have to try that one myself!!

    Thanks for visiting my blog! I haven’t posted about my homemade lunchables, but that’s a great idea…I should do that soon. I just use regular cheese, lunch meat, and crackers. I then let my daughter cut her meat and cheese with a small cookie cutter (she usually chooses a heart). We put all the pieces on a plate, and she can assemble them how she wants. It’s exactly what a store bought lunchable is made out of, but much cheaper!!

    I’ve loved this series! Thanks for hosting!

  4. Okay. I think I’ve been doing better! Every so often I would make my list of 15+ meals, but then I wouldn’t necessarily plan 5 meals for the week.

    Sunday I sat down and made a plan; ~2 minutes worth. This week has been pretty smooth because I actually can pull out the meat to defrost the night before. I hope I can keep it up.

    Thanks for hosting this series.

  5. Gold fish crackers are a really fun way to add some variety to tuna casserole. They fit the fishy theme, and for those of you who like something crunchy and something cheesy, they fill the bill.

  6. I am late joining in, but I am loving the ideas!

  7. Can I ask what Pierogies are? I, too, am always looking for good, easy sides, but I don’t think I’ve heard of this one!

  8. I agree with you on being accountable. My blog is pretty new, and since I have been writing and posting, we have eaten better and I have more of a variety now.
    Thanks for hosting!

  9. Justine, Pierogies are potatoes in a pasta-type shell. They can be found in the frozen foods section of the grocery (mine are by the fries) and they come in a few varieties. You can boil, deep fry or bake them (I prefer mine baked because I loved crunchy things). I also like to dip mine in ranch.

  10. I am still struggling with all this meal planning and figuring out what works for me. I work til 6:30 and don’t always want to cook when I get home. The other night I decided I would do chili in the crockpot the next day, which was yummy. I can’t do crockpot everyday as some of the wonderful recipes I find don’t crockpot. Any suggestions? I do have menus planned, most side dishes are veg and bread sometimes. Potatoes are hard to do after I get off work. Rice is ok for me to eat but would have make potatoes separate as my husband is diabetic. Rice sends his blood sugar level high for days. Not good!!!!

    • do brown rice it better for his blood sugar and if you know what your going to cook for a week you can per make them on sunday and just cook them that week i find that to work well

  11. I bought Pierogies today! I “splurged” as I didn’t have a coupon, but I got the ones that were on sale and figured we’d try them 🙂 Thanks for the idea!


  1. […] Last week we came up with 15 of our family’s favorite meals. This week’s challenge from The Happy Housewife was to add another 5 meals and list our favorite side dishes. […]

  2. […] If you’re new to menu-planning, it’s really not as hard as it might seem. You can find some comprehensive articles on the subject here, here, and here. […]

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