Menu Planning 101

After reading the comments in the last post it seems like the majority of people who don’t menu plan want to menu plan. There were a few readers who use the stock pile method, similar to Amy Dacyczyn’s. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this method, it basically involves buying items in bulk when they are on sale and then making meals based on what is already in your home.

There were a few people who said limited storage space was their biggest menu planning hurdle. I would encourage you to read this post written by my friend Kate several months ago. Space is extremely limited in her condo and she makes the most of her minimal storage space.

The majority of readers who did not menu plan simply because it was overwhelming. Either they didn’t like to cook, their family was picky, or they didn’t know how to begin.

Since I believe that some of the biggest savings can be found by cutting the grocery budget or at least having a grocery budget, I am starting a menu planning series. I hope to walk you through the basic steps and hopefully get you on track with a grocery budget and a weekly or monthly plan for your family’s meals.

Now, if you really do not want to menu plan and have no desire to learn, my advice to you would be to sign up for the E-Mealz menu planning services. For under ten dollars a month you can have dinners, recipes, and grocery lists delivered to your inbox every month. And best of all it is tailored to meet your families tastes and budget.

But if it is your desire to menu plan then please join in my Menu Planning Challenge. The challenge is simple. Each week I will give an assignment. Each assignment will help teach you how to menu plan. I will host a MckLinky if you have a blog and want to post your completed assignment, but you don’t have to link up or have a blog to participate.

Week 1 Assignment: Create a list of meals.

If your family is picky or complains about the meals you are currently serving, this assignment will make them happy. Ask your family members what they would like to eat for dinner. Using their responses (and your own) make a list of 15 meals. That’s it. 15 meals and you are finished with your first assignment. I will be making a list too and will post it next Thursday.



  1. I had a terrible time menu planning until recently – I finally found a system that works for me! Maybe these will help someone:

    dinner menu planner with library pockets:

    rotating cafeteria style breakfast/lunch/snack planners:

  2. I am SOOO excited!!! Even I, the one that really does not enjoy cooking can come up with 15 meals! At least let’s hope so anyway!!

  3. Thanks for this series! It was easy to meal plan when we were dirt poor and ate the same meals over and over. Now that I am pregnant, we have more variety available from a garden as well as a larger food budget and I have gotten lazy.

    Time to start getting those 15 meals together. My main goal – super easy pantryu6 meals. That way if i get on bed rest, or just don’t feel like cooking once the baby is here, the meals will be easy enough my husband can make them up. (The fancy meals will be freezer meals.)

  4. I love a good menu plan! I actually have my list of meals categorized by type (quick and easy, crockpot, freezer, etc) and with the location of the recipe right next to the name. It is all in a cheap plastic photo album which also contains any loose recipes cut from magazines or printed from online.

  5. I menu plan each week and it really helps me to save $$, not to mention relieve stress at the 5-6 pm panic hour. I posted a short article about this last week.

  6. Good timing! I prefer to menu plan, I just don’t always DO it. I just made my list a couple of days ago (with 15 items) with my hubby’s help.I’m excited to see what you have up your sleeve.

  7. I just might have to go along with this. Having trouble getting dinner on the table since we moved.

  8. I am so excited for this challenge. I do menu plan but then have a hard time sticking to it. Now with school starting and getting busy it’s going to be even more of a challenge. I can’t wait for next weeks installment!

  9. Okay I’m in, off to think about my 15 meals

  10. Thank you so much! I have never done this and am looking forward to it. This will really help me manage my celiac and food allergies plus save money. I’m excited!

  11. Sounds like a good way to make people food they like. I know most of what they don’t like by now. Will make a list of 15 meals though.

    Also come by my blogspot as I’ve got photos and recipe for a potato salad for 35 people. Made for a friend’s daughter’s wedding. Fun…come on by.
    (I blog once a week)

  12. What an awesome idea, Toni! I’m looking forward to this. I haven’t planned out 15 meals at once, so this might be a challenge for me.

  13. What a great idea! Off to plan 15 meals!

  14. Toni-

    I am very excited about this ! Count me in, I have been wanting to get back to menu planning.But with new baby.. I just have not done it yet.

    I know you can relate to that. This is just what I need. I am looking forward to this. Can’t wait to see what my children will pick as some of the meals.

    Thanks for doing this, it’s gonna be fun !
    Have a great day, by the way how is Cora doing ?? ( and the rest of the gang, are they liking the new house ??)


  15. I love this idea I am trying to get better at this.

  16. Hi,
    I have been menu-planning for about 8 months now and it’s been working out pretty well. My grocery budget has been significantly reduced since I only buy what I need (instead of guessing). Also, hubby and I eat healthier and it’s less stress on me if I already know what to make each night.

    My problem (I think I’m alone here) is that I never feel like eating the same meal twice. I have hundreds of recipes bookmarked on my browser, as well as a few cookbooks at home. I’ve made practically every recipe ONCE – but I have no desire to make it again. The dinners taste good, so that’s not the issue. I just don’t know how I could make 15 recipes work.

  17. Oh, I’m so excited about homework that involves making my life easier! I’ve always taken off other people’s menu plans, but I would love to start making my own. I think it would be cheaper on the grocery bill, AND make it easier to plan what to eat. I also just moved and it has been hard to jump start dinner now in different surroundings. I just made my 15 + meals, I didn’t realize it would be that easy. I’m not sure I can wait till Thursday to get the next assignment! whoo hoo!

  18. This sounds like fun! My husband and I meal plan regularly – but our biggest problems are 1) recipe fatigue (we rotate a few meals regularly) 2) having one or two meal choices left and being too tired – or it being too late – to make them, so we end up going out for something quick and 3) finding quick, easy meals that we both like (I guess you could call me picky!). Can’t wait to see what you have in mind for this series.

    P.S. Coming up with 15 meals that we BOTH like is HARD.

  19. When I first got married 2 years ago, hubby and I would sit and meal plan each Saturday before going to the store. After several months, we fell out of the habit. Fast-forward a year or so and now I’m into stockpiling/couponing, but don’t really know how to combine the two techniques for best results. And will school starting back up (I teach), I need all the help I can get!
    I’ll try to get my hubby to help me make a list of 15 this afternoon, and will look forward to future assignments.
    Thanks, Toni!

  20. I’m so excited about this! I was just telling my husband I wanted to try out menu planning. Perfect timing! We have our list ready…can’t wait for the next assignment. Thanks!

  21. I made a list of menus. It wasn’t nearly as difficult as I imagined it to be even thought I regularly shop for my menu.
    Here it is:

  22. I’ve been trying to menu plan for a while but with four picky eaters it is hard….

  23. Thanks for your post…you are inspiring me to menu plan again. Awhile ago I used to be much better at menu planning and used a similar system with 20 of our family’s favorite meals. It really works. I would plan one week at a time choosing meals based on what is on sale that week. But then, I changed jobs and fell off the band wagon. Now that school is starting again I am committed to start the meal planning! Looking forward to browsing through some of your links!


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  5. […] Happy Housewife is sharing some great tips for menu planning. Check out her series if you’re just getting started or looking to improve your […]

  6. […] assignment comes from The Happy Housewife’s blog. She recently started a series on how to menu plan. I have struggled with menu planning off and on since E was born. I have to get back into it. […]

  7. […] assignment comes from The Happy Housewife’s blog. She recently started a series on how to menu plan. I have struggled with menu planning off and on since E was born. I have to get back into it. […]

  8. […] luck. Mostly due to my poor scheduling and planning. But now with the helpful challenge I found at Happy Housewife, the job of nourishing my family is going to be enjoyable, healthier, less stressful and more […]

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