I thought it might help someone to see how simple planning menus is. If I can inspire you to create weekly menu plans, I will feel successful. Because really and truly having a menu plan for your week is so key to relieving you from stress and making your life manageable and your evenings better. I am not kidding.
Ok at some point during the week-- it might be on the weekend, it might be during the week, this part changes-- I will get my recipe binder (houses hundreds of recipes I've clipped through the years), and several of my favorite cookbooks out. (I'll do a top ten favorite cookbooks post soon!) I sit down in my kitchen with these books and write down what I want to have. Ideally, I also know what's on sale at my grocery store too when I do this. Sometimes I will admit I do not have any idea what's on sale. I marvel at the many times I get to the store and what I've planned to have is on sale. That's a high five moment between me and God when that happens, I'll tell ya! He takes care of me... that's all I can say. And He'll take care of you, too!
So I write down the meals I want to cook. I have my menu board where I write all the meals down (which I post on the fridge to refer to throughout the week) and my magnetic pad of paper where I write down all the ingredients I will need. I usually plan about 5 meals at a time. Much more than that and fresh food starts goes bad. When I am planning I am continually getting up and going to the pantry and the fridge/freezer to see if we have enough of everything. If not, it goes on the grocery list. If so, I know we're good to go.
This whole process takes 30 minutes. If you're just getting started it might take you longer. If you don't have a huge recipe collection to pull from, search recipes online. I have some recipe sites I refer to in my sidebar. Try A Year of Slow Cooking for a plethora of easy and delicious crockpot recipes. Check out some cookbooks from your local library. Buy one of those magazines at the grocery store with recipes in them. There are ways to get your hands on recipes without spending a ton of money. Having them readily available is key to menu planning. If you visited my home, you'd see my bookshelf in my kitchen filled with cookbooks. I've built this collection over time and love having them right at my fingertips.
Once I get my grocery list made, I am off to the store as soon as I can. Sometimes I even go at night so I can shop alone and really focus. Once I get home and get everything put away, it's a freeing feeling to know that all the stuff I need to prepare a week's worth of meals is in my house and ready to go. There will be no 4:00 panic attacks over what's for dinner. It's all planned out for me. Yes it took some time initially, but it saves time in the long run. Try it, you'll see!
Here's a post on menu planning from A Year Of Slow Cooking blog: