Menu planning - it's a brave new world!

Summer is just about over, and we are on the verge of the 10 month long manic season - 4 kids need to get to & from two different schools, weekly therapy for one, ballet lessons for three - and ski season is still several months away so we haven't even added that yet!  In the interest of saving my sanity, and no longer figuring every meal out at the very last minute every day, or spending a fortune on groceries so that I have the ingredients to make just about anything at the last minute... I have been working on putting together a basic structure for weekly meal planning. I looked at a lot of menus online and didn't find anything that really suited my needs or my style, so I've made my own.

I thought if I came up with a basic structure that I could follow each week, with general guidelines for what I will do at each meal each day, then I can fill out my plan at the beginning of each week with more specifics, recipes, and grocery lists.  I am really hoping this frees up some time in my days, helps us with the food budget, and still leaves some flexibility for new ideas and creativity (when I have time for that!).  I certainly don't intend to be totally hard core about following this, if I have extra time to make something different, I will.  But I anticipate that most days I won't have extra time, and I don't want to be thinking, at 5:00, "what should we have for dinner tonight?".  I also have an autistic child who really loves predictability, so I'm thinking this will really help him to know what the week ahead will hold.  We already do pizza every Friday, and he will tell me all week about that.  I think having some idea of what to expect every day will be great for him - and my other kids are also creatures of habit as well. 

Also - I am guilty of having gotten a little lazy over the summer.  A few too many bowls of cereal or processed snacks have made their way into our diet  - and that needs to stop.  I know that if I have healthy and homemade breakfast and snacks ready to go ahead of time, I won't resort to pulling out the cheerios and goldfish every day (if ever).

I've built this around what our busy schedule is going to be - Mondays and Wednesdays we don't get home from therapy and ballet until 5:30, so I need to have dinner basically cooked ahead of time.  Tuesday is my only weekday that I have nothing extra on the schedule, so I've left myself the most flexibility there.  By Thursday I'm often over it, so letting the kids choose one of their favorites just sounds like a welcome break for me.  Friday pizza just seems like a great family way to welcome in the weekend - my husband is usually home a little earlier to wrangle the kids while I get creative with pizza, we catch up over some nice wine, and everybody loves the dinner. 

It is still a work in progress, but I thought I would go ahead and share my basic framework that I've got so far.  I will try to share my more detailed weekly plans as I go along, and we'll see how this goes!   If you click the picture, it will take you to an editable excel version that you can feel free to download and customize.  Definitely let me know if you have questions or suggestions.

click the picture to get a bigger version, or click here if you'd like access to an excel version that you can download and edit.