Here’s an update on how using a menu planner is working out …

I decided to test a customizable, two-week menu planner, first – I found it here.  I thought it would be a good way to begin, two-weeks at a time, and with a plan that I could customize before printing.

Menu Planning

(Do you LOVE that I had to Google how to take a screenshot of this to show y’all??  I swear I’m trying to learn some new tricks!  lol)

I sat down with my Master Menu List  – which is literally, a list of every meal I make for my family that they will eat, broken down into categories; such as Soups, Casseroles, Beef, Pork, Chicken/Poultry, Seafood, Meatless, etc. – and a quickly done inventory of my freezer and pantry.  I started mixing and matching meal ideas on a piece of scratch paper, grouping meals together that used some of the same ingredients.

Eventually, I was able to pull together two weeks’ worth of meals that I plugged into the menu planner and printed.  I utilized leftovers wherever I thought there would be enough of the main meal left to stretch into another meal.  Trust me, with a family that eats as much as mine does, leftovers are not a sure bet.  No matter how much food you make at a single meal.

So this entire process took me a couple days.  I did keep getting interrupted for other household stuff, which didn’t speed the process along.  Also, I wanted input from my husband about the meals I was planning, but he was unavailable quite a bit last week.  I almost left him out of the equation altogether, but he does pitch in with meal prep quite a bit; so I wanted to give him a chance to make suggestions … or veto meals.  I did not consult my kids when making up the initial two-week menu, however.  They invariably want to plan every day’s meals as though it’s a holiday banquet and well, our budget doesn’t budge that much.

After getting it completed, here’s a breakdown of how I’m feeling about using this particular meal planner …

The Pros of Using this Menu Planner:

  • I can customize it on the computer before printing
  • It’s not handwritten.
  • It allows planning for 3 meals a day, plus snacks.
  • I can plan 2 weeks of meals at a time.

The Cons of Using this Menu Planner:

  • I can’t save it as a PDF and still customize – I have to bookmark the website and work from there.  That means if our internet is down (which happens sometimes), I can’t menu plan, and I can’t start a menu and come back to it later – have to do it all at once, which is a big chunk of time commitment that I don’t always have.
  • There are no spaces for dates on individual days, which makes it a bit confusing as to when my week actually begins.
  • It’s not pretty …

Using a menu planner was very simple — type in the meals and print.  However, I’m not in love with the design of it.  It’s quite plain, which is okay, but I really like pretty stuff.  Also, by hanging a two-week menu in my kitchen for all to see … well, the kids tend to get a little … um … obnoxious, asking about meals that are still many days ahead, wanting to know if we can switch them around, or saying things like ‘Oh, I thought we were going to town to get $.50 corndogs as Sonic that day‘, which I get tired of hearing pretty quickly.

I found a possible solution to both issues, though.   I printed off an extremely simple but attractive menu – just a weekly menu – framed it, wrote the current week’s meals in liquid chalk (dry erase markers were to faint to see), and hung it in the kitchen.  This allows the kids to see what’s coming up in the short term (one week at a time) without giving them so much information that they become irritating to the cook.

Using a Menu Planner

I think it looks pretty good, even if the frame is pretty cheap-looking.  It was a dollar store frame I had leftover from another project I’d done and I was anxious to get this menu project completed and into action.  Besides, it’s on the wall right beside my stove.  I’m thinking a super nice frame would get icky rather quickly in this location … I won’t feel too awful if this cheapo frame gets gunked up.

So far, things have been going according to plan.  Well, mostly.  I did forget to put on the Crockpot Oatmeal I was planning for breakfast one morning and everyone had to fend for themselves.  They’ve been used to that, though, so it wasn’t a huge deal.  Other than that one little slip, I’ve managed to stick with the menu and my stress levels over meal planning are dropping daily.  Hallelujah!

I’m going to use this menu planner for a month or two before making a final decision on whether to try something different – I still have a few different planners in the wings.  I do like the pretty weekly menu in the frame, however, so I see that sticking around in one form or another.

It feels great to get back to using a menu planner & I’m looking forward to expanding on this little victory by adding freezer cooking and more crockpot meals to my repertoire.  My family already loves the addition of a breakfast meal — this morning’s ‘Healthy Breakfast Cookies’ were a huge hit!

My ultimate plan is to be so efficient and well organized by the time football season rolls around again this summer that it will hardly put a hitch in my stride at all.  I’ll keep y’all posted … and in the meantime, I’d love to hear how your organizing endeavors are coming along!

Love & Blessings,

That Farm Mama

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