Cooking at Home: How to Plan a Monthly Menu

Cooking at home is my favorite way to eat. The satisfying feeling of making and eating something that I created cannot be replicated. I have long been a proponent of eating at home. I grew up eating at home almost exclusively. Eating out at a restaurant was a rare affair. Part of it was probably the burden of paying for five hungry mouths at restaurant prices and because my mother was a wonderful cook.

As an adult, I have continued on the theme of cooking at home. When I first married and lived on my own, we cooked at home for financial reasons. Eating out was ridiculously expensive, even if it was convenient. However, many nights in a row of Ramen noodles and Hamburger Helper got old fast. And I quickly learned that boxed meals were not the least bit healthy.

Enter in monthly menu planning. This craze has taken over the mommy world by storm. The premise is that you plan out your menu a month in advance and purchase the bulk of your food at the beginning of the month. Some monthly menu planners only shop at the grocery store once a month but I find that hard to follow for my favorite items: produce.

Planning your menu gives you the ease of not panicking at 5 p.m. wondering what to serve your brood. You will have a clear sense of what will happen, plus you will have already purchased everything you need for the meal.

To start, make a list of your family’s favorite meals. Find a mixture between tried and true family favorites and intersperse new recipes to keep the menu from getting stale. Many mommy blogs will post their monthly menus as inspiration. Take into account what your little ones will eat and adjust to your needs. For new recipes, peruse Pinterest, food blogs or food magazines. And know that it is OK to repeat certain meals that your family loves. Worried about the variety? Give some space in between two similar meals to keep it different.

If you are short on ideas, think about themed dinner nights like Friday night pizza or Thursday Asian. This will help give you an idea, but is broad enough to be taken into many different directions.

Next gather your recipes and make a list of everything that you will need. Organize each recipe ingredient by category (all meats together, spices together, etc) so you can find overlapping. Overlapping ingredients is a great way to save at the grocery store. You can easily purchase items at member’s only warehouse stores like Sam’s Club or Costco with big savings. For those who like a lot of fresh produce, make a weekly list of perishable items that you will pick up each week.

Start cooking! Having a plan will avoid the dinner blues, plus those who plan dinners tend to eat healthier. You won’t make Ramen noodles out of desperation.

Month after month, tweak the menu to fit your family and the food seasons.

Happy home cooking!