Over the years I have gone back and forth with using a menu and not using one. My conclusion...I spend WAY too much money when I don't use a menu. Plus, when I spend the time to create one I reduce my stress...and I don't have to answer that pesky little question anymore. So...
What kind of menu do you use?
-Menu Cards: At one point I had a stack of menu cards. They were index cards that I cut in half. Each card had a meal on it. I would sort through these cards every other week and choose the meals I would make. That worked for a while, but then I got bored. What I didn't realize is that I needed more variety. With variety this idea can work.
-Meal Idea list: It's a fabulous idea to have a list of the meals that your family enjoys. I used to have a list on my cork board that was hanging in the laundry room. Why the laundry room? I didn't want the paper clutter in the kitchen. You could hang the lists and recipes on the inside of a cabinet door. Or put your list and recipes into a binder with your cook books. The list helped me with variety. I don't have it on paper now, but I have a running list in my notes app on my phone. That way, no matter where I am, I can always add to the list when I think of something.
-Calendar menu: You can purchase a planner to write your menu in or a wall calendar would work too. It's handy to have where the entire family can see it. You can also print free blank calendars from the internet. I found a chalk board calendar at Walmart that I was going to use for a family calendar. It sat on my dresser for weeks before I decided I wanted to use it for a menu/meal calendar instead. I used command strips and stuck it on the front of the stainless refrigerator. It came with a chalk pencil and it has a little tray for the pencil in the frame.
At first I was writing in a meal for every night except one. After a few weeks we realized that we needed to have nights designated for left overs. Otherwise the fridge is busting at the seams with left over food. And then the food goes bad. And I hate wasting food.
Yesterday I filled out the calendar with a little help from my husband. I purposely left 3 days a week blank. If we don't make a meal one day I circle it so that I know that I can use that meal later. Some days we end up with no time to make dinner and everyone eats left overs, cereal, toast or nachos. I circle the meal or write it else where. Once the meal is used I put a line through it.
Once I get the month's menu filled out I start a grocery list. I check to see what ingredients we already have on hand and which ones we need. I make sure to put snacks, fruits, veggies and other necessities on the list as well. I also have some foods that come on a Subscribe & Save shipment each month from Amazon. A couple of the meals this month require chicken broth. I was starting to fret about the fact that the shipment won't come until the 1st of the month and my husband suggested we swap a couple meals around so that the meal requiring the broth would be made after the delivery. I had a "DUH" moment! Hahaha! I'm not sure why I didn't think of that, but he reminded me to simplify. Todd to the rescue!
When I plan ahead and take the time to create a menu and a detailed list of items needed I save my family hundreds of dollars each month. Yes, you read that right. Hundreds. But remember...we have 8 people to feed. No matter your family size you will save money by creating a menu and following it.
I also remind my kids that the food I buy has to last for a month...except for milk, eggs, cheese, bread, and fresh fruit and veggies. And when they're gone, they're gone. They won't get more until the next month. If I buy 10 bags of chips, which I don't, they would eat every one of them just because they are in the house. I buy 2 boxes of regular chocolate chip granola bars at the local whole sale club. That's 120 bars for the month. If I purchased more boxes they would eat them all, but there are plenty of them for the month when I buy just 2 boxes.
We've also found a way to use the calendar to mark the dates that my husband works. I write a small "w" in the bottom corner for "work". This way we can have the meals that he enjoys on the nights that he will be home, and make the meals he is less fond of on the nights that he works.
So, no, making a menu isn't a waste of your time. Time is money. And you'll save a bunch my writing out and sticking to a menu. What are your favorite meals?