how to menu plan for a week

How to Menu Plan for the Week

Menu planning is something I highly recommend. Not only does it save money, lessens the unnecessary stops to the grocery store, but it also makes our life much easier!

Today, I’d love to share with you how to menu plan for the week.

I’m going to give you a system that will ensure you are saving money AND eating well.

While there are various ways to menu plan, what I’m showing you today, has been my tried and true system for the last 15 years.

Regardless of how you may tweak my system to work for your family, the bottom line is, you have to have a plan. Whether rigid or loose, a plan will save you hours of time and hundreds of dollars each year!

Here are the steps on how to menu plan for the week:

Step 1: Take Inventory

Scour the cupboards, the fridge, and the freezer for food items you already have. Use the items that you find as a starting point for your menu. Make a list of meal possibilities from what you find.

Maybe you have some pork chops that you picked up on sale, and you have some vegetables from last weeks shopping trip, and perhaps you always have rice on hand. Right there you could have a meal of BBQ pork chops, rice and vegetables!

By using what you already have, you will instantly start seeing savings on your weekly grocery bill!

As you are going through your pantry, fridge and freezer, mark down any staple items you need to buy more of. If you find you are low on milk, eggs or flour, for example, add these to your grocery list.

I like to jot down all my ideas on a small piece of paper titled ‘menu’ and on the other side I title it ‘grocery list’ to put down everything I need to buy. (I like to have my menu with me when I shop because sometimes I’ll forget why I’m buying something or it helps me remember to buy an item that I may have forgotten to write on my grocery list.)

how to menu plan for the week

Step 2: Look through the sale flyers

Quickly look through your flyers to see what deals your local stores have. Jot down on your shopping list, the things that are a great deal and you know your family will eat or use.

If you coupon, now is the time to pull out your coupons to see which coupons will make the sales a great deal. For example, maybe this week No Frills has toilet paper on sale and you also have a coupon. This makes it a no brainer purchase!

I do most of my shopping at Real Canadian Superstore as I find they usually have the best overall prices. Occasionally, I’ll pop over to a different grocery store if I see they have great deals on some things we will use. I don’t like to shop at a lot of stores each week because I find that I will end up spending more than I intended. 😉

When I find a great deal on something we use regularly, I’ll stock up as much as I can. This saves tons of money.

I try to build up a small stockpile of ingredients to work with when planning our meals so that some weeks I only have to buy the basics like milk and fresh vegetables!

Step 3: Finish planning your menu

Once you have taken inventory at home and determined which sales you want to take advantage of, write out your menu with your findings.

At this time in my life I do not plan our breakfasts and lunches.

I only plan for five dinners including side dishes, leaving one night open for leftovers and another for dinner out or a quick bowl of soup.

I also don’t give each meal a specific night to be made since I like to cook for what I’m in the mood for that particular day. I try to have at least one chicken dish, a beef dish, and a pasta dish.

For breakfast, I like to have fruit, cereals, eggs, bread and the ingredients for basic pancakes or French toast on hand. I’ll occasionally buy bacon but that’s usually only if it’s in a dinner recipe I’m using.

Lunches are almost always dinner leftovers from the night before. We rarely let food go to waste!

When you’re first starting out with menu planning, you may want to plan all three daily meals, as you don’t want to forget anything at the store. The less trips to the grocery store, the more money and time you’ll save!

Step 4: Make a final grocery list.

Now is the time when I go over my list to see if I’ve forgotten any pantry staples, milk or items needed for a recipe. I’ll also put all the items into categories according to the store layout. Produce, meats, dairy, canned goods, personal supplies…etc.

Make a list and check it twice!

Step 5: Go shopping!

I recommend going at a time of day when the store is not very crowded and you can take a time to compare prices or mark-downs. I try my best to get to the grocery store before 10:00am on Monday mornings. This is what works for me and I also find the shelves are well stocked on a Monday.

I’ve found that when the store is busy I’m more likely to hurry, therefore, I spend more money or forget something I’ve written down on my list.

You may also want to have a grocery budget and bring cash only. Using cash only forces you to stay within your chosen budget. We tend to get a lot of the same stuff each week so I know that I usually spend $125 each week, give or take.

Other useful menu planning tips:

  • I like to create simple meals that do not call for a lot of ingredients as this saves on time as well as cash since I’ll most likely always have those ingredients on hand. (soy sauce, spices, etc…)
  • As you are preparing a meal, you may want to double it to put one in the freezer. It’s always nice to have meals in the freezer you can pull out when you don’t feel like cooking! I do this all the time with Spaghetti sauce and taco meat.

There you have it! That is how to menu plan for the week.

Do you menu plan? If so, what kind of menu planning system works for you (monthly meal plans, weekly plans, loose plans, etc.)?