I know what you’re thinking “easy menu planning?! Either every night is spaghetti night -or- she’s Mary Poppins.” Okay, streamlining takes time, but it really is easy when you commit to taking a little time to get the method down.
Let’s clarify a few things first. I want to specify the Who, What, When, Why, and How for you; so you can see how this works for me, and how it can work for you too.
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Who — I menu plan for Mister Jupiter, myself, and our toddler. Two omnivorous adults and one child, he takes leftovers to work for lunch (to #1 save the money, and #2 because we have such amazing dinners).
What — Menu planning is when you plan meals ahead. It’s nice knowing what’s for dinner for the rest of the week.
When — We make plans on Sunday evenings, and I do the shopping each Monday before dinner. Weekly shopping works best for us and the fresh produce.
Why — Menu planning is the perfect waste reducer. We have little to no food waste because I buy ONLY what we need. I do make occasional (every three months maybe) pantry-top-off trips, but that’s only when we’re out of white cheddar shells or my favorite fish curry paste.
Let’s start with the app, Paprika. It’s not free, it does cost a few dollars, but it’s worth it. I have it on my iPad and I love the custom categories and tags for organization. I also use their calendar and grocery list compilation. Seamless integration with iCal and Reminders keep me coming back.
I’m crazy about organizing, so I made categories that made sense to me: Cuisine (African, Brazilian, etc.), Method (stovetop, InstantPot, etc), Protein (Chicken, Pork, etc.), and even bulk ingredient that I won’t use entirely in one recipe (cream cheese, bone broth). This may come as a surprise, but in the world of Technical Writing I love indexing. So I indexed my recipes to death.
Speaking of organizing, each month Mister Jupiter helps me make meal themes. What are meal themes? They are once-weekly themes that we follow for the month. For example, a running theme is always Wednesdays = Leftover night. We always leave weekends open, but I plan a theme for the Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Those themes change each month. I make sure that the themes are something that we can really work with.
open themes, like Pantry Buster
Cuisine themes are easy (Mexican Mondays). Ingredient themes can be simple too (Fish Fridays). I really like open themes, like Pantry Buster (where you make something that features lesser used ingredients or about-to-expire goods), and New Recipe (where we obviously try something new). Husband’s favorite themes include InstantPot Chicken, and Pasta.
Determining meal themes works for us because it only takes a few minutes each month. When the new calendar goes up on the wall, I get the red pen ready, and I ask Mister Jupiter if he has any special requests. I write the themes at the top of the month, and it’s done. Usually we each have a request (I like soups on Friday) that we’ll honor then agree upon the other days. Good ol’ compromise.
ALL of the recipes
On Sunday evenings we build the weekly menu according to the daily themes. It’s SO much easier to build a menu with some restrictions, because the paradox of choice is real.
I think that menu planning sounds intimidating because of ALL of the recipes floating around the internet, but if you know that on Tuesday you’re having some kind of taco then it’s fun determining your protein and toppings. This week you’ll have beef tacos with tomatoes and cheese, because next week you’ll have fish tacos with tomatillo salsa. Mmm.
When your recipes are
obsessively organized indexed, the themes are even easier! For us the indexed categories helped us see the themes. But if you’re inspired to start now, it is easier to start from the theme to create your recipe cards.
By the way, if you’re interested in some real index work, here’s a quick tip. Make sure that each recipe can be reached in two different ways. For example, Beef Tacos can be categorized as Mexican, and Beef. You can get more in depth if it suits you, like including Ground Meat and Fresh Tomatoes. Most of my recipes can be reached in six different ways.
recipes will be a surprise
How should I keep the recipes? I recommend digital because it saves paper, it’s easy to screen shot and share, and multiple tags enable the same recipe to be in several folders at once. But I understand if you can’t get the right app, or your iPad can’t be trusted, etcetera. If digital doesn’t work, then by all means, make your own recipe cards! You can always keep things fun by writing ingredients & directions on one side, then categories on the other. This way, if you’re choosing by category, then the recipes will be a surprise when you flip the chosen cards over.
That’s how we do it in the Jupiter House! A little organization goes a long way, but only if you stick with it. It’s easy to keep up because so much time has already gone into our categories. Do you use a similar method? Do you do something totally different? I would love to hear especially from other indexers.
- In a mood to organize? You might like: Never Text “New phone who dis?” Again