Two Week Menu Planning
Menu planning not your favorite idea? Need a simple way to menu plan on a less frequent basis? I have found that planning in two week chunks is less taxing on my brain and better on the budget. It allows for less frequent trips to the grocery store, which saves money on less impulse buys, and with a bustling home/school/life routine with 5 kiddos, it can be challenging to fit it all in. I have been planning in two week chunks for several years now, and it has proven most successful, even as our family has grown, although granted it has required two refrigerators now (one smaller one is kept in our basement)!
I use a basic Pages document on Mac, but you can easily use Word documents (pictured above). I use this exact same template/document for each two week schedule, and only change the dinners and the dates for the most part each time I make my menu. Breakfasts and lunches stay the same, which takes half the work out of it. I then look through my evernote notebook of recipes (the free storage service I use for my recipes and other household lists/organization), and pick which dinners I want to prepare for the next two week window. Evernote is fabulous because I can easily copy and paste recipes from all difference sources, use their Evernote Web Clipper feature for easy clipping, or take pictures from various cookbooks and store for easy reference and searchability.
I follow general themes for my dinners: Friday is always pizza night, Saturday and Sundays are typically easy meals (hot dogs, tomato soup & grilled cheese, etc, unless we are having company), Monday is Main Dish Salad in the summer and Soups in the fall/winter, Tuesdays (we have a church community group dinner twice a month) and Thursdays are Taco/Mexican themed, and Wednesday is usually some main dish meat, casserole or pasta salad, with our date night every other week. This obviously flexs and adapts as desired.
After making my menu, I refer back to the recipes and add the ingredients to my Wal-Mart grocery pickup order. I have been enjoying this free service since Lewis came into our lives, and it has been a huge help. It has saved me hours of grocery shopping as they pick up all the items for you and bring them right to your vehicle. I can keep a “favorites” list of all the items I buy on a consistent basis, which helps me not to forget anything. I love that they have a good range of organic, whole food, or whole wheat products as well, based on your preference. So just one stop to the grocery store every two weeks is my regular routine. I do like to hit up Trader Joes and Smart Foodservice (Cash n Carry) occasionally for those special items or bulk meats I can only get there. I also get a monthly order through Azure Standard (which I host a drop for my area). For other grocery lists, I just use the reminders app on my phone and keep a tab for each store I visit. This allows me to keep an ongoing list of items I need.
I then print out my menu, and put it in a sheet protector that I have in a visible place on my kitchen wall (see below). I can then see it easily each day, pull out items from the freezer in the morning, and it also stores a selection of previous menus in the the back of the sheet protector for easy reference if I get stumped for meal ideas.
What about perishables? I have found most everything lasts just fine for a two week window. In general, I use fresh produce the first week, and may use more frozen produce (green beans, peas, corn, etc) the second week. Fruit is consumed as it ripens (and thus not specifically listed on our menu). I stick with romaine lettuce hearts that are packaged in threes, which lasts way longer than other lettuce varieties, or spring mix that are packaged by the 1 pound containers. If it comes in a container of some sort, it typically lasts longer…or if you learn how to store your produce properly (lots of tutorials online), not just loosely in the fridge. I haven’t experienced spoilage like you might suspect.
So that’s how it works for our family! Have any questions? Feel free to shoot me an email or comment below.
Want to try it out and use my template to get you started? Download it here.