Weekly menu planning

We are almost there.
Between more or less 2 weeks, our family life will have a new start, again.
And this time, all 4 of us will be completely into that!
As I wrote before, we are all very excited. And we have absolutely no idea what our life will change into.

During this transitional period, I need, more that ever, clear and steady strategies. And, as an organizer junkie, I am making my way to create them, taking faith to the personal need of clearness and to our priorities as a family.

From a practical point of view, one of the best organizing strategies I have ever applied to simplify our family life, has been creating and using a weekly menu planning.

Together with daily and weekly routines, that I would be pleased to talk about when I have the chance, creating a menu-plan is something I use to organize a consistent part of our family life.
Knowing in advance which are the main dinners of the coming week, it’s a useful tool to avoid the famous “5 p.m. stress”, I mean the eternal question every mom asks herself at that time of the day: “What’s for dinner?”
With menu-planning, this issue won’t belong to you anymore, or in any case, that question has a clear answer, every day.

At the beginning, more or less one and a half year ago, I began writing meals according to my children school-lunches menu: to avoid repetitions, I made up my mind to create 5 dinners a week that were different from what they ate for lunch at school. It was amusing to notice our health soon benefited from this simple strategy: there was more variety and a more mindful choice of nutritive components.

Actually, menu-planning has been a huge help regarding economic reasons, too: it allows us to write a grocery list in advance and, shopping with this only, it saves time and money. It also limits trips to/from grocery stores during the week, then it allows us to shop once a week and save even more!

Menu-planning, mostly during my last trimester of pregnancy, has become extremely helpful for our family menage because it allows me to spend less time as possible, even in actually just planning the menus.
I like cooking and I must admit I don’t excessively stress on spending time daily in the kitchen, but in these last months of pregnancy, I have included some important changes to the planning part that helped me so much in getting the most, with less effort.

In fact I began to plan 2 weeks of menus in only one session of planning.
Mostly, I understood clearly that, according to my family’s habits and tastes, we didn’t actually need to plan for brand new menus every week. We just needed 2 flexible and down-to-earth menus, just to make my life easier and effortless in terms of focusing and pre-planning.

Firstly, according briefly to children lunches’, I planned the protein choices (aka the main courses) of dinners, for 2 weeks.
I actually don’t need to plan for produce (veggies and fruits), because I am more or less aware of our weekly consumption and I actually shop for what is available in season and at the local farmer market.
Also, I usually choose easy and fast recipes for our week-days meals, and they happen to be the kind of meals we indeed like the most.

Then, I planned a 2 weeks-scheme of dinners that I alternate every 2 weeks.
Having planned main courses only, their flexibility allows to avoid feeling bored and enjoy enough variety.

That’s an example of my 2 weeks menu-plan:

1st week:
MONDAY: meat (chili or marinades, chicken or venison)
TUESDAY: soup and fish
WEDNESDAY: cheese and legumes (steamed lentils, beans with tomato sauce, steamed chickpeas or homemade falafel, rice and peas…)
THURSDAY: burritos and stir fry veggies
FRIDAY: fish or homemade pizza (it depends on what we prefer the most)
SATURDAY: I plan for lunch, too: eggs (omelet, sunny-side eggs, hard boiled or à la coque). For dinner: american style (buns and french fries)
SUNDAY: we usually go out at relatives’ or at friends’ for lunch (pasta and meat main course) so we take it easy at dinner: just a sandwich or a light veggie soup with grated cheese on top.

2nd week:
MONDAY: meat (meatballs, crumbed or roasted meat or frozen in advance meat)
TUESDAY: cheese and legumes
WEDNESDAY:eggs
THURSDAY: soup and legumes
FRIDAY: pasta and fish
SATURDAY: I plan for lunch, too: pasta with homemade pesto (or something that includes seeds) For dinner: homemade pizza
SUNDAY: light & take-it-easy dinner: veggie soup with grated cheese on top.

I also planned for breakfasts, snacks and my weekdays lunches, but I usually look at them for ideas or for checking I am eating the healthiest as possible, especially now that I am pregnant. I often eat dinner leftovers and I bake breakfast meals in advance (cakes, pan brioches, cookies….)
It helps a lot cooking in bulk dinner’s main courses in advance and freeze them for the week. I usually prefer to cook in less sessions I can: it’s useful for saving time and for spending less in daily kitchen cleaning.
Also, if we like to try something new, I can easily choose the recipe ingredients according to the main scheme of the day.

So this is the scheme I apply for our family living, but it’s easy to adapt it to everyone’s style and habits.
It’s a helpful approach I surely invite you to implement, as well. I know it would be very helpful to us, especially during the first months after baby’s arriving, when we will really need to shop and cook the less as possible. This method also doesn’t require my supervision, because it’s so simple my husband can easily use it on his own.

Surely, life will be extremely busy during next months and knowing this part of our family life is more or less, under control allows me to de-stress and to focus only on what/who really requires my full attention.

And what about you? Which are the strategies you use and suggest in planning your family meals?