Menu Planning Ideas

Some people are super organized and, although I admire them, I am not one of them. If you are one of them then you probably neatly plan out a menu for the month, grocery shop with a matching list and then cook accordingly with little waste. On the other hand, if that sounds totally unrealistic to you, then this article might be of interest. It’s menu planning ideas for successful menu planning without a rigid calendar for those of us that haven’t quite figured yet how to use one.

We tend not to spend too much time meal planning, but that’s because we rather enjoy trying to come up with uses for foods beyond their best-by dates. But for most people, successful menu planning is a key part of the strategy to help reduce kitchen food waste.

menu planning

Menu Planning

  • Menu planning should begin before you go grocery shopping, but it can also happen afterwards if you know what you’ve got and how to use those ingredients to your advantage – we’ll show you a few ways to do backend menu planning too.
  • Plan your meals around what you have and according to when your existing groceries will expire.
  • Keep inventory of your pantry. Knowing what’s in there is half the battle, so clean it out every few months and move the older stuff out front where you can be reminded to use it up. Do the same with your refrigerator and freezer.
  • Cook more than one meal at a time. After you pluck a rotisserie chicken for your pasta, throw the bones in a pot with some leftover chopped veggies & water so that your soup can be ready the following night after you skim the fat.
  • If you want to make a recipe that calls for something you don’t have and/or won’t use the remaining quantity if you do buy it, then consider using a substitution for that ingredient.
  • Post your completed meal plan on the fridge or other obvious place where you will keep on track and stick to the plan. A blackboard or whiteboard hanging on a kitchen wall is a great place to post a weekly menu, then the whole family knows what’s going on.
  • To print a menu planning tool, print this pretty template from thesisterscafe.com. Their website is also where we got the image shown above.
  • If you need an unfamiliar spice for a recipe, consider buying that amount from a store with bulk spice containers so you don’t have to pay for a whole container. See our article on grocery store hacks for more information.
  • This website, called meal planner pro, can find recipes for you that are customized in numerous different ways. You put in the ingredients that you want to get rid of and it spits out a page full of pictures and titles that are easy to look at, although maybe not so easy to choose from since all the searches I tried turned up delicious looking recipes. You can choose recipes from a huge database that suit not only your specific ingredients, but also most any other request you could want to make of a recipe.
  • If you’re counting calories: This website lets you put in the number of calories you want to eat and then brings up a menu plan for the day with suggested easy to follow recipes to accomplish that caloric goal.
  • This website can help you find recipe suggestions using the 3 key ingredients that are in your kitchen. This one is great for backend meal planning to get recipe ideas for foods that need to be used up before they spoil. A bonus on this website is that you can also conduct the search in order to avoid the things you know that you are out of or don’t like.
  • If you really need help, you could try using a menu planner website (like pro.allrecipes.com/my/menus/planner.aspx) when deciding your upcoming menu for the week. You drag interesting recipes into a weekly calendar and it automatically builds a shopping list that you can print out, check your pantry with the list and then head to the store. NOTE: this website requires a subscription fee should you decide to use it.
  • Additional Information

    Read our article on many ways to keep your produce fresh for as long as possible.

    To find out how long other foods are good for, please visit the Dairy, Drinks, Fruits, Grains, Proteins, Vegetables and Other sections of Eat By Date or use the search function below.

    SEARCH Eat By Date

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