A few years ago I created a menu planning system for my family. It was created to be flexible and easily accessible to anyone at home needing to cook. We are a family of four and our schedules fluctuate often. There are times I plan on cooking and I have to work late. Or my husband is planning on cooking and he gets called to work. We needed a system, where who ever was home could pick up where we left off and take care of dinner. My kids are older one teenager and one in college, so they help with cooking. But, you can also adapt this system if you have smaller children. We strongly believe that everyone should pitch in where needed. When the boys were younger, we let them cook one dinner a week. And it was what ever they wanted. Mac and cheese, hot dogs, what ever they wanted to make. Part of that was to teach them how to cook. So, when they got older they would have the ability to cook for themselves. Teaching them this skill benefits their growth, but now, it really helps us out.
The Photo Album Meal Planning System
I used a photo album, with two photos on each page (2 up style). The first four pages are labeled Sunday through Saturday for two weeks straight. The following pages are recipes our family likes to eat.
How I Plan: I look through the photo album that has all our recipes and I pick out 14. I also have 2 “Eat Out” Cards and 2 “Left Over Night” cards. I take those cards and reference my calendar. I try to plan the ‘big meals’ on weekends when I know I’m home. The quicker meals get planned for work week. I also think about using left overs. So, if I plan for Roasted chicken, we never finish it, the left overs can be turned into soup or chicken tacos. So, if I pull out the Roasted chicken card I know to pull out the chicken taco recipe card. I then review all the recipes and write out a grocery list. When that’s done, I write the meals on the magnetic white board weekly calendar that’s on the fridge.
How the system works: Who ever is home can look at the calendar and see what’s for dinner. Then they can grab the Photo Album and pull out the recipe. This is where the flexibility lies. If my younger son ends up being the one to cook, and lets say I have Roast chicken on the menu and he doesn’t want to make that. He can look through the rest of the weeks and pick out a recipe he can make. He just swaps out the Roasted chicken for the recipe he wants. When we’re done with making dinner the recipe card gets moved to the back of the Menu Planner. Or let’s say, he doesn’t want to cook and there’s enough left overs. He can make something with the left overs and I can take what ever was planned for dinner and move it to a different night.
If you want to try this system yourself, I’ll be posting a how to create one for you and your family in the next few days.