I know, I know you’re thinking to yourself that you don’t have time to plan out your menu every week and it’s so hard to figure out where to start anyway so why bother. I’ve been there and for years we just winged it based on what we felt like eating and what we had in the freezer or what we could pick up quickly.
After our second child was born, this started to be fast food far too many nights for both our health and our budget. I looked for advice on the Web and tried out a couple of systems. We quickly gave up because it was taking too long to plan a menu each week.
As we started to think about adding a third child to our family, the concept of menu planning came up again. Someone suggested monthly freezer cooking as the way to go so we found a few complete menus online and gave it a shot for two months. I’m sure that for some families freezer cooking works really well; but it was a very poor fit for us for two main reasons, it ate up an entire weekend for prep and nothing ever cooked in the amount of time the directions said it would. A weekend of prep doesn’t sound too bad except at the time Mr J and I were working opposing shifts and weekends were the only time we had any time together so losing one a month to cooking was just too much. As far as the meals taking longer than the recipe said to cook, we’re not talking a few minutes longer but rather a few hours longer. We tried tweaking our freezer temperature and testing our oven temperature and everything looked good but things still took too long to cook so we stopped with freezer meals.
Shortly after I got pregnant with our third, an email advertising a sale on a subscription to a menu planning service showed up in my inbox. I did some research and many of the options seemed reasonably affordable so we tried out a few free trials and settled on one of the services, buying a one year subscription. I loved the convenience of getting my menu and shopping list emailed to me weekly and shortly after we started using the service they came out with an app making it even easier. The meals did tend to be too large for my family so we generally made just five of the seven and ate leftovers the other two nights. The small amount we were spending for the service definitely seemed worth it since we were saving quite a bit of money over winging.
As our subscription was due to renew, my work shift was about to change freeing up more of my evening to cook so I was ready to try planning my menu on my own again. I thought I could cut my weekly costs by even more if we were willing to make some diet changes. I also thought that the menus the service sent us relied too much on processed foods. I finally came up with a system that works well for us, I know this because we’ve been using it for a year and a half with only minimal tweaks.
In my next post, I’ll show you how I set up my menu and offer a template and some tricks for setting up your own.