Menu Planning and Simplicity
By Crystal Miller

I have discussed elsewhere on my site ways to simplify life. Now I wanted to discuss specifically menu planning and how this can be a great help in simplifying life. I discuss a lot about menu planning on my website but lately have tried something new that I wanted to share.

To begin with having a menu planned brings simplicity. Have you ever watched the clock tick away in a day knowing you did not have anything planned for dinner? It is a nagging feeling on your mind. By the time the dinner hour approaches you are throwing together anything you can or calling for pizza to be delivered. I have been there too. The problem I have with this is that my whole day can be distracted simply by not planning. Not to mention I spend valuable resources on unhealthy foods or expensive food items because I am relying on convenience foods to help me out of my dilemma.

Normally when I plan a menu I sit down and write out a list of all possible meals I want to serve that month. I take note of new recipes I want to try, busy days that need easy meals, and weekend meals that may need more flexibility and so on. Then I fill in my calendar with a meal for each day of the month. This works but does require a lot of time. So in order to simplify the process I have created my 10 day menu.

My 10 day menu is a rotating menu for the month. I plan out 10 meals and repeat this three times during the month. Years ago I had the seven day menu plan but I found my family got tired of eating the same meal four times in a month. This 10 menu plan is a variation of this. We only see the same meal three times.


Now the best part about this menu plan is that I can have a lot of flexibility. For instance I may write down “chili” as one of my 10 meals. But I can choose on that day to have chili or crockpot chili or chili bean soup or black bean chicken chili, or lentil chili. I can serve chili three times that month and no one gets tired of it due to its repetition. The same is true for spaghetti. I can have spaghetti, baked spaghetti, goulash (by adding some macaroni noodles to it) or turn it into lasagna or even pizza if I want to. Something about just having my menu plan and a direction to think and follow each day helps me to put my meals together easily.

The best part of this 10 day menu plan for me is that now I spend much less time thinking about which meals to serve and less time planning my whole month of meals. I also spend less time shopping and I save money by keeping my grocery lists simple and to the point.

I remember a time not long ago that I felt my life was on the verge of just being too overwhelming. I was thinking about all that I could take off my plate, so to speak, in order to bring things back to a point where I did not feel overwhelmed. I realized that aside from a few things, there really was not a lot I could delete. So I had to have another plan. That plan involved reducing the weight of the load in as many areas of my life as I could. Menu planning and cooking was one of those areas I assessed and reevaluated. I asked myself how I can make this simpler while not compromising budget or nutrition. As I talked to husband about this he was the one that said, well how about a 10 day menu plan instead of a seven day (which we both knew had not worked well in the past). That is when I took the idea and started trying it out. For the last six months I have been doing this and have loved the time and freedom the plan has given me.

Here is an example of a 10 day menu plan that I have used:

Yummy Pinto Beans w/hamburger
BBQ meatballs
Cheesy Chicken and Rice for the Crockpot
Chicken noodle soup
Baked chicken legs
Laurie’s mac and cheese w/ham
Cheesy ham casserole

As you can see I don’t plan the side dishes but do that during the week. I tend to make a small list of basic side dishes that I serve with certain foods. For instance, when I serve chili I will choose either cornbread or tortilla chips. When I serve chicken noodle soup I will serve dinner rolls or crackers with this. All meals include a green salad, coleslaw or cooked vegetable. I choose the salad or coleslaw most often as a way of getting a good supply of fresh veggies into our diet. When I am nearing grocery shopping day and am running low of fresh vegetables then I will serve a cooked vegetable (I use frozen most often). Some meals, such as Laurie’s mac and cheese w/ham don’t need anything extra with them except a salad.

I still write out my menu on my menu planning calendar and just pick and choose the order I want to serve my meals in during the week. If for some reason I want to try a new recipe, make a special request from my family or just am inspired that day to make something different, I just do this and whatever meal I would have served that day gets taken off the list.

I have been very happy with this plan and the time it has saved me. If you are looking at ways to simplify your life you might want to try the 10 day menu plan and see if it works for your family.

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