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Menu Planning 101

Menu Planning 101 - How to Get Dinner on the Table with Ease via Clean Mama

If you’re feeling like everything just ramped up and life just got really busy in a hurry, you’re not alone.  The fall can be a really busy time and if your house is anything like mine, getting dinner on the table in a hurry is a must.  Over the next month or two I’m going to be sharing some time saving menu planning tips, tricks and shortcuts that I think you’ll really enjoy.  I love menu planning and interestingly enough my kids really enjoy knowing ‘what’s for dinner’ before 5pm and if I’m being honest, so do I.

First things first, let’s just state that every home is different, every schedule is different, and expectations are different.  If you’ve never planned meals ahead, this is probably going to sound complicated, overwhelming, and not worth it.  If you’ve planned your menu before you get it – it’s worth the effort.  Today I’m going to share some basics and a place to start – and just do that, start!

Gather the supplies that you think will be helpful – here are a couple ideas to get you started.  This how I menu plan, with ALL my menu planning tools at the ready.  I feel a little more inspired when I gather a couple cookbooks and a little inspiration.  Maybe you just want to grab a scrap of paper and a cookbook and keep it at that – you can menu plan without the hoopla, but it does make it a little more fun.

Here’s what you need to get started menu planning:

  • A PLACE TO WRITE THE MENU ON – do you want to plan week by week or would you rather plan a whole month at a time?  There are so many options from your wall calendar, a tablet, a notepad, a piece of paper on the refrigerator, a chalkboard, a dry erase board, a picture frame with a dry erase marker….
  • INSPIRATION – where do you find your recipes?  Get those things out (cookbooks, websites)- if you’re planning out a month at a time, you’ll probably need a couple more resources.  Personally, I use Pinterest, and a couple other tried and true websites for recipes, but if there’s one that I want to try, I’ll print it out and place it in the ‘recipes to try’ section of my recipe binder.  If it’s a keeper, it will get moved to the appropriate category in the binder.
  • TRIED AND TRUE RECIPES – trying out new recipes all the time is not an efficient use of time or resources.  Every once in a while I’ll cook exclusively from a new cookbook for a week or so, but that’s when we don’t have anything going on in the afternoons/evenings.  Have favorite recipes that come together in a snap AND your family enjoys – I keep these in my recipe binder.
  • GAME PLAN – decide WHEN you’ll do your menu planning, keep it simple, and make a grocery list at the same time.  Doing these simple things will ensure success for your menu planning.  If you need to have each night revolve around a theme, (meatless Monday, new recipe Tuesday, kids’ choice Wednesday, etc.) set a couple themes and get started.
  • COOK ONCE – EAT TWICE – this is my saving grace in the kitchen and I’ll be talking about this quite a bit during the series.  I am all about simplifying the time spent in the kitchen and try to spend 30 minutes getting dinner on the table.  That said, if I am cooking once, I might as well double the recipe and freeze some, or make enough for leftovers the next night.  Put this right into your menu plan – it’ll save you a ton of time and energy – I promise!

I hope that gives you a starting point and inspires your to put a little effort into planning your menu – it’ll pay off in time spent around the table with your family, money saved because food isn’t wasted, and energy trying to figure out ‘what’s for dinner’.  In case you’re curious, I menu plan on Fridays and do the grocery shopping then as well.  I have to pick up a couple things during the week, but get the majority of the shopping taken care of on Fridays (catch-all day for my cleaning routine).

Interested in more?  Here are some menu planning posts and links to some of the products shown:

I LOVE cookbooks and will never get rid of them in lieu of going paperless – I only keep the ones that are in the rotation, but they do get a lot of use and for me, it makes cooking and planning meals more enjoyable.  If you’re of that same mindset, you’ll probably like this post:

How to Organize Cookbooks for Better Menu Planning via Clean Mama

How to Organize Cookbooks for Better Menu Planning

I find that the easiest way to keep track of meals that I want to make is to bookmark them or pin them on my Pinterest account, but most of the time I’ll print the recipe from the site and put it straight into my Recipe Binder.  If I am putting together a menu for a get-together I’ll gather the recipes I need and quickly put together the menu and shopping list.  I love make-ahead meals (I even have a section for it in my binder) because they allow for the prepping to take place ahead of time.

How to Create a Recipe Binder System that Works via Clean Mama

 Need some ideas for menu planning?  Just click on the images below!

Busy Week Menu Plan - 7 Time Saving Meals for a Busy Week via Clean Mama

Busy Week Menu Plan - Take 2 - 7 Time Saving Recipes for a Busy Week via Clean Mama

Quick Prep Meal Starters for the Freezer + Free Printable List via Clean Mama

If you need a little help with your menu planning, I have an adorable menu planning notepad in my shop and menu planning kits as well. Click on the images below to see them in my shop.

Menu Plan for the Week - Full - Clean Mama

On the Menu Clean Mama Printables

Clean Mama's Recipe Binder Kit via Clean Mama

Don’t miss the SALE!



UPDATE : Everyday Cleaning Planner + COUPON Code


Just popping in to let you know that the oh-so-wonderful Everyday Cleaning Planner has been updated for 2016!  If you've been waiting for the 2016 pages, they are in the shop separately as just the calendar and if you haven't grabbed the Everyday Cleaning Planner yet, you can get that with September 2015-December 2016 cleaning calendar pages ready for you! EVERYDAY CLEANING PLANNER - over 50 pages + September 2015-December 2016 calendars … [Continue reading...]

How to Launder Kitchen + Cleaning Cloths

How to Launder Kitchen and Cleaning Cloths main via Clean Mama

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FREE Cleaning Calendar for September 2015

September Fresh Start Cleaning Calendar courtesy of Clean Mama

I don't know about you but I feel like September is a great month for fresh starts - it's almost like the new year.  I have some exciting things planned in the coming months sure to help you get your home clean and tidied up in a hurry.  It's almost September and that means that it’s time for September’s FREE cleaning calendar! If you’re feeling like you need some help with your cleaning and homekeeping and don’t know where to start, you’re … [Continue reading...]

3 Natural Odor Eliminators

3 Natural Odor Eliminators - DIY Recipes for Common Household Odors main via Clean Mama

Stinky shoes, smelly garbage cans, and stale air are common household odors.  If you're looking for natural solutions to these odors, I have three easy to make and use odor busters.  With just a couple ingredients and a few minutes you can make these natural busters and put them to use today. A couple notes:  You can find a lot of the products used in these recipes in my Amazon shop and I used 8 ounce spray bottles - if you have a larger size, … [Continue reading...]

FREE 2016 At-A-Glance Calendars

FREE Printable 2016 At-A-Glance Calendars - 4 Versions  courtesy of Clean Mama

If you're planning ahead, putting together a homekeeping binder or planner, or trying to get dates on the calendar this fall, chances are you need to take a peek at the year ahead from time to time.  Today I have FOUR versions of 2016 At-A-Glance Calendars made to match different printables in my shop or you can use them by themselves or with your current calendar. I put all 4 of the calendars in one zip file so you can grab the calendars in one … [Continue reading...]

Homekeeping Society | September Essentials + coupon code

Main Image - September Homekeeping Society via Clean Mama

If you feel like you need a little help staying on top of the dailies, you will love September’s HOMEKEEPING SOCIETY. Complete with seasonal touches, this month features a sweet pie motif in jadeite green and coral tones. Homekeeping Society is intended to be just the gentle nudge you need to keep up with those daily tasks and to dos with a sweet and simple format. Not sure if Homekeeping Society is for you? Try it out this month and use the … [Continue reading...]

5 Simple Ideas to Organize the Family for Fall

5 Simple Ideas to Organize the Family For Fall via Clean Mama

With fall on the doorstep, it's helpful to prepare the house for the new schedules and routines.  I'm working my way through this little list and know that the effort will pay off in time saved in the months to come! Organize or put together a Command Center - start with these 3 things every command center needs.  Having a command center is really helpful but only if you're using it wisely.  Take the time to put one together and you'll be glad … [Continue reading...]

$500 Visa Gift Card Giveaway!


Guess What?! WE’RE CELEBRATING “BACK TO SCHOOL” WITH A HUGE GIVEAWAY! Summer is just flying by and those kiddos will be heading back to school before you know it (maybe you already started back?). I know that back to school shopping can be stressful and expensive. So… I want to help YOU out with your back to school shopping! To say THANK YOU to our fabulous Instagram followers I collaborated with some of my VERY FAVORITE peeps on … [Continue reading...]

How to Organize and Maintain Kids Closets

How to Organize and Maintain Kids Closets via Clean Mama

If you have children and they have a closet and/or a dresser and clothing, chances are there are some issues regarding clothes, organization, and laundry.  While teaching kids to be tidy might be important to you, it's probably not on their radar.  Instead, doing a couple things to set them up for success is probably a better idea.  So today I'm going to share some ideas for quickly organizing kids' closets and dressers in ways that make it easy … [Continue reading...]

The Best Way to Clean + Organize the Refrigerator

The Best Way to Clean and Organize Your Refrigerator via Clean Mama

I receive numerous emails, messages and questions daily asking about my recommendations for cleaning and organizing. Awhile back I asked my readers to share some of their biggest frustrations and issues in the home and we've worked through a lot of them. Today's topic is perfect for this time of the year when school is looming and a little organization and cleaning can go a long way - the best way to clean and organize the inside of the … [Continue reading...]

Kids Willingly Cleaning Their Rooms? It Can Happen for YOU!

Kids Cleaning

I'm so excited to have Amy McCready here today sharing her tips on kids cleaning their rooms.  I've collaborated with her to bring you free webinars on positive parenting topics like getting kids to listen and I just know how much you some of you have loved her webinars.  Keep reading for her amazing ideas AND to check out her brand new book! By Amy McCready, Founder of PositiveParentingSolutions.com and author of The “Me, Me, Me” … [Continue reading...]

Reset Your Schedule and Organize Your Life

Schedule Reset + Planner Bundle 2 via Clean Mama

Have you ever felt like you needed to change up your day but felt paralyzed as to HOW to actually make any changes?  If you feel stuck in a holding pattern and feel like you don’t know how or when to get started, I have a couple new products in the shop sure to help you get started! After going through seasons with so many variables and ever changing schedules, I've figured out the perfect way to simplify the process of planning the … [Continue reading...]

3 Things Every Command Center Needs

3 Things Every Command Center Needs - Clean Mama

If you've ever set up a command center (or wanted to), chances are you took a peek around Pinterest or your favorite shop or online retailer and were either overwhelmed by all the choices and options or not sure how to translate that into what might work for your family.  Today I'd like to share the 3 things every command center needs - hopefully this simple approach will help get your own simple command center started. First of all, let me … [Continue reading...]

FREE Cleaning Calendar for August 2015

Fresh Start Calendar for August 2015

It’s almost August and that means that it’s time for August’s FREE cleaning calendar! If you’re feeling like you need some help with your cleaning and homekeeping and don’t know where to start, you’re going to love my cleaning routine and calendar. I keep daily homekeeping tasks to 15-30 minutes a day and this simple plan is how I do it!  This is a solution for busy households – give it a go, I think you’ll be surprised how a little bit every day … [Continue reading...]