Since the school year started, I have been implementing a weekly dinner menu to make the days run more smoothly. It has helped! You can download the form I use here. I prefer the 1-Week Menu with Grocery List. I clip this to my refrigerator once it is compiled by using a magnetic clip. Check out her blog while you are there!
Before creating my menu, I look through my freezer, refrigerator and pantry to see what I can use up. Then, I look through my index card file box which holds recipes which are placed behind dividers. My categories are:
I typically try to choose a meal from seven different categories though this often depends on what I have on hand. I then write the meals on the left-hand column and any items I need on the right-hand column. I then add anything else we are in need of.
I like having the menu with me when I am at the grocery store because I can tweak my menu, for if I see something on sale, I can easily see what meal to replace it with. For example, if I plan to buy broccoli, but there is a great deal on cabbage, I can change my vegetable.
I am also flexible with the days of the week each meal is served on, but this ensures that I have meals planned for seven nights. I do try to plan a crockpot meal on Wednesdays so I have less to do when we return from piano lessons.
I am not a fan of preparing meals on the weekend for future use, but I do a few things to make the week go more smoothly. For example, I cooked the ground beef and chicken with onions and divided it up into two freezer bags. One will be used in tacos this week while the other will be ready to use in a dish the following week.
Aside from making meal preparation and selection easier throughout the week, I have found I spend less money at the grocery store. I will still stock up on some things not on my menu (like clearance meat), but I don't overbuy produce anymore. I had a horrible habit of buying produce because it was on sale and then not using it. Too much was going in our compost pile.
Our breakfasts and lunches are rather predictable, so I don't actually plan those.
I keep on hand a variety of cereals, milk, tea, oatmeal, nuts, bread, eggs, fruit, and nitrate-free turkey bacon for breakfasts.
I keep on hand bread, peanut butter, jelly, canned tuna, nitrate-free lunch meat, sliced cheese, eggs, hummus, plain yogurt, cucumbers, baby carrots, plain yogurt and fruit. I also buy a few canned soups when they are on sale for the boys to heat up.