How to Menu Plan
When I first moved out of home and in with my future husband, we went through quite a few of the general running-of-the-house role sharing tasks together. We soon found out what we were a) better at doing and; b) preferred doing.

One of the everyday jobs that I was happy to take away from him (for the most part), was cooking. He enjoyed cooking, and we even cooked together at times (because it seemed so romantic!) – but the cooking was best left for me because frankly, I enjoyed to eat dinner well before 9pm. His ‘measure twice, cut once’ mentality and my predisposition for becoming hangry (angry when hungry) was going against us.

Eventually though, cooking became tiresome for me. Every night after work, I would sit down with a pile of recipe books, glazing over them wondering; What are we going to eat? What could I be bothered to cook? What do we even have in the pantry/fridge? I couldn’t be bothered driving up to the shops now…

I just want to eat!

Every night, the same uncertainty was making cooking a chore & less enjoyable. So finally, my desire of being organised conquered – I employed the help of some brightly coloured sticky page markers and began what was to become, my life-long helper – the menu list.

As we were new to cooking for ourselves and we each had opinions on certain meals & flavours – our experiments, trials & errors became the foundation of the ultimate menu list. The recipes that got the thumbs up, ended up with a sticky page marker, the ones we weren’t so fond of, never got another look-in. Simple.

Note: You can go on and skip step 1. (creating a menu list) and go straight to step 2. (the menu plan) if it seems a bit much for you. I admit, it does take some time (give it a few hours at least). But you will reap the rewards on a weekly basis if you put in the time to begin with.

Stage 1. The menu list.

Can you imagine having all your favourite recipes at your finger tips – book title, page number, must have ingredients for the shopping list, at a glance? That’s what I imagined, so I created a spreadsheet with this simple system. It was easy once all the favourite recipes were marked. Here’s what I did:

Firstly I sub-titled sections on the spreadsheet in groups ie: beef, pork, chicken, fish, vegetarian etc. I then went through every page I had favourited and slotted the following information in the corresponding columns:

Column 1: Brief description – this isn’t the recipe title, as sometimes they can be a little fancy or long. This is my own brief description eg. Goulash beef & pasta.

Column 2: Recipe book & page number – this was a code, and didn’t include the full details. For example, Marie Claire’s Cooking, page 26 – became C26. And Family Circle Quick Pasta Recipes, page 36 became P36. Too easy!

Column 3: Ingredients to put on the shopping list – this is where you only include the things you know you’ll need to buy, rather than what you will already have in the pantry or fridge as a staple. You wouldn’t put pasta, stock, onion, tomato paste for example, but items such as sour cream, green capsicum would go in this column.

The third column takes time & patience. If you don’t do this section, it won’t put things into a spin – but it will save you time on a weekly basis as you won’t be opening recipe books to check what you need to buy.

Once you have this Holy Grail set, you are set. You can also add and remove as time goes on – as you can see from my list!

These pages have seen better days. They’re over 5 years old!

Stage 2 – Menu Planning. 

I used to use scrap paper and write the days of the week, with my codes from column 2 in them – and leave the bottom section as a shopping list. Until I found a menu planner notepad at kikki.k! There are quite a few around, even a search on etsy found a few well designed planners. Whatever works for you here, just get it on paper.

You’ll find that with a menu planned out – you’ll shop quicker, there’ll be less food wastage, you’ll spend less at the supermarket and spend less on take-away dinners!



  1. Excellent post!
    I started meal-planning a few months ago and it is so incredibly handy. As you sad, I shop faster, waste less, KNOW what to cook and save money! I can easily plan two weeks ahead now, no problem.

    I also make more of specific staple dishes so the leftovers can be frozen for those times when you come back after a week away and the fridge is empty… or for nights when we just do not want to cook. Home -cooked frozen meals taste better – and are way more wallet-friendly – than takeout.

    Meal-planning is making your life so much easier – let’s spread the word!

    • Totally agree Sabrina! I make multiple batches of specific meals as well, ones that are perfect for freezing. It’s so good to have a home cooked meal on the nights you are too tired to cook. We actually have an amazing fish and chip shop next door to our house, and I’ve told the owner – when he sees me come in and order, I’m too mentally drained to even heat up a frozen meal – which isn’t that often!

  2. Great advice! I plan the weekly menus in my house and, while it can get tedious, I find that I’m always glad I did on busy days when I’m exhausted at dinnertime. I also notice that I shop smarter at the supermarket, so less food ends up going to waste because I forget to use it before it spoils. I love your recipe organization. I have a binder with my recipes, and I also use Pinterest to save new recipe ideas.

    • I get my menu planning done on a Saturday morning, and it must be with a coffee! Do you have the menu list as well Sarah? I find that’s the key item to making it less tedious and such a quick job. My menu plan is usually done before I have finished my coffee 🙂

  3. Oh this perfectly plays to my love of a spreadsheet! When we go to our holiday house I spreadsheet a menu plan as I have to take everything with me and the plan is essential. The menu plan drives the shopping and packing lists and the added bonus is that I blu-tak it up on the wall when I get there and I’m not fielding the “what’s for lunch/dinner/snacks” questions as it is there for everyone to read.

    Normal weeks the menu plan is on a piece of scrap paper then clipped to the calendar. This year I made a resolution to try a new recipe every week from the vast collection of recipe books I have. That has happened sporadically and we have found some great new family favorites, but I need to be more dedicated to the cause.


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