Recently I've really had the urge to stream line menu planning. I came up with a plan that uses favorites and also allows for variety. Using some tried and true recipes allows me ease in planning my grocery shopping and stocking the cupboard. Many of our favorites I have memorized and don't even need the recipe card. Yet I also wanted to include variety and a way to try new recipes.
Hence I created a Menu Rotation rather than a monthly menu plan. This contains 5 weeks of our favorites. Thursday is blank because that is typically my "girls night out" so no cooking for me. Five weeks assures that we won't be eating the same things too often.
Then because I wanted the chance for a bit more variety and I wanted those slots for new recipes I created Bonus Weeks.
The plan works like this:
1. The basic rotation is the five week plan. I simple work through it then start over again on those five weeks.
2. The Bonus Weeks can be inserted wherever and however I want. So after the basic five week rotation I can pick any Bonus Week I want and do it before returning to the five week rotation. Or if I want more variety I can insert a Bonus Week in the rotation elsewhere. So I might do Weeks 1 and 2 of the basic rotation then insert a Bonus Week use two more of the basic rotation and then insert another Bonus Week. Really it's all up to me! This allows me to make use of pantry items too or things in the freezer before they expire.
Some of the items on the Rotation and on the Bonus Weeks are things I do not need recipes for BUT some I do. I'm tired of trying to remember where these recipes are located. I've tried binders, making a list of which cookbook they are in, etc.
I solved that problem using my old tried and true recipe box. I created dividers that say Week 1, Week 2 etc. for the main rotation and then dividers that say Bonus 1, Bonus 2 etc. for the Bonus Weeks. I then filed any recipe that I need for that week behind the correct divider. I am also using this for new recipes to try. So if I find a recipe that I want to try, I file it behind a bonus week so I have it handy when it's time!
I think this is simple enough, uses enough "family favorites" and yet allows for new recipes. It has certainly made grocery shopping planning and meal time a lot simpler.
Here's a tip though for when the week gets crazy and you need to change something. Simply write the menu change on a tiny post it note and stick it over wherever the change needs to be made. So for example if I have a meeting Monday night I might want to switch that meal to a slow cooker recipe from later in the week. I simply write it on the sticky and put it on the correct date... TA DA....the switch is made and I still have my original menu form clean and ready for the rotation to continue.
I don't know if you struggle with menu planning as much as I do but perhaps something in this idea will help or work for you!