Mitzi Dulan – America's Nutrition Expert
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Top Tips for Menu Planning Success
by Mitzi Dulan, RD, America’s Nutrition Expert®
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Coming back from a long day of work, you may be too tired to think up what to make for dinner. Imagine: three meals a day, seven dinners a week! So what’s for dinner? Going from the supermarket, then unpacking the groceries, then preparing dinner – the same kitchen routine may get old quickly. Menu planning can allow you to plan ahead of time what meals you’ll cook. It doesn’t even have to be complicated. Just putting aside time once a week (or once every two weeks) can save you time during the rest of your week!

Benefits of menu planning:

  • Because you already planned a menu, you buy only what you need (so less food is wasted), plus you can save money since you don’t need to make multiple trips to the supermarket. Menu planning also decreases impulse buying, since you’re following a list (extracted from your menu choices).
  • Menu planning saves time! Since you know what’s for dinner, you don’t need to make last minute dashes to the supermarket. There’s more time to enjoy preparing and cooking dinner. You can even make preparation of the meal as a family bonding activity! Cooking will also be more enjoyable, since everything is already planned, and you know ahead of time what’s for lunch or dinner.
  • It’s healthier! You’re eating out less, particularly at fast food restaurants. You can also toss together a salad easily to increase intake of fruits and vegetables. There is also more variety, since you can plan different recipes for different meals.
  • You can also save more money in not eating out as much. One additional benefit of menu planning is that you can also plan your menu around coupons and seasonal ingredients.

So what’s the best way to menu planning? There’s actually no perfect way to plan menus. It all depends on what you prefer. There are some people that prefer to look at recipes and decide the menu from there. Other people look for sales and coupons to build their menu around the sale items. Yet others plan their menu around seasonal ingredients. You can also use a combination of all three. So how far ahead should you plan your menu? That also depends on your preferences:

  • The Night Before: This method provides the most control over waste. You can use up leftovers by using them as lunch the next day. It also provide the least forethought, as you’re planning the menu for only one day at a time.
  • One or Two Weeks at a Time: You can take advantage of supermarket sales, and you only need to shop once a week. However, since you’re only shopping once a week, it’s best if you have a car to carry the groceries back home.
  • Rotate Your Menus: You can also plan out 15-20-ish recipes, and then rotate them. By serving a different one every day, you limit the variety. Also, since you will become familiar with each recipe, you can prepare it faster. Another thing you can do is make a large batch and then freeze it, and heating up a portion of it whenever you need to.

Do you plan your menus? What other menu planning methods do you have?

Assistance provided by Rachel Yam

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