How I Plan My Weekly Dinner Menu

For as long as I can remember I've been married (18 years), I have sat down once a week to plan our weekly menus.  Not only does menu planning make my job as a wife and mom easier, it's easier on our budget because I know exactly what I'm going to need from the grocery store, and it takes the guesswork out of the age old question, "What am I going to feed my family today?"

I have two menu planning systems that I use: one for breakfast, and one for lunch/dinner.  Today, I'm going to share how I plan my weekly lunch/dinner menu, which will also work for planning breakfast.

When my kiddies were younger, planning our weekly dinner menus was entirely up to me.  If I would have let them help in deciding our menus back then, we'd would have ended up eating nothing but spaghetti, pizza, pancakes, and macaroni & cheese every day for like five or six years. (Maybe more!)  Hubby wasn't of much help either.  His answer was always, "I'll eat whatever you make!"

Back then I had a much more complicated system for planning my menus.  I kept a running list of family favorites, dishes I knew how to make, and recipes I wanted to try.  (This was way before we had Pinterest!)  I had a menu list for each category: beef, chicken, pork, seafood, and vegetarian.  I'd pick one main dish from each list, so we'd have a varied menu throughout the week.  Sometimes I'd assign a certain cuisine to each day of the week.  Monday we'd have Italian, Tuesdays it was Mexican food, Wednesdays were Asian-inspired, Thursdays it was Southern/comfort food, and Fridays were "Anything goes!"  As you can see, I took my menu-planning very seriously.

It wasn't always a fun or inspiring process, but like I said, it made my job that much easier.

But now that my kiddies are older, planning our weekly dinner menu is a lot more fun.  (And a lot less complicated!)

How I Plan My Weekly Dinner Menus: 
Every Sunday morning, right after we've finished clearing away our breakfast dishes, Hubby and the kiddies remain seated around the table, while I pull out my trusty little notebook full of to-do lists and everything else I deem important enough to write down.  I divide a sheet of paper into two lists: main dishes and desserts.  Then one by one, everyone states their choices for the week.  Sometimes they choose something they have a mad craving for, and other times they turn to my collection of cookbooks and food magazines for inspiration.

The reason I divide the main dishes from the desserts, is so that the no one feels left out of a given days meal.  Maybe one of my kiddies isn't too crazy about the main dish, or is mad at one of his/her siblings and refuses to eat what that sibling chose to eat for the day.  But...if they're excited about the dessert because maybe it's the one they chose or something they're really looking forward to eating, they'll eat just about anything.

Side dishes and aguas frescas are up to me to decide, which is where I sneak in as many veggies and other healthy, good for them foods that I can, unless someone (usually my daughter Hope) is very specific about their entire menu.  The reason why  we choose the main dish for lunch and not dinner is because here in our small town lunch is the biggest meal of the day (similar to American supper) that we eat at 2pm.  But I always cook extra, so that Hubby and the kiddies have something to heat up and eat for dinner, while I'm at work teaching ESL.  (I teach nights.)

Once all of the main dish and dessert choices have been made, Hubby randomly calls out a day of the week, while the kiddies take turns drawing two names from my little plastic basket filled with six wooden blocks, one for each member of the family, to find out what meal and dessert we'll be having for that day.

Sometimes I have to make a few changes, especially with our Friday meal, which I like to make sure is something my suegro (father-in-law) will like and fits in with his diet, since it's my day to cook for him.  And come next month, during Lent, Fridays will be meatless.

The entire process takes about 15 minutes.  It's fun for the entire family.  It gets the kiddies excited about mealtime.  And I know exactly what groceries I need to buy and what I'm going to cook for the week.  A win-win situation for everybody involved!

Do you plan your family's meals?  If so, how do you it?



  1. My roommate and I plan out our menus every week as well - as college kids who would otherwise be eating out every meal, every day, this has helped keep us on track with healthier eating + saved us money in groceries + led to less wasted food in our house! Having a menu also means we consciously set aside time to cook, which is a great stress reliever and fun, since we both love cooking.

    Like you, It takes us about 15-30 min too, and we have a lunch menu and a dinner menu (lunch is often dinner from a previous night), and breakfast is on our own. We also plan in days where we will eat out, just to reward ourselves :)

    Love your process of randomly drawing names, I'll have to do that when I have kids!

  2. I do all of the meal planning in our family. It makes such a difference to make a menu, we spend less money when there is a game plan. My significant other is also Mexican so we have a varied menu. We have a mix of Southern food since I am a Southern girl and Mexican. He's a Veracruz native, so I try to make dishes from his childhood, which he appreciates immensely. I just love your blog and I have made several of your recipes which have been a hit both with my honey and my 21 yr old daughter. Thank you for all your delicious recipes!

  3. Victoria of Flavors of the SunJanuary 10, 2013 at 10:15 AM

    Oh how i wish I could be so organized! I admire this process. I am much more haphazard, inspired more by what I see on too-frequent trips to the market or store--or something that has caught my eye online. Not very effective use of time or energy, I fear. But a whole week! I am in awe!

  4. I'm so impressed. (I love that some of your days are written in English and others in Spanish. :-))

  5. Yo justo acabo de comenzar como mujer casada-ama de casa y cada domingo planeo el menú semanal. He acaparado recetas de pinterest, libros de cocina... con tal de no repetir y tener un menú equilibrado (con carne, pescado, verduras, legumbres...). Es una de las cosas que más me gusta hacer.

  6. I really need to start meal planning. I know it would make my life so much easier.