Okay, brace yourselves. Here is a very exciting topic. You might not be able to contain your excitement here....its about Menu Planning. dun, dun, dun, dun!!! :D I've done it many different ways - having a list of basic meals and picking what I wanted to make each day as it came (I'm pretty sure that phase was pre-kids ;D), planning my dinner menu for each week, for each month and probably several other ways that I can't remember at the moment. I don't remember any particular way being a horrible way to do it. It worked for me at that phase of my life.
We are blessed to have four kids (praying for more!) and if I went back to having just a list of dinners and deciding each day what we would have, my world would be in chaos. That would never work for me right now. But that's just me and how I work. Everyone has their own system and way of thinking. If that works best for you, go for it! The trick is to find that way and do it. You will save time and money by having a plan.
Personally I think that planning at least dinners out for a week or more at a time if a really good way to go. I like to be able to look ahead and know that if we're having Pot Roast on Thursday, I should take it out of the freezer on Monday or Tuesday to get it thawed out. Find your perfect method and run with it.
I started a Home Management Book a couple of years ago using the ideas from 'Large Family Logistics' by Kim Brenneman. It took me almost a year to get it to where I wanted and using it effectively. I made some snazzy dividers using construction papers (yupp, I'm a homeschooling mama hehehe) and have a section titled 'Menu & Recipes'. In this section I keep my grocery lists, my basic meal plans for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, and recipes. The recipes are mostly for household products - laundry soap, deodorant, toothpaste....
Using my Home Management Book to help out, I create my menu. This is what my fancy menu calendar looks like. I tape four pieces of printer paper together, measure out my squares using a colored marker, then I turn it over and trace over the lines that I can see through the other side. Next I write the days of the week at the top, then date all the squares using the month and day. I just run the months together so I can see it all laid out. My oldest daughter and I just finished planning out our menu from today (01-22-13) all the way through March 16th! The front side goes up through 02-16 and the other side is from 02-17 through 03-16.
I don't normally plan out all three meals, but for my last calendar I did and it was wonderful!!! I still have no idea what motivated me to do that, but I'm so glad I did. It made the day so much easier just being able to look at the calendar and know what was for lunch. Took away all the stress of standing in front of the fridge 30 minutes (or 10-15 because we got caught up with school) trying to brainstorm something fast and simple to eat. I'm hooked now. By planning out all three meals, I can know the day before if I need to do breakfast or lunch prep for the next day. I keep highlighters in my Home Management Book and I highlight the notes that I wrote down that say "make bfast for tomorrow" or "take roast out of freezer"
Do you have a Menu Plan? Whats your favorite way? Do you have a special calendar you use or keep your menu on your fridge? I always love to hear how others do theirs so maybe I can snitch some ideas. :D