I have said it before, but I wanted to reiterate... I mostly make menus for the grocery lists. There is no set plan of meals on a specific day unless something is going to go bad before the week is out. We choose off the menu what we want to eat that night, and because I have bought for the whole week I know I have everything on hand to make any recipe we have chosen. Then we check the item off the list and the next night we pick something else.
Ok, so step 1. Get together 30 meals that you all enjoy. Then make a set of 30 boxes and start adding in the recipe names in them. For this, I used sheet of paper and 30 post it notes (small ones, like you use for page tags). Then I could move around the notes as I make the menu as perfect for us as possible. For example. At one point, I had 4 chicken dishes in one week. That is just too much meat to buy or to eat in a week. So I moved two of them to mostly veggie weeks, and it balanced out the menu a lot, and because of how I had the recipe names on post it notes, I was just able to pick them up and move them... easy! Like this:
The pink ones are substitutes for the seasonal dishes that I want to make. For most of the time, you want a set of recipes that you can go through, no matter what time of year it is. But sometimes, it is easier to have seasonal recipes on the menu plan already than to sub them after you have made the grocery list for everything else. Esp when you are adding things that you most likely will get for free... like recipes that require lots of zucchini or tomatoes in August. So when finding recipes, I looked at the ones that were more specific to the summer and the fall, and added them too. For example: I can make a roast beef Au Jus sandwich anytime of year... but this time of year, when zucchini is plentiful, I often will make a summer veggie and provolone panini sandwich instead. So I added that to the menu as an 'or' item. I also added that to the grocery list (highlighted for ease)... but that part is later. Pick your substitute items, and add them into the boxes along with your staple year round recipes.
I spent the next hour moving around those little tabs. I wanted a nice round menu that would keep the budget down, and also give us variety. My friends do this different ways. My friend Sarah chooses different nights to have themes (her menu binder was featured here). For example, Monday night is always Crock Pot night. It is a good way to balance the menu without having to move tiny little tabs around for an hour. *blush*
Once you have all your meals in boxes, then make a table on Word or Excel and print it out. This is your 'master list'.
My master list is as follows:
Au Jus Sandwiches or Panini
Pasta Alfredo w/ Shrimp
Potato O'gratin w/ feta and pesto
*Crock Pot* Pot Roast w/ New Potatoes
Teriyaki Chicken w/ Rice Pilaf
BBQ Chicken Legs w/Ratatouille
Ham & Lime Pasta
Hamburger Gravy w/Mashed Potatoes
Stir Fry w/ Rice or Rice Noodles
Tacos or Taco Salad
Italian Salad w/Soup
Roast chicken w/New Potatoes
Ravioli w/Winter Squash
*crock pot* Pork Chops & Apples w/Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Dinner Salad w/Grilled Cheese
To be continued.....