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Easy Menu Planning | cooking uncomplicated

How to Make a Menu Plan: Think in Threes

There are many strategies out there on how to make a menu plan. That can make it an intimidating process if you have little practice, but the variety of options means you can endlessly riff off of your plans and not get bored doing the same thing over and over again. By having a menu plan formula, you can have variety without starting from scratch every week – or worse, every day.

I’ll be starting a weekly series here with simple formulas for creating menu plans that require little effort or mental energy.

To Make a Complete Meal, Think in Threes

How to make a menu plan: Think in three

Before you can make a week’s worth of menu options, you have to have a solid basis for what makes a complete dinner. Although you might need to amend this to fit any dietary requirements and restrictions you may have, generally a complete meal includes

  1. Protein (generally from meat)
  2. Bulk (generally from starch, but could also be vegetable-based)
  3. Green (vegetable or salad)

Now, you don’t necessarily need three separate dishes every dinner, but a one-pot dinner should still contain sufficient proportions of each of these three types to be satisfying.

For example, spaghetti can involve all three:

  1. Meat
  2. Pasta or spaghetti squash
  3. Tomato sauce, onions, and other possible additions like zucchini or spinach

Still, a plate with only one thing on it can look a little sparse, and a meal is made satisfying partly by its visual appeal as well as its belly-filling ability. A salad is a quick and easy way to add more green, more bulk, and more variety to the dinner plate.

Potato Hash Dinner Recipe

Stir-fry is another one-pot meal that includes all three, with a meat and vegetables mixed into rice, all held together with a sauce. If there is a variety of vegetables within your stir fry, it is generally adequate alone on the plate. I like to include onions, peppers, zucchini, broccoli, peas, and carrots in my stir-fries. All those colors combined makes it an appealing stand-alone option for dinner. And it’s simple to customize the proportions to your family’s taste and sensibilities. It can be heavy or light on the meat, strong or simple on the vegetables, or big on the bulk of rice or not – a recipe need not dictate amounts. Let your own preference be your guide.

Often, though, a dinner will consist of three separate items. A chicken dinner would be supplemented by roasted potatoes and green beans. A pork roast might have rice and roasted broccoli on the side.

If you think in threes as you put your dinner options together, you’ll have complete and wholesome dinners that don’t take a lot of thought to put together. With the options in Simplified Dinners, you have meat-based or one-pot options, as well as variations on vegetables and salads and starch side dishes that make putting together a three-part meal a snap.

You can also use this handy free menu planning sheet that is set up to remind you to plan a three-part dinner.

menuplan

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Menu Planning Made Simple

simple easy homemade family menu plan

free simple menu planner

Today we start school back up! We homeschool year-round, so we start early in order to take extra weeks off during the year and be finished in May. It’s totally worth it. After all, it’s over 100-degrees here in the afternoon: might as well be doing school instead of playing Minecraft, I figure!

So for this month, I’m trying out a new menu planning idea: I have the same weekly rotation of breakfasts and lunches – and I’ve noted in my calendar when to do the prep. Then on busy days, I’ve prepped the food the day before. I’m looking forward to see if it works; that is, if I actually remember to do the prep ahead when I have it planned out! Of course I’ve already simplified dinner planning quite a bit, but with 4 kids needing lessons plus a toddler, I need food to take as little brain power as possible.

So, here’s the eating plan for this week:

Breakfasts This Week

  • Monday: Sunday leftovers with scrambled eggs
  • Tuesdays & Thursdays: German pancakes
  • Wednesdays & Fridays: simple homemade granola with homemade yogurt
  • Saturday: Daddy-made pancakes
  • Sunday: whole wheat cinnamon rolls (made on Saturday)

Lunches This Week

  • Monday: cheesy potatoes
  • Tuesday: quick artisan bread, cheese, fruit & veggies
  • Wednesday: leftover bread from Tuesday, cheese slices, pepperoni, fruit & veggies
  • Thursday: rice with carrots & peas, topped with butter or cheese, watermelon
  • Friday: microwave nachos with refried beans

Dinners This Week

Simplified Dinners eBook

  • Monday: grilled balsamic chicken, salad, garlic toasts
  • Tuesday: chicken fajitas with the fixings, cucumber salad (’tis the season)
  • Wednesday: chicken & cheese pasta salad, watermelon
  • Thursday: “bits & pieces” – leftovers, cheese, veggies, etc. all in cubes
  • Friday: fried rice
  • Saturday: hamburgers

Recipes for dinners on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, & Thursday are found in my ebook, Simplified Dinners. Streamline menu planning, grocery shopping, and dinner cooking with Simplified Dinners!

Simplified Pantry

Simplified Pantry promotes homestyle cooking with basic ingredients. It is possible to cook good food without a pantry full of specialized products. Limits can actually be freeing and promote creativity. Limits make keeping what you need on hand simpler and easier to achieve. Simplified Dinners takes the thinking out of the whole dinner cycle of planning, shopping, and cooking, and makes it easy for you to customize the healthy, whole-food recipes provided according to your family’s tastes.

a low-effort menu plan

simple easy homemade family menu plan

<img src=”http://www.simplifiedpantry.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/menuplan.jpg” alt=”menuplan” width=“300″>

This is the last push to finish out our homeschool year. Next week is testing, then we get a 6 week break! I am really looking forward to that break, so I tried to keep this week’s menu plan extra simple and low-effort.

Also, we’re starting to harvest strawberries, raspberries, lettuce, and peas from our garden. I love the fresh produce, but it does take time to care for the plants, to harvest, and to wash everything adequately. So, it’ll be best if the other components of our meals are easier; that way we can enjoy the season of spring harvesting!

Breakfasts This Week

  • Weekdays: simple homemade granola with yogurt and berries from our garden!
  • Saturday: Daddy-made pancakes
  • Sunday: vanilla scones with strawberries and whipped cream

Lunches This Week

  • whole wheat rolls, cheese cubes, and apples
  • cheese melted on chips with fruit
  • leftovers when possible

Dinners This Week

Simplified Dinners eBook

  • grilled chicken, grilled flatbread, salad
  • crockpot pulled pork on leftover flatbreads
  • pork chalupas, glazed carrots, coleslaw
  • tuna patties, garlic noodles, and coleslaw
  • no-mess pizza, salad
  • hamburgers, oven fries

Streamline menu planning, grocery shopping, and dinner cooking with Simplified Dinners!



A menu plan to feed the starving masses

simple easy homemade family menu plan

menuplan

Since I’m presuming everyone in the family will want to eat yet again this week, I thought I better have a plan for feeding them. Here goes.

Breakfasts This Week

  • Weekdays: simple homemade granola with milk or yogurt and berries
  • Saturday: Daddy-made pancakes
  • Sunday: whole wheat cinnamon rolls (made on Saturday)

Lunches This Week

  • whole wheat rolls, cheese cubes, and apples
  • cheese melted on chips with fruit
  • leftovers when possible

Dinners This Week

Simplified Dinners eBook

  • grilled chicken in lime marinade, coleslaw, garlic noodles
  • stromboli, salad
  • crockpot beans cooked with beef bones, cornbread, roasted frozen broccoli
  • burritos made with leftover beans, glazed carrots
  • frittata, biscuits, salad
  • hamburgers, oven fries, salad

Streamline menu planning, grocery shopping, and dinner cooking with Simplified Dinners!


Menu planning ideas for a busy week

simple easy homemade family menu plan

Another week begins.

menuplan

With loads of yard work looming and a school year to finish up, it’s time for me to keep the dinner plans simple. But, because everyone’s more active this time of year, dinner also has to be hearty and filling.

Keeping breakfasts and lunch on a simple rotating schedule is a lifesaver. It does mean I have to dedicate a couple hours on Saturday to preparing food for the coming week, but that saves not only time on weekdays, but also mental wear-and-tear: I have enough of that as it is.

Breakfasts This Week

Lunches This Week

  • whole wheat rolls, cheese cubes, and apples
  • cheese melted on chips with fruit
  • leftovers when possible

Dinners This Week

Simplified Dinners eBook

  • turkey alfredo (with leftover turkey from last week), salad, green beans
  • oven omelette with bacon, glazed carrots
  • tuna melts in red bell pepper halves (a surprising favorite)
  • ground beef hash
  • no-mess pizza, salad
  • hamburgers, oven fries

Streamline menu planning, grocery shopping, and dinner cooking with Simplified Dinners!