When we were newlyweds, my husband and I struggled on a constant basis with not knowing what to make for dinner each night. He'd come home from school, I'd come home from work, both mentally tired, and one of us would ask "what should we make?", to which the other would reply, "I don't know....ummm...." Finally someone would think of something, and then we'd check to see if we had the ingredients for it and though sometimes we'd luck out, more often than not we'd be missing at least one or two things. We'd then either, scramble up something with what we did have, make a run to the grocery store, or give up and order take out.
Over time we started to get the hang of things. After trying out a few different ways to organize the process we've settled upon this current system (outlined below), which has eliminated excess trips to the grocery store, helped us cut down on food spending, and overall has worked really well for us:
- We sit down together one day during the week (usually Saturday or Sunday morning after breakfast) and decide on what we'd like to eat each night. If we're having a hard time coming up with ideas, we turn to food websites, blogs, our cookbooks, and/or Pinterest.
- Using the (free!) Real Simple Dinner Planner (which to take make things convenient, we keep copies of in a transparent pocket adhered to the inside of our pantry door), we write the dishes in the Menu column (furthest left). When deciding on what dinner to slot on what day of the week, we keep in mind which ones rely on more perishable groceries and/or ingredients we already have on hand that need to be used soon.
- Again using the planner, we write down the ingredients we need to buy for each meal in the appropriate columns to the right (Produce, Dairy & Refrigerated, etc). I love the way the planner is organized because the columns correspond to the aisles of most grocery stores, making it easy to shop down each column.
- So we don't forget what we decided upon for what day, we write the dishes on a dry erase board we have in the kitchen, which serves as a menu. We use the Magnetic Glass Dry Erase Weekly Planner from Three By Three Seattle. We love it because it's conveniently labeled with the days of the week, it has a handy little shelf for a marker, and it's magnetic, so we can post up printouts of any recipes we'll be using.
Hope sharing this was helpful to anyone out there who may also struggle with dinner planning!