When I make up a menu, I plan for a month at a time. For me, this is the easiest way to make sure I am cooking a variety of meals (I try not to cook the same meal more than once in a month). You might plan the same way or you might choose to plan every two weeks, or one week at a time. Do what works for you.
Before I can even begin to plan, I need to know what is going on in my life. A meal of roast turkey with all the fixings is going to be a bust if it is planned on the same day as little league practice and the swim team meet. On the other hand, coming home to a ready, slow cooker meal that's been simmering all day is wonderful!
With that thought in mind, I number a sheet of paper with the days of the month. Then I fill in comments about what is going on including club and sporting events, planned night time activity, meals with invited guests, and even tv show premieres (ahem, Walking Dead anyone?).
Next I go to my freezer and make a list of the meat I have on hand already. I also peek through my cupboards for ingredients for meatless suppers. Shopping at home for your menu plan is the easiest way to save money. Use what you have now and buy items when they're on sale. I can not stress this enough. This does not mean you will never buy anything at regular price, but the more sales you can take advantage of, the better.
Now that I know what I have on hand, I think about the suppers I can make and fill in my month with (evening) meals. I have a few things I always do that makes it a little easier to assign meals I plan. Friday evening begins the day of rest so I plan a crockpot meal for Friday. Saturdays are for cleaning up leftovers from the past week or we use a backup meal if there are no leftovers.
As I fill in my menu, I keep in mind what kind of leftovers I will have from the different meals. I know that a pork roast means two suppers for us. The first supper will be roasted pork with potatoes and veggies. The next meal will be leftovers, chopped and added to a mixed one-plate stir fry kind of meal or sliced and simmered in a gravy. This second meal can be the night after the roast, or I can freeze the meat and use it later in the month. A chicken means roast chicken supper one night, stir fry or subs or quesadillas for a leftover meal a second night, and then a soup or broth from anything left and the bones.
Once I have the meals on hand written down, plus leftover supper meals, I might still have some blank evening meals to fill in. At this point I try and check my store flyers for sales and finish my list of supper plans.
I do this on a scrap piece of paper. I seem to change things up as I'm planning and this doesn't need to be pretty. It's only for my eyes at this point. Once I know what my supper plans are, I move the information into a printed menu plan.
Next up, planning lunch from the supper menu.
If you have not already made a meal list, start small with suppers.
See the whole series:
Menus and Meals
Locally Grown and Special Deals
Let's Plan Supper!
Breakfast and Lunch
Snackin and Munchin
Meal Plans: Putting It All Together (free printables)
Shopping and Prepping