Can you think of 13 meals? Can you think of 20? 40? I admit that sometimes I have a hard time thinking of enough meals when I want to make a long term menu plan. But obviously, since I've made somewhere between 25,000 and 40,000 meals in my adult life, then surely I can think of at least 20 different meals, and I can write them on a menu planner, and make a shopping list for the meals.
In my pre-computer days, I used to sit down during a quiet time of the day and make menu plans for one month complete with grocery lists. I still have one of the lists and looking at it, it is clear to me that I was trying to cut back on expenses and calories. The estimated shopping list for the month-long menu for 4 was only 250.00 and this included toiletries and cat food.
The Repeating Meal: I made the menu in a particular way and used paper that I had torn out of my budget planner. To make this menu I grouped the month-long list of menus by menu name and by that I mean this - If I wanted to serve spaghetti and bread 3 times that month, then I would write spaghetti and bread on one line and on the next two lines I would write 2 tick marks instead of "spaghetti and bread, spaghetti and bread" using a total of 3 lines for spaghetti [see image above]. This is a repeating meal, however, it can be varied a bit, such as making a slightly different spaghetti sauce, but it will still be considered "spaghetti & bread."
Specifying Which Day of the Month for the Repeating Meal: On the left side of the paper were two narrow columns. I used the first column to indicate what day of the week that I would serve the food. The days were abbreviated like this: Su, M, Tu, W, Th, F, Sa. In the 2nd narrow column I placed a number between 1 and 5. The number indicated which Sunday, Monday, etc to serve this meal. The first Sunday is 1, the second Sunday in the month is 2, and so forth.
Planner Files for this Style of Menu Planning: If you want to give this sort of menu planning a go, then do so. And if you like them, you can use the menu planners that I created just for this task - the files are linked below. The menu planners have either 39 or 40 rows for menus. The rows are grouped with colors. The 10-meal planner has groups of 4 same-colored rows and would indicate 10 repeating meals. The 13-meal planner has groups of 3 same-colored rows and the 13-meal planner indicates 13 repeating meals. The 20-meal planner has groups of 2 same-colored rows. At the bottom is a place to place a few cookbook titles and title key. The 2 narrow columns on the right side of the planner refer to the cookbook key and page numbers.
The 13-Meals Menu Planner Files
The file is named after the number of alternating sets of gray or white rows that the planner has. If you make shopping lists for the menus, be sure to put a unique identifying label on each of the menus [ex: Spring Lunches 2012 or Summer Suppers 2011] and a matching label on each of the lists.