Step One: Make a list of all the Main Dishes or Meats you and your family like. This is the funnest step and a great place to involve the whole family. If you already have side dishes you like with certain main dishes list them together here. You can also list special requests or desserts and whatnot here.
Step Two: Next you can download this sample menu form if you have Microsoft Word 2007, as soon as I figure out how to enable that function. Save it on your computer and then you can make adjustments and changes. You can't make changes to a read-only form so that's why you have to save it on your computer. Until then you can make your own form by opening a new blank document and creating an 8x4 or 5 or 6 or 7 table, depending on how many snacks you want to plan for in a day:
0 snacks=8x4 table
1 snack = 8x5 table
2 snacks=8x6 table
3 snacks=8x7 table
More than 3 snacks combined with 3 smallish meals is not recommended, for your budget or your blood sugar!
The 8 spaces in the top row will be the labels for all the columns below them. So the first space would be labeled MEAL, because under it you will be listing the meals of breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus any snacks. The next 7 spaces are for, you guessed it, the days of the week.
Step Three: Take your list from step one and fill in the squares. First put a main dish then add in sides as desired. I like to make sure I have a few veggies and maybe a fruit or bread with each meal. If you make your meal plans like that you will end up with very balanced meals.
Step Four: Create an additional table or simply type in the foods needed for the menu. You can organize this list however you would like or need. Here is where I note foods that are on sale and where. I also add pantry items I like to keep on hand, if I am running low on them. For example, I like to keep nice cheeses and crackers on hand, in case company stops by. You may have other things like that and here is a good place to list them so you don't run out and can make sure you get them at the store while doing your other shopping.
You can make this menu as detailed or general as you like. I like to plan my meals with the future in mind. For example, I planned a turkey breast roast for Tuesday night and then I planned to use the leftovers to make a turkey salad, which is just like chicken salad, for lunch on Thursday. I didn't plan for us to eat the leftovers the very next day because that seemed a little repetitive. You can also plan your menu based on weekly sales and save some "dough". For example, our local grocery store had a super deal on ground beef so I stocked up and, to keep the freezer from being overrun with beef, I will use beef more than normal in this weeks menu. You can plan farther ahead than one week, though, and that will probably help with making your menus economically friendly. You will know, from the grocery list at the bottom of the menu, what you need ahead of time. So, if it goes on sale you can pick it up, knowing it won't go to waste and will be used soon.