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How to Make a 6-Week Dinner Menu

The start of a new school year is upon us.
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If your life wasn’t busy enough already, it’s about to get even busier. There’s shopping for school supplies and clothes, haircut appointments, and parent orientation night to attend. The first week of school also means lots of papers to sign, like emergency cards and permission slips, and the return to the homework routine.

With all of the added hustle and bustle it’s easy to let dinner planning fall by the wayside. You can keep it under control with a six week dinner menu. That may sound overwhelming but the meal planning process is easier than you think when you break it down.

First, make a list of categories. Your list might look like this:

  • Chicken and Turkey
  • Beef and Lamb
  • Pork
  • Seafood
  • Pasta
  • Vegetables

Now add your family’s favorite meals. Does your famous tuna casserole belong in the seafood or pasta category? You get to decide.

Next, brainstorm dinner ideas by category. If you have six like I do, you will need to come up with seven meals for each of them to get a total of 42 (six weeks worth). Remember that scene in Forrest Gump when Bubba tells Forrest all the ways you can prepare shrimp? It’s that easy. I started with the Chicken and Turkey category and quickly came up with this list:

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  • Chicken tacos
  • Fried chicken
  • BBQ chicken
  • Chicken alfredo
  • Chicken enchilada soup
  • Turkey burgers
  • Turkey pot pie

Get meal ideas from your favorite online recipe sources. Some of the websites I use are:

Still a few meals short of 42? Here are some ideas for getting to that magic number:

  • Schedule a night for eating leftovers.
  • Have a “rerun night.” Leftovers mean eating the same meal two days in a row, but a “rerun” means you plan the same meal twice in your six-week menu.
  • Plan a night to go out to eat or pick-up fast food. By being a little choosy about where you dine, you can still make this a healthy option.
  • Ask your friends for ideas. A simple “what’s for dinner?” post on Facebook will get lots of responses.

Once you have all of your meals listed, you can make your dinner menus. Checkout Amy Johnson’s post on 5 Menu Planning Tools, use a free printable menu planner, or do it the old-fashioned way with pencil and paper.

However you choose to create them, you now have six weeks of dinner menus to rotate. Don’t forget to try out new recipes occasionally to keep it interesting. Bon appétit!

Have some great ideas on how to make meal planning simple? Tell us about it!


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