For years, I participated in the whole what's for dinner dilema. However, a couple years ago, I sat down and started planning our dinner menu on a weekly basis. I believe it has saved us money and I know it has saved us time.
When I first started planning our menus, I created a blank menu that I would print off each week and fill in. These days, in the name of being more green, I have a dry erase board that I use.
Both methods have their pros and cons. For instance, I kind of miss being able to print out multiple pages and planning for more than one week at a time.
So, here's how I go about planning our menu each week:
I glance through the ad from the store where I shop to see what is on sale. I flip through my coupons to refresh my memory on what I've got. Also, I pull out any recipes I've found that I want to try out. Then I figure out the main dishes for each day. Fridays are easy because we have pizza every Friday night. (Middle kiddo has a meltdown if any other food is suggested for Friday nights. He's very serious about his weekly pizza intake.) During warm months, I give Saturday nights to the hubby for grilling. That leaves me with four nights to fill in. After I figure out a main dish, I add a vegetable and a starch for each night. We eat a lot of potatoes and rice for our starches. But I like to throw in mac-n-cheese every now and then too. If I add a casserole to the menu, it usually has the starch and vegetable thrown in so total score for me on those nights.
And, there you have it...my method of avoiding that daily what's for dinner dilema. Menu planning also makes grocery shopping a breeze because I create the list directly from the menu and avoid buying anything that'll end up going to waste. As you can see, I don't add dessert to our menu. If the kiddos finish their dinner, we always have some fruit or yogurt that we let them have as a sweet treat after dinner. Sometimes I'll have some cookies or brownies or something like that. But, honestly, my kiddos just aren't huge sweets eaters (please don't hate me).
I hope this helps you out if you've been struggling with meal planning. I really believe everyone should give it a try. Find a method that works for you and stick with it. I'm sure you won't be disappointed.