Lots of people ask me how I’m able to stick to a diet during the school year. Mostly, I tell them that I don’t stick to it as well as I do in the summer. As you all know already, I’m a cheater. However, I do try to stay honest during the week. Tim and I are also trying to save a bit more money this year (and by a bit more, I mean more than $0), so we try to make as much food as we can during the week.
How do we keep on task and avoid wasting food? We have a menu board!
I used to have this thing out in the open where everyone could see it, and people did tease me good-naturedly about it. One of our friends liked to go through the meal cards every time he was over and ohh and ahh over the variety of meals we made. When we replaced the floors in our house, I hung it inside our pantry, not because of the teasing, but because I thought our house finally looked like grown-ups lived in it, and the menu board looked a little bit childish. If you make one, you can make it look like whatever you want, but the glitter and polka-dots on mine sort of ruin my classy kitchen vibe.
Menu boards are really easy to make, and there are about a million different ways to make them. Just search for “menu board” on Pinterest, and you’ll get a ton of ideas. Mine is a cork board from Target with sparkle letters stuck on scrapbook paper and tacked into the board in order. We do our grocery shopping on Saturdays, so I put Saturday first, but you can start with whichever day you want.
Then, you create the meal cards. We have a ton of them created, but it takes time. Start with a few favorites and build as you go. Just remember to have some extra blank ones handy so you don’t have to cut them up every time you make a new meal. My meal cards are just colored card stock cut into small rectangles. On the front, I write the meal name. On the back, I write all of the ingredients for the meal. That way, I can decide what meals to make based on what ingredients we have (e.g. If one meal uses half a red pepper, I find another one that will use the other half so it doesn’t go to waste and we don’t have to buy a million different ingredients every week. This is also helpful if you have ingredients left over from the previous week that you want to use up before they go bad.). This is also helpful because you can just put the cards in your wallet when you go grocery shopping and you have an instant grocery list with you.
Our menu cards are color coded: green for vegetarian, tan for pasta, pink for meat, blue for seafood, white for easy, and yellow for side dishes. (Obviously, since I’ve gone Paleo, I don’t use the pasta and vegetarian ones very much anymore. I created this when I was still about 70% vegetarian, but if I did it again, I’d use a different color for red meat and white meat.) You can do that or not, but I find it’s easier to make sure you have a variety of foods each week if you can see the cards’ colors in front of you.
The menu board helps us with shopping, planning, budgeting, and eating healthy. Plus, I never have to answer the question, “What’s for dinner?”
Do you have a menu board you use every week? If not, do you think something like this might help you? Leave suggestions in the comments!