Eat, drink, find enjoyment!

Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment and see good in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Ecclesiastes 5:18
Although I struggle with enjoying food in excess when I take my eyes off Christ, I am thankful that God gave us food to enjoy! Though I'm not sure how something can be both joy and pain, planning a menu for my family is both. Joy when I'm full of great ideas and creative things to try. Joy when their eyes light up at the phrase, "Mac and Cheese Casserole" but pain when I have no creativity, no plan and hear, "Mom, can you not make this again. It's not my favorite." However, it is part of my job as a worker at home. (Which, overall, I do love.)
Over the years I'm learned and tried different methods of approach to menu planning: Monthly menu plans, weekly planning and a 3-week rotation. If you are new to menu planning and the kitchen seems daunting, the 3-week rotation is perhaps the best place to begin.
On average, we eat the same foods about every three weeks. So with the 3-week plan, you gather your typical recipes plot them out in a 3-week rotation. Along with this, it is handy to have a corresponding grocery list for these recipes.
For years, with young toddlers, I liked doing monthly menu planning. Set aside at least 1-hour to make a list of  15-20 meals to be served in the calendar month. I found this allowed for consuming all the leftovers, eating out and of course, ordering in pizza. (In our home, I typically only make the evening dinner meal--with enough leftovers to pack for a lunch the next day--so if you make lunches or full breakfasts, you'd have to add the total menu ideas.) Make a corresponding grocery list and stock the pantry. Then as you go through the month, every day you can decide what's for dinner that night. I even kept my monthly list from year to year because what we eat typically corresponds to what foods are in season and on sale during various times of the year. This made the task less daunting after the first year because I could use most of the same menu ideas the next year. 
Currently, I create a weekly menu plan based on sale items and favorite recipes that appear on my favorite food blog, I have "Menu" on my iCal as reoccurring event at 6pm. When I plan my menus, I simply type in the menu item on each event and then add necessary grocery items to my shopping list. (More on shopping lists next week.)
Everyone is different, but for me, I am paralyzed without a plan. If I have a plan, I can easily get in motion, i.e. thaw & marinate meat, prep the veggies, load up the crockpot in the morning when we have a busy day, etc.
What tips can you share in regards to menu planning? Do you have a favorite app to share? Decide today to start menu planning and save yourself mucho bucks (and calories) by not eating out as much and save yourself the stress of 5:30pm and frozen chicken!

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