What's for dinner?
We used to plan our meals a week at a time, but we're busy parents with young kids and a life that gets crazy, and inevitably, Monday would roll around again and we wouldn't have our week planned out. In December, we decided to make a monthly meal plan because of the holiday craziness, and it worked out so well, we've been doing it ever since.
First we decided on a "Category" for each day of the week. Although you could do anything, ours are: Monday = Regional/Ethnic, Tuesday = Kids' Favorites, Wednesday = Soups/Salads, Thursday = Family Favorites, Friday = Breakfast for Dinner, Saturday = Leftovers. Sundays we eat with family so that varies.
We usually do Tuesdays first, and ask the kids what meals they'd like for the upcoming month. Then we pencil in Wednesdays (soups) and Fridays (breakfasts). Then we do Mondays, and think of some ethnic meals, maybe browse Pinterest or our cookbooks for ideas. Then we fill in Thursdays with just miscellaneous meals that we've been craving that didn't make it in anywhere else.
We buy meat throughout the month and freeze it as it comes on sale, and when we menu plan, we take into account any meat that we have in the freezer, or leftovers in the freezer that need to get used up. We also think of any other ingredients we have lying around that need to be used (produce, etc.).
For some reason, it is so much easier to come up with 4 soups for the month, 4 breakfasts, etc. than it would be to just sit down and plan out a month at a time. We keep the calendar on the fridge, and if we think of any meals during the month that we want to put in the following month, we just make a note on the calendar.
If anyone would like, I'd be more than happy to do a follow-up post of lists of dinners in each category. This method has been working so well for us - finally something we can stick with for menu planning!