This is a great tip I got from this site, Simple Mom. My husband and I had been discussing budgeting for our family food shop (dull, I know) and he mentioned that a colleague at work had a menu plan. My immediate response was “There must be an app for that” but having ransacked the Android Market, iPad apps etc (we are a geeky family) I couldn’t really find anything that worked. However, the Googlel calendar idea works perfectly and is a very fool proof way of planning family meals.
I don’t want to restate everything on the Simple Mom website, but essentially you set up a separate Google Calendar from your usual one (you will need a Google account for this). Each recipe is an “Event” and you can set it to recur every 2 weeks or whatever you want (I set it to two weeks but think we will get bored of that so will probably create a calendar with a month’s worth of meals in it). I put the URL for the recipe (if I’m using one, there are a few dishes I could probably cook blind fold by now) in the “Where” field and the text of the recipe in the “Notes” section. You can then email yourself reminders of what you’re cooking each day (by adding a reminder to each “Event” or recipe).
Why do this? The basic reason is that having a menu plan eliminates waste. If you know what you are going to cook for the week, it is a huge help when doing your weekly shop, stops you ordering too much food (and having to put it in the bin or panic eat it before it hits the use-by date) and helps you keep an eye on whether you are cooking nutritious food for your kids. You can plan things sensibly, for example if you are cooking chicken every second Sunday, you know you will have chicken stock and so make sure you have the ingredients for risotto, soup or whatever you usually make with it. I have now saved my shopping list for each scheduled week in my Ocado account, so all I have to do is bring up “Week 1 Shopping List” in my account and add all the items straight away when doing my shopping online. If you use Epicurious and some other recipe websites, you can also email yourself a shopping list.