I thought I might share with you how I do my menu planning. I'm no expert, but just in case someone needed help getting started I decided to share my system. I go grocery shopping twice a month, therefore I need to have two weeks worth of meals planned before going to the store. Here's what the planning process looks like for me:
1. Gather supplies - Blank paper and pen for grocery list, family recipes, and monthly menu plan sheet.
2. Fill in holidays, birthdays, trips, and planned events that include meals on menu calendar - This time I have Fathers Day, a birthday dinner, a book club dinner, and a trip to see Mike's parents. (Note: I only plan my dinners, but it might work better for your family to plan all your meals. Do what works best for you.) Also at this point you need to add to your grocery list whatever ingredients you need to buy for those events if you are bringing a dish or hosting the meal.
3. Begin filling in the blanks - You can look at your previous meal plan to see if there is any meal that didn't get made to transfer to this weeks plan. Also it's cost effective to try and make as many meals as you can from ingredients you already have on hand. As you're adding meals you need to be simultaneously adding the ingredients that you need for those meals to your grocery list. I keep my recipe box on hand to help fill in the blanks. It's also useful to look back over your old menu plans for ideas.
4. Look through pantry - When my meal plan is complete I go through my pantry to see what staples, snacks, breakfast items, cleanings supplies, etc I need to add to my list. It's also useful to keep a blank pad in the kitchen so you can add supplies as you run out of them throughout the weeks.
5. Go shopping! At this point your menu plan and grocery list should be complete so it's time to start shopping! We budget $130 for two weeks worth of groceries and toiletries. Also I always use cash because it's easier for me to stay on budget that way.
This is the system that I've found to work best for me right now. I hope you can find what works best for you and your family! Happy menu planning!