So many of my readers ask about menu planning.
In its simplest form, a menu plan consists of deciding in advance what to cook for supper. For a bit more sophistication, a weekly dinner menu can be made and keep in the weekly section of a planner. Depending on the family's needs, breakfast and lunch plans might be helpful.
In my house, I use a hybrid of these methods. I have three or four breakfast staples (cereal, toast, waffles, and oatmeal/fruit) that I always keep on hand. I eat lots of leftovers for lunch, but have some quick backup lunches available all the time. (My favorites are Easy Mac...shush!...and frozen, cooked shrimp for a quick shrimp cocktail.) But I plan dinners, based on sale ingredients, the family's schedule, and how much energy I have.
I've written about this topic, menu and food prep, a lot: here, here, here, here, and here.
But something that needs more focus is scheduling time to deal with food prep.
Generally, cooking at home takes less time than getting in the car, driving to a restaurant, and picking up food. Still, it does take some time.
One of the biggest food planning mistakes is to forget to plan TIME: time for prep, time for cooking, and time for cleaning up.
TIP: Have others clean up for the cook.
For example, today's menu is toast for breakfast, pasta and grilled chicken for lunch, and leftover grilled chicken or hamburger steaks (depending on whether I have hamburger meat in the freezer) with oven fries for dinner.
But, apart from the actual cooking (from recipes that I know or have written down and with ingredients that I keep on hand all the time), I need to freeze some leftover veggies, make a salsa for tomorrow, and defrost the meals. Those steps go in my planner.
Note that defrosting is time sensitive, so that step goes on the schedule, while freezing extra veggies goes on the should do task list.
However you do food planning, consider incorporating the time to prep and cook in your schedule. In the long run, when you are not running to get takeout all the time, it will help you save time and money.