Menu Planning Download (& a Weekly Menu)

I had a question recently from a reader about how I menu plan. This is a good time of year to be thinking about that. Looking ahead to the new school year (homeschool, public, or otherwise) it's helpful to have some plans and strategies in place to simplify life in the kitchen during busy seasons of transition or change.

A lot of what I shared in A Summer CSA Menu Plan, a post I wrote last year, still applies to my current menu planning. You can read that post for how I plan around seasonal vegetables and a csa farm share.

I currently menu plan using a master planning sheet that lists a different theme for six meals each week. One night a week we eat out or eat pizza so I don't plan for this on the menu. With the turn of the season the menu will change a bit as soups and stews feature prominently in our winter menu. But let's not go there yet. 

Click here to download a copy of this menu master for yourself. 

My Menu Plan Guidelines

These six meal "themes" replace the usual beef, chicken, fish, meatless, and whatever else many people menu plan around. With the exception of our pasta night and pizza/eating out night (meal seven) the meal ideas are whole food and plant-based, ie: made from whole, non-processed plant foods. Beans, grains (in their entirety, not in flour), vegetables, tofu, seeds, and nuts. 

In addition to our menu plan being vegan it also meets our family's unique dietary needs. Because Damien can't eat corn or wheat (without experiencing pain and discomfort) I don't plan meals around these grains. My cooking is basically gluten-free.

The blessing of these sensitivities is that they have virtually eliminated processed foods from our usual diet. In addition, wraps, burger buns, pasta, etc... do not feature prominently in my weekly menu plan. 

A Sample One Week Menu Plan

Below is an actual menu from a recent week at our house. I've linked to recipes and resources where I possible.

  • Brown rice pesto pasta. Grilled teriyaki portobellos & yellow summer squash. Chickpea, tomato, cucumber and fresh herb salad. 
  • New potatoes, boiled and served with a tomato bean sauce (Jacob's Cattle beans and canned tomatoes).
  • Summer veggie pizza with rice crust for Damien (I'll give the recipe in comments if interested), whole grain flour crust the rest of us. Topped with Daiya dairy-free cheese.
  • Supper out! Post-hike burgers, fish and chips.
  • Potato Cauliflower curry (recipe from The New Fast Food), sauteed shiitake mushrooms, corn on the cob.
  • Green bean and coconut milk curry, served with sweet and regular potatoes.
  • Baked Tofu Unchicken with peach and apple salsa (recipe inspirations from summer 30 Day Vegan), brown rice, broccoli with dairy-free creamy sauce. Photo below.

I am usually a one pot wonder cook, most of our meals being served in a bowl. This has worked for us for years. It simplifies meal planning and is also a great way to make all those veggies, beans and grains taste good together, instead of having a bunch of bland "side dishes" next to each other on a plate. 

Living with my parents this summer makes it possible to move beyond my one pot meals because there are 2 resident cooks now instead of one. I cook most of the weeknight meals (my mom cooks the afternoon I do the grocery shopping and errand running, isn't that just the best?) and my mom and I share weekend cooking. 

These meals loosely follow my weekly menu planning master. I don't always follow the guideline on weeks where I have a lot of inspiration and ideas.

A master menu plan is really helpful during those times of low inspiration and ideas (or limited time)

I'm happy to answer questions about our menu or menu planning in general in the comments. 

How do you like to menu plan? 

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  • Kika

    Kika on Sept. 1, 2011, 4:15 p.m.

    I love your detailed posts. I have a similar type of plan (but will consider your daily 'themes') and have to be careful to not have too many flour type grains showing up in one week - even if they are homemade/egg and yeast free. I want to try out some new ideas this Fall...have been enjoying the Vegan Workshop but haven't had the time or energy to implement new ingredients or recipes.

    Using the sample menu above, can you indicate when/where you would have used 1)a food processor and 2)your pressure cooker, please?


    • renee

      renee on Sept. 1, 2011, 5:12 p.m.

      Trying to evaluate a purchase perhaps? (smile) Food Processor - pesto, pizza crust for kids and I, curry mix (I didn't use it for this particular coconut milk curry but I often do make my own curry mix in the processor) Pressure Cooker - any meal with beans, those beans were cooked in pressure cooker. Potato Caulifower curry. Of course, I also use those tools for other meals and snacks not shown on this menu. Ie: making almond butter like my mom writes about here. 


      • Kika

        Kika on Sept. 5, 2011, 1:35 a.m.

        Actually, I have just settled this decision - once and for all- that I am not buying any more kitchen applicances. I have survived thus far without them and am generally unhappy with too many gadgets around. Even my beautiful Kitchen Aid kind of bugs me - I never needed it and my dad bought is as a gift for me without is great and was so generous but I used to do everything by hand in a big ceramic bowl I'd found at the local "Take it or leave it" for free. Anyways, I am learning more about myself - or, rather, learning to respect myself more in all areas. This being just one of them. What I will do is at some point buy a nice big pot for larger batches of soups or stocks or a great quality knife which I have never owned. I guess I am really happier with fewer choices and more focus on the basics (I recognize that those handy appliances fit into the helpful 'basics' category for others - much respect to you).


        • renee

          renee on Sept. 5, 2011, 1:38 a.m.

          You're so sweet. You totally should do what works for you. I use my kitchen tools nearly every day and I love them. Just like a carpenter loves a drill or a photographer loves her camera (smile).


  • Jennifer @ kidoing!

    Jennifer @ kidoing! on Sept. 1, 2011, 10:54 p.m.

    I have been making lots of one pot meals since your post on 30 Day Vegan (easy equals more relaxed and happy mom). I just made a tomato, bean and quinoa dish with basil tonight in pressure cooker - so good.

    I love that you don't use much bread-type foods/grains, making plenty of room on the plate for the high-nutrient foods. Lots of great ideas here. Thanks, Renee.

    Congratulations to your mom for launching her own blog! It looks great and she can count me a reader. :)


  • kyndale

    kyndale on Sept. 2, 2011, 6:38 p.m.

    I do something similar but I don't have a form. So, thank you for that! I used to just go to the store and buy things that looked good but that was before three kids. If I don't plan out our meals, we end up spending way too much money. I like the theme meals. I haven't yet adopted that but I want to try sometime. I usually plan only 5 meals. It works for us because we'll either have a pizza night, eat leftovers or eat outside the home one night. I try not to eat out even once a week but usually once every two weeks. I, being gluten-free also, can't eat at many restaurants! :)

    I hope you're having a nice weekend!


  • Lynda

    Lynda on Sept. 3, 2011, 1:28 a.m.

    I love this idea and have tried something similar, but I have a very finicky eater. My son believes vegetables should never be served to him, and trying to get him to eat anything from a crock-pot is useless. He doesn't like most condiments except ranch dressing and butter. The only thing I can get him to eat with no fuss is Ramon noodles, ugh.

    Do you have any ideas?


  • Mel

    Mel on Sept. 3, 2011, 10:41 p.m.

    I plan for four weeks each season, then we repeat those four weeks three times. Since this is the first year I've done

    it, I've subbed out recipes that looked great on paper, but not so good on reality. I have one season to go --my favorite, fall! and then I'll have a year's worth of meals planned. I leave one night blank for eating out and another simply called "leftovers."

    I put the menu in a binder with the recipes behind it so that anyone can pick it up and make dinner...not that that happens enough ;) Oh, there is also a section for the grocery list. Maybe you'll be my inspiration to post it on my blog for other hyper-organizers like myself.


  • Bethany

    Bethany on Sept. 4, 2011, 1:43 a.m.

    Love the ideas in your post and in the comments! Things go SO much smoother when I plan, yet I usually don't. Perhaps the form would help, and Mel's idea of planning a month for each season I really like too. We're also one-dish eaters almost all the time, and it sure makes cooking and cleanup much easier!


  • beth

    beth on Sept. 23, 2011, 11:41 a.m.

    hey renee, can you give that recipe for the GF pizza crust? my 6 yr old will is GF and im always looking for new recipes. love the blog. its very inspiring as im trying to get ,my kids mostly vegan. right now im raw vegan and loving it!


    • renee

      renee on Oct. 5, 2011, 12:29 p.m.

      Beth, This is not a vegan recipe but I am trying to adapt it to be vegan. My adaptation (with flax seed binder) is not worthy of publishing though, still very trial stages. Keep in mind, this is not a traditional pizza crust at all. That being said, here goes:

      2 cups cooked brown rice

      1 egg white

      Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9 inch pie pan with cooking spray.

      Mix rice and egg white in a medium size bowl by hand.

      Press into prepared pan.

      Bake for 10 minutes.

      Remove from oven, top with pizza ingredients. Bake as you would a pizza.



  • mary

    mary on March 1, 2014, 2:22 p.m.

    Do you have an actual menu plan with recipes anywhere? I love your stuff but I need recipes as I am a very challenged vegan cook! Thanks for sharing!


    • mary

      mary on March 1, 2014, 2:25 p.m.

      Do you have a 30 day menu plan? I have lots of recipes but I am looking for a month long set of meals with recipes. I need vegan and gluten free. Thanks!


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