Super Simple Menu-Planning That Really Works

Super Simple Menu-Planning That Really Works

What is that one thing that is going to save you both time and money?

Oh, and stress.

Let’s not forget that. Saves you stress.

You know what I’m talking about.


And you know you’re supposed to do this.

Maybe you’ve already started this good practice.

And started.

And started.

And started . . . ?

Yeah. Me too.

So since we’re being honest with each other? I’m going to come right out with it: I’m terrible about meal-planning.  Absolutely terrible.

What’s worse it that I know it would help me out and it’s not all that hard to do.

But still I don’t do it.


Maybe because it’s one more thing to do. Takes time and thought.

So then dinner keeps sneaking up on me. Every. Single. Night.


On most nights, I just have to wing it!

I think I’ve tried nearly every system out there and, while I don’t have anything against any of them, I haven’t found anything that works for me.

Until now.

I began using this method for meal-planning last year and I am sold on it.

I love it!

And now I’m sharing it with you . . . in case you end up loving it too.

What do I love about it?

  • It’s simple.
  • It family- friendly.
  • It’s quick and easy.

What more could you ask for?

Okay, here it goes . . . .  (complete with illustrations!)

A Super Simple Menu-Plan That Really Works

1.  Come up with 7 Categories of Meals.  I’ve noticed every family has their own kind of foods that they enjoy. Brainstorm just a bit to think what sorts of food these would be. You can also vary them according to the season.

Example: Chicken, Pizza, Soups, Pasta, Mexican, Thai, Beef, Salads, Rice Dishes, etc.

Super Simple Menu-Planning Categories

*Sorry about the coffee smudge in the middle of the page . . . but you know me :)

2.   Come up with  4 kinds of meals for each category. This is easier than it sounds. Like this:

Chicken:  Barbeque chicken, Chinese chicken, Roasted chicken, Chicken enchiladas, etc.

Pasta:  Spaghetti, Fettucini Alfredo, Macaroni & Cheese, etc.

Super Simple Menu-Planning Categories and Suggestions

3.  Designate a Category for each night. I try to think through our basic family schedule and what our needs are for each evening. For instance, on the day we’re in town for much of the day, I might designate as “easy dinner night” or “crock pot night”.

Example: Monday is Chicken Night. Tuesday is Crock Pot night. Friday is Pizza Night.

4.   Get out your calendar and start plugging it it! Bonus: If you come up with 8 dishes for each category, then you have 2 months worth. Or maybe your family is fine with the same basic meals each month. Maybe you’re adventurous and want to have a designated Try-A-New-Recipe night. That’s fun too!

Side-Dishes: Personally, I don’t worry so much about the side dishes. I can usually come up with those easily enough. If you’d like to include them in your menu-plan, however, I’d use the same approach and brainstorm your side dishes and add those in as well.

Super Simple Menu-Planning Calendar

Here’s the beauty of this super simple system: I don’t have to think.

Or, at least not too much.

I just wake up on Monday morning and already know that it is Chicken Night. That means I simply start by pulling chicken out of the freezer.

That was easy.

And when the kids ask me, “What’s for dinner tonight?” I can boldly proclaim, “Chicken!” and it increases their confidence in me.

And increases their confidence that we are actually going to have dinner that night.

Two big points right there.

Super Simple Menu-Planning in the Kitchen

Real-Life Homemaking SeriesNow if you’re thinking this just isn’t working for you, that’s okay. It won’t hurt my feelings.

I have another suggestion that you might like better. Kelly of  TheNourishingHome shares a “healthy real food meal plan” every other week on TheBetterMom and you might want to check out that option too.

And if all else fails?

Wing it! 

It’s alright, I’ve been doing it for years . . . . ;)

*What tips or methods have you found to help with menu-planning? Any questions (other than why do we keep egg cartons on top of our fridge – long story)?

In His grace,
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On Why It’s So Critical That We Connect With Friends

On Why It's So Critical That We Connect With Friends

No one ever thought it would happen.

Least of all her.

She was a pastor’s wife and a homeschooling mom. A lovely lady with four beautiful children.

And now it’s completely fallen apart.

Heartbreak, divorce, and she’s left them all.

Not that everything was perfect because it wasn’t.

But what actually happened? Something went wrong somewhere.

Left her family behind – bewildered and searching for answers.

What would have made a difference? And what would have helped? These are the some of the questions we’ve all agonized over.

The answer isn’t simple and I don’t pretend it to be. But there is one thing that I’m certain would have helped.  Might have even changed the course of this family’s history.

And that one thing is pressed upon my heart today.

A close friend.

I believe a good friend could have helped tremendously in that situation. Possibly turned it around.

Because when you’re left alone with your own thoughts and your own struggles? Your own pain and your own sin and weakness? As well as the the pain and sin of those around you?

It’s easy to get confused and off-track. To spiral downward. To listen to those negative, destructive voices.

And this is right where the Enemy wants you to be.

Which is why Christ urges us – commands us, really – that we are to love one another.  Deeply.  Fervently.

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. ~ John 15:12-13

We are made to walk closely with one another.

Not alone.

Yet so many of you have written me telling me how lonely you are and how your heart aches for someone to understand and care about you.

And I get it. I really do.

It is increasingly difficult to find friends in this busy, fragmented world we live in. Friendship is risky and it’s rare. And yet  I believe it’s essential for us as believers to be walking closely with others.

We need each other, sisters. 

Why It's So Critical to Connect With Friends

How Do You Closely Connect with True Friends?

Pray for friends. I’ve found over the years that I’ve had to pray for friends. Ask God to bring women in your life who will love you. Support and challenge you.  As iron sharpens iron (Prov. 27:17).

Reach out. Don’t wait for someone else to make the first move. Swallow your fears and your insecurities and take a chance. Some of my closest friendships came out of my shy and hesitant, “Hi, I’m Lisa and I was wondering…..?”

Get creative. Don’t limit yourself to your small circles, but be willing to seek out friends from various places and stages in life. Some of my friends are local and some live all over the world. Some are older and others are younger than me. Each has something unique to offer in friendship.

Share openly. Be real with a few trusted friends – using discretion – and be willing to be honest and vulnerable. Feels risky, I know, but it’s a risk worth taking. God doesn’t want us to live in the shadows, but to walk out into the light.

Speak truth. I am grateful for friends who are willing to speak truth into my life. Sometimes we can be so hesitant about “hurting” a friend –  that we hurt them worse by not being willing to be honest with them.  So let’s lovingly, graciously, speak truth to each other too.

Communicate love. True friendship takes both time and effort. Show your friends by your words and by your actions that you love and care for them. Yes, pour into your family, but invest in good friendships too—friendships that will encourage you in your spiritual walk and ministry.

Friends, we were never meant to walk alone. And it’s not enough to give a quick hug between church services, or wave to one another from across the parking lot. We were meant for so much more.

God intended for us to be closely connected.

Love you, Sisters!

*What do you think is essential for deep friendships? How have you been able to find friends in this swirling world we live in?

In His grace,
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My 10-Step, Zero Meltdown Plan for Grocery Shopping With Children

My 10 Step Zero Meltdown Plan for Grocery Shopping With Children

My heart went out to the poor thing.

The little dear was crying.

Screaming, really.

A total meltdown.

And I didn’t know who I felt more sorry for – the young child? Or his struggling mom?

It was a toss-up. They were both so miserable.

My husband and I were at the Costco check-out and I could hear him wailing all the way down the aisle. I think we all could hear him.

I knew what the mother felt like. You see, I’ve been there. Except that I didn’t just have one child.  I had three, maybe four, and it wasn’t any fun.

In truth, I’m not an enthusiastic grocery shopper in the first place, but then to add a crying kid or two?

Well, I think I’d rather we went without food.

But as the rest of my family had a different opinion, I figured I’d better come up with a plan that worked for all of us.

A Zero Meltdown Plan.

And I’m going to share it with you today.

You know, just in case you ever need it . . . or know someone else who might.

My 10-Step, Zero Meltdown Plan for Grocery Shopping With Young Children

1.   Feed your children first . And then yourself. Never go shopping when you’re hungry. Never, ever.

2.  Leave when you’re all well-rested. Your kids. And yourself. (You knew I was going to add that, didn’t you.) Go in the morning, or after naps, but avoid going right before naps or close to bedtime.

3.   Write up your grocery list before you ever go out the door. This list is your strategy plan and you have to stick to it. Take care of all the decision-making before you even get there.

4.   Decide on your expectations for your children (does not apply to babies). Come up with a policy that you believe is reasonable and clear. Things like, No grabbing items off the shelves and No begging for particular food items. No whining (goes for mommy too) and Always stick close to mom. That kind of stuff.

5.   Explain instructions before you leave the house. Sit your children down and slowly and lovingly walk through your expectations with them. Don’t be in a rush. This is important.

6.  Outline the consequences of not following the Grocery Store Policy. Again, slowly and lovingly. The consequences will vary from family to family (and I highly recommend getting your husband’s input, if that’s an option).

7.   Review instructions again before leaving the vehicle. Yes, even if the grocery store is only 15 minutes from the house. Children can have such short memories with these things.

*Let me add that it’s easy to assume that our kids know what is expected from them, but this is not always the case. We have to spell it out to them. And repeat it. And repeat. And . . . :)

8.  Get your shopping done as quickly as possible. Not necessarily rushing, but this is not the time to browse or meander. If you want a leisurely time of it, then arrange to go sometime without your young children.

9.   Be willing to follow through on consequences. Seriously. If you miss #9? Well, it kind of defeats the purpose of #4, #5, and #6.

10.  Reward your children for behaving. Personally, I’m a big fan of rewards! Not bribes, not spoiling, just a simple celebration of a job well done. Maybe a treat, a special privilege, or even just an excited phone-call to daddy telling him, We did it! Yay!!

Real-Life Homemaking Series*Bonus: Reward yourself.  Highly recommended. Your celebration may vary a bit from your child’s, but a mommy could use a little treat now and then too.

*Extra, extra bonus:  Teach your children about shopping as you go along. Talk to them and explain what you’re doing and why.

And before you know it, they’ll be doing the shopping for you. I say this because I’ve basically worked myself out of that job.

And that’s a reward in and of itself! Big yay!!

*Any tips you’d add here? Questions or concerns? I always love hearing from you!

In His grace,
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(This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure.)

100 Ways to Love eBooks TinyOur books are now available:  100 Ways to Love Your Husband by Lisa Jacobson and 100 Ways to Love Your Wife by Matthew L. Jacobson

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The 5 Things You Need to Know If You’re Homeschooling

The 5 Things You Need to Know If You're Homeschooling

*An encouraging word for those of my friends who are homeschooling this year – whether for the 1st time or the 15th. 

If only I knew how this story was going to end . . . .

Then I think I could do this, I agonized while snuggling into my husband one night.

And it’s not even that I minded the hard work, the sacrifice, and the challenge of homeschooling so much. It’s more the thought of doing all this . . . for nothing that got to me.

What if it didn’t amount to anything? Or, worse, what if I wasn’t doing it right?

Yes, it was the possibility of this turning out to be more of a fantasy than a Real Lifestory that discouraged and made me want to give up. I was really counting on a happy ending for this one.

I know. Kinda silly.

But that’s how my mind works sometimes (especially when I’m overtired). I want to rush ahead and find out where we’re going with all this . . . .

I want to know the end of the story.

Yet that’s not how it works with homeschooling.

You only get to go through one chapter at a time.

One child at a time.

And on some days? One word at a time.

But take heart, you might not get to peek at the ending, but I’m confident it’s going to be a very good story and certainly one worth writing.

And one worth reading someday too.

Hoping to Write a Real Homeschool Story?

1.  Don’t be discouraged by a day. It’s only one day. And such days do not determine the entire tale. Just turn that page and keep going. As Anne of Green Gables says, “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” Lovely thought. Tomorrow is a fresh piece of paper on which to write something totally new.

2.  It’s a story about a relationship – not a method. Truly. It doesn’t matter what curriculum you use or what subjects you cover. While it might not be how it’s presented out there, that’s the inside scoop. What matters is their hearts. That terrific (or lousy) math curriculum will never have the significant impact on their lives that a loving, learning, teaching parent will. You are what they really need.

3.  Don’t read over someone else’s shoulder. Their story is not your story. That family over there might look accomplished and successful. And that’s great for them. But you are on your own unique adventure. Look to the Lord what for what He intends for your family. He’s got something in mind specially suited to you.

4.  Review your main theme. Remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing. “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Prov. 29:18). So if you feel like you’re “perishing”? Go back to the beginning. Why you started this story in the first place. It might be just what you need to tackle that next chapter.

5.  The Lord wants to reveal Himself through your story. Above all. We sometimes forget that this isn’t actually all about us. Or even our children. It’s about the Author and what He’s doing in us and through us.

You only have to let Him shine.

Yep. Let Him shine through your weaknesses, your set-backs, and even your mistakes.

And isn’t it reassuring to realize that this whole thing doesn’t depend on us, but on Him who is more than able?

So I guess we know how this story is going to end after all.

Because we know Him.

And He’s the Real Story.

What You Need to Know If You Homeschool

Enjoy a terrific year of shining for Him together!

In His grace,
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*Another article on the topic of homeschooling:  6 Reasons Why You Might Want to Consider Homeschooling

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