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Menu Planning Makes a Difference

Rhonda recently emailed me about her menu-planning success:

I GET IT! I always thought meal planning was a waste of time. As long as I had plenty of variety in my freezer and pantry and fresh produce and milk, why meal plan?

To be honest, I couldn’t understand why you and many others did this. Well now I get it. I started meal planning as a New Year’s Resolution. I thought I’d try it for a month and prove it made no difference and quit.

Was I ever so wrong!

On Sunday each week, my husband and I now plan our meals for the entire week. I then do an inventory of what we have available. Then I make my shopping list to get the items I need to complete the meals on our menu. Of course, I also pick up a few extra items if they are free or nearly-free to stockpile.

Our weekly menu is posted up on the refrigerator, so there’s no more “What do you want for dinner?” “I don’t know”-type conversations. The amount of time and money I save meal planning is unbelievable. Why didn’t I do this sooner? -Rhonda

I wholeheartedly concur that planning a menu (or even a basic sketched out plan) makes a world of difference in our grocery budget, how well we eat, and just in my overall sanity. If you’ve never planned menus before, I’d challenge you to consider doing what Rhonda did. Commit to doing it for a month and see how it works for you. You just might be surprised!

Speaking of which, here’s this week’s menu plan:


Oatmeal, fresh carrot/apple/orange juice
Whole-Wheat Blueberry Pancakes
Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls, fresh orange juice
Our Favorite Banana Bread, fresh orange/carrot juice

Open-Faced Tuna Sandwiches, carrot sticks
Whole-Wheat Pasta sprinkled with cheese, oranges
Peanut Butter & Honey sandwiches, carrot sticks
Beans and brown rice with cheese, avocados, oranges
Baked Potatoes, cheese, broccoli
Leftovers x 2

Homemade Pizza, cantaloupe
Barbecued Beef, Homemade Buns**, peas, oranges
Italian Chicken over rice, steamed broccoli, grapefruit,
Chicken Stuffing Casserole, Bread Machine Buttery Rolls, mixed green salad, peas, fruit salad
Broccoli Ham and Cheese Casserole, fruit, Whole-Wheat Blueberry Muffins
Dinner at Friend’s House
Dinner Out

**I’m looking for a really good Homemade Hamburger Bun recipe which can be made in the bread machine for tomorrow night’s dinner. Does anyone have a link for an excellent recipe to share?

Photo credit: Jen_Maiser

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  • Lynn says:

    I can’t imagine NOT menu planning. I’ve been doing it for so long that its just a habit now. When the kids were at home it was vital with their busy schedules with sports etc. Not that the nest is empty, I still keep it up. It saves time, money and the frustration of the “What do you want for dinner” and the “I don’t know/care” reply. I usually write dinner down for the whole month, but I keep it flexible.

  • jaclyn says:

    One of the reviewers of the recipe said they cut the rolls a little bigger to use for hamburgers. I’ve only used them for lunch meat sandwiches so far, but they are delicious!

  • Allecia says:

    This is the “bun” recipe my family rants and raves over. Has more ingredients that I typically use in my bread machine, but it’s amazing. I’ve even substituted regualar ranch dressing in place of the dry mix and I usually omit the dry milk powder and egg wash. Enjoy!

  • Kim says:

    Not quite a Hamburger Bun – I like to use dinner rolls that have been allowed to rise, stuff them with whatever sandwich ingredients you like – bbq beef, sloppy joe, ham/cheese, or hamburger – then bake those in the oven. The bread comes out hot and fresh, as does the stuff inside. Bonus – it’s a self-contained sandwich, less mess (especially those sloppy joes), and they reheat well the next day.

  • Kristen says:

    I always use “fishmama’s” recipe for homemade buns- it’s on her blog, and our family loves it.

  • Taralyn says:

    My sister recommended this recipe:

    I am trying it this week. You could have the bread machine do the kneading part of it. She said that it was really simple and really good! I’ll post again when I try it.

  • Sonshine says:

    I wholeheartedly agree too that menu planning works!

    As for hamburger bun recipe, I use my honey oatmeal bread recipe to make buns. I just make a batch of dough in my bread machine and then when the dough is done, I divide the dough into 8 or 9 balls. I flatten the balls so as the dough rises it doesn’t go into dome shape. Let rise for about an hour and then cook at 350° in the oven until golden brown. Here is the link to the recipe…

  • Lucky says:

    These are fom King Arthur’s Flour. They are the best!

    Moomie’s Buns

    1 cup water
    2 tablespoons butter or margarine
    1 egg
    3 1/4 cups flour*
    1/4 cup sugar
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 tablespoon instant yeast

    *Ed. Note: We think King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose is a good choice, naturally!

    Place all ingredients in your bread machine. Select dough. Allow to run cycle.

    Dump out onto lightly floured surface. Divide into 8 pieces. With each piece, slap into a bun shape. Usually four or five slaps will do it. Place on greased cookie sheets or your bun pans, cover; rise about 30 to 40 minutes.

    Bake in preheated 375 F oven for 12 to 15 minutes till golden. Cool on wire racks. I like to add a teaspoon of onion powder and about 1/2 teaspoon dried onion to the dough in the bread machine. It makes a light onion-y flavor that is wonderful!

  • dcmerkle says:

    I’ve always planned my meals. My grandmother always did it and it was just the norm for my family. Planning the meals was done when the grocery list was being done. When I was a kid my grandmother would let me go through the shoebox of coupons to go with the grocery list.

  • Kansas Mom says:

    I could use a good hamburger roll recipe, too!

  • Carole says:

    Hi Crystal,
    Amy at has a great bun recipe that includes ww flour 🙂 HTH!!

  • Jen G says:

    Crystal, I’ve used this one several times and we really like it. I think it’s for a small breadmaker, though. Enjoy!

  • These are awesome. And if you don’t have any gluten… come on over! My sister brought me 2 pounds of it yesterday from the bulk food store. 🙂

  • Andrea says:

    It’s what I make when I need to make the husband happy when he wants a nice, fat, homemade burger. The dough is rather soft, so working it in the bread machine yields really awesome results! And it’s by King Arthur Flour – I trust no one else and their recipes. 🙂

  • kristen says:

    here’s an awesome hamburger bun recipe for the bread friend just gave it to me and I made them the other night..will never go back to buying store bought rolls again =) just a sidebar..the bread machine cinnamon rolls are a total new favorite in our house. also, tried your chicken tettrizini recipe…my kids loved it and so did I because it was so easy to make..keep those great recipes coming =)

    3/4 to 1 cup warm water( i use 1 cup)
    2 T butter
    1 lg egg
    1/4 cup sugar
    1 1/4 t salt
    3 1/2 cups flour
    1 T yeast
    put everything in bread machine on manual speed. when cycle is done, remove and shape into buns. bake in oven at 350 until rolls are slightly brown.

  • Julie says:

    I’ve used this recipe from for hamburger rolls and been pleased with the result.

  • Lynn says:

    We love these for hamburger buns. I have never made them in the bread machine, but I have had people tell me that they work great in the bread machine. But really this is such a quick and easy recipe you don’t really need a bread machine.

  • Lydia says:

    I couldn’t agree more that menu planning is a huge time and money saver!!! I go to the grocery store once every 2 weeks for everything I need, which eliminates over indulging and over spending! I have recently started a blog with healthy recipes and reviews! Check it out to get some new ideas for meals!

  • I menu plan every Monday! That’s today! Here’s a sample of what my menu plan includes (it includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and 2 daily snacks)

    And here’s my weekly cleaning/chore schedule which includes Menu Monday – Toilets, Tubs and Towels Tuesday, Wash Wednesday – etc.:

    Courtney 😉

  • Jessica says:

    I have never menu planned, but I have always wondered how it could save money if you HAVE to buy something for a recipe, even if it’s not on sale. I’m still skeptical, but you have inspired me to the point of declaring the month of March my family’s very first menu-planning month! Thanks Crystal! I hope it’s as smooth and successful as yours and others’ seem!

    • SnoWhite says:

      @Jessica, Hi Jessica — I do my planning in reverse — that’s how I’m able to save money by menu planning.

      First, I start with the ads and note what’s on sale. Then, figure out what to make using the on-sale ingredients. Here’s a link to how I do it …

      Hope your first month of planning goes well!

      • Crystal says:

        I’m the same. I plan our menu based upon what’s on sale and what we already have on hand. I try to buy as few extras as a I can to round out the meals. And then stock up on loss leaders/bargains.

    • Candi says:

      @Jessica, I was a little skeptical at first too, but I’ve been doing it for about 8 months now and even started doing a monthly meal plan (thanks to Crystal 🙂
      I buy what’s on sale during the month and plan to use it during the next month or even the month after. During the OAMC Crystal and Jessica host, I purchase any last minute necessities (like flour, butter or eggs) to help round out the meals and snacks for the next month. Hope that helps! 🙂

  • Julie says:

    Though not a bread machine recipe, it’s easy and a family favorite. Frequently I double it and freeze what’s left – if any! Sometimes I start the dough early in the day and let it rise a long time…just messing with it when I get a chance.

    1 cup warm water or leftover potato water (i.e. water used to boil potatoes in–makes tender rolls!)
    1 tsp. salt
    1/4 cup brown or raw sugar
    3 T. butter
    1 egg
    1 T. yeast
    Whole wheat and unbleached white flour

    Put the water in the mixing bowl. Add salt, sugar, butter. Let the butter melt. (If butter is cold the water will need to be pretty warm, almost hot).

    Add enough whole wheat flour to make a thick paste. Stir well. Add egg and yeast. Stir vigorously.

    Add unbleached flour slowly and stir in. When too thick to stir, turn out on floured board and knead.

    Knead for 5-10 min, keeping the dough soft, but not too sticky.

    Let rise in covered bowl until about double. Punch down.

    Let rise again until double. Punch down. Let rest 5-10 min.

    Shape into desired shapes. For hamburger buns, pat dough on floured surface and cut with upside down drinking glass. Transfer to greased cookie sheet. Cover with tea towel. Let rise until light. Put in preheated 375 degree oven. Bake for 10 min. Butter tops when out of oven.

  • Shelah says:

    Here’s a hamburger/hotdog bun recipe from Good and Cheap Eats:


  • Susan says:

    What recipe do you use for your beans and rice lunch?

    LOVE the site!

  • Alison says:

    I highly recommend the Frugal Girl’s hamburger bun recipe:

    I have the same bread machine that you do, I just toss the ingredients in, wet first, then dry, then yeast and use the dough cycle. Last time I made these I substituted 1/2 whole wheat flour and they were still great! HTH!

  • Cassie says:

    I completely agree with the conclusion that Rhonda has come to. Menu planning makes life soooo much easier (and cheaper!). We we plan our menus, we eat healthier (as I can start preparing earlier since I have a plan and not as tempted to pull out convenience foods). Also, we save money, we are getting most everything very cheap when we shop (with coupons and sales of course ;)), but many times, as a busy homeschool mom of 4 kids 6 and under (while expecting), I will just call hubby to pick something up as I am exhausted and out of ideas by 4 pm! This prevent this!

    A couple of weeks ago, we started posting our menus on our blog ( and then post a couple of featured recipes through out the week from our menu. We have also been breaking down the cost of each meal, which has been helpful for us to see, but hopefully helpful for our readers too!

    Thank you for sharing!

  • I always love seeing your menu plans for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! Planning is very helpful for me too, though I can get carried away and put in too many complicated meals. I am a fool for variety. So I’ve tried to streamline things in the coming weeks. I hope simpler meals will free me up even more!

  • JenK says:

    I had a fantasitc hamburger or hot dog roll recipe that I did from the bread machine. It is from a Bread Machine cookbook I got from the library. The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook by Beth Hensperger. It is under 14 bucks on Amazon right now, or under 10 for kindle 🙂 Hope this helps. Maybe you can grab it at the library for tommorrows dinner or order for later. It was a great cookbook for the bread machine, with lots of good recipes.

  • emikat says:

    I do not have a bread machine but made these by hand and they were awesome! I also used half fresh ground whole wheat flour

  • Kelli says:

    I haven’t quite gotten to assigning which days we’re going to eat what. Right now, I am battling breast cancer and just can’t make all the changes in our lives that I’d like. In addition, due to the chemo, what I can stomach from day to day really changes, and is out of my control. So all-out menu planning isn’t a good option for me where I’m at.

    However, one “compromise” I’ve found really helpful is somewhat along the same lines. I keep a running document (I use google docs so I can open it from my phone, or from anywhere on the web) of dinner, lunch, and snack ideas. We keep our breakfast options simple (cereal bought with coupons, oatmeal, or homemade muffins that I mix up ahead of time). Then, whenever I go shopping (which isn’t very often right now!), I can get any missing ingredients, and update my list of menu options with items I have on hand.

    Maybe after I’m feeling better I’ll be able to more fully menu-plan, but this is a baby-step that has been really helpful!

  • Karyn says:

    I just made this last week and they were great. Here is the link:

  • Chrissy says:

    Crystal –

    I’ve been using Tammy’s recipe for Amish White bread. I use 2 cups of whole wheat flour and 1 cup of bread flour but otherwise follow the recipe exactly. After the dough comes out of the bread machine, I portion it out and roll it into balls. I flatten them slightly and let them rise again. I get between six and eight buns out of 1 batch. I’ve been making bread long enough that I can just eyeball the size. I bake them at 350 till done. I use these for sandwiches and my family really enjoys them. I guess you could add sesame seeds to the top during the second rise.. Good luck! Let us know what you find…

  • We are all very picky eaters at my house, except my husband, he might eat garbage, JK. Anyway, I feel like I’m getting in a rut with the things I make….people are always like, try someting new, but I’ve tried and I know what we like. The only vegetable I like are romain lettuce and sometimes I can gag down green beans or corn. My 2 year old won’t eat any vegetables, even though I made homemade baby food from scratch from organic produce the entire time he was in that stage. One day he just stopped eating and went failure to thrive, the doctor said to feed him whatever he would eat just to give him some nutrients. We only like strawberries, apples, grapes, watermelon and oranges, so we are limited on fruits too. Again, my husband will eat anything I put in front of him, but for me and the two year old, we are very limited. I’m allergic to tomatoes, so that rules out many things like some sauces/spaghetti/seasonings. Is there any place that you recommend for finding new recipes for the foods we ALREADY like? Thanks!

  • Melanie says:

    This is my mother’s roll recipe. At her church, she is known as the “roll queen” and has made 300-400 of these for church functions! She gets three bread machines going at once! I use them for everything, from deli meat sandwiches, to dinner rolls. You can let them rise longer for a lighter, airy-style roll, or less for a denser roll. Easy and delicious!

    Place ingredients in bread machine in order

    1 C water (cold is fine)
    1 egg
    2 Tablespoons olive oil
    3 1/4 C bread flour (reg. can be used, but will yield denser rolls)
    1 teaspoon salt (place on side of bread pan)
    1/4 C sugar (place on top of flour)
    3 teaspoons yeast (place on top of sugar, avoiding placing near salt)

    Set machine on dough cycle. When dough cycle is finished, grease hands and counter liberally with olive oil and dump dough onto greased counter. The dough will be very sticky, but by greasing your hands with the olive oil, you can work with it without it sticking. Form dough into even loaf shape and begin cutting into 12* equal pieces (I do this by cutting in half, cutting in half again, etc.) Form a ball with hands. Instead of rolling each piece into a ball, try pulling the sides of the dough down and the pinch them under the bottom. This creates a beautiful, seamless roll. Place in greased baking dish (11×14 or so). Allow dough to rise until doubled. Bake at 375 degrees until browned on top. Approx. 10-15 mins. You may need to turn your pan half-way through the cooking time. When rolls are done, brush butter over the top. Enjoy!

    * This recipe creates 12 large rolls, or 24 dinner rolls.

  • celia says:

    We menu plan and I love it. It makes life so much easier. And once I got put on bedrest and my husband had to do EVERYTHING, meal planning was something I could do from the couch to help him. I make the list and plan our meals, so that he can do the big cooking on the weekend.

    He actually is turning into a very good cook, and is enjoying himself.

  • Kim says:

    This is by far the best recipe I have ever found for ANY kind of rolls. The one recipe makes dinner rolls, hot dog/hamburger buns, AND cinnamon rolls.

  • Cathy says:

    I also use the Beautiful Burger Buns recipe from the king arthur site.

    No bread machine here, so I haven’t tried that, but it looked like an earlier commenter said it works well in one.

  • Toni :O) says:

    I menu plan EVERY week and you’re right, it totally saves Mom’s sanity for sure! I really dislike the “What’s for Dinner?” question and once my daughter can read as high as near the top of the fridge where I post my menu for the week, that ? will stop completely! It’s SO much easier and I highly recommend everyone to do it. You will enjoy cooking that much more.

  • LeMira says:

    Thanks for the great recipes and ideas. I love to menu plan as well, and I’m pretty good an planning dinners and lunch (seeing that my husband and son are easy to please for this meal), but breakfast is something I have to work on. My family prefers cold cereal. I don’t, but it’s easy. I need to break out of that habit!

  • Gina says:

    I use these – they are delicious! Make them in the breadmaker but with a touch less water because they make a wet dough that fills up the bread machine. Makes extra to freeze.

  • Tina Dalasinski says:

    I wanted to share I recently watched Good Morning America I believe last month and there was a lady on their that makes a menu up for the whole year then plans out her meals. It even showed her kitchen cupboards full of food. It was amazing.

  • Alice says:

    I notice that you make fresh juice a lot. I’ve been thinking about getting a juicer myself. What kind do you have, and do you like it?

  • Wendi says:

    Bread Machine rolls- I have made these a zillion times and they are wonderful. Very versatile recipe, I have used them as sandwich buns and they are amazing!

  • alyssa says:

    I so need to get this meal planning thing down! Seems like every time I try, I fail. One reason is that my hubby has a wonderfully flexible work schedule, but it means I rarely know when or if he’ll be home for dinner! But I guess I should make a plan anyway and know it can always be changed around. I’m inspired to try it for a whole month and see if it makes a difference!

  • I have really begun to be faithful in meal planning. It has helped so much. My kids (and my dh) get excited b/c they know what is for dinner. I don’t really do meal plans for breakfast, but I should start. Lunches are leftovers, salad/fruit, or soup from freezer or pantry, so that’s pretty easy.

    I would love to know which recipe you use for the buns, as I am planning on having bbq pork sandwiches next week sometime and need a sandwich bun recipe, too.

    We love your pizza crust recipe and use it nearly every week!

    Jada@ Food. Fun. Family.

  • Looks like you’ve got several great recipes already. Here’s mine: although I don’t have a bread machine. Homemade buns are SO the best!!

  • Donna says:

    I also use the one on Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures at No bread machine is needed because it’s so simple.

    I used your pizza dough recipe just this morning to make pigs in blankets for breakfast using cocktail sausages. Thanks for posting it!

  • nancy l. says:

    I made your Bread Machine Buttery Rolls recipe to eat with soup a couple of weeks ago. I was looking for a Hamberger Roll recipe too at the time. The next week, I made your roll recipe but shaped them into 18 rolls instead of 24 and they were about perfect for Sloppy Joes! Also, they made great sandwich rolls for my boys’ lunches. One recipe – two ways to use it – I LOVE IT!!

  • Emily says:
    I reall like this one, and I don’t even use/have a breadmachine.

  • Carollynn says:

    I have made, or attempted to make your Bread Machine Buttery Rolls twice and both times I have had issues. HELP! First of all, after about 10 minutes of kneading, I check to see how they are coming and both times the dough is too wet and soupy, more like brownie mix! I have had to add more flour, a lot more, both times to get it to an ok consistency. Second, the dough hardly rises! I measured the yeast carefully, and the yeast is pretty new too. Any idea what I am doing wrong?

    • Crystal says:

      Are you melting the butter instead of softening it? That’s the only thing that I can think it could possibly be. The dough doesn’t rise tremendously before baking.

  • Kassandra says:

    It was only after visiting Money Saving Mom that I began to Menu Plan and it has changed my life as Mom and Wifey… 🙂 By Monday Night, I know what we will have for the entire week… My husband loves to peek and get excited about his favorites that are on the list! As an extra step of accountability, I created Menu Monday on my blog to share my menu planning ideas and to show my friends exactly how I derive that $7 a week grocery list. he he It has been an amazing tool in utilizing what we have on hand as well as not wasting or spending frivolously on fast food. I also make my husband’s lunches according to the menu plan and it saves us a lot of money by taking away his temptation to stop and snag a combo meal. Thanks to everyone for sharing their great ideas! If it wasn’t for such a great community of empowering women, I don’t know where I’d be… probably in a drive-thru right now! he he

  • Carlene says:

    I LOVE meal planning! I go to the grocery store/or costco every 2 weeks with my shopping list for the next 2 weeks of meals. I freeze half of my meals. I made a spreadsheet of what I buy at each store. It’s easy to just highlight the item. Then I’m not trying to remember what I buy at each place every week. It works great for our family.

  • Honey says:

    Meal planning is essential for me. Unless we have a week that is busy in the evenings, though, I only make the list of breakfasts/lunches/dinners instead of specific meals for specific days. This adds a bit of flexibility. Crystal, I am wondering, since I do not see desserts on your menu ever, how often do you have them?

  • Jamie says:

    I second the Mom Advice comment. 🙂 I’ve tried the regular and whole wheat…I prefer the regular but whole wheat was pretty good too. Very easy and tasty.

  • Carrie M says:

    I use this one in the bread machine…

    They are wonderful!

  • Coby says:

    I have also found that menu planning save us lots of time and money. I plan mine out a month at a time, but only for dinners. I just write of list of things that I have on hand or in the freezer for lunches, usually it’s just leftovers anyway!

    As for hamburger buns. I just make dinner rolls and make “slider” style hamburgers. I just press 1 lb seasoned hamburer in a 8×8 pan (there are 3 of us) and bake 10 min at 450 then cut that into 9 squares for the dinner rolls. They are a much better size for my 3 year old then a regular hambuger anyway. I also use these for sloppy joes or any other sandwich style meal we have.

  • Sara says:

    UGH, so I made a meal plan..I did a whole month…I just did my shopping trip…like literally just got home. It was not an outrageous amount of money 170.xx but omg…it was really frustrating shopping off a list!!! I got almost done and realized Oh I Forgot This…And This…And This…just things I missed on my list that I had to go back for. I never realized how hard it would be to use a list…and I even categorized!

    oh…and what is savory???

    (I’m a little frazzled right now lol)

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