I start with a blank weekly calendar. I got this one out of my Microsoft Excell Templates. Notice how it has breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and every day of the week.
Then I take this meal list that Dale and I made up a year or so ago. It has the names of all the meals that we like to make or can make. It also has divisions. The breakfast category, things that are fast and easy to make (basically throw them in an oven for 10 minutes or so), and then the more complicated dinners to make. When you are looking at this, please remember, I have an 8 year old, and a 2 year old.
Then I fill in the blanks. This is an "in-progress" week. We only planned through payday, which you can see written above Tuesday. (As you can see, we are treating the girls on payday. After we wear them out on the McD's playground, we're going grocery shopping.) I date everything. I do have some abbreviations that might be hard to understand. "D-mwm" stands for when Dale is at work, and he will either take leftovers or a "microwave meal." Those days are easy to plan for the girls and I. They will eat just rice or just macaroni. Sometimes, I feel like Dale wants meat at every meal.
This is a completed week. Last week in fact. You can barely see that I mark the meal off when we make it. You can also see where I make corrections, like when I crossed out potato soup and wrote in leftovers (we had a LOT of leftovers). Once my menu is complete, I make my grocery list, which you can see to the right side of the menu.
I double check (or try to) to make sure I don't have the ingredients already on hand. This helps cut out duplications. When my list is done, I transfer it to a different paper and go grocery shoping.
And that's how *I* plan my menus. Now, I'm off to finish this week, and see about the next two weeks after that.