Home School Life Journal From Preschool to High School

Home School Life Journal ........... Ceramics by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

Build a Menu Review

What is Build a Menu?
Making a menu each week and trying to keep a budget is really hard for homeschooling families to do. I was spending so much of my time doing this, I knew I needed to look for a better way. Then I found Build a Menu, the brainchild of two sisters Karee and Lisa, who have 11 kids between them. My family has to be the most difficult family out there to feed because we have two that can't have gluten (wheat) or casein (milk products), some picky eaters and my husband is a vegetarian. I just want variety. Making a dinner at our house often means making several dishes, which of course, adds to our grocery bill. I thought that no set program like Build a Menu could fit our diverse and complicated family, but I was wrong.
Build a Menu is a three step process, but each of the steps are so easy, that once you get the hang of it, it only takes a few minutes to go from start to ready to shop. I have never made a menu and shopping list so fast before!

How Does it Work?
The first step is to choose the store you want to shop at the week you are making the list. You can change which store you shop at each time you make a menu. They make up the menu selections and plans based on what is on sale at that store that week in order to give you the sale prices!


I was concerned when most of the stores they listed are not in my area and the stores in my area were not on their list. I selected the Any Grocery Store option, but I was worried that this would not work for me. Again, I was pleasantly surprised that this option has worked out well for me, and as you will see, the estimated prices for the things on my shopping list were accurate.
The next step is to pick your recipes. They have recipes for main dinner dishes, side dishes, lunches, breakfasts, snacks, desserts and more. Your menu option categories include Dine on a Dime, Family Friendly, Low Carb, Low Fat/Sensible Portions, either just Gluten Free or Allergy Friendly, which all have no gluten, dairy or nuts, Vegetarian, Clean Eating, Slow Cooker, Grill-A-Meal and Trim Healthy Mama. You can pick from any or all of the categories each week, so you are not stuck with one type of meal. There is even a "Cheat and Eat" option for breakfast and lunch which is just an option to include items that don't need a recipe, such as a frozen pizza or a box of cereal to your menu. This helps you with the next aspect of the plan, and that is how your menu choices convert into a shopping list. As you click on your recipes choices, the program automatically keeps a running total of how much the ingredients to make these dishes costs. In this way, you can adjust your menu to fit not only your family's tastes and preferences, but also your budget. If the total is running too high, just switch out a more expensive dish with a less expensive dish, until you meet your budget.

Cooking with kids
Dessert of the week
Special menu

My Favorites


What about the recipes?
Once you are happy with your choices, you can now print out your recipes, which include all the information you could possibly use, including the approximate cost for that dish, and your shopping list.

Slow Cooker Artichoke Pasta

Serves: 4-6
main dish
Slow Cooker
AmountMeasurementIngredientDescriptionMain Recipe Ingredient
314.5 oz canstewed Italian tomatoesundrained
114.5 oz canartichoke heartsin water drained and chopped
1/2cupgreen olives
1/2cupheavy creamheavy
116 oz boxrotini pasta
Place tomatoes, artichoke hearts, garlic and olives in crockpot. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours. Cook pasta according to directions. Stir in heavy cream and hot, cooked pasta before serving.
Cook on low for 4 to 5 hours
Time Required: 
One hour or more

About the Shopping List
The shopping list is divided into categories for easy shopping. In fact, on one shopping trip half of our menu was from the Build a Menu program and half was from our own recipes. I took the Build a Menu shopping list and my husband had my regular handwritten shopping list, which is not broken down into categories, and I finished so much earlier than he did, that I ended up helping him finish his shopping. It makes shopping that much easier.
The shopping list shows you what recipe each item is used for. It also computes your shopping list in such a way that if you need a half an onion for one recipe and another half an onion for another recipe, the shopping list will reflect one onion. This saves money and waste. 
You might be wondering, like I did, how accurate the estimates were. We live in the Washington DC metro area, where food prices are notoriously high. Most recipes that estimate the costs are much lower than they actually turn out to be. That was not the case with Build a Menu. For example, this week, their estimate for the shopping list's foods was $90.00, and when they were rung up, the total was $84.62, just under the estimate. I was very impressed.

QtyShopping CategoryRecipes by Ingredient
1 16 oz pkgrotini pastaBlack Bean Pasta
1 can(s)tomato sauce (16 oz)Black Bean Pasta
2 canblack beansBlack Bean Pasta, Black Bean, Mango and Tomato Salad
2 16 oz packagespaghetti noodlesSpaghetti Frittata, Easy Spaghetti & Meatballs
1 14.5 oz canchicken broth (FF)Moroccan Chicken - E
1 15 oz cancrushed tomatoesMoroccan Chicken - E
1 canchickpeasMoroccan Chicken - E
1 15 oz candiced tomatoesCrockpot Hungarian Goulash

But, are the recipes good? 
The answer is an enthusiastic, "yes!" We have tried many of them and we keep adding them to our "Favorites" list (another great feature.) In fact, out of the fourteen recipes we have used, we have only had one recipe we did not want to add to the "Favorites" list and it was not a bad recipe, but we were all just neutral about it. We could eat it again, we just didn't feel excited about having it again, like we did with the other thirteen recipes. I have already described to you the dietary difficulties of our family, including some picky eaters, and yet the recipes worked for us. I know that I don't have that good of a success rate at choosing my own recipes. These ladies know what they are doing!

Helping Others While You are Helping Your Family
And, just in case you are not sure yet about spending the $2 a week for the program, you should know that for every member who joins the site, they donate to one of many selected orphan care charities. And not just once, but every single month that member stays with the program! You are not only helping your own family, but you are helping children that really need it. You can even pick the charity of your choice, just click over to their website for a list of options.

So what is bad about the program?
Honestly, the only thing I did not like about the program was the fact that there isn't a way to include your own family favorite recipes to the menu and shopping list. It would make it a lot easier for me to use, because although we loved the recipes we have tried, we still want to have our old favorites, too. However, they are currently working on the programming to do just that -allow members to add their own recipes to the site. They hope to have this feature available by this Fall!

Click on over to Build a Menu and see what you think. I feel sure that you will love it like I do.

Disclaimer: I received this product free through the company owner in exchange for my candid review. A positive review was not required, nor did I receive any further compensation. All opinions expressed are mine. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC regulations.


  1. I'll click over and check it out, I haven't heard of them before, and one that lets you accommodate several different types of food styles could be good.

  2. Wow that sounds really fabulous - food is one the areas of the budget where I have a hard time keeping it down.


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