I have chatted with many of you about meal planning. Some of you have been meal planning for a while and some of you were like me, wanting to meal plan but didn’t know where to start. Thanks to all of you and your advice I finally came up with the perfect meal planning system for myself. I promised to show all of you my system once it was all set up and sorry it took so long but I wanted to make sure it was something that was actually going to work for me before I shared it with all of you. I have been using this system of meal planning for over 3 months now…and I just love it! It is one of those things you are going to have to spend a few hours getting set up but then it is so quick and easy to do each week. I would say that I spend about 15 minutes planning our meals and filling out our grocery list each week. The best part is that I am never wondering at the last minute what we are going to have for supper or walking around the grocery store wondering what I should buy. Seriously, meal planning has made my life run much smoother…at least at meal time. My meal planning system is actually a collaboration of ideas that I gathered from some of you, the web and from etsy. For me, I knew that I was going to use printables and have everything set up and organized. For me, it is just what works best. The meal planning kit that caught my eye was from Umbrella kids on etsy. I first purchased this package of printables and then asked for a custom order for some recipe cards, grocery lists and another layout for our weekly meal planning. I was looking for a weekly planner that had every day of the week and included breakfast, lunch and supper. Thankfully Jolene was more then willing to put together a custom order for me and the printables that she came up with were better then I had envisioned. I just love when that happens! I highly recommend these printables if you are looking for a meal planning system. **update** The complete package of printables that I use can be purchased here now. Thanks Jolene for updating the listing! **
Besides the printables I also purchased a 3 ring binder, some plastic sheets, highlighters and some paper clips. I started off by printing a bunch of copies of each printable. Now I don’t use all of the printables that you see below each time I meal plan but I still wanted them handy just incase I decided to use them. I store all of my printables in little plastic sheets in binder. This Meal Planner sheet along with my Grocery List sheets are the two sheets that I use each week. However I do use my monthly sheet as a way of designating each day of the week with a certain meat or type of food. As you can see I try to make: Roasts on Sunday, Chicken on Monday, Pork on Tuesday, Pasta on Wednesday, Pizza on Thursday, Vegetarian or Fish on Friday and Beef on Saturday. No, I dont always stick to this schedule but for those weeks that I just have no clue where to start this gives me a quick idea of what the main entree could include. Then after the section where all of my printables are held I have folders seperating each of our three meals. Then each of our three meals are seperated into 3 different sections. Each meal gets an idea, recipe and labels section. What has helped me the most with setting up my meal planning was to sit down and spend a few hours writing down what our most favorite meals were and some other meals that we have been wanting to try. I even went through most of our cook books for ideas. Yes, it was time consuming but trust me it will be a real time saver in the long run. Then in my idea section for each meal I wrote them down. Then I typed out all of those meals onto my computer and printed them off onto little address labels. For the meals that we eat often I made multiple labels for them. For example we eat pizza every Thursday night. Then I store all of the address labels in my labels section. I use these often, especially when I am in a rush that week. Just peel off and stick…it’s a real time saver! The next section in my binder is the recipe section and it is a must! I am always finding new recipes that I want to try and instead of ripping out the recipe and shoving it into the drawer. Now I actually have a place to store them and have actually cooked most of them. So basically this is how I plan our meals each week. I sit down with my binder, weekly Meal Planner sheet and a Grocery List sheet. I start off by filling in all of our meals. Some weeks I know what I feel like cooking and write them in, but some weeks I need ideas and that is when I refer to the list section or use my labels. Then I write down whatever I will need to purchase at the store to prepare these meals. I also keep the Grocery List within sight all week for jotting down other items that we run out of mid-week. This has helped me from forgetting so many things! As you can see below I don’t always fill in the breakfast or lunch sections. Those meals don’t require much thought. Now if you look below you will see I have one item highlighted. I do that when I have an item that requires me to use a recipe. This is where the highlighters and paper clips are used. I purchased the highlighters and paper clips so that matched in color. I think I purchased the highlighters from Staples and the paper clips came from Walmart. Both were very cheap. Like I said before, I highlight the item that requires a recipe. Then I pick out the matching paper clip and clip it onto the recipe that either came from my binder or a cook book. That way when it comes time to make the item I don’t have to spend too much time searching for the recipe. See how they all match? It just makes it easier. Some weeks I have multiple recipes that I want to try and this has saved me a ton of time re-searching for all those recipes or cook books. If the recipe came from a magazine I usually just clip the magazine onto the front of my binder. Now the best part about writing out all of your meals on paper is that you can save them. Yes, make sure you put all of your used weekly menus in the back of your binder. This way you can re-use them…pretty stinky smart huh?! Then all you have to do is fill out a Grocery List and your good to go. I hope you learned a few new tricks and if anything else inspired you to get meal planning! Seriously it is the best thing I have started doing. Not only does it get rid of the “What am I going to make for supper?” but also helps me from wandering around while grocery shopping. If you have any other tips or tricks when it comes to meal planning, please share!