Meal Planning {my system}

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!

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  1. Looks like a great system. Once I figured out how I did my meal planning life became loads easier. And I’m CA-RAZY about sticking to it…It’s just one of those things that I don’t miss doing.
    ps—your printable sheets are darling!

  2. So cute! Why can’t meal planning be pretty? Where did you get your binder and plastic dividers?

  3. Hey,

    I meal plan, but I had no idea that other people think to organize their meal planning. I do have a method – but I don’t have nice looking printables – I’ll have to make some!

    I have two ideas you might try out:
    1. organize your grocery list – put produce together, dairy together, meat, etc. I usually split my page in a grid and put like items in one grid section. Then when you go to the store, you don’t have to re-read and re-check your list so much. If you go to the same store – you can get in the habit of putting the food in the right order – at my store produce is first, health foods second, etc.
    2. When meal plan, start with the circular from your store. If you’re thinking chicken – check to see what kind of chicken is on sale that week before you pick a meal. You can save some $ this way.

    I’m inspired to make some printables for family :)

  4. Great Post! Love the printables. I meal plan sometimes. I do a lot better now that I got a great empty recipe book for Christmas a few years ago. Since then I’ve made an effort to put in it the recipes we tend to favor, along with those I find on the web, or tweaks and changes to the simpler recipes found on products. It’s made a HUGE difference. I agree- that’s the biggest chunk of time. It’s so much easier and on a good day- I’ve actually gone to the store with a list… lol

  5. I am terrible, terrible, terrible at making meals. My husband works on the road for about 50% of the year and when it’s just the boys and I we eat like……toddlers. That would be the best explanation. A handful of popcorn, some peanut butter and graham crackers, a peanut butter and fluff sandwich, jello, corn chips. See terrible! The most common culprit is we have no food in the house because every time we are at the grocery store we never know what to get. Meal planning is something I MUST get on board with. I hate that I’m teaching my kids to eat so unhealthy.

    I love your recipe idea. I am constantly pulling recipes from magazines (William Sonoma anyone) and I usually fold them and tuck them into my recipe box, where they remain, gathering dust from unuse.

    This is very, very inspiring. I must get my bum in gear and do this. One question…..would you mind sharing your meals? It’s nice to be able to go “OH! I never thought of that!”

    Thanks for taking the time and effort into this wonderful post. I know it required a TON of work :)

  6. You have such pretty hand-writing! I usually am good one week with something like meal planning and then terrible the next and then realize I need to do better… I like the printed label idea and I do love when I do KNOW what’s cooking that evening, because it makes things go so much better!

  7. Great ideas here on how to get organized. I ended up doing this on a few scraps of paper ( not as pretty as you have it in a binder – which just begs you to use it!) I had a month of recipes and meal plans, done out on a weekly basis and I would just rotate the lists. I was a bit flexible and would swap from one week to the next, but kept the pork/raost/ chicken/ categories. I was planning but never got to the stage of doing up shopping lists that I could match with the weekly plan and then just cross off irrelevant items that I had in the pantry already. That is a plan for another day. Thanks for inspiring us all.

  8. Great ideas and pretty too. I started planing meals last year. It was time consuming, but it was worth it. I put the name of the dish on one side of small paper ana all of the ingresiants on the other side and laminated everything. The pieces of paper were of different colours (eg. dishes with potatoe, rice, corn, meat, sweet, vegetables, pasta). I store them in a tea box with 7 departments. Every Thursday my children take a lot out of one cathegory and on Friday I go grocery shoping for next week.


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