Meal Planning Made Easy
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I hate meal planning…
I said it!
It takes forever, everyone complains about what I want to prepare, then, when I cook no one eats, and it makes me want to throw them some bread and water and save myself a lot of time.
I mean, who wants to spend all afternoon doing the meal planning, spend 2 hours doing all the shopping, unloading the groceries, packing them away, preparing food for their beautiful family, then sit down to hear, “Yuck! I don’t like that!”? Who? Seriously!?
It drives me CRAZY!
So, I started doing a little research about meal planning. I read a few articles and tweaked a couple of systems and came up with one I believe will work for our family, and maybe it’ll work for yours too.
- colored index cards
- white index cards
- a binder
- a good pen (I like these because they write smooth and erase well.)
1. Our Favorite Entrees and Our Favorite Side Dishes
If you haven’t already done so, go ahead and fill this page out. It’ll make things move faster later. List meals you know your family likes. You could also list meals you think they’ll like if there are some you haven’t tried out yet. If you need some ideas, check out the Feeding My Family page.
2. Organize Index Cards by Color
I have a pack of 4×6 inch, neon-colored index cards and a pack of white 3×5 inch index cards. (Feel free to use whatever size you like, but the 4×6 will come in handy for the recipe card included in your printable.)
The colored cards I use for main dishes or entrees. They’re categorized like this: Super Easy Suppers – neon pink, Casseroles – neon yellow, Entrees that require prep – neon orange, and Soups – neon green.
On one side of the card is the name of a meal. For example, hot ham and cheese sandwiches are on a neon pink card. On the flip-side of that card are the main ingredients for hot ham and cheese sandwiches — deli ham, shredded mozzarella cheese, and hoagie rolls. If your family were eating this and you want lettuce and tomato on your sandwiches, you should write those down as well.
Go ahead and write down all of your favorite entrees on their own index card by whatever color-code you want to use. Then, write their main ingredients on the back.
I’ve included a recipe card in the download to get you started. We love Chicken and Dressing Casserole around here and we hope you like it too.
The white cards can be for side dishes. My family skips this step because there are very few side dishes everyone will eat. The same principle applies though, except you may not need the back-side of the card in this instance.
3. Plan Out the Week or Month
Take a look at the monthly calendar and fill in the day numbers accordingly. Think about what you have going on for the month. Are there any days you won’t be able to cook at all? What about days the kids have sports practice and supper needs to be quick? Make small notes on the calendar for these days. I use this calendar for suppers only. It just gives me an overall look at things and I can use it for future reference too. It helps with meal rotation at a glance.
Stack up your cards by color. For each day that you need to cook decide which colored-card category you have time for. If you don’t have time to cook at all that should be a leftover or takeout night. Mondays are especially difficult at our home, that’s the night I’ll already have a neon pink card scheduled.
You’ll just take the card off the top to use and put it in a stack of this week’s meal cards.
You can plan the monthly calendar by week if you’d like. I do. I also add meals I think I might like on certain days on that calendar. If one of the kids comes to you and says, “Hey, Mom! Can we have XYZ for dinner?” You can say, “Sure, I’ll put it down for next week.”
Now for the weekly menu…
First, fill in all of your suppers. Then, work on the remainder of the menu. Do yourself a favor and keep breakfast, lunch, and snack selections to just a couple of choices. You can always change out the selections weekly. This will help keep grocery costs down and saves you a little time.
4. Make Out the Grocery List
Take the grocery list sheet from your printables. Start with breakfast and fill in where needed. When you get to the suppers, grab your cards and turn them over. All you have to do is fill in what you need. No thinking about what goes into a dish, you already have it right there. If you aren’t sure, check your recipe so that you get it right this first time. Then, next time you won’t have to think about it because your card will be correct from now on.
5. Pull it all Together
You can put the cards in their color-coded stacks, but put the ones you just used on the bottom. Store the cards in the inside pockets of your binder. Hole punch your monthly calendar, and the “favorites” page, and store them in your binder. Post your weekly menu in a public place for all to see. Don’t forget to take your grocery list with you to the store.
The initial setup of this plan takes a little time, but it will be worth it in the long run.
If you are using these printables and setting up a menu plan for your family, take some pics, post them on social media, and use the hashtag #EducatingCampbells. I’d love to see what you’re having for supper.
Want to see how I put this together for my family? Here’s the video.
For questions or if you have a suggestion email me at EducatingCampbells at gmail dot com.