Thursday, March 25, 2010

Meal Planning

I used to scoff at the idea of meal planning until I tried it and realized how helpful it is. It seems like a lot of work, but it turns out to be a lot less work than trying to figure out what's for dinner at 4:00. So now I embrace planning my meals because it means my afternoons are a lot less stressful.

This week I went on a meal planning organization kick. My sudden need to organize my meal plans and recipes probably had something to do a few factors: a) We've been eating out way too much since we've had to keep our house pristine to sell and I needed to get some motivation to cook dinners at home again; b) things feel so out of our control since we're in limbo between moving into one house and trying to sell another house, that I jumped at the chance to have some control over this one tiny area of my life.

I was browsing one of my favorite blogs and found this idea for a Homemaking Binder. I particularly liked her way of menu planning, so I copied her ideas pretty closely. It took about two days of sporadic work, but what I ended up with is nothing short of glorious order: a binder with of a list of about thirty of my favorite recipes, a meal plan for next week, and copies of some of my favorite recipes that were loose papers which formerly lived in a ratty expandable file. 

Here's how I organized everything:
1. I wrote down all my breakfast ideas of foods we normally eat during the week and then made a meal plan out of that which will be the same plan every week. It looks like this:
Monday - Yogurt & Fruit smoothies + toast (Monday is usually very early and busy for us, so I need something quick and hearty)
Tuesday - English muffins + scrambled eggs + fruit 
Wednesday - Oatmeal w/ raisins & maple syrup (another quick & hearty day)
Thursday - Bagel & egg sandwiches + fruit
Friday - Cereal 
Saturday - Bagels at our favorite bagel shop
Sunday - French toast + bacon + fruit

2. I wrote down a list of lunch ideas. I don't like to plan lunches because our days rarely look the same around lunchtime, and I never know what they're going to look like days in advance, so that makes planning lunches very hard. It is very helpful, however, to have a handy list of ideas that I can choose from.

3. I gathered my most favorite Internet recipes and cookbooks and made a list of about thirty favorite recipes for dinner. From these thirty recipes, I made a meal plan for next week, and then made a grocery list from the meal plan. (I used free pre-made lists at at for my recipe lists and meal plans.) And viola! Now everything is in one place. 


  1. Wow, you did a good job consolidating it all together. We solved breakfast problem by always having the same breakfast, but the rest is very much ad-hoc. Your binder looks very organized.

  2. This looks great Autumn! I love meal planning as well. It's a real lifesaver for me. I don't "wing it" too well these days.

    There is a very similar post over at Passionate Homemaking. Have you ever visited that blog? It is one of my favorites. You'd have to look in her archives to find it but the ideas are the same. I have a binder too but it is in need of an update for Spring. I have been searching for the time to do that but have yet to find it. Maybe just 10 minutes or so a day until it's done.

    Thanks for your timely reminder via this entry of yours. You definitely seem to have the gift of organization.

  3. Love the visuals! We used to rotate our breakfasts so that I had a loose plan but after a year or so of that the kids are bored (and so am I!) So I started a Breakfast Challenge to hopefully get me kickstarted on some new ideas. So far, not doing so great on implementing but I do have lots of ideas!