4 easy ways to organize your meal planning – Is it possible?

Meal planning can seem like a difficult chore.  I am going to talk about 4 ways to simplify your menu planning. Organizing your menu will give you a healthier diet, save money on food and create a relaxed mealtime.   

Shuffle the Deck

Make menu planning into a game. Compile recipes for 20 to 30 easy-to-prepare main dishes and the same number of side dishes and desserts. Cut them out of magazines, download them the internet.  Get together with friends and each bring 10 recipes and share them.

1.  Put each recipe on a 5 x 8 card, noting any special ingredients that require a stop at a specialty shop.

2.  File all the recipe cards in a card box.

Each week:

1. Select your required number of main dishes.

Pasta and Broccoli

Mix and Match side dishes to give each meal a new appearance

2. Mix and match them with side dishes and desserts.

Pita Sandwich

Meal Planning can be easy if you make it into a game

Your menu is complete.

 

 

 

 

 

Plan a month of meals

I like to plan a month of meals and then take the plan and repeat it for 6 months.  I find there are different meals made in the winter than in the summer.  Make one menu plan for the colder months and one menu plan for the warmer months.  Each year review it, add a few new items.  The easiest way to do this is to write down everything you make for one month.  Now you have a plan.  You might want to look through books, or websites and collect ideas. I used to do my planning while I was waiting for one of my children to finish a sports practice.   With this system, you will only eat each item 6 times.  If you didn’t plan the menu I think there would be some meals you would eat a lot more times than just 6.

Plan using a grid 

I like to make a grid with categories across the top.  The categories might be based on food, ways of cooking or time limits.  It may be a combination of these categories.  When my kids were at home, I needed some meals to be ready quickly because they came home and left for work or a sport.  Other days I would arrive home from work later so I prepared supper in a crockpot.

Under each category (column), you fill in meal ideas, record where to find the recipe and if there are any unusual ingredients that need to be put on the grocery list.

Each week you read across (row) and you have your menu and your grocery list. This provides lots of variety in the menu and it is adaptable to your needs each week.

As my children got older one of the categories became new food. After the new meal, we would evaluate it and see if it stayed on the grid or was voted off. If it stayed on the grid, it would be move to the appropriate category, after all, it isn’t a new meal anymore.

Adapt the categories to suit your family and culture.  This grid has 7 rows so it is a menu plan for 2 months.  Repeat it 6 times and you have a year of meals planned.Save money on food, save time on deciding what's for supper and have less stressful mealtimes by planning once and using your plans over and over. Click To Tweet

Apps

The other ideas lent themselves to paper.  I like paper because you can post it in the kitchen and everyone knows what is for supper and can help.  Apps are wonderful. You can select your menu and the app will generate the shopping list.  Big Oven is one of many apps.

Breakfast and Lunch

You can plan your breakfast and lunch menus in the same way.  I find those meals to be more repetitious and easy to just have groceries on hand and let people decide what they feel like.  I always make more supper servings than are needed at the meal (2-4 more) so they are available for lunches and late night snacks for the hard-working athletes in the home.  Sometimes I would remove those extra servings before the group sat down to supper.

However you like to plan, paper or digital or a combination use your plans over and over.  Do the planning once a month, twice a year or yearly.  Take the stress out of “what’s for supper” and you will end up spending less money eating out, less money wasting food and less time worrying.

Coupon Tip

If you like clipping coupons, write your shopping list on the back of an envelope, and stuff the envelope with the appropriate coupons.

Leaving the decision about what to eat for the last minute makes every meal stressful. Do you like menu planning? If you want help book a virtual menu planning meeting with me.

Julie Stobbe is a Trained Professional Organizer and Lifestyle Organizing Coach who brings happiness to homes and organization to offices, in person and virtually. She has been working with clients since 2006 to provide customized organizing solutions to suit their individual needs and situation. She uses her love of physical activity to reduce clutter, in your home, office, mind and time. If you’re in a difficult transition Julie can coach you to break-free of emotional clutter constraining you from living life on your terms. Get started by downloading Tips for Reorganizing 9 Rooms.

Contact her at julie@mindoverclutter.ca

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Comments

    • I used to try and figure out what I was hungry for and make that but I never had the right ingredients. Now I plan the meal and think about it all day and I really enjoy it.

  1. You and I are on the same page when it comes to meal planning–especially wth kids. I, too have been working with a grid and have that same ‘quick meal’ category for days when my kids have sports or medical appointments after school. I’m a visual person and seeing it all in front of me has really helped make meal planning a breeze!

    • I prefer it to be visual and where everyone can see it too. It makes it easier for people to help and I think if they know what is for the meal they are more likely to enjoy it because they are anticipating it.

  2. No matter how you do it, meal planning is definitely a “thing.” Meals don’t happen if you don’t invest some time planning it out. I like your grid. My mind loves a matrix. I find it helpful to plan a week of meals, with a mix of quick, slower cooker, healthy, will make leftovers, etc. I love the idea of “new.” I usually try those when others are here, which hasn’t been happening much lately. Maybe I’ll try a few new things just for the two of us!

    • My husband’s way of planning is to take out the meat in the morning to thaw in the refrigerator and then google a recipe with the meat and one other item. We have had a lot of new meals for the 2 of us.

  3. I appreciate the way you lay out the strategies to batch this task. Meal planning is one of those things I need to do or we way overspend, waste food, or scramble last minute. I’ve been doing weekly planning for a while now but I think I’ll try this to batch a few months at least!

  4. These look like great strategies for meal planning. I admit that I’m not much of a meal planner. I like to have the ingredients on hand, and then I mix and match. We eat a lot of raw vegetables (salads) and protein. So the key for me is to have the veggies cut in advance and sometimes the proteins (fish, chicken, minimal beef) pre-cooked. I recognize this might not work for everyone, especially families with young kids.

    • Pre-preparation is also a good tip for meal planning. It doesn’t work for me because they I need to set aside time to do the pre cooking, dicing etc and the time to cook the meal. We eat a lot of salads too. I will make individual salads and make 4 or 5 of them at once and have them for suppers or lunches.

  5. These are all great ideas and I look forward to sharing them with my clients. I live alone, am vegetarian, am a picky eater, and hate to cook, so I eat the same breakfast every day, and almost the same lunch every day (that looks mightily like it could be packed for your average elementary school kid), but dinner is always a mystery until about 6 o’clock. I love the inventive, fanciful nature of shuffling the deck or using a grid! I suspect you’d have to modify shuffling the deck for households with religious dietary habits, like keeping kosher or halal, but it’s all very nifty!

    • Thanks for sharing these ideas with your clients. I eat the same thing for breakfast and usually for lunch or have leftovers for lunch. I don’t like cooking either so I was eating a lot of salads for supper.

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