Archive for meal planning

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


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.

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Tales from a Lunch Bag

It is almost time for packing lunches for school.  Are you dreading it?  Children learn better when they are not hungry so the task is to pack food they will eat and not throw out, hide or trade.

1. You know what your child likes and doesn’t like.

Children will food jag, eat the same thing over and over and never get tired of it.  If there is a lunch they like give it to them, a fruit, a vegetable, a protein and a carbohydrate.   When I went to school I would eat a cold chicken sandwich, bread butter and chicken, an apple, a cookie and drink usually milk everyday for months.  My mom couldn’t understand why I didn’t get bored but I just loved it.  Life was easy she made it for me and I enjoyed it.

School lunches made easy

School lunches made easy

2. I hate sandwiches.

Some children don’t like sandwiches so give them leftovers.  Heat up the leftovers and put them in a Thermos.  I had child who hated sandwiches, I would heat up taco meat and send the shell and toppings cold, a baked potato with butter or cheese, soup, stew, home made macaroni and cheese. Pack warm chili with  taco chips, cheese and salsa. When you are cooking make extra and freeze it in individual meals and then you have a supply of lunches in your freezer.


Send warm foods to school in an unbreakable thermos.

3. Get lunches packed after supper when the food is out.

As part of our evening routine, each child would pack the food for their lunch that didn’t need to be refrigerated.  They packed, veggies, pickles, crackers cookies and in the morning I would add a sandwich or hot food to the lunch bag.  If you have more than one child this really makes life easy because you don’t need to remember which child like what.

Lunch bags

Pick a size and shape of lunch bag that makes it easy to pack and send the correct amount of food to school, not too much, not to little

4. Finger foods are great but you might want to send a fork

Some schools have schedules where children eat smaller meals a couple of times a day.  Pack things that your child can eat a few items at a time.  Cut up cheese, meat, bread into cubes .  Send nuts, hard boiled egg, veggies or cut up fruit.  If you have a container with lots of sections they can open one box and see all their choices.  It makes it easier to pack and the child doesn’t have to struggle with lots of container and there is less to wash at the end of the day.  Children are not good at washing their hands before every meal so encourage them to use a fork, send a plastic one in their favourite colour.

Box with finger foods

Send a variety of foods in small quantities for quick snacks throughout the day.

5.  Leftovers lunches – plan differently

When your child brings their lunch home remember it has been unrefrigerated all day, 8 hours, and dirty hands have been in the container touching all the food. Compost the leftovers.  Re-evaluate what you are sending and how much food you are putting in their lunch.

Plastic counter top compost bin

At the end of the day compost leftover to a prevent a mild case of food poisoning.

Don’t use school lunches as a time to introduce new foods or worry about variety in their diet.  Use supper time or weekend meals to introduce them to new foods.  You want them to eat a healthy lunch everyday and since you are not there to supervise them when they are eating, make a plan with your child so you can all be happy.


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