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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Home Binder - Part III - Meal Planning

Happy Wednesday folks!  We're half way to the weekend!  I just love fall weekends...

...but back to work!  We have a home binder to organize.

Today we are going to talk about organizing and planning something that impacts every member of your family.  Food.

You buy it, you store it, you prepare it, you eat it, you clean it up.  A day doesn't go by without giving what you eat some thought.  On a busy day, sometimes it doesn't get as much thought as it should.  Avoid the fast food temptation by planning ahead.  With a few sheets of paper you can create a game plan for your month, week, and day that puts YOU in charge of what fuels your body.


You should already have your binder, dividers, and calendar section ready to go.  If you are just joining us, welcome!  You can see how we started here.

* All of the printables I use in this section come from the Clean Mama Printables Etsy Shop.  She makes great organizing kits.  I know how to make pages like this, but my time is worth the few dollars I spent to get the files.  Why reinvent the wheel!  Check her shop out!

And...since y'all are so awesome, Becky has graciously offered Nest Your Best readers 20% off her entire shop!!!  Use the code 20NESTYOURBEST, you'll be so happy you did! :)

In the front of my "Meal Planning" section, I have a blank calendar I use to plan meals for the month.  I know, I know.  It seems like a daunting task, but boy is it a time saver in the long run.

Block a couple hours to sit at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee, some Pandora on, a few cookbooks, your family calendar and your blank meal planning calendar.  Be sure you really look at your family calendar.  Do you have soccer every Wednesday?  Plan a slow-cooker supper.  Are your in-laws coming in to town one weekend?  Double up on earlier recipes to have meals ready to go.  Of course, things will change throughout the month, but it is WAY easier to move a meal than it is to plan one from scratch!

As I complete a week's worth of meals on my calendar, I will put it on my Weekly Menu Plan sheet.  I simply jot down each meal I came up with for the corresponding day and put all the needed ingredients on the shopping list on the side.  This is so handy because it means I'm not digging through cookbooks every Sunday night trying to remember what ingredients I need.

I write the date of the week the plan is for at the top.  Any given month you will wind up with 4-5 of these (depending on how many weeks are in the month).  Whenever you do your food shopping, all you have to do is take that week's menu plan from your binder and head to the store!

A note on notation!  Can you see the circled letters next to some of the meals?  That note reminds me what meat goes in the meal, and therefore, what I need to defrost from the freezer.  If I see a "C" circled, I know we are having chicken the next day so I take out what I need and put it in the fridge to defrost.

I also keep a loose inventory for my freezer and pantry.  I say "loose" because I'm not great about remembering to update it.  Each month, when I do my meal planning, I take note of how many chicken breasts I have, etc and update my inventory.  Then, as I'm planning meals, I know what I have to work with and what I need to get when I make my monthly trip to our wholesale club.

We use a FIFO method in our house.  First In, First Out!  If I've got pork chops already in the freezer, they're going to be used first.

In addition to cookbooks, I use a recipe binder when I'm planning meals.  I love to cook and am always tearing recipes out of magazines or printing them from blogs.  This is the best way I've found to keep up with them all.

Another pretty binder!  I use dividers labeled with categories (breads, sides, main dish, etc).  I then glue or tape the recipes I've collected onto printer paper and slip the page into a clear plastic sleeve.  This protects them from splatters and wear.  I'll be honest, I only update my binder with new recipes every couple of months.  When my stack gets big enough, I sit down with some paper and glue stick and add some new pages.  It doesn't take too long and makes it really easy to try all of those recipes.

(I made the cover sheet above in Word, along with a sheet listing our favorite recipes from different cookbooks and what pages they are on.)

I also keep a cute recipe box on my counter with my go-to recipes.  Things I like to make often are right at my fingertips to prop on top of the box and whip up.

 So.  Are you completely overwhelmed?  I hope not!  I promise it just takes a little bit of upfront time and then the rest of your month is a breeze.  Try it for a couple months and see what you think.

Here's a summary of my meal planning system:

  • Use a blank calendar and try to fill in meals for the entire month
  • Use weekly menu plans to list what meals you are making for each day of the week and keep track of your shopping list for that week
  • While you are planning your month, refer to an inventory sheet to see what things you need to use and what items you need to buy (FIFO!)
  • Keep recipes you've collected in a binder and frequently used recipes in a recipe box

Well, there you have it.  I hope there is something in this HUGE post you can take away and use!  Believe me, I have tried every system there is and this is what works for me.  I find I actually look forward to planning for each month.  It really has made the daily question of "What's for dinner?" A LOT easier to answer!

Tomorrow will go over my "Finances" tab.  Hope to see you there!  

As always, feel free to ask any questions in the comments or in an email.  This was a lot of info!


  1. Clean Mama pinned this page and I wanted to check it out. I also do once a month meal planning, but I try to shop once a month as well. I do a mid month shopping trip for milk, eggs, veggies and fruit. Love the tips and looking forward to what you've got for the next few days!

    1. Thanks for posting Danielle! Shopping once a month probably streamlines your weeks for sure. :) Glad you liked the post!


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