You’ve completed Step Two – Categories
Now, it’s time to put the plan on the calendar… and I’m sharing an easy way to do that. Sometimes I get lucky with my internet searches. While I was searching for an image I happened upon a website that offers several FREE meal planning printables (daily, weekly, & monthly planning pages). They also offer Excel Template downloads so you can type in and save your meal ideas on your hard drive…there’s a download that includes a shopping list, built-in menu ideas, and a page for recipes; click here>>> Meal Planning Downloads.
- Print out the blank monthly calendar with slots for main, vegetable, and side. (I printed 2 of these and filled it in with one of my “categories” per day for each day of the week. Remember, I made 7 categories which corresponded with the 7 days in a week. Then I repeated this for 8 weeks but I mixed up the categories so that we didn’t always eat the same category on the same day. (i.e., one week pasta is on Tuesday, the next week we’re eating pasta on Thursday.) However, you could simplify the process by repeating the same category on the same day every week (ie, “Meatless Mondays” or “Crockpot Fridays”.)
- Print out one of the weekly planners. There are 2 versions of the weekly planner – they both include a grocery list, but one includes dessert/fruit – while the other includes slots for breakfast and lunch. (Using your monthly plan as a guide fill-out the plan for the week.)
- OR use the Excel downloads and input your meals and create our own personal meal planning document(s) and save on your computer. Since this is the first time that I’m doing this, I am handwriting everything. However, eventually I will create documents that will allow me to serve the same/similar meals once every two months for a year; meaning that my family eats the same meal every 8 weeks or only 6 times a year. I plan to leave 1 day a week for a “NEW” recipe — which easily fits into either my 1st category “meat” or my 7th category “Open”.
- To get started you can plan several weeks or simply one week at a time.
- It’s also a good idea to set aside a specific day to plan your meals – for example, every Monday. Keep in mind that every Tuesday grocery stores post their ads for the week. FYI: There are blogs that list the weekly ads for a variety of grocery stores, items on sale that week, and coupon match-ups. I like to use The Frugal Find, because they are somewhat local. (TFF uses other deal sites; you’ll see them listed as links below the individual blog posts, typically in blue.)
- I am choosing not to repeat a meal until the rest have been made… but that’s my plan. I printed out a list of my categories/meals. I labeled each week with one of the four rotating meats (chicken, beef, turkey, pork). Next, I started with today filling in one category for each day of the week. Since I have 2 days for fish, I filled those in first. After I filled in the monthly calendar (which you only have to do once a month or in my case once every 2 months since I’m planning 2 months at a time) I filled in the weekly meal plan. As I wrote down each meal selection, I crossed it off my master category/meal list. (Click on the link and it will take you to the categories post. I’ve included a link to print out the list… mostly, so I could print the list out every two months.
- Lastly BE FLEXIBLE – to me a meal plan is like a road map – sometimes we have unexpected stops or detours along the way. For example, I already served Pasta this week (on Tuesday) – not only pasta, but specifically spaghetti w/ground turkey. My mother-in-law called me today (Friday) and said that she made homemade sauce & meatballs (beef)… my family LOVES pasta, so I served spaghetti again. (Of course, we could have had meatball sandwiches even tho’ we already had panini sandwiches). To adjust for this change – I substituted the meal that I had planned for tonight for next week’s “pasta” meal. (So next week, we won’t eat pasta and tonight’s dinner didn’t go to waste.) — I could have also easily frozen the sauce & meatballs for a future “freezer” meal.
As I make each meal, I will post the recipe/photos on the blog and include links in the master list. I will also be adding meals to the master list so check every once in awhile.
This concludes my “Easy as 1-2-3 Meal Planning Strategy” series. I hope that you’ve enjoyed this mini-series on Baking4Six as much as I’ve enjoyed sharing my ideas with you.
HAPPY MEAL PLANNING!!
P.S. If you are looking for “freezer” meals check out the menu-planning ideas/recipes at Once A Month Mom – she has menus for a range of personal preferences (traditional, whole foods, gluten free, etc…)
P.S.S. Fee free to share your meal planning tips, questions or concerns by leaving a comment on this blog post below. Also feel free to share with your friends on Pinterest, Facebook, Stumbleupon. Thanks 🙂