Meal Planning :: For a long time, my wife used a blank monthly calendar for planning our meals. Because she is proficient with Excel, I decided to create a simple weekly meal planner application that would allow her to select from a list of meals and side dishes, and it got a thumbs up review. So I went ahead and created a monthly version as well as a selection of printable meal and menu planners that you can download for free. She also wrote up some meal planning tips, that I’ve included below the downloads.
Meal Planning Tips
My wife has graciously provided the following tips meal planning tips, including ideas for how to use the meal and menu planners.
- Make a list of everything you like to cook or everything you have eaten in the last month. This will give you a start on your list of meals and you can add to it when you find new things. The planner gives you a starter list that you can add to or amend to fit your needs.
- Your meal planners can be reused from month to month or week to week. You can make three months worth of planners and then rotate them throughout the year. Or, at the end of the month or week, file the planner away until the next year. Then, you can bring it out a year later and have something to work from. I like this method, because then I can incorporate seasonal foods and my menus for July are distinctly different from the ones for December.
- Plan to use left-overs. You can vary the sides or the appearance, but left-overs save time and money. For example, BBQ chicken on Wednesday can become BBQ chicken pizza on Friday. Or Meatballs can be used for Sweet and Sour and then later in the week for Hoagies. You can serve Lemon Chicken twice, but the second time, serve it with potatoes instead of rice pilaf.
- Add recipes that you want to try to your planner. I am constantly printing or tearing out pages of new recipes, but if I don’t put them on my meal planner, I never make them.
- Put your menu planner where you will see it. Save it on your desktop or print it out and put it on the fridge or the inside of a cupboard.
- Be flexible. If you order pizza, move the planned meal to the first week of the next month. If you don’t feel like making Hamburgers, switch them with another night. The purpose of a meal planner is to make the dinner decision time less agonizing and to help you with your grocery shopping.
- Create a recipe file. When you create your planner, spend some time collecting the recipes or write down the page numbers. That way you don’t spend all of your prep time searching for that fabulous recipe.
- Involve your family. Ask for suggestions from your family for meals they want to eat for the month. There may be fewer complaints if they know they had a say in a few of the meals.