Meal planning has been a struggle for me my entire adult life. It seems incredibly ridiculous that I can’t manage to put together a simple weekly meal plan. But, I have always had a mental block about this. What’s even crazier is that I’m now writing an instructional blog about how to do it. The only reason it makes sense is that I found a system that works!!! And I’m so excited to share it with you.
The best part about this system is that it is completely customizable for your family and your recipes.
This blog post is part four of a series called Home Management Baby Steps. If you’re finding it on it’s own and you’d like to start at the beginning, I would encourage you to take advantage of the free download that explains it all. Just enter your name and email address below and it will be sent to you immediately. Otherwise, keep reading!!
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A little back story… when my kids were growing up, I kept four magnetic weekly dry erase calendars on the refrigerator to help us all know what was going on over the next four weeks. All of us used them to keep the whole family informed about upcoming events. Everyone was assigned their own color. They worked great.
These calendars were different than a normal monthly calendar. You never had to turn a calendar page and you always saw four weeks at a time. Each of the weeks was its own magnet. So at the end of the week, I simply erased everything from that one week, filled in the new dates that corresponded with the calendar, and moved it to the bottom of the other three. When the kids grew up and left, I took them down and put them away in my office closet.
Here’s what they look like. The dry erase marker that comes with this is terrible. So, I purchased ultra fine tip dry erase markers in four colors. Love the ultra fine tip! I’ll provide links in case you’re interested. Amazon sends me a little commission for promoting their product. You don’t have to use these products for this system to work. It’s just what I used.
So back to my meal planning. Even though I have struggled in this area for years, I’m not a quitter. I have read and tried just about every system I could find for meal planning. None of them worked for me. I have even created many of my own systems. Still, no success… until I remembered these weekly magnetic calendars.
Create Your Dinner Meal Planning Template
I started by assigning each day of the week a category of food. Here’s an example of what I mean:
- Sunday – Breakfast for dinner
- Monday – Seafood
- Tuesday – Tacos/Fajitas
- Wednesdays – Chicken
- Thursday – Pork
- Friday – Beef
- Saturday – Wild card
Then I pulled out the calendars and started filling them in. It was only for four weeks. Surely I could think of four different meals from each category. And I did! In under an hour, I had planned 28 days of dinner. Why hadn’t I thought of this when my kids were little!!??
I put the weekly magnets back on the refrigerator and felt pretty proud of myself. I don’t erase them now, I just move one week to the bottom when it’s over. It’s working great! Sometimes if I’m not in the mood for what’s listed, I’ll swap it with a different day. I’m pretty flexible. And the Saturday wild card option works fantastic for the new recipes I find online.
I don’t meal plan for breakfast, lunch, and snacks. I just like to have a few different options available in my refrigerator or pantry. So that’s easy.
I had another idea I think is worth sharing with you too. I was thinking about The Cheesecake Factory’s menu. It’s a book!!! It truly overwhelms me. But it gave me an idea. My problem was that I find recipes all the time that I want to try from lots of different places. I pin them, save them, or email them to myself. And then there are the recipes I’ve had for years. Some are hard copies, some are emails, and some are digital files stored in a folder on my computer hard drive.
So, my recipes are in a lot of different places. And it doesn’t look like that’s going to change. I doubt I ever take the time to create a uniformed system that I continually add to when I find something new. That seems unrealistic for me.
That’s where The Cheesecake Factory’s menu comes in. I pulled out a spiral notebook with a hardcover and began creating a menu, by category of course. I only wrote the name of the recipe and then I noted where I can actually find this recipe beside it.
So now, when I want to change out one of the dishes on my 28-day rotation, I just turn to the Chicken Section or the Pork Section or whatever section I need and look for a replacement.
Some of you don’t have the same struggles I did. I guess we all struggle in different areas. This one was mine. I hope you try this system and see how it works for your family. Send me your feedback. I’d love to hear from you.
If you’re following the Home Management Baby Steps, this was Baby Step Four. Now it’s time to move on to Baby Step Five… Choose Your Area of Focus.