Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Meal Planning, the EASY way!

I have been a long time meal planner. Some years I plan better than others. About 11 years ago I had a meal planning system that worked really well. It consisted of labels that I made (printed out the meals / sides we eat, cut them out, glued them to colored cardstock, cut them out again, laminated them, cut them out again, and then adhered a magnet to the back of each) that I could just stick on a fridge calendar. It worked great! Unfortunately, we moved across the country and the meal planning set got lost in the move. As you can imagine, it was too much work for me to feel like recreating, so I never did. I tried several other meal planning systems, but ultimately, that worked the best for me. I've seen some SUPER cute meal planners on pinterest, such as Robin's Menu Board,

The Ultimate Menu Board,

and even this one by BHG.com:

Unfortunately, they all seem to be too time consuming, complicated, or just not what I'm looking for. Everyone seems to have a "great" meal planning tool, but I just don't think like everyone, so I decided to make my own.

The thing about technology is that it has greatly simplified what I did 11 years ago! All of that cutting and gluing, etc? I had to cut just once this time. Woohoo! Sure, it took me a while to design everything, but I love it and, ultimately, you will get to benefit from it as well! So here's what I created...

I made these 3 printables, which include 12 months, 31 days, and the meals we like to eat color coded by the category/ethnicity of the food, as well as a few labels to help me plan when it is time for meal prep. First, I printed them out on magnet sheets. I got the set that had 3 to a pack at Walmart and I think it was $7 or so. I also got a cheap magnetic calendar from Walmart for around the same price. So, not counting ink, I think this project cost me $15. I cut out all the pieces (already magnetized! woohoo!) and started by putting the numbers on for next month.

(I should also mention here that these sheets are designed for use with inkjet printers, and I have a laser printer. I also accidentally fed the first sheet in upside down, which it didn't like. Thus my printing didn't go so well. And since I only had 3 sheets of magnet paper and had 3 pages to print, a redo wasn't an option today. maybe someday I'll redo it. Right now I'm okay with it, even if the printing isn't the best on some of my labels.)

Then all I had to do was decide what meals to put where! I actually don't plan a whole month at a time, but have found that I won't change a calendar like this more than once a month, so it's okay with me if I don't have it all filled in. For the purposes of the blog, though, I did think it through and have a tentative meal plan for next month, at least. Here's what it looks like fully assembled...

Sorry for the bad camera phone pictures, but you get the idea. I have little labels with snowflakes, crock pots, and grills on them, too, to remind me when I need to pull something out of the freezer, put it in the crock pot, or prepare the grill. Occasionally I will have to pull something out of the freezer to put it in the crock pot. That day gets two labels. No rocket science here!

I think my absolute FAVORITE part of this particular meal planner is that it is EASILY DUPLICATABLE! Download the pages, print them on magnetic sheets, and put them on your own magnetic calendar. I am working on a customizeable menu planner that I will put in my etsy shop for those of you who eat different meals than we do. If you want to get started with the premade freebie one, here it is!

Download pages 1,2, and 3 HERE.

How do you meal plan? Do you think about meals by their ethnic flavor or by the type of meat used? I know several people who do it by meat choice, though I don't. Do you plan out what sides you'll have as well? I'm always curious to know how people think, so leave me a comment! Also, if you download the meal planner and put it to use, I'd love to see how it works for you! Thanks!

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