Meal Planning: Getting Organized

Welcome to week one of my meal planning guide! My plan for this series is for you to have created everything you need to start meal planning quickly and efficiently while saving some dough in the process by the end of it. Eating out all the time gets expensive!

In order to have any sort of success with meal planning you need to have a good roster of recipes to choose from or else you’ll be living off Hamburger Helper and frozen pizzas every day. You are going to have to push yourself past making the same old meals all the time, and try new recipes so you can have a variety to choose from when you are trying to decide what to have that week. And the most important thing is to have this all organized in a manner that makes it easily accomplished. So, that is where we are beginning today.

Here are your assignments for the week:

Assignment # 1: Make a master list of the meals you cook

Alright, your very first assignment is to create a reference guide listing out all the recipes you make that you will use when planning out your meals. Think up all the meals you currently cook and list them out, then type them up and organize them by categories that work for you. To make meal planning easier for me, I have theme nights scheduled for specific days, so I like to organize my categories according to the theme nights (I’ll discuss theme nights more next week). This is how I organize mine: Pasta, International, Meats, Easy Meals, Soups & Misc. So my meal roster looks like the image below:

Meal Roster

I keep my roster in my planner, which has a section dedicated for meal planning. You can start a meal planning binder, create a space in your planner for meal planning, or just keep the list where you store your recipes. Having a good roster of meals listed out to refer to makes it SO much easier when you are planning your meals for the week (or month if you are more ambitious). If you are having trouble remembering all the meals you make, I’ve included a list at the bottom of meal ideas that you can refer to.

Assignment #2: Find new recipes to add

One problem I have struggled with in the past is getting in the rut of making the same few recipes over and over again, which makes it difficult to plan for a good variety when you are scheduling meals. So, I challenge you to go on a quest to find TEN awesome new recipes to add to your roster. Hunt through those dusty old cookbooks sitting on your shelf (or your parents’ shelf), mindlessly scroll through Pinterest until you see something that makes your stomach scream, “YASSSS!!!”, google specific meals you want to start making and find the perfect recipe, and the best, ask your friends and family what their absolute favorite recipe is to cook and, most importantly, eat. Once you decide you want to add a new recipe to your regular routine you can add it to your main roster of recipes, and make it part of the family (*awwww*).

Look down at the list below to get some ideas of new meals you would like to find and start adding to your routine. I’ve also included a few links to some of my favorite recipes from around the web (my particular favorite is the black bean tacos, look it up!).

TIP: When you start trying out these recipes make sure you don’t take on too many in a short period of time, or you run the risk of getting burnt out with cooking, because it’s always more difficult when you’re not used to cooking something. Plus, I tend to forget about new recipes I’ve tried when I move on to another one too quickly. Whatever you do though, have fun and experiment until you get it exactly the way you like!

Assignment #3: Organize your recipes

Now that you have a good list of recipes you make and recipes you want to try, you need to organize them in some sort of efficient manner for when you plan meals. My personal favorite is using index/recipe cards. My husband bought me a cute little recipe box with recipe cards and dividers where I keep all the recipes I make regularly (the ones I don’t know by heart at least). For any new recipes I want to try out, they go on regular old index cards, and if I like them they earn their way onto a pretty recipe card in my recipe box, and for the ones that just don’t quite make the cut, let’s just say their fate isn’t so pretty. When you are planning meals for the week you can go through your stack of new recipes and pick one out you want to try that week! You can keep them in the back of your recipe box or put them in a separate one, which is what I do (I found it at a thrift store for $1 before I found out my husband had bought me one as a surprise the same day, oops!). I find that having physical copies stacked together all in the same place when you are meal planning is much more effective than just marking a page in a cookbook or pinning them on Pinterest and forgetting about them, which is what I do 100% of the time.

I like to use this method of organizing recipes, because it’s easier to have them all right there to quickly flip through and get ingredients when I’m making a shopping list instead of having to go to each individual webpage on my Pinterest or find it in a cookbook, and the smaller size is easier to handle than a full sheet of paper.

If that’s not particularly the route you want to go, then you could just make different boards on Pinterest for each category you choose, you could put them all in a nice binder with dividers, or you could use some handy app like Evernote to organize and quickly access them digitally.

Alright! There are your assignments for the week, so get crackin’! And cooking.

MEAL IDEAS

Soups & Stews:

  • Chili
  • Taco Soup
  • Potato Soup
  • Vegetable Soup
  • Beef Stew
  • Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese
  • Chicken Corn Chowder
  • Gumbo
  • Squash Soup
  • Brunswick Stew
  • Wild Rice Soup
  • White Chicken Chili

Chicken

  • Chicken Fingers
  • Buffalo Chicken
  • Grilled Chicken
  • Roasted Chicken
  • Chicken Fried Rice
  • Teriyaki Chicken

Beef/Pork

  • Steak
  • Grilled Pork Chops
  • Baked Pork Chops
  • Pot Roast
  • Hot Dogs
  • Barbecue
  • Ribs
  • Meatloaf
  • Burgers

Seafood

  • Boiled Shrimp
  • Cajun Shrimp Boil
  • Sautéed Shrimp
  • Salmon
  • Mahi Mahi
  • Fish Tacos

Pasta

  • Spaghetti
  • Chicken Alfredo
  • Chicken Parmesan
  • Beef Stroganoff
  • Lasagna
  • Two-Timin Pasta

Mexican

Misc.

  • BLT Sandwich
  • Chicken Salad Sandwich
  • Breakfast for Dinner
  • Stir Fry
  • Pizza
  • Takeout
  • Leftovers
  • All vegetables

Sides

  • Green Beans
  • Baked Beans
  • Lima Beans
  • Black Eyed Peas
  • Carrots
  • Corn on the Cob
  • Corn
  • Coleslaw
  • Broccoli
  • Baked Potato
  • Roasted Vegetables
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Sweet Potato
  • Rice
  • French Fries
  • Peas
  • Macaroni & Cheese
  • Salad
  • Asparagus
  • Squash
  • Zucchini
  • Fried Okra
  • Sauteed Mushrooms
  • Cornbread
  • Garlic Bread
  • Biscuits
  • Roll
  • Pasta Salad
  • Potato Salad
  • Chips & Salsa

Lunch

  • Leftovers (my favorite)
  • Salad
  • Tuna Salad
  • Baked Potato
  • Canned Soup
  • Hard-Boiled Egg
  • Jarred Spaghetti
  • Turkey Sandwich
  • Roast Beef Sandwich
  • BLT
  • PB & J Sandwich
  • Grilled Cheese
  • Pasta Salad
  • Nuts
  • Fruits
  • Raw Vegetables
  • Sliced Meat & Cheese Cubes
  • Chips & Salsa

Breakfast

  • Scrambled eggs
  • Toast
  • Muffin
  • Smoothie
  • Cereal
  • Fruit
  • Oatmeal
  • Sausage
  • Bacon
  • Waffles
  • Pancakes
  • Granola bar
  • Yogurt