Menu Planning Binder

18 Mar

Recently, we had been spending almost triple our food budget per week, because dinner wasn’t planned, so we would eat out. No bueno.

I spoke with a good friend of mine, and she opened my eyes to meal planning. She truly is a genius.

While everyone’s menu and system may be different, there are a few key things to remember.

  1. Keep it simple. If you make your meal planning too difficult, you won’t do it. For some people, this means having meals 100% planned a month in advance. For others, it means planning a weeks worth of meals and picking one every day. No matter what you choose, keep it simple.
  2. Be consistent. Pick a day and plan that same day every time. The first of the month, every Saturday, or the first and third Thursdays. Even payday! Just pick one, and stick with it.
  3. Be organizedWrite your menu down. Have a defined place to keep it. A napkin from take-out last week, followed by the back of a memo from work, both shoved into a purse is not the way to go. A white board on the wall, a piece of paper taped to the fridge, or a spreadsheet printed from your computer and hung are much more acceptable.
  4. Make it visible. Keep your menu visible, so that you aren’t tempted to stray from it.
  5. Give yourself a break. Menu planning doesn’t mean you cook all the time. It means you plan when and when not to cook. We plan pizza night once a rotation, usually on a busy night or after a stressful spurt.

To give you an idea of how you may want to organize yourself, here is a look at my (recently started) meal planning binder.

I wanted it to look nice, so I designed a cover that I would not mind seeing sitting on the counter.

binder front watermarked


I plan my meals out two weeks at a time, so I made a menu calendar to reflect that. I can use it for one, two, or even three weeks, if need be. I then placed that calendar in the back slot of the binder, and I use a dry erase marker to write our calendar out.

menu calendar watermarkedInside I have separated my recipes out into tabs. You can label yours whatever you want, but I used the following:

  • Main Dishes
  • Side Dishes
  • Crock Pot
  • Breakfast
  • Desserts

These may not make the most sense to you, so use whatever does make sense.

Tabs Watermarked


Then, filed under each tab, I have recipes that are tried and true. I have copied them out of cookbooks, printed, or just written on a piece of printer paper, but they are all in this binder. I also have them alphabetized.  They are not necessarily arranged by title, but more so by what we call them. For example, there is a recipe called, “Slow Cooker Apricot Chicken”, and that is filed under, “Apricot Chicken”.

Inside Watermarked


To make planning a little easier, I have done a few things to my planning binder. I use a dry erase marker, and write the date we had certain recipes on the protector page. Dated Recipes WatermarkedI also keep a piece of paper inside the pocket of my binder, for a grocery list. Things that I use the last of or things that are being used for the next week. It makes it somewhat fool proof.

grocery list watermarked



I personally try to alternate Crock Pot and actual cooking recipes, along with chicken, beef, meatless, pork, so that I am not in the kitchen for 5 days straight, slaving over a stove making chicken after chicken after chicken, when there could have been soup in the Crock Pot after lasagna night!!

All in all, my new Meal Planning Binder has been incredibly helpful!

Are you a meal planner? What kind of systems and planning do you use? Let me know in the comments!!



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