Meal Organizer

Resolved: To Be More Organized
Let's be honest, the more organized you are, the easier it is to find things and the more streamlined life is. Now let's be realistic: most of us operate in a state of organized chaos where we're rushing out the door, while brushing our teeth, wrapping our kids' lunches and searching for our keys. 

One area of organization that has always eluded me was meal planning. It's always been hard for me, I don't like it, and the result is I wind up at the supermarket at 4:30 on a Monday with my two kids and everyone else and THEIR kids, slogging up and down the aisles with no idea what to make for dinner and nothing but frozen, boxed or instant meal parts in the cart. As my children celebrate (macaroni and cheese!) I watch my mother of the year dreams scamper away and around the corner.

So, a few months back I started a meal planning organizer. Oh I have recipes. I have a Pinterest board, several subscriptions to magazines, a file box full of pulled ideas, recipe books, and even a cute little scrapbook recipe book that my mom made for me when we got married. And still I stand around wondering what I can make for dinner. I like to do a full shopping, once a week and never darken the supermarket's door again...until the next week. That kind of one and done takes planning. And this works for me:

This is my meal planning notebook. It is a 1" 3 ring binder with a clear plastic sleeve on the front. I had pinned about 16 different ideas for meal boards, and recipe boxes and...and...and...I never completed one project and so my problem remained the same. The notebook isn't pretty, but it's practical - and that's what I'm going for.

Inside the notebook, I used dividers to make 9 different sections. Weeks 1 - 8 and then recipes to try. That sheet there on the front is my kids' school calendar. Because I'm always losing it. So I threw it in the front of the notebook. Good to know when people are going to be home all day when trying to plan your City Market getaways.

For each week I tried to select a well-rounded group of recipes that my family liked. I started with just week 1. What 5-6 ideas am I making this week? I copied them, 3-hole punched them and stuck them in the binder. The following week I filled up week 2, and so on. Of course, this part still took a little thinking and planning on my part. But then when the book was filled with 8 weeks of ideas, I rotated back to Week 1, and what do you know? There was a week's worth of recipes that I know my family would eat, and we hadn't had in 2 months. Genius!

The other thing I liked about it was that since each recipe is printed out on computer paper, I didn't feel bad about making notes about what to change, etc for the next time.

And if ever there was a week, like this week, where I chose several items from several different weeks, I just took them out of the notebook and put them in the front sleeve, along with my shopping list.

If I find a new recipe to try, I put it in the To Try section in the back, and try it out when we're feeling adventurous. If my family decides to "put it in the book" then I rotate something out and rotate the new thing in. If we don't love it, I pitch it.

Right now, we have a soup and a crock-pot recipe for every week in the book. In the summer we swap them out for grilling and salad recipes. The notebook sits in the same spot on my kitchen counter all the time, so I always know where it is. And all I need to do it pull it out, pick a week and make a list. Love it!



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