When late afternoon rolls around, do you already know what you’re going to cook for dinner, or do you look at what’s in your fridge and try to figure out what you can make with what you have on hand?
I applaud those of you who can throw things together and come up with a great meal, but not surprisingly, I’m one of those people who likes to have it all planned out. Otherwise, I’m sure I’d be missing some key ingredient I wish I had picked up at the grocery store, or I’d want to use chicken breasts that should have been thawing in the fridge for a day. I’ve been planning my meals in advance ever since I got married, but I didn’t get organized with menu planning until about a year and a half ago.
There are lots of menu planning systems out there, ranging from very basic to wildly complicated. I like to keep things simple, so I just use a blank calendar. You could hang it on your fridge, but I like to keep mine in a notebook. I use a small binder that holds 5-1/2 x 8-1/2″ sheets, because it takes up less room on my desk. I print out the calendar pages, cut them in half (there are two on a sheet), punch holes in them, and stick them in my binder.
I added two little Post-it tabs to the edge of my calendars to mark the sections, because I’m using a second set of calendar pages as my editorial calendar for this blog. I’m taking a more organized approach to blogging this year, so I’m hoping to post more often in 2014.
Before I shop for groceries (ideally once a week), I sit down with my menu planning calendar, my binder of favorite recipes, and the sale flyer for our local grocery store. I pencil in what we’re having for dinner for the next 5-7 days, then develop my shopping list based on my menu plan. I’ve gotten into a terrible cooking rut, so the menus aren’t nearly as varied as I would like, but that’s a topic for another day!
The calendar is one I designed myself, and you can download the 2014 calendar as a free PDF. I like to have only five rows of squares on each calendar page, so there are three instances where the first or last day of the month is on the previous or next month’s calendar page. My calendar, my rules.
Of course, the printable calendar can be used for anything, not just planning meals, so hopefully some of you will find it helpful.