I love to unwind by cooking a home-cooked dinner. Usually I watch Netflix while I’m prepping meals — it’s my me-time.
I have a few tools that make meal planning a breeze.
Google Calendar: I jot all of my meals into a separate Google calendar created just for meal planning. Here’s what it looks like:
I love meal planning in Google Calendar because that’s where I have calendars for myself, my husband and my kids. I can see at a glance when we’ll have a busy day and make sure I have planned an easy dinner. I also like to plan for leftovers, which is my most favourite dinner in the world and what I have for lunch most days.
Menu Planning Tips
Here are my top tips for menu planning using a calendar:
- Mark a date for each new recipe: When you find a dinner you want to make, pin the recipe on Pinterest (or save it to your recipe book) and then immediately mark it on your calendar. The odds of actually making the recipe go up exponentially when I plan to make it.
- Copy the good recipes to future dates: When you make a meal that is really good, go ahead and drop it into your meal plans for future months. With a few rare exceptions, I don’t like to have the same thing more than once every 2 months, but go with whatever frequency your family prefers. Over time you’ll find that next month’s menu is mostly done and you only need to tweek it a bit and add in a few new recipes you want to try.
- Remember that nothing is set in stone: Before I’ve gone grocery shopping for the week, everything on the calendar is open to rearrangement. Once I’ve purchased the ingredients for the week, I try to make the planned meals (but life does sometimes get in the way!), but I don’t feel glued to the order that they’re listed in. If I want to swap out making Chicken Parmesan for Roasted Red Pepper Pasta, I will.
- Find a way to link menus to grocery lists: I use the AnyList app for grocery shopping because it’s simple and intuitive. Members ($1/month) have access to a web interface to input recipes manually or import recipes from the web. The recipe album can be shared (mine is shared with my husband) via the app, or individual recipes can be printed out or emailed through the app.
Here’s a partial screen-capture of a recipe in the AnyList web site:
With one click, all of the ingredients can be added to a grocery list. Again, I share my grocery list with my husband so that either of us can pick up food at the grocery store.
If you’re looking for a grocery list / recipe app, also check out Janet’s post about the Paprika app.
Here’s our family menu for October. You can see some planned leftovers, some eating out, lots of easy week-night dishes. There’s a mix of family favourites (Taco pizza!) and a few new-to-me ones (like that Buffalo Chicken Salad I’m dying to make!). I included links to recipes whenever I could find them online:
01 – Vegetable Biryani served with plain yogurt, mango chutney and flatbread
02 – Pan-fried breaded pork chops, sweet and sour red cabbage (I keep this in the freezer in dinner-sized portions for a quick side on weeknights) and steamed green beans
03 – Slow Cooker Maple Baked Beans with salad and bread
05 – BBQ Chicken, Red Bean and Corn Country Chowder (Make-ahead: poach chicken for the rest of the week)
06 – Leftovers for Dinner
10 – Eat Out Night
11 – Basic Black Bean Skillet served in tacos and topped with salsa, cheese and sour cream and served with salad
12 – Thanksgiving Dinner: Maple-Mustard Glazed Ham, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, glazed carrots
13 – Leftovers for Dinner
15 – Italian-Inspired Pork and Beans, crusty bread, garden salad
17 – Order In Pizza
18 – Penne Pasta with Mushrooms, Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
20 – Pad Thai
21 – Breakfast for Dinner: Scrambled eggs, bacon, melon slices, and whole-grain pancakes (make a double-batch to freeze and heat up for quick breakfasts)
23 – Basic BBQ Roast Chicken, garden salad, rolls
24 – Apple Feta Pizza and Spinach Salad
26 – Cider-glazed Roasted Root Vegetables served on whole wheat couscous and topped with Parmesan
27 – Taco Pizza, spinach salad
28 – Pasta Twists with Beer-Cheese Sauce, garden salad
30 – Crispy Ginger Beef and rice
31 – Halloween: Rotisserie chicken from the deli, garden salad, dinner rolls