Way back in 2011, I wrote my first post about my meal planning process. Since then, I’ve planned a lot of meals, tried a lot of new recipes and grown up a little bit. It’s no secret that I love menu planning – I post them here regularly (they’ll resume when our CSA shares do in June) and I talk about it all the time. That said, I’ve been slacking since the end of our CSA season…and we’re really feeling it. I am so over wondering what’s for dinner every night. I really don’t know how people do it, I survived about a week before I started planning again. I’m just a planner.
Google Drive with the Vertex42 Perpetual Calendar Template
As I’ve written before, I use Google Drive to organize a lot of things in my life. I use the calendar template to sketch out what I plan to cook. The nice thing about having the whole year before me in one place is that I can plan far in advance. If I see something I really want to make, I add it to my calendar for sometime in the future. This eliminates those new recipes from getting buried under other recipes and makes future planning even easier.
The obsession continues (See more Evernote posts here, here, and here). I use Evernote primarily to store recipes I’ve clipped from the internet, though once in a while I create a note for something else. At this point, my note count is 3,470. I credit Evernote with making my menu planning as easy and fast as it is. In addition to the notebooks and tags I’ve set up, I can search by keyword. So, if I know I’m getting a bunch of radishes or tomatoes at the CSA or that cheddar cheese is on sale at the supermarket, I can find recipes that will utilize those ingredients.
Once upon a time, I wrote about the app GroceryIQ. A while back, the app or my OS was updated and after that it kept crashing on my phone. I’ve switched to Our Groceries, which is overall very similar, but it doesn’t crash, always syncs and makes it easier to type your own names for items. I have several lists for various stores (including Target and the hardware store). I’ve shared the lists with Brian, so either of us can add to it at any time. I love using a grocery list app because I can add items that I’m waiting to purchase until the price is right and don’t have to worry about losing the paper that includes items I didn’t pick up when I was at the store. That, and I can send Brian to the store at a moment’s notice.
Trello is one of my new favorite things. Trello is a project manager on which you create boards for different projects, add lists to those boards and then put cards on the lists. I’m finding it really helpful for creating overviews of multifaceted, long term projects. I’ve created a Home board and shared it with Brian and one of the lists on the board is going to be a freezer inventory, which will help with planning and budgeting.
I’m less strict about checking out the fliers on the day I receive them than I used to be, but I definitely still use the weekly fliers to inform my menu planning. Once you’ve been planning and shopping for a while, you get a good sense of what the average prices are and what a good sale is. The fliers definitely don’t impact my planning as much as they used to, but if a specialty item is on sale it might make a difference.
I created this printable to help you all follow the basic method I use when I plan my menus. I think about what I have on hand, what I need to pick up from the CSA or various stores based on what’s in season or on sale and then list what I’m going to cook each day. Click the link above or the image below to find out more!
- Spend time now to save time later – Menu planning takes time. Sometimes it takes me much, much longer than I expect. That said, I save so much time during the week when I make sure there’s a plan in place. I have all the ingredients I need, I plan leftovers or easy meals for busy nights and it helps me stay on schedule by not resorting to eating out.
- Check your stock before you plan – I’ll be the first to confess that I’m still pretty bad at this. But if you want to make sure you don’t waste food because it’s spoiled and don’t want to accidentally end up with 5 bags of frozen corn in your freezer (I’m speaking from experience), check what you have before you go to the store. That’s the idea behind the whole first column of my brainstorming printable.
- Use that stock to plan – this may seem obvious, but planning around the foods I already have helps me stretch my creativity in the kitchen and reminds me of special ingredients (Arborio rice, anyone?) that I’d like to use.
Previous Meal Planning Posts on Relishments
Creative and Healthy on a Tight Budget, a guest post from my friend Caleb
Please share – what are your favorite tools and tips for menu planning?
This post includes affiliate links. Thanks for supporting Relishments! Trello image provided by Trello.