Staying on Top of Your Meal Planning Ideas
I recently received a great question about meal planning. So, instead of my typical Friday meal plan, I’m sharing it here with everyone…
Question: I am having difficulty with meal planning. I can find meals I want to cook and then I make a grocery list. I come home and put all the food away. Then I forget what I planned. I cannot find a proper way to write this down so I can use it. It sounds silly and yet it should not be so difficult. What am I doing wrong?
Has this ever happened to you?
It has me!
It’s a great question, right?
You peer into the fridge and see a package of chicken or ground beef, a package of shredded cabbage and couple of zucchini and you have no idea what you intended to do with them.
Or you saw a recipe for a great soup and bought the ingredients, but know you don’t remember where you saw the recipe.
How do you keep track of the recipes you are planning to make with the groceries you bring home?
How Do You Keep Track of Your Meal Plan Ideas?
Here are a couple of suggestions that might help…
1. Print off the recipes and leave them in a file folder in your kitchen.
2. Make a list of the recipes and where they are located and place it on your fridge. This is what I do. On a large yellow post-it note I jot down recipes I plan to make with what I’ve purchased.
My list might look like:
Slow Cooker Cabbage Bean Soup – Simple Nourished Living website
Bacon Tomato Cheddar Frittata – Comfort Food Favorites eCookbook page 9
Baked Chicken Nuggets – Comfort Food Favorites eCookbook page 10
Slow Cooker Pepper Steak – Skinny Slow Cooker Recipes eCookbook, page 47
Trisha Yearwood Orzo Salad Made Lighter – Simple Nourished Living website
Do you have any other suggestions for keeping track of the recipes/dishes you are planning to make with the groceries you bring home?
Readers’ Suggestions for Keeping Track of Your Meal Plan Ideas:
#1) I plan the week’s menus on a white board, left in the kitchen so my husband can see it and (hopefully) not eat my ingredients. I also use recipe cards, and leave them out so I can quickly access them the evening I’m cooking. – Kathryn
#2) Martha – we have been meal planning like this for a year now. It helps with groceries, and also meal prep on the day. I need to remember what to pull out of the freezer, or to prep the night before.
Most of the meals that I find online – such as Slender Kitchen – or in cookbooks, I put on the notes section. I also place the recipes on Pinterest that I have interest in – and then move them to CopyMeThat when I have made them.
Your site, since I found it a month or so ago, has become invaluable in both my planning and cooking, as I am on Weight Watchers. 15 pounds down, and counting! Thank you! – Karen C.
#3) I use an 8-½ x 11 sheet of paper and write down the days of the week and under each day I list what I plan to fix for dinner. I usually plan out for two weeks at a time. I purchased the Month of Meal Plan eBook which I use for ideas for dinner. I don’t always use the meals listed, but it gives me a good foundation for meal planning. – Donna
#4) I use a lot of Pinterest recipes and was having the same problem finding the recipes when I was needing them, I created a folder “this week’s meals” and saved the recipes into there. Once I was done with it I could delete it out.
If I want to keep the recipe for future use I save it into another appropriately labeled folder where it will be easy to find again. This has worked very well for those Pinterest recipes and has saved paper and ink over printing them out and then throwing them away. – Belinda
#5) I put my menu on one half of my paper, my grocery list on the other. I use different colored pens for each unique meal. So Monday’s spaghetti might be red. Tuesday’s tacos, green etc. I use the same color pen when adding items to my grocery list. I add check marks if an item is used for multiple meals. Black for the general items. The colors make it a little more fun.
But the reason it helps the most is because if I change my mind about a meal once I get to the store, (it happens. Don’t judge), I know what items went with that meal and either keep or cross them off without getting them. The colors help at home too. I know which meal I bought a particular item for, so I don’t use it for something else. This maybe sounds more complicated than it is in real life, but it works for me. Thanks for continuing to share your menu ideas. They are such a help. – Marie
#6) Hi there. I have a couple things I do – I sometimes select a cookbook for the week. I select several meals and put tabs on the pages with the day I plan to make it, and make my shopping list as I go.
When it’s time to cook, I just find the tab for that day. Other times I use various Websites and take a screen shot of the recipe on my iPad. Again, make a shopping list as you plan. A simple list of the recipes and a notation that it’s on the iPad is all that’s needed—your sticky note on the fridge would work for this. Hope this helps someone! – Jan R.
#7) I have a couple binders of loose recipes as well as cookbooks. If I am making a binder recipe, I remove it. I then plan my menu for the week and use a monthly calendar, jotting what I will make for the day and if it’s a cookbook recipe, name and page number. I then compile my shopping list. This has worked extremely well for me and I don’t waste food anymore.
I keep the calendar and recipes on top of my microwave and check it daily to see if food needs to come out of the freezer. This system also uses up one of the many calendars I get towards the end of the year! – Barbara
#8) My husband and I plan a menu each week and purchase our groceries based on that menu. We’ll try a new recipe every so often. – Tracy
#9) I have a “file” of recipes that we like including Points – my “file” is recipes that I write out on individual pages of Jr Legal Pads (mine are purple) – I clip them together by categories – I.e. Soups, Salmon, Chicken, Turkey, etc. Then I can decide which chicken or tilapia or vegetables I want to cook that night – I get WW recipes on line and they are always handy. – Melissa
#10) I use a spiral (so it lays flat) weekly planner book and write what we are having each day including main meal, vegetable etc. I do a week at a time and use pencil in case I make revisions. I use the planner to make my grocery list. I also write beside each menu in what cookbook or website to find the recipes. Love your blog…thank you!!! – Janelle
#11) Martha, first, thank you for all your wonderful recipes. They are really helping me on my journey! As to Meal Planning – Paprika!! (Recipe/Meal Planning App). I upload, or create, all the recipes I love. Each week I’ll choose 6 recipes, usually after choosing my protein from the Freezer as we stock up when there are sales.
Using Paprika, I find a recipe and use the option to select items I need to purchase. I then have my grocery list at my fingertips at the store as well as the list of recipes I’ve chosen for the week.
The hardest part is choosing recipes, the rest is a piece of cake. If I’m having a busy day my husband helps out by grabbing my iPad, asking what is planned, and preps for me! Great way to get kids involved as well. Prop the iPad on the counter and follow directions. – Jill from Scottsdale
#12) I appreciate your tips on meal prepping/planning. Some additional thoughts that have worked for me are to use post-it notes w/each meal, so I can change our daily plans when necessary & hopefully post on fridge – that way I can remember how old the leftovers are if there are any! (when did i cook that meat??)
Also, use of a daily planner w/ space for meals works – again, the post it notes are a help when flexibility is needed for schedule conflicts. If possible, I’ll list the main meals on my shopping list, so as not to forget what extra veggie/sides are needed for each meal – salsa, additional items often served w a specific meal.
A planning calendar is also helpful for reminders – so i can check: do I need to take chicken, etc., from freezer for tomorrows meal? (this year, I’m using Nourished a daily planner for a well-fed life—it works for this w/ ample space for other daily plans, etc. Thanks again, Martha for your support in recipe/planning/prepping & living this healthy life style! – Terrie
#13) I plan my menus and shop for the week on the weekend. I actually write the menus and clip the recipes to my plan. – Esta
#14) Since most of my recipes are on Pinterest, I created a private board titled “What’s for Dinner.” When I prepare my weekly menu, I save the recipes I’m using to my “What’s for Dinner” board. When I’ve prepared the recipe, I remove it from “What’s for Dinner.” If it’s a recipe I would use again, I save it to “My Favorite Recipes” so that I don’t have to search the hundreds of recipes I have pinned. Works for me! – Ramona
#15) Hi Martha – I too had the problem of what did I plan to do with this stuff. Then I found something called What To Eat (affiliate) – a pad of about 60 sheets from a company called Knock Knock. Each sheet is for a week of planning and there’s a magnet on the back to plonk it on the fridge. Great help! I keep the filled in sheets to remind me where I found recipes and how my weight varies depending on what I had to eat that week so it’s a great resource for my weight loss efforts. Although I must tell you that since I got your great ebook bundle, I don’t have far to look! – Jane
#16) I keep a list on the fridge door of what I’m going to make in a particular week. Sometimes I even combine main course with vegetable or fruit options, too. Otherwise, I’d forget what all those groceries were purchased for. – Elaine
#17) I love to meal plan, and am actually pretty good at it…although sometimes summer busyness and then fall sports schedules make it a bit more difficult. At those times of the year I not only have to coordinate my menu and my recipes, but it all has to coordinate with my datebook! 🙂 Anyway… when Im “on”…..this is my routine: Sit down with two tablets… one for menu and one for grocery list, and my date book. I go through my recipes (which I keep in a box or some are in an email folder). I write the days of the week and dates on a tablet (btw I only meal plan for dinners) and what meal I plan to make on each day. As I’m deciding on the menu, I go through the ingredients of each recipe and make a grocery list. Beside each day’s menu plan, I make a note of where to find the recipe… either email (and I make a note of the email location or date so its easier to find) or in my printed recipe box. I pull out the printed ones and put them together in the kitchen so that they are close at hand. I usually plan for two weeks. So my plan might look something like this:
Monday (date) – Chili (email from 3/2/17)
Tuesday (date) – oven chicken (recipe card box)
Wednesday (date) – Martha’s taco salad (printed)
By making the grocery list at the same time as I pick out the menu recipes, I know what I need for each recipe so Im sure to have it on hand and this also allows me to graze through the pantry to see what I already have. Husband also knows what to expect each night for dinner and this enables him to plan his other meals (calorie-wise etc) around what we are having. Sometimes I find I have to “trade days”, but I know I always have what I need to make all the recipes on the menu no matter what day I actually make them. Sounds more complicated than it is… I PROMISW… it takes maybe half an hour or so to do a two week menu WITH grocery list. I put the menu on the fridge with magnets so that it never gets lost. My wish is that I could find a tablet that has the days of the week on it… not necessary, but I think it would be cuter than tablet paper 🙂 that’s my plan. Elsie P. 🙂
#18) I use an Excel sheet with the name of the recipe and the ingredients needed for it! – Caitlin
#19) Martha, when school supplies are on sale, locker size white boards are cheap (or at the dollar store). I have several on my fridge. One for the grocery list, one for the menu and one for the produce in the fridge. – Nancy
#20) I have a dry erase calendar on my fridge and besides having my schedule on it I write cookbook name and page number on day as well. – Ashley
#21) I have a magnetic pad of menu pages. It has the 7 days of the week and plenty of room to write the menu for each day. – Elaine
#22) I purchased a hard cover planner from the Dollar Tree. Daily I write the dish and sides then if I need the recipe source I add that as well. I jot down dishes and their source I want to try in the back. This is my second year doing this and already purchased a 2018 planner. It’s a dollar and saves me so much time! Happy meal planning! – Robin
#23) For me I have to write out a menu and write down the book & page I am using at the time. Or the name of the recipe if it isn’t in a book. I hope this helps. -Cherylee
#24) Pinterest! I save all the recipes I’m planning to cook from online sources in Pinterest.
I also try to group the ingredients for the dish in the fridge when they come home from the grocery store so they are all in one place. – Karen
#25) I use the Notes app on my iPhone to jot down my planned recipes and their location (pretty much same as you, but digital). That way, I always have them with me. (Most of my recipes are also digital, so I can find those fairly easily too) I also keep a “template” list of the type of recipes that work for me, e.g., Easy—baked fish w/broccoli and mushrooms; Soup—pasta fagioli (SNL); New—mushroom stroganoff (Pinterest). My grocery list goes underneath my meal plan in the same note.
Works for me! Love your site & emails:) – Avrial M.
#26) I was struggling with the same thing. What has helped me tremendously is creating a folder on the computer labeled “this week’s recipes”. I download the recipes to that folder and if the recipe is a printed one, I clip it to my menu calendar. – Rebecca
#27) I bought the 12-week meal planner ecookbook by Alisha Hughes from Meal Planning Mommies. It is great 12 weeks with a shopping list which is wonderful. I just make a copy of the list and go shopping for the week. – Roberta R.
#28) I keep a small notebook in my kitchen and write down what I’m cooking each day and where recipe is. I also make note if something needs thawing or extra prep. – Mary Ann C.
#29) Write them in a white board in your kitchen. – Cathleen
#30) Pinterest! The reader could make pins for everything she finds online and make a dinner recipes board. If she finds some recipes in cookbooks or Pinterest isn’t her thing, she could get a monthly calendar and hang it in the kitchen, writing down the recipe name on the date she intends to cook them and where to find them online or in her cookbooks. – Melissa
#31) The app AnyList keeps recipes, adds ingredients you need to a shopping list, and keeps a calendar with the meals on it! You can import recipes from almost any website…I have dozens of yours on it Each part can also be shared with as many other people as you wish, so, if someone else is going to the store, they can already have the list on their device. The app can also be your general place for all your to-do lists. – Lynn K.
#32) I have a meal planning board on Pinterest. I copy 4 to 5 recipes and date the week. By keeping the recipes on the board I can reuse the meal week another time of the year. It works great for me since the recipes are there. – Rachel A.
#33) I have a 3 ring binder filled with recipes I have gathered at WW meetings, on websites and from Facebook groups. They are separated into meal groups. I plan my week by browsing through the recipes and pull out the ones I plan on making. I keep these in a magnetic clip on the fridge. My shopping list includes ingredients for each of these recipes, and I have made notes and comments on each so I know exactly what is going to make me happy. – Susan W.
#34) For the past two years, my husband and I have been making a meal plan for the week – and posting it on the fridge. That way, we can see in advance if we need to take meat out of the freezer, do a little shopping for those things that weren’t in the cupboard, and plan for busy days (crockpot days!) In addition, I use copymethat to keep my recipes in. It “grabs” any recipe posted online, and puts it in a format that I can either keep, or edit after I’ve cooked. It’s been a lifesaver! Many of your recipes are now in that app, and I can just refer to my ipad as I’m cooking. I can either input my own recipes or “copy me that” off the internet. For instance – here’s one of yours, complete with a referral back to your website! https://www.copymethat.com/r/leACwGr/low-fat-lemon-blueberry-oatmeal-muffins/ Oh, and did I mention that there’s a meal planner function, too? Life is good, and I’m back in the healthy eating mode! Thank you for your work in providing yummy recipes and ideas! – Karen Clark
#35) I use a calendar (one of the many you get towards the end of the year) and put the recipe name, cookbook and page if applicable. Or I pull loose recipes and use the above to compile the grocery list. I then refer to the calendar week to keep track of what to cook when. Works great! – Barbara C.
#36) I make a 7 to 10 day list of meals and tape them to the inside of a cupboard door... along with a list of meal ideas. – Michelle B.
#37) There’s a FREE app I use about a gazillion times a day called “Copymethat”. IT IS AWESOME! When I’m on a page with one recipe on it, I just “click” a little button on my browser window, and the app quickly captures the recipe off the page. Then I just click on “View Recipe, and I’m taken to the website where I can view, save, EDIT, ENTER YOUR OWN, and categorize the recipe. It’s saved on the Cloud so I don’t take up space on my computer! You can make Meal Plans and Grocery Lists, too! AND ALL OF THIS IS FREE!!! You can get it for your iPhone, too. Here’s a link to my Community recipes I’ve collected so far and a sample recipe from the app https://www.copymethat.com/recipebox/nancy-campbell/2299560/ – Nancy
#38) I’m a single mom of three ages 9-18 and the Director of a child care center so my brain is constantly fighting the urge to clog with all the information I need to keep track of. For meals, I take a screenshot of recipes I find on here, in Pinterest, etc. If it takes more than one screenshot to include a whole recipe (it’s never more than 3), I edit the pics placing 1,2,3 at the top. I put all my recipes in an album on my phone then use them to take my time to order groceries online (through an app) throughout the week. I pick the groceries up on Saturday and pull the recipes up on my phone (or iPad because they’re synced). No looking for lists I jotted somewhere. It’s all buttoned up in my phone! – Lori P.
#39) I make out menus on Tuesday on a weight watcher menu planning sheet, on Wednesday I check the pantry and make a shopping list, Thursday is Weight Watchers and shopping day. Recipes are printed out and put with menu planning sheet. I do a week at a time. Thank you for your recipes and hints. – K. Hamilton
#40) I am the most disorganized person in the world except when it comes to meal planning. I am a nurse and used to work 7 days on (10-12 hour shifts) and 7 days off. I had to plan! I have a 3-ring binder filled w/ sheet protectors and when I find a good recipe I print it and put it in my “notebook.” Once every couple of weeks I sit down and plan my menus for 10-12 days, make a grocery list and go grocery shopping. Each evening all I have to do is remember what day it is and I know what’s for dinner! Relieves so much stress. – Connie
#41) Hello Martha, My suggestion is …..USE YOUR PHONE!
I use the “notes” app on my phone. Every Saturday night I plan my meals and a week’s worth of LUNCHES and DINNERS in the NOTES app. Then I plan my shopping list around the meal plan and make a SHOPPING LIST in the NOTES app so everything is on my phone when I get to the grocery store. I honestly rarely need a recipe anymore because after 48 years of marriage most of our favorite meals are in my head but someone could easily add the cookbook and page next to the planned meal and refer to the phone each day to see what is on the menu. Honestly, having the ingredients and plans in my phone has been a HUGE time saver! I NEVER forget my list when I go to the stores anymore! We also eat out a lot less because I have the food and the plan in place. We usually do schedule at least one meal a week out with friends and because that is planned it is listed under my dinner section in the NOTES app. I may change my mind or get held up at work and switch what I planned for Monday and Tuesday, but the plan is still in place. We still eat that food, just on a different day. Certain foods are always on my shopping list and the quantities rarely change unless I am getting guests. Fruits, vegetables, eggs, dairy and breads are pretty much repeat purchases each week. The only variation is what is in season and what a particular recipe might require. I also love that as I run out of things like condiments or spices I just put it in my phone and it automatically is put on my next shopping list. My menu plan looks something like this……..
Menu plan 9/22
S. Pot roast, carrots, potatoes, salad
M. Grilled Chicken, grilled zucchini, brown rice
T. Eat out
W. Spaghetti squash, marinara, meatballs
Th. Hamburgers, corn on cob, salad
F. Mexican Shredded beef salad (leftover pot roast)
S. Chicken Parmigiana, spaghetti squash, salad
M. Chef salad, ham, turkey, cheese, lettuce
T. Hot pot roast sandwich (leftover pot roast)
W. Chicken Caesar salad (leftover chicken from Mon.)
Th. Tuna salad/sandwich
F. Meatball Parmigiana in pita pocket (leftover meatballs from Wed.)
S. Eat out
I usually try to cook once and eat it two or three times (if you count lunches) so the marinara from Wednesday will be the same sauce I use on the Chicken Parm on Saturday and the lunch on Friday. The shredded beef on Friday is actually from the pot roast on Sunday. I really try to make enough to get a lunch from each meal. My husband prefers my leftovers for lunch so I cook enough to plan for all of that. But the reality is I am only cooking Sunday and Wednesday this week and grilling (which is easier for me) Monday and Thursday. Planning like this has really lightened my meal prep. Hope this helps someone else! – Denise
#42) I used to have this problem all the time. I started keeping a ½ inch binder on the countertop with the recipes for the week – and the ones everyone really liked that we want to make again. Soon everyone was looking in the binder everyday, so it also got rid of the endless question “what’s for dinner” the second I walk in the door. Now the kids and my husband can move recipes they liked from the “this week” section to the “make again” .. its also easy to rip out the ones that didn’t go over so well. – Kristi B.
#43) For years I have used a wall calendar (although it stays folded and tucked beside my microwave) to plan a week’s worth of meals. It has to have big enough squares to write the name of the recipe (and where to find the recipe). By using a calendar I can plan around evening activities, eating out, traveling, etc. and plan for leftovers. I started this when my daughter was old enough to start helping in the kitchen and would begin prepping supper before I got home from work. If the recipe was on the calendar with the necessary information where to find it, she could locate the recipe (knowing all the ingredients were in the house) and begin working on supper. This has worked great for my family over the years!! – Cindy N.
Do You Struggle With Meal Planning?
We all know how important healthy meal planning is to lasting weight loss success. And how frustrating it can be to actually pull-off week after week.
After offering a Bonus Meal Plan with recipes and grocery list as part of my Slow Cook Yourself Slim eCookbook Bundle, I got tons of requests for more.
So I assembled this Meal Plan eBook to make meal planning a breeze. It provides you with a month (four weeks) of meal plans with WW friendly recipes and grocery lists!
If you prefer a more sophisticated approach to meal planning with more flexibility and tons of options, you might want to check out my WW Friend Kristen from Slender Kitchen’s Meal Planning Made Easy, which I highly recommend!
12-week meal planner ecookbook by Alisha Hughes from Meal Planning Mommies is another great option filled with easy family friendly options. Or for smaller families, you might be interested in Alisha’s Table for Two ebook.
This post contains affiliate links to products I like. When you buy something through one of my Amazon links or other (affiliate links), I receive a small commission that helps support this site. Thank you for your purchase!