I have found the ultimate quickest and most fun way to meal plan!
You will need:
magnetic sharpie from Office Depot
laminated paper pasted on fridge
super strong tiny magnets from Container Store
(1) Write all your recipes down on index cards as succinctly as possible. That means T for tablespoon, tsp for teaspoon, oo for olive oil. So on. You’re a court reporter, shorten common ingredients! ALL recipes need to be written on an index card, even ones you know by heart.
(2) Now open your notebook to a middle page. List every single tried-and-true recipe (not all the ingredients, just the name of the recipe – keep it brief). NO recipe that has not been tried should be listed in your notebook. Keep new recipes in rotation on index cards, not in your notebook.
(3) Once you have all your recipes listed (chicken casserole, saimin embellished, beef stew, southern green beans, pumpkin pie, so on), now it is time to categorize. Either flip to the back of the notebook or front, but make the MAIN COURSE category the EASIEST page to flip to, as this is the one you will need the most. Make the side dishes the second easiest page to flip to.
You will have: Main courses, Crock-Pot main courses, sides (bread, vegetable recipes), smoothies, desserts, soups/salads, so on.
(4) Now under MAIN COURSE, you should have a line for each recipe. Next to beef stew write ALL the ingredients that you typically ALWAYS need for beef stew and then give a few spaces and list the items that you normally don’t need, but may need to check. FEW ingredient amounts will be listed here. Ingredient amounts are for your index cards. You know that beef stew needs 1 lb of beef and 1 lb of carrots, so there’s no sense of listing it.
So here’s an example:
beef stew – potato, carrot, beef | beef stew packet? celery?
pork chop – pork chops, green on, apple | teri sauce? pb?
Now finish your lists. You should have at least 20 main courses that you like. If not, visit my cooking section of the blog.
(5) So as the week progresses, you will run out of items. You will write them with a sharpie on to your laminated paper on the fridge. From your notebook, you can make your complete grocery list AND meal plan. You don’t need to grab out a single index card until you come back from the store. Jot down your grocery list (while categorizing it). Then go to the fridge and add the remaining items that you’ve run out during the week on to that list. Go to store.
When you come back from the store and have put everything away, you will open up your notebook and pick those 5 meals that you decided to cook that week. Grab those 5 index cards out. Put them on the fridge with your tiny magnets in the order that you want to cook them. So you line up your index cards in a row; this is why it’s important to write down even the recipes you know by heart. If you plan to cook a dessert or make a smoothie or side, have those index cards out as well. Don’t need to assign them into the row, but just keep them in plain sight so you don’t FORGET to make them and waste certain ingredients.
For sides you make often, make them all on one index card. For instance, boil egg – 13 min. Rice – 45 min. So on. You don’t need one index per card unless it’s a more specialized ones like bacon brussel sprouts, homemade wheat rolls, or Southern green beans. However, if you make southern green beans often, put it on your Sides index card that will always be kept on the fridge.
See my post on efficient grocery shopping.
I really enjoy this method of meal planning. Barely anything wastes, and it makes meal planning quick and easy. No shuffling through index cards. I do want to note that I keep my index cards organized in a binder according to category. That’s really straightforward, so it does not warrant an extra post.