Dinners have been the bane of my existence for a long time. Not only is it frustrating trying to decide what to have for dinner, but if you’re budget is small and you appreciate a home-cooked and nourishing meal, you also have to make that meal you’ve finally decided on happen.
There have been countless times I’ve just gone too long without food and become too crabby with the whole process that I’ll throw in the towel and pop a frozen pizza in the oven. While they are easy and delicious, I can’t pretend a processed slab of white bread and cheese with a couple “vegetables” is the most nourishing of meals. Once in a while, sure, bring on the pizza, but the dinners we share together now will play a huge part in developing meal-time habits for my daughter’s future. I want to provide her with the nourishment she needs now, as well as healthy eating habits for the rest of her life.
So. Something had to change, and just deciding to “eat better” wasn’t cutting it.
We needed a plan.
We needed a meal plan. A weekly one, which would hopefully save us time, money, energy, frustration and health.
I found this fabulous idea to make a weekly meal-planning board while cruising Pinterest. Bingo! So I set out to recreate my own menu-board that would suit our family’s own unique needs and tastes.
Benefits of Weekly Meal Planning
Since making and using this board, I’ve noticed some pretty positive results.
First, coming up with ideas for what to eat is easy when a wide range of tasty ideas are at your fingertips to flip through. Unlike Pinterest or cooking sites, all the recipes are either ones you’ve tried before or looked at and liked enough to jot down a couple things on a menu card.
Worried you won’t like a meal plan because you might not “feel like” Wednesday’s dish when the time comes? No big deal – simply unclip that dish and either switch it into another day or toss it back in the holder. If nothing’s going bad, it doesn’t have to be a serious commitment.
Another reason I’m loving this board is that making a sticky-note shopping list with the method below is very easy and efficient. Bringing an organized list to the store helps me focus on getting the items I really need, while avoiding the extras. This, in turn, also saves money on the total grocery bill, as does minimizing trips to the store by doing one big shop each week, instead of many smaller trips where I leave with unnecessary extras.
Here’s the best bonus: we actually have meals – good ones! With an idea for dinner already decided and all the ingredients ready and waiting, it’s much easier to get dinner going and done at a decent time.
How To Make A Weekly Meal Planning Board
Most of the materials I found at Michael’s, and what I didn’t I picked up from Walmart or found around my home. Here’s what I used.
A large foam board
Clothes pins – 7 regular sized, 7 small
Coloured index cards
Glue-gun with glue
Black sharpie pen
First I started by pizzazing up the board by drawing and writing a sort-of border on it.
Then I labeled the regular-sized clothes pins with the days of the week.
Next I cut the index cards into 3, and played around with what meal ideas I would use and tried to come up with categories. I wanted a coded colour scheme to help me organize and quickly search for what recipe I was looking for. I ended up with grouping the meal items in categories of Crock Pot (mains), Mains (non-crock pot), Starch-y sides, and Vegetable sides. I put all the crock pot recipes on blue index cards, including side dishes, so I could easily see that I didn’t double-book my only crock pot with a main and a side dish on the same day.
On the back of each meal idea card, I wrote where to find the recipe for the dish, as well as what items I’d need to buy from the grocery store. I left the basic items that I usually keep in stock (salt, oil, rice, etc.). On the slow cooker cards I also included the time it would take on high and low settings.
To make holders to keep the meal idea cards in, I used cardboard tubes from our recycling. I cut them into smaller pieces, traced and cut out bottoms for them, and used clear tape to secure the bottoms on. I made 6 in all – one for pens, one for extra cards, and four for the different categories of meal ideas with labels written on them. I put the crock pot side ideas (on blue) at the back of their respective category.
I was going to Modge Podge some fancy paper into the rolls, but I ended up liking them the same colour as the clothes pins, so left them for now.
For the mains, I used different coloured pens to write the meal idea on the cards, and wrote up a quick reference guide for which coloured writing meant what.
I glued the clothes pins and holders onto the board with my hot glue gun. To the left I glued the regular-sized clothes pins, labeled with the days of the week in order. I left enough space to clip the mains menu cards, then glued the smaller clothes pins beside to clip the side dish cards to.
I had originally planned on gluing the sticky-note blocks to the board, but was somewhat hesitant that that’s what I really wanted, so instead I left them off for now and simply stuck one of each colour onto the board.
These were for use as a categorized shopping list, which would be easy to stick to the back of my phone or wallet, and shop by section. If shopping with my partner, we could even divide and conquer by each taking a different colour and getting the items from that section. Red=meat, green=produce, yellow=dry goods, and blue=dairy. After shopping, I realized that it would be more convenient to group all the freezer/cold goods together, so now I use blue for this.
Here’s the whole board turned out. Now, it could certainly be made prettier with the right colours, paints, papers or embellishments, but I’m in a busy point of my life and was going for the simple, quick and easy approach on this useful little tool.
Another bonus of this project is that it became a mini renovation of sorts for my pantry, as I needed somewhere to keep the board, and reorganized a space in need of some attention. This is my sad pantry wall in it’s pre-menu planning board state. You may notice I’m very much in need of an oven mitts update. Suggestions for any great ones?
And here it is now, more orderly, attractive and useful than it was before.
Do you use a weekly meal plan? Comment with your favourite recipe, and if you have a foodie blog I’d love to look and get some more inspiration!