Family Meal Planning Calendar
I am a big fan of planning family meals an entire month at a time and every time I share our monthly meal plan (you can find them all here!), I get lots of questions about how I get it done. Yes, it takes a little extra time up front, but I find that it saves me so much time, money, and effort in the end.
It lets me make sure that our meals match up with our schedule in a realistic way—a particularly important goal as our kids get older and their extracurricular activities grow right along with them. And pooling a large number of recipes helps me have a strong list to pull from and keep our menu balanced.
I plan initially on my computer’s Notes program (so that it also syncs to my phone) and link all my recipes so I have them at the ready. But I am a super visual person so I LOVE to have our monthly schedule posted in the kitchen too. Plus, I find that it cuts down on whining if the kids can check ahead of time to see what I’m serving up! So I tried out a bunch of OOLY’s supplies to make our kitchen calendar. Check out how I made it and read through for some of my monthly meal planning tips at the bottom!
To make a Family Meal Planning Calendar, you’ll need:
– large piece of paper –
– erasable writing/drawing tools
– non-erasable writing/drawing tools
Draw Your Calendar
Start by drawing a calendar grid on the large piece of paper with a pencil. Don’t worry too much about getting the lines perfect, you’ll be covering them up! Go over your grid with whatever non-erasable tools you like. Then I used tape from the Sticky Note Set to outline our calendar and drew in the grid with gel crayons. Label the top of the calendar with the days of the week.
Add Peel-able Sticky Tape
Add a strip of Sticky Note Tape (roll out any size) alongside one of the calendar’s margins. I like to use this to keep track of any ingredients I forgot to get for meals that week. That way you can just un-stick the list and take it with you to the store.
Fill In Calendar Dates
Using an erasable writing tool, fill in the dates of each day of the current month. If you want to add important family activities, I suggest assigning each family member a different color and then writing in their activities. Then you are ready to add in all of your planned meals.
Once you’ve added everything, trim your paper to the edges of the calendar. You’ll then have a current calendar of meals you can change each month to adjust dates, meals, and activities!
So … how do you get the meals!? Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Pick a few regular themes. It helps to (almost) always plan to make brinner (breakfast-dinner) one night each week. Some families like Taco Tuesday or a Rice Bowl night. Whatever you’re into, pick a few themes and count on them each week.
- Plan alongside your family calendar. At the beginning of each month, I sit down with our monthly calendar and make sure I’ve noted all of our regular activities (e.g., weekly sports activities) and planned special events.To get the kids more involved you could even have then draw in their special activities! That way I have a sense of how much time I’ll have to cook on a particular night and whether I need to at all. On nights where I know I’ll be short on time, I either plan a slow cooker meal, a quick one, leftovers, or a night out.
- Make sure you have variety. I try to vary our proteins, cooking techniques, and cuisine throughout the week. For a good balance I aim for beef, chicken, and fish recipes and then try to add in pork, turkey, or lamb every now and then. Also I plan for a mix of grilling, sautéing, baking, etc. To keep our kids adventurous eaters I find that all the variety helps!
- Don’t be overly rigid. Just because you planned for a particular meal on a particular night doesn’t mean you need to stick to it. I review each week as it comes up and adjust whatever I need to depending on changes in schedule, how everyone is feeling, etc. Having a month of meals pooled ahead of time means it’s easier to shift things around — just erase and move as needed!
- Plan for leftovers. I am a HUGE lover of leftovers. Even if I have to slightly tweak them to get a second meal, they are always a big time saver. I eat them almost exclusively for lunch during the week too. To make sure I get them, I pick one or two meals each week and double the recipe when I cook it.
Hopefully these tips will help you and your family get organized to make everyday life a bit simpler!
Author of Banish Boredom
Content Creator and Herder of Cats at Not-So-SAHM