Make your month a little easier & much more flavorful by creating a DIY meal planning calendar!
Now that kids are back in school and the holiday season is right around the corner, meal planning helps organize my day-to-day schedule in a realistic way. I am a big fan of meal planning a month in advance- it not only saves time, but it also saves money! I first create a plan on computer’s Notes program (so that it also syncs to my phone) and link all of my recipes so they’re readily available. Since I am a super visual person, I also like to have the meal calendar posted in the kitchen. Plus, I find that it cuts down on whining if the kids can see what we’re eating ahead of time. And yes, meal planning does take a bit of extra time up front, but in the end it will save you money, time, and effort (and who doesn’t want that?!)
With helpful, fun and DIY meal planning, you’ll be more productive in no time!
- Large Piece of Paper: I used a roll of white kraft paper , but black kraft paper also works
- Erasable Writing/Drawing Tools: OOLY’s Unmistakeables Erasable Crayons or Unmistakeables Erasable Colored Pencils
- Non-Erasable Writing/Drawing Tools: Rainbow Sparkle Glitter Markers or Chalk-O-Rama Dustless Chalk Crayons
- Notes on a Roll Sticky Note Set
Step #1: Draw Your Calendar
Using a pencil, draw a calendar grid on a large piece of paper. Trace your grid with the non-erasable tools of your choice. Then I used tape from OOLY’s Notes on a Roll Sticky Note Set to outline the calendar and the rainbow markers to draw in the grid. Label the top of the calendar with the days of the week. And don’t worry too much about getting the lines perfect, you’ll be covering them up!
Step #2: Add Peelable Sticky Tape
Roll out any size of sticky note tape and add a strip alongside one of the calendar’s margins. I find that using this helps me keep track of any ingredients that I forgot to get for meals that week, and also makes it easy for me to just unstick the list and bring it with me to the store.
Step #3: 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/to-do’s, I suggest assigning each family member a different color and then writing in their activities. Now you are ready to add in all of your delicious planned meals!
Once your meals are in the calendar, trim the paper to the edges of the calendar. You’ll then have a current calendar of all your meals and can easily adjust dates, meals, and activities each month.
Step #4: Picking the Meals
- Choose some themes. It helps to (almost) always plan to make brinner (breakfast-dinner) one night 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 the regular activities (i.e. weekly sports games) and included any special events. To get the kids more involved, have them draw in (using their favorite color) their special activities. This step allows me to get a sense of how much time I will have to cook on a particular night, or whether I need to cook at all! For example, if I know there’s a night where I will be short on time, I will either plan a slow-cooker meal, something quick, leftovers, or even to eat at a restaurant.
- Variety, Variety, Variety! Throughout the week I try to switch up which proteins I use, cooking techniques, and cuisine styles. 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. I also plan for a mix of grilling, sautéing, baking, etc. To keep our kids adventurous eaters I find that variety is key!
- Try not to 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 accordingly depending on schedules changes, 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!
- There’s always room for leftovers. I am a HUGE lover of leftovers. Even if I have to slightly tweak them to get a second meal, leftovers are one of the biggest (and tastiest) time savers! I eat them almost exclusively for lunch during the week too. To make sure I have leftovers, I pick one or two meals and double the recipe.
Hopefully these tips will help you and your family get organized to make everyday life a bit simpler!
Author of Banish Boredom: Activities to Do with Kids That You’ll Actually Enjoy
Content Creator & Herder of Cats at Not-So-SAHM