This meal plan system has worked well for me. I started using this meal plan system when I was first married to Roman before we had any kids and it has served me well as my family has grown. I learned it years ago at a church women’s meeting. It is simple and really easy to do. It makes meal planning simple and keeps me from getting in a rut.
How to use this Meal Plan System:
- Get index cards and an index card holder to put them in.
- On the front of the cards write the name of the meal and the recipe.
- On the back of the card, write the complete shopping list.
- Create as many cards as you can – Try to think of as many meals as you can and that your family likes and make cards for all of them. I have about 100 meal cards now, but I started with 20.
- Laminate the cards so that they are more durable and easier to use. This is optional but I am really glad my cards are laminated because they are still good after all these years. I love my laminator and use it almost every day.
- Divide your meal plan cards into different sections to make it easier to pick a variety of meals. I divide my cards in the box with index card dividers by the type of food: Mexican, Italian, Asian, American, and comfort food. I try to choose at least one meal from each of these sections each week. Inside each section are sections for beef recipes, chicken, pork, vegetarian and other types of recipes like slow cooker and pressure cooker.
- Include lunch and breakfast recipe cards. I also have lunch and snacks sections. I usually choose three to four lunch choices and two to three snack choices per week.
- Make a section called Untested for recipes you want to try. If I find a good recipe that I want to try I put it in a section titled untested. I try to make at least one meal plan card from the untested section per month. After we eat the meals from the untested section my family gets to vote on whether or not they want to have it again. If my family likes it, I add it to the regular selection that it belongs in. If my family doesn’t like it, I discard that card.
- Each week, pick 5-7 cards with the meals you want to cook that week. I get out the number of cards that I need and that is my menu for the week.
- Take the cards you pick to the store as your shopping list. The shopping list for each meal is on the back of the cards so I just bring the cards to the store. If you laminated the cards, you can use a dry erase marker to mark the lists as you shop. (You can also mark out duplicates before you shop to make it easier)
- Only pull cards for the days you will be cooking that week. If you know that we will be eating out or eating at a friend’s house or something like that I don’t pull card for that day.
- Get your kids involved. I let my kids choose the meals they want to cook if they are scheduled to cook for that week. My kids tend to like to try new recipes from the untested section.
- To save money, choose meals that require ingredients you already have at home and ingredients that are on sale. See this post for other ways to save money on your groceries.
- Prep your ingredients ahead to save time. See this post on my tips for prepping your ingredients ahead of time.
This meal plan system is really great and it is easy to adapt to any family. It requires a little bit of time to start but a couple of hours in the beginning will save you so much time later! If you want a ready made meal planning system or you are looking for a specific diet, I also love emeals.
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