Monday, November 11, 2013

Household Binder - Meal Planning

I'm doing a series on our Household Binder. This is Part 2. For Part 1, go here.

The first section of our Household Binder and the one I reference most often is our Meal Planning section. Every Monday, I plan out our meals for the week, create a grocery list, and go shopping. When planning out this part of the binder, my three goals were to tackle meal planning, grocery shopping and managing/tracking our food budget.

1. Meal Planning

The first page of the section has a month calendar for all the dinners I am planning for November. I actually just fill it out one week at a time, since our schedule changes so much, but this helps me see the big picture and makes sure that I don't repeat meals too often. I keep the previous months meal plans as well so that when I'm running out of ideas, I can look back and see what we've done in the past. (Dinner Menu printable via (you guessed it) JDC). I write my plans for dinner in pencil (so I can easily erase it if they change), any dinner plans we have on our schedule in blue (so on Sundays when we have small group, I know that I don't need to plan a dinner since we'll eat there). The sticky note on top of the menu is a list of ready-made freezer meals so that I know what I already have made and on-hand. (Side-note: Freezer meal exchanges are the

When I'm planning out our dinners for the week, I try to do a mix of big meals that take longer to make and some quick, easy (but still so yummy) meals. On Mondays, I like to do a big hearty meal since usually everyone is exhausted after the first day back to the grind. On Fridays, I like to do something easy like breakfast for dinner, or stromboli, or order a pizza since I'm usually exhausted and we want something low-key. I keep my handy-dandy recipe binder on hand so that I have plenty of easy, tried-and-true recipes when I'm making my meal plan.

Recipe binder (one I already had on hand - Martha Stewart from Staples)

Recipes broken down into 10 tabs - Chicken, Beef, Other Main Dishes, Vegetarian, Sides, Breakfast, Bread, Desserts, Appetizers, & Drinks

I decided to make all my recipes look the same so I just typed them all up in MS Word in the same format. Here's one of my tried and true favorite recipes. 

2. Grocery Shopping

Once I have all my meals planned out, it is quite simple to make a grocery list. I first take an inventory of what we have in our pantry and fridge. I usually know most of it already but there are always a few ingredients I'm not sure of. I use this "Food Staples Checklist" to check for essentials and quickly add anything that we have run out of to my grocery list. (As you can tell, we are "health freaks" - yes that is sarcasm.)
We also keep a running grocery list on our chalkboard in our kitchen that I can also easily throw onto my grocery list. We try to write things down here whenever we run out so that we don't forget to buy more. It's really effective and makes my life so much easier. (As you can see, we both use this list :) Rob in the manly all-caps handwriting and me in the smaller lower-case :) )

Lastly, I just look through the meals I've chosen for the week and make sure I have all the ingredients and/or sides that I need for each meal. Then I just write it all down on my grocery list, again via JDC. Her grocery list printable is super helpful because it has it all broken down into categories to make shopping easier and quicker.

I keep my grocery lists in the front pocket so that they are easily accessible. 

3. Budgeting

We have a monthly grocery budget that we stick to but I also try to set an amount per week just to help me evenly spread our budget out for the whole month. So the most important thing that I do to track that is at the end of the week - and sometimes in the middle of the week as well if we are wanting to change up our plans and go out to eat (because let's be honest, momma doesn't want to cook on the weekends). So at the end of every week (or whenever we are looking to see if we have extra money), I go through our dinner menu and write down how much we spent on food each day with a green pen. Then I total up the whole week and write that at the end of the week. I keep a total amount spent and total amount left at the bottom of the page so that I can also see the big picture. This has been really helpful in curbing our "splurging streaks" and to stay within our budget. It also helps me see what Rob has needed to spend on lunches/coffees/dinners for his ministry (since that comes out of our food budget as well) so that I can factor it into our spending for the whole month.

This is what the meal planning page looks like by the end of the month. (This was October.) Fun Fact: I LOVE Tuesdays. Dollar Tacos at Qdoba and Dollar Hot Dogs at Snoopy's. That makes for a really inexpensive break from cooking for me.

On the back side of the pocket dividers, I also tuck my grocery shopping receipts so I can do price comparisons. I keep a food comparison list that is especially helpful at the end of the month when I have like $5 left for 10 days :)

Here's an example of one page of the Food Comparison Pricelist (I think it's about 5-6 pages in total. I use it mostly for the things that we buy on a regular basis.)
That's all I have for the food section - what a doozy! Up next, Home Maintenance.


  1. nicole, my biggest takeaway from this blog is JDC. Holy COW how did i not know about them before?! love it. thanks for sharing :)


    1. alex - seriously she is the best. love her style and love blog! miss you!! xoxo


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