I once had dreams of becoming a super organized, always-on-top-of-things mom with a place for everything and everything in its place. Every January 1 would bring checklists galore of things to accomplish in the coming year…and around June or July I’d get discouraged that less than 10% of my list had actually come to fruition. I’ve since come to the realization that I simply am not that person, no matter how hard I try! My house will never be immaculate, my clutter will never be completely gone, and my to-do list will never be done. Sigh. A “Pinterest-perfect” home is just not not in my future! That doesn’t mean I can’t try, though. I just have to have more healthy, realistic, achievable expectations for myself and my family. It’s certainly okay to dream, but I’ve learned to make more “bite sized” goals that I know will work for my family.
If you’re looking for a small, achievable goal to help get your family a bit more organized this year, I think this list of 10 unique meal planner ideas will really help you! Meal planning is something we ALL need a bit of extra help with, and if you can find a system that works for you it’s something that will help you week in and week out, all year long. I’ve compiled a bunch of meal planners that are all very different – so hopefully you can find one in here that sounds like it will work for your family’s needs.
I actually created this flexible meal planning board two years ago as part of our family “command center,” and it’s still going strong! (If you’re looking to create an entire command center of organization, you’ll want to check out my post on how to make a Command Center that works for your family!) I tried several different meal planning methods, but ultimately they didn’t work for us because I didn’t like how they all had you assign specific meals to specific days. I preferred having a bit more freedom to choose what to cook rather than having to stick to a regimented schedule. But at the same time, I needed some help with my grocery shopping to make sure I had enough ingredients on hand to actually throw together something for dinner each night. Essentially, the way this works is you have a pile of tags printed with your family’s favorite meals – then you pick out 6 (or more) of them when you’re making your grocery list to be sure to purchase any needed ingredients for those meals. The tags go up on the board, and then when it comes time to cook dinner instead of aimlessly staring into the fridge or pantry I can just pick one of the tags on the board and know that I have what I need to make that meal!
This method has worked so well for us that I created a flexible meal planning binder to go along with our board – it contains a printed list of our dinner “repertoire” which is organized by main ingredient and also lists pantry staples and other ingredients needed to make the meal, so it’s super easy to look through when I’m sitting down to make our grocery list. It also includes a pantry inventory to keep track of what we already have on hand, along with several other helpful pages. It’s available for free HERE, if you’d like to try it for your family!
If you’re looking for a really simple, visual way to just keep track of your planned meals for the week, this printable menu from The Crafted Sparrow may be just the trick. You can print individual pages to plan for each week, or just print one and put it in a frame to use as a dry erase board and reuse it week after week. And you can choose from 4 different fun colors!
If you’ve already got a good thing going with a spiral bound planner that you love (maybe you have an Erin Condren – I love mine!) Christine from Where the Smiles Have Been has a great printable insert that you can use inside your planner – she even shows you how to laminate it and punch it to fit in your spiral planner. That way you’ve got everything together in one place! (And there’s a to-do list for the other side!)
My good friend Lauren over at The Thinking Closet created The Menu Planner to Rule Them All – and it’s pretty amazing! She printed and laminated little tags for each meal in her dinner repertoire and included ingredients and cook time on the back. Not to mention it’s super cute – who wouldn’t love to have this hanging in their kitchen?
If you want a simpler DIY to hang in your kitchen, August Joy shows you how to take a large frame and a sharpie to create a quick and easy dry erase menu board. It’s a great way to visually remind yourself what you have planned for dinner!
If you are a household binder person, a simple laminated calendar may be just what you need to add to your binder and stay on top of meal planning. The Polka Dot Posie shows off her simple dry erase calendar as part of her family planner binder.
If you’re not looking to do any type of DIY, I really like this neat menu board available on Etsy. Super easy to write down your meal on an index card and clip it up on the board for all to see. This would be a great piece of a command center, too!
Here’s an interesting take on your meal planning that’s more of a method than an actual physical meal planner – Peanut Blossom tells you all about how assigning general food “themes” to each day of the week has worked really well for her family.
I like the idea of using post-it notes to plan your meals! No tags to print or messy dry erase markers to use – just write on a sticky note and move it around to plan your meals within this binder. Home Made by Carmona has the full run-down.
And I saved the most intense, Type A organized meal planning idea for last – if you are someone that likes to have every single detail accounted for, you’ll love this meal planner! Not only is this a monthly meal planner rather than just a weekly, it is color coded by food type, has pre-printed tags for each meal, plans the side dishes to go along with each meal, AND includes the recipe cards (color coded as well!) right on the meal planner. Whew! Head over to RobbyGurl’s Creations for more details.
So, what do you think? Can you adapt one of these meal planner ideas to work for your family? Or if you already have one that works for you, leave a comment and tell me about it!