To help keep our family organized I like to gather recipes, make lists and plan out every meal for a week's worth of eating. Once I even shared an extremely basic free printable meal planner.
But I get bored easily so I created another one planner and then another one after that.
Before I knew it, I'd created not only meal planning printables, but also several other kitchen printables to help keep our kitchen organized.
Which led to a WHOLE KITCHEN BINDER!
But first, the why of meal planning for me…
We have three kids. I run a business from home, Dean works in the city. We homeschool. Everyone has different likes and dislikes when it comes to meal times. We even have a few food allergies and intolerance issues.
When I fly by the seat of my pants and don't plan out our family's meals, we tend to eat out, which isn't good for us.
And we spend more on groceries because we pop into the store just to pick up a cooked chicken, a frozen (dairy free, gluten free, expensive) pizza or some other quick no-prep extra something. Which always leads to just one more thing in the cart. The next thing we know we're way over budget for the week.
Also, Dean and I tend to gain weight when I don't meal plan. Bummer.
But when I plan our meals for the week, it's almost magic!
We keep the grocery budget down.
We eat healthier.
And I'm happier all around because I'm not panicking over what to make everyone for dinner. (Or that we just dropped $60-80 on another freaking unplanned dinner out!)
How I Plan Meals with My Kitchen Binder
In order for me to plan meals, I need to know what we already have available in both the pantry and the freezer.
Before I started using the Pantry and Freezer Inventory sheets that I created, I would constantly forget what we had. The pantry was sort of easy to check, but the big freezer is down in the basement so checking that required a little more effort on my part.
Effort I often didn't make.
But the inventory sheets make it much easier and each one gets updated as I'm making our weekly meal plan.
I also keep a grocery list nearby to jot down items we need as I'm making our meal plan.
Basically my meal planning process goes like this:
1. Check the freezer and pantry to see what we have.
2. Check our master meal lists to see what everyone likes.
3. Start writing meals onto the menu/meal planner sheet for the week.
4. Jot down items we need from the store as I go.
5. Completely fill in meal planner for all meals and snacks.
6. Post the meal plan somewhere easy to see like the fridge or the bulletin board.
I've also started to organize about 20 years worth of recipes using My Recipes printables. That's a job and a half. But it will be totally worth it in the end, I'm sure!
If you'd like to make use of the kitchen printables I created for our family, click here to buy the complete set of kitchen binder files for only $10!
Do you meal plan for your family? How does your process go?
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