I’m here today because I have been in a huge dinner making rut! The more I talk to other people the more I realize I’m not alone. I tried a few different options and routines to get me out of the rut but nothing really worked well. So I decided to make my own little Dinner Meal Planner. I’ve been using it for a few weeks now and it’s really helped me be better prepared for dinner, try new recipes, have the ingredients available, and include my family in the dinner making process.
The biggest obstacle for me is that I feel like I make the same meals all the time. Or that I get on a roll making good dinners and then life gets busy and I just forget to take something out, or I don’t have all the ingredients I need – and then I’m scrambling. My Dinner Planner isn’t anything fancy or high-tech. It contains a monthly menu-at-a-glance page where I can see what I planned for each day. After that, I arrange the recipes in the order I’ll be making them. Of course there are some days that we need to change it up a bit and other days that I’m just not cooking. But it works for me our busy lives and I think it might work for you too. I created some freebies for you too – see the links below. These have helped keep me organized and they look pretty in my binder too. bonus.
To receive ALL my free stuff, including these dinner menu templates, just subscribe to receive my posts via email. It’s easy, there’s no commitment and you get access to lots of free stuff. Click here to sign up. If you’re already a subscriber, you should have received an email with a password to access these fun freebies already.
My Dinner Planner consists of the following items:
1. 3-ring binder – I can make changes, move things around and the binder is also durable enough to use everyday. I bought this Yoobi binder at Target and the bright color just makes me happy.
2. Sheet protectors – these hold all my dinner recipes (I have about 40). This planner is just for dinner recipes – I keep my other recipes separate so it doesn’t get too overwhelming. I made it very simple and just taped my recipe cards onto paper or print recipes from online sources and insert them into sheet protectors. I have some dinners that I really don’t have a recipe for and in that case, I just write the meals on a piece of paper and insert it into a sheet protector. Then I place the recipes in the order I will be making them. That way I know what I’m making and I’m prepared – plus my kids know to flip through the planner to see what’s for dinner too. The sheet protectors are great for messy food prep and you can still take the recipes out and edit as needed.
3. Grocery lists – I made these pretty blank sheets that I keep tucked in the front pocket of the binder. This makes it convenient for keeping track of needed ingredients and my family knows these are here and they include their requests too.
4. Monthly menu at a glance – I created this blank monthly chart where I fill in the meals for the month. At first I thought this would be too overwhelming to plan a whole month in advance but since my recipes are already in order in my binder, I just write the meals in as they appear. I definitely make changes, but this a good place to start!
5. Take-out contact card – We all need a few nights off, so this card is a good reference for those much-needed take-out nights.
6. Post-it page markers – I love these to write any notes about a certain recipe, what I served as a side dish, or what we liked/didn’t like. They can easily be transferred to a new date if necessary (not crossing out, or eraser searching necessary!). I also use these on my monthly planner sheet to remind myself of any upcoming special events like a party or holiday. Again, pretty fun colors that make me happy!
7. Pens, Pencils & Paper clips – keep a few of these in your binder for your lists, edits and special notes. Yoobi pens & paper clips are from Target too!
Click here to receive all the dinner menu templates*: the cover design, the monthly menu template, the grocery list and the take-out cards. And then have fun creating your own personal Dinner Planner that will hopefully help you with your dinner prep too.
*To get my freebies, you must be a subscriber to my blog. If you’re not yet a subscriber to my blog, it’s easy to do, there’s no commitment and you get access to lots of free stuff. Enter your email address in the box on the right (above the SUBSCRIBE button). Click the SUBSCRIBE button then follow the instructions fully. Be sure to confirm your subscription – and then you’ll have access to all my free stuff! If you’re already a subscriber, you should have received an email with a password to access these fun freebies already.
While my no-so-fancy Dinner Planner can’t take away the effort that comes with creating amazing dishes, it can definitely make meal prep a little bit easier. I’ve also noticed having this Planner makes me more interested in finding new recipes. I just print out the recipe, insert it into my binder, include it on my monthly chart and write any needed ingredients on my grocery list. A friend of mine just recently organized a “What’s for Dinner” Facebook group that’s been such a great resource too. Lots of those recipes are in my Planner now!
I hope you enjoy my Dinner Planner and maybe it can help you with the often dreaded task of making dinner. It really does help me keep on task and aid to optimize my life!