Now that both adults work from home, and we have two kids under the age of four at the house all the time, plus one, if not two, of the older kids here for most mealtimes, dinner organization has become imperative. If I don’t have a meal plan, we spend entirely too much money on take out and convenience food. Not only is this bad for our budget, it is horrible for our health! When you are recovering from having a baby, the last thing you want is dinners that are destined to make you gain weight.
Of course, I can’t just plan my meals out on paper. First, I would never remember to do it. Second, I would promptly lose my grocery list. Third, my recipes are all online. Instead I use a combination of Google Calendar, Remember the Milk, and Open Office Calc.
I use Google Calendar to actually plan my monthly meals. This idea is directly from the Simple Mom website. I created a separate calendar solely for meal planning and plan two weeks at a time, then repeat those two weeks in order to have a complete month’s worth of meals planned ahead. You could use any calendar program to do this, but both my Blackberry and Evolution calendars will sync with Google Calendar. That way, I can access my meal plan on my Blackberry, through my email program and on the web. (Yeah, that may be overkill, I know).
My meal list is set up in an Open Office spreadsheet. There is a worksheet for both the meals themselves and a list of pantry items.
As you can see, I separate my meals by the main ingredient. I also have a column for the list of groceries needed for each meal and a link to the recipe, if I need one.
When I put the meal on the calendar, I copy the grocery list and the menu link to the description section. This makes it easier to create the grocery list.
The pantry list is also organized by type. I use this to quickly see what spices, etc. I have in the pantry so I don’t put them on the grocery list and end up with more of something than I can use.
This brings me to my grocery list. The grocery list is created in Remember the Milk. This application also syncs with my Blackberry which ensures that I will actually remember it when I go to the grocery store.
RTM automatically sorts each list alphabetically. Since I like my grocery list sorted by section, I place the section in front of each item. This makes the grocery shopping go quickly which is necessary when you are shopping with an infant or a toddler.
Pantry items are added to the grocery list as soon as I run out of them. Twice a month, on the 1st and the 15th, I open RTM and Google calendar and create my grocery list. All I have to do is look at each meal and copy the grocery list for each meal. If more than one meal is going to use a certain item, I note the number of meals on the grocery list. For example, “chicken breasts (3 meals).” That way I know how much to buy and don’t run out before the next grocery trip.
If your at loss for what to make for dinner there are plenty of blogs and websites that will help you out:
I’m an Organization Junkie posts a menu list each week. Check out the Mr. Linky lists for more blogs with weekly meal plans.
Meals for You has a list of meal plans sorted into categories.
What’s For Dinner is all about creating a great meal plan