Friday, September 30, 2011

Where I Give You My Super Secret Meal Planning Strategy...Because I Was Told To

For quite some time Life with Baby Donut has been asking me to give the details about my meal planning strategy. In particular, she was interested in knowing more about my recipe binders.

The binders started actually as one binder, and it was used to simply hold recipes I tore out of magazines. For some time, I had boxes of food magazines with flags attached. Shockingly they weren't used. Also shockingly, I had zero room for them.

So I just tore them all out and stuffed them in the binder.

Shockingly, them just sitting in the binder also didn't lead to much success in meal planning. So I finally got it together and organized the binder by food type (poultry, beef, pasta, etc).

Once I had the organization, I felt liberated! I started reading more and more magazines and filing more and more recipes and all of a sudden the one binder was overflowing. It was challenging to do meal planning for different things: when I wanted to have a healthy meal versus when we were entertaining or just wanted to indulge a little.

And thus my idea was born: I would arrange one "healthy" binder and one "entertaining" binder. I defined healthy as 400 calories or under.

My process goes like this:

Find a binder. I really like a bigger 3-ring binder, and I think it's important for it to have pockets for some items that won't do well with three-hole punches.

Make your own categories. I chose to organize mine by type of meat because more often than not, I look in our freezer to see what we have extra. You may wish to sort by entree, time, slow cooker recipes, whatever floats your boat.

Make tabs for that category. All I used to make the tabs were manila folders that I tore in half.  
As I go through magazines, I yank out recipes and put them in a folder I keep in the binder until I can organize them.

My Folder 'O Recipes

My "Tabs"

I punch holes in them with my handy dandy three-hole puncher and VIOLA!

Did I mention I need a new binder? I kind of overstuffed this one. So many healthy recipes, YAY!

Then when I am ready to meal plan, I go through the recipes and just put them here on my handy dandy recipe holder (which, incidentally, comes from the husband and I kind of want to replace it).

I have to say, our three-week meal plan was pretty ideal. We purchased all of the non-perishable items and then just shopped for the fresh stuff the week of. Game-changer, people! We've wasted significantly less food and while we certainly went out to eat a few times in there, for the most part knowing we had a meal more or less waiting for us at home made a difference.

One new thing I did with the meal plan was also pick a veggie side. The Sister Wife and I were discussing that we would be more willing to eat veggies more often if they just tasted like something. So I can declare success with spinach and pine nuts; Parmesan broccoli; and green beans and bacon. Amazingly, each item was pretty healthy b/c the toppings weren't overdone, but it gave them a lot of flavor.

Peppers with Parmesan and Thyme

So that's it! How do you plan your meals and/or organize your recipes?


Bonnie@TheFragileXFiles said...

Um, yeah, come on over and organize mine, now! That's pretty awesome!

The Sweetest said...

For While I would go to the store and just buy what was fresh/local/in season, and cook it. Base my meals upon what was available. Then I started making weekly meal plans, with dinners planned out for each day of the week, and I'd go to the store on Monday and get everything I needed. Then I became a mother.

Rach (DonutsMama) said...

Cool! You and I actually have similar techniques. I have a binder too and I organized it by categories. The only thing different is that I bought some good white scrapbooking paper (since it's heavier than regular paper) and I glued/taped my recipes on there. I have a folder for my "To Try" recipes. If I make it and we like it, I glue it in my binder. If we don't like it, it gets tossed.

Now I have to work on sorting my recipes that I have stored on my computer.

Kat said...

I love the idea of a healthy/everyday binder and an entertaining binder. I'm at the point where I need to seriously consider splitting mine up (I did another purge but my three rings still runneth over) and this seems as logical as any other method I had thought of.

p.s. SO glad that the three week plan is working so far!

Kristen said...

Oh, well if you read my post today - Random Me, you will find that I might need to hire you as my meal planner/cook/baker.

One day I will be like you - afterall I love the whole organization part!!

Hungrigyrl said...

Quite an awesome binder. I have something similar but I am still bad about meal planning. Kudos to you for making it work! I really should give mine another try!

Mama Spaghetti said...

Wow! That binder is intense! Nice work, though.

Hopes@Staying Afloat! said...

BRILLIANT!!! I should do something like this.

My meal planning right now goes something like this

"DH, what do you want to have for dinner" he responds with "I don't know, what do you want to have" and we keep going back and forth until we finally settle on something. It's exhausting!

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