What’s for dinner? Meal planning for dummies

Since coming back from holidays in Canada, I have felt so much more in control of my life.

The new job is a massive contributor to this, because it affords me the time outside of work to concentrate on other things that matter to me.

The time I have has allowed me the freedom to develop new habits that I am loving:

I know that cooking is easy for some people. There’s something inside some people’s brain that goes “I have meat and peanut butter and oranges,” and somehow magically there’s this incredible dish on the table out of that.

I can’t do that.

I have very few stand-by meals: fish rice and veggies, Boston baked beans, and anything (especially peanut butter) on toast.

(I’d like to be joking or exaggerating, but I’m not!)

But I can follow a recipe, and I love recipe books, but too often they don’t get used – because I don’t have a plan, I don’t have the ingredients, I don’t have the time.

Cookbook collection

Cookbook collection – complete with guard-cat!

Since coming home I’ve started cooking regular meals at night and Mat and I have been sitting down to those meals at the table and there is just such a strange and wonderful joy in these simple acts.

But, figuring out what to cook still doesn’t come automatically, and I needed a system.

I made a meal planning board that was inspired by something I saw on facebook (wish I had Pinned it).

The board was developed with some simple things I had in the house already, and a pack of coloured card stock I bought for all of $4.

My simple, but effective meal planning board

My simple, but effective meal planning board.

It’s just an old cork board with some wrapping paper spray adhesived onto it, 14 clothes pegs glued with some wood glue and I made two boxes from the card stock to hold recipe idea cards.

The recipe idea cards have the name of the recipe on the front, as well as where I can find the recipe (cookbook and page number) and on the back are the major ingredients I need to make it.

The unused cards sit in the left pouch, and once made, they slip into the right pouch.

I wasn’t 100% sure how I was going to use the board, so I set it up for maximum flexibility, with 7 pegs on each side.

Originally, the idea was that I could use the left side for lunches and the right side for dinners for each day. Making lunches didn’t turn out to be relevant, because we’ve been making wraps and haven’t needed anything special for lunches.

So, then I had space to put in two weeks of dinners.

I started by putting something in for every night of the week, but this turned out to not work either, because I go out and teach on Monday and Wednesday nights, and cooking on those evenings wasn’t convenient. Further, we’d usually have leftovers and wouldn’t have to cook every night.

Organically, it has changed on its own. and now my system works like this:

  • I have meals planned for every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
  • On Sunday I cook a roast so we have lunch meat for the week.
  • At a glance I can look at two weeks of meals and determine if there’s enough variety (6 meals of red meat won’t suit us, for example).
  • I look at the back of the cards and use the ingredients list to write my shopping list for the week.
  • I do a single day of shopping and get everything we need for the coming week’s meals.

It’s so simple, and of course, as I go through my cookbooks I can add recipes quickly and easily to the spare cards, and if there’s something I make but don’t like, I can just toss the card in the recycle bin.

This system is really working for me because it’s simple, it’s visual, and it developed organically as we experimented with our new routines, so it fits perfectly with out lifestyle.

Since starting with this system, we have eaten out less, haven’t had any frozen instant dinners, and stopped gorging on toast at night because we’re too exhausted to do anything else. I’ve also managed to bring the shopping bill down to a price that seems more in line with two people eating, rather than a small family, and I’m only shopping once a week! We’re both losing weight, feeling good, and snacking less.


Seriously, if I can do it, you can do it!

I am a Meal Planning Dummy who found a system that makes me feel like a Meal Planning PRO! đŸ™‚

Do you meal plan? What’s your system like? If you don’t meal plan is it because you don’t need to? Or are you looking for a system that fits your lifestyle?


3 responses to “What’s for dinner? Meal planning for dummies

  1. Pingback: Name The Cookbook Contest | Jenae's Good Eats!·

  2. Pingback: Simple Formula for Improving your Eating Habits | Eat and Be Healthy·

  3. Pingback: Meal Planning | Chasing the Blackwood Marathon·

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