Let’s Start Meal Planning

After you’ve created the system, what do you next? First, plan the next two weeks. Take a look at the recipes you have and start planning them on the days for the week. Be mindful of what you’re planning. If you are making a roast chicken Sunday evening. You can plan chicken fettuccine for Tuesday using the left overs. I try not to use the left overs the following day. The kids don’t like eating the same meat back to back.  I’ll space out similar meat items to give a little variety. If you’re planning vegetables as side dishes, look for similarities. Maybe, the roast chicken recipe includes root vegetables like carrots, potatoes and other root veggies. Therefore, chicken fettuccine may not be the best use of the left overs. A hearty chicken soup might be a better idea. Or even a chicken pot pie.  Planning to use your left overs for a dinner later in the week will save time. And since it’s planned out with a recipe, it makes it a quicker meal.

Plan for foods with similar ingredients. One recipes I have is chicken with a side of lemony chard & spinach. But, the recipe doesn’t call for a lot of chard. Later that week, I have salmon with a side of  garlicky chard.  This way you’re getting more use of the ingredients purchased and it leaves less waste.

Once the two weeks are planned, start listing down the ingredients for the recipes. This will become your grocery list for dinners for the next few weeks.

Now here’s an idea with a bonus. So, for all of you who use planners. Create a section called Weekly Meal Planning Pages. You can write down the two weeks worth of recipes on a weekly meal planning page. If those recipes worked well together and made your life a little bit easier. Save that weekly meal planning page for future reference. That way, if you don’t have time to plan you can flip through old meal planning pages and reuse what worked.

Making the Photo Album Meal Planning System

If you read the first post Photo Album Meal Planning System. These are the directions on how to create one for your family.

Pre-Work before you make the Photo Album Meal Planning System.

I’ve read that most families tend to make similar meals over and over again. The easiest thing to do is to write down your favorite meals on 6 x 4 index cards. If you have a photo of the meal, glue that to the other side of the card.  Gather a total of 35 recipes.  You can follow my set up and then modify it to fit your recipes.

Recipes to Start: The recipes below are just to get you started. Enough for you to have meals for two weeks straight.

  • 15 One Dish Meals (Crockpot meals)
  • 10 Main Dishes
  • 10 side Dishes

Recipes to Complete: The recipes below are for the completion of your system. During the next two weeks, you can start gathering more recipes. I’ve ripped out recipes from magazines and folded them into 6×4 index card size, so I don’t have to rewrite them.  But, below is enough for a month or two worth of recipes. Since the album has 50 pages, 100 pages front and back with two images for each page, you have room to add over 100 recipes.

  • 22 One Dish Meals
  • 42 Main Dishes (12 Beef, 10 chicken, 6 Pork, 6 Lamb, 8 Fish)
  • 22 Side Dishes (All vegetables) We normally always have rice with our meals.

Photo Album Meal Planning System


  • 1 Photo Album 50 pages (100 pages front and back), 2 images to 1 page (2 Up Style)
  • 1 6×6 My Mind’s Eye 24 Sheet Coordinated Paper
  • 2 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of solid coordinating Paper (optional)
  • Tape runner
  • Label Stamp & Ink (color to coordinate with paper) or ready made sticker Labels
  • Sharpie
  • Paper trimmer (not pictured)

Directions for Making the Index Cards:

  1. Cut the 6×6 pieces into 6×4 cards. Keep the 2×6 pieces to the side.
  2. Using the 2×6 pieces, stamp the label on the coordinating pieces.  Save pieces not used and put aside
  3. Match the label blanks to the cards and glue them to the card. I have mine all to the bottom right corner.
  4. Put these cards aside, they’ll be used for title cards.
  5. Taking the left over pieces which should be about 2×2. Make 14, 1×2 sized pieces. Write the days of week for 2 weeks.
    • Modification – Fit your planner to your buying schedule.
    • Modification – You can make the index cards any way you want. You can decorate them more.

Blank Title Cards

Create the following Title Cards:

  • 1 Title Card – Name it Your Family’s Monthly Menu
  • 4 Eat Out Cards
  • 4 Left Over Night Cards
  • 1 Card for One Dish Meals
  • 1 Card for Main Dishes
  • 1 Card for Side Dishes
    • Modification – Based on your family and how you eat, you can modify the title cards.

“Eat Out” & “Left Over Night” Title Cards

Other Title Cards

Album Set Up: I will list the details of how my album is set up. But, please feel free to set up your album to what fits.

  • Page 1 (This is the first page, when you open the album) – Insert Title Card
    • Modification, you can skip the title
  • Page 2 through 15- Tape the label using washi tape for the beginning of the week. I always start with Monday. (make sure it’s one day per page.)  I have all my Day Labels on the first photo pocket, on the bottom left hand corner. At first I had it on the top left, but, I realized it blocks the view of the name of the recipe.

  • Page 16 & 17 – These pages hold the “Eat Out” and “Left Over Night” Cards
  • Page 18 – Title Card for One Meal Dishes. This section will hold all recipes that are one meal recipes.
  • Page 30 – Title Card for Main Dishes
  • Page 58 – Title Card for Side Dishes
  • Page 68 – Title Card for Lunch – I didn’t suggest making one. I use this, because I have to make myself lunch. You can also add this to your set. I have about 10 recipes at this moment. Most of the time it’s left overs.
    • Modification – title cards aren’t necessary. You can actually use Post It Note Tabs to create your sections and use the space intended for the title card, for another recipe.
    • Modification – you can space out the title cards and make more space for more recipes. The numbering is specific to my set.

Setting up your recipes:

Place the recipes in the sections they belong. Then when you plan for the days you can insert the recipes into the photo spaces provided, Monday through Sunday. The top insert can be for the main meal. The bottom insert can be for side dishes. Because, I have lunch. I put the main dish and side dish in the top photo space. I put my lunch on the bottom.

If you take the time to try this. Please let me know how it works for you. I’d love to see photos of your album too!


Photo Album Meal Planning System

A few years ago I created a menu planning system for my family. It was created to be flexible and easily accessible to anyone at home needing to cook. We are a family of four and our schedules fluctuate often. There are times I plan on cooking and I have to work late. Or my husband is planning on cooking and he gets called to work. We needed a system, where who ever was home could pick up where we left off and take care of dinner. My kids are older one teenager and one in college, so they help with cooking. But, you can also adapt this system if you have smaller children. We strongly believe that everyone should pitch in where needed. When the boys were younger, we let them cook one dinner a week. And it was what ever they wanted. Mac and cheese, hot dogs, what ever they wanted to make. Part of that was to teach them how to cook. So, when they got older they would have the ability to cook for themselves. Teaching them this skill benefits their growth, but now, it really helps us out.

The Photo Album Meal Planning System 

I used a photo album, with two photos on each page (2 up style). The first four pages are labeled Sunday through Saturday for two weeks straight. The following pages are recipes our family likes to eat.

How I Plan: I look through the photo album that has all our recipes and I pick out 14. I also have 2 “Eat Out” Cards and 2 “Left Over Night” cards. I take those cards and reference my calendar.  I try to plan the ‘big meals’ on weekends when I know I’m home. The quicker meals get planned for work week. I also think about using left overs. So, if I plan for Roasted chicken, we never finish it, the left overs can be turned into soup or chicken tacos. So, if I pull out the Roasted chicken card I know to pull out the chicken taco recipe card. I then review all the recipes and write out a grocery list. When that’s done, I write the meals on the magnetic white board weekly calendar that’s on the fridge.

How the system works: Who ever is home can look at the calendar and see what’s for dinner. Then they can grab the Photo Album and pull out the recipe. This is where the flexibility lies. If my younger son ends up being the one to cook, and lets say I have Roast chicken on the menu and he doesn’t want to make that. He can look through the rest of the weeks and pick out a recipe he can make. He just swaps out the Roasted chicken for the recipe he wants.  When we’re done with making dinner the recipe card gets moved to the back of the Menu Planner. Or let’s say, he doesn’t want to cook and there’s enough left overs. He can make something with the left overs and I can take what ever was planned for dinner and move it to a different night.

If you want to try this system yourself, I’ll be posting a how to create one for you and your family in the next few days.


2015 Planner – Dividers

I really like reading and seeing how others set up their planners. It helps me brainstorm how I will set up my planner. So, maybe there’s someone out there doing the same thing that I do.

My set up is slightly different from my 2014 set up. I have 3 Main divider sections, Sub-dividers within the main dividers, sections within the sub-dividers for further use and interaction.

  • Main dividers are used as dividers that group certain sections together
  • Sub dividers are used to group smaller sections together.
  • Sections, are things like projects, that require attention. When finish I can remove the section or add more to any area in my binder.

1st Main Divider:

  • Section tab: Routines
    • Section tab: Brain Dump – this section is used just get things out of my head that need attention.
    • Section tab: Shopping List
  • 1st Sub divider: Financials
    • Section tab: Debt 1
    • Section tab: Savings
  • 2nd Sub divider: Meal Planning
    • Section tab: Weekly Meals / Grocery List
    • Section tab: Recipes
  • 3rd Sub divider: Projects
    • Section tabs: By project

2nd Main Divider:

  • Sub Dividers are my Monthly Calendar dividers. I only keep four months in my planner. Otherwise it would be too thick.
    • Sections tab: Quick Month View
    • Sections tab: Goals for the Month
    • Weekly actions / to dos.

3rd Main Divider

  • Journal area, blank paper and extra sheets needed for the organizer.

Back To A Paper Planner

I have decided to go back to a paper planner. Work has disabled the sync capabilities and my work around wasn’t very efficient. I decided that going back to a paper will be the easier, more efficient thing to do. Luckily, I can still use my tablet for my class notes they sync perfectly with my home computer. I can still use it when I’m away. Originally, I was going to use the tablet for my personal planner. But, after doing research on planners and organizations, I decided to go back to a paper planner for my personal planner as well. While I have been in my digital life, I had no idea that there were things such as Hobonichi Techno planners, Midori Travel Notesbooks, Fauxdoris, and Fauxnichi’s. After a day and half of watching videos, reading articles, joining Facebook Groups, I’m sold. I think I’ll eventually go to a system where I’m using both a paper and digital planner. But, I’ll allow that to evolve.

As I’m setting up my planner, I’m working on some DIY hacks to make it a efficient for me. I’ll posting those as I finish with it.