Planning Meals

In a previous post I mentioned that I plan my meals in a 3 month block.

First I print off a calendar for the month I want to plan (or three months as the case may be).  I had originally wanted to type it, or use drop down menu fields to select meals before printing, but these took to long to try and set up. The ones I found already set up online were American and the food was just too different to what we eat. At this stage handwriting is working for me (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it). I also like to sit with the calendar at the table with my latest cooking mags and books around me to put in things I would like to try to cook. It is a nice experience to plan this way. It takes approx 2 hours in total. That sounds like a chunk of time, but it seriously saves me so much more time than this over the next 3 months, as well as relieving anxiety everyday, the 2 hour investment is worth it.

Meal planning has been so helpful in a number of ways:

  • It aids speedy grocery shopping, as I know well in advance what is on the menu and can buy certain things when they are on sale.
  • It provides much more balance to our meals, as well as variety. We are not eating the same things every week and are also able to try new recipes regularly.
  • It means we are wasting less food and also eating less takeaway. Takeaway is now once a month, or if our day has gone pear-shaped.
  • It stops that 4.30ish anxiety of ‘what’s for dinner…’ This in itself is brilliant, I can have relaxed time with my LT after school and not be flipping through recipes and racing to the shop for last minute ingredients.
  • It also means that I plan the days I am cooking bulk meals and can freeze them to use on busy work/study days.
  • I also am able to have a few emergency meals from the bulk cooking that I can share with family or friends in case of illness etc. I love to be able to help people out every now and then, and a spare lasagne or soup can give someone else the night off.
  • Oh, and sometimes we don’t feel like the meal on the planner, that’s OK too…it is flexible.

A number of my friends are now using menu planners too. They are finding it helps with all of the above things. It takes one thing off the constant list that runs through a Mum’s head, and that has to be a good thing.

Below I have attached the excel spreadsheet I downloaded from the internet earlier this year. I don’t recall which site it came from, but will reference it if I find it again. I have also compiled a list of the meals we have on our list for this three month block (May-July) with our winter selection, in case you are interested. Some have links to online versions of the recipes too.

Click this Link to download the ‘monthly-menu-planner‘  it is an excel document. When you open it, make sure you enable macros (it will prompt you to do this) otherwise the calendar will not update to the month you enter.

sfi= super food ideas

Favourites from the summer planner include:

I generally have at least 3 veggies in a meal. If they are not hidden (as in sausage rolls) then they are either steamed, roasted or eaten is a salad. I have some ‘nutirent dense’ (N) food too, these recipes have been either chosen because of the extra nutrients in them or I have adapted them to have more ‘good things’ in them, like my morrocan casserole, or the nachos.

I hope this  post helps to generate ideas. I look forward to seeing what others are cooking too, always like to try new recipes 🙂

Happy Planning!



10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Me 'N my Monkeys
    Jun 22, 2011 @ 13:48:11

    wow 3 months, i wish i was half as organized! 🙂
    I usually do 1 week at a time.
    It certainly does make life so much easier being prepared and organized.



    • Fiona T
      Jun 22, 2011 @ 14:05:46

      Hi Jane,
      I did 3 months because that was how long my work contract was for at the time, it worked so well I think seasonal will work for my family. My friends do one or two weeks at a time and this works well too. Each week that you do, makes one less stressful week!
      Thanks for stopping by, I hope your gaming device strategy works for you too 😀



  2. The modern parent
    Jun 22, 2011 @ 21:02:27

    Wow Fiona that’s impressive! I have done a week at a time but have got a bit slack lately so you have inspired me to get back into it! It does save time and money and I hate wandering around the supermarket wondering what to cook.



    • Fiona T
      Jun 22, 2011 @ 21:12:21

      Thanks Martine! I hate the supermarket trawl too. Also dislike the lifting stuff in and out of the trolley, and in and out of the car. The bulk of my shopping is done online too. The time this gives back is priceless. Happy to have inspired you and look forward to seeing your meal ideas too 🙂



  3. Trackback: Bulk Meals and Freezing: some links and tips « mypaperlessphd
  4. Maria Wood
    Nov 18, 2011 @ 13:05:42

    I also usually plan one week in advance but now I’m inspired to do better than that!!! 🙂 Even my minimal planning saves me time and energy. Time to step up and plan better I think!



  5. Lorri
    Nov 20, 2011 @ 03:50:17

    Fiona, what a great post. I don’t plan meals at all and often find myself struggling to work out what to cook. Lately that’s meant alot of takeaway meals or repetition, which becomes expensive and boring. Thankyou for going through your method in such a practical way too. I need to see how something works and the “what’s in it for me” or “how can I do this” thinking features highly for me before I make any changes. I really like the idea of a blank table for a month and going through recipe books/magazines for inspiration. Also, i really should shop online again, and this will really help me plan my shopping better. Being time poor (with 2 girls under 4.5yrs) and not planning, I can see how spending a little time once a month or once every 2-3 months will really help me. So, thanks again for your post and another great idea.



    • Fiona T
      Nov 20, 2011 @ 08:03:14

      Thanks to both of you for your comments. Lorri, I find we are eating much more healthy food and wasting less (food and $$) too, so helps stretch the budget further. I am going to try and work out how to transfer my paper version from this year to an excel version with drop down boxes to choose from our favourite meals, and maybe streamline this a little more. I will certainly share this when I get it done. Thanks again for the positive feedback 😀



  6. Trackback: Goal Worksheet Round up and other Goal and Habit Changing Resources « mypaperlessphd
  7. Trackback: Happy New Year, time to get organised again! « mypaperlessphd

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