While the rest of my family might call me inflexible, I like to call myself a planner. Organized, even. Perhaps even organized to a fault. You might call me OCD. My husband might call me a tad neurotic. Regardless of the label, I like to plan. I make lists. I make schedules. I run my world off of three calendars: one on my computer where things can be categorized and placed on automatic repeat schedules as necessary, one hanging in the kitchen used as a ready reference to the rest of the family, and one in the planner kept in my purse. At least once every other month I spread them all out and make sure they're all synched up. Yes, I've tried the palm pilot. It doesn't work for me. I'm a pen and paper kind of girl.
But those are just my calendars. For events.
For Christmas, I bought myself a magnetic dry-erase menu planner. It's a grid organized to show a week-at-a-glance of lunches, dinners, and notes. Since I don't normally cook for breakfast and lunch, and my notes-to-self are all written elsewhere, I use the board to plan out three weeks of meals at a time. This way, my husband can chime in with meal requests, or look ahead to what's for dinner to determine if he'll need a light snack during his afternoon classes (he's in an MBA program through the Navy). We can also plan for left-overs and dinners out, special holiday meals, and get-togethers with other couples this way. The system works really well, especially when I'm compiling my weekly grocery list.
I also like planning special themed meals for holidays, however. Even for "holidays" like Cinco de Mayo, Derby Day, and Mardi Gras. And I like periodically looking through my dozens of cookbooks for inspiration. In addition to the dry erase menu board, I bought some PostIt tabs for my Christmas stocking which I use to mark recipes I want to try. Of course, I also have a myriad of emails, bookmarks, and Pinterest pins waiting to be tested. The problem is that I mark all these recipes and then forget about them! When it's time to plan the week's meals, I'm out of inspiration, don't want to try anything new, or write out an organized list. I end up reaching into my back pocket for the tried-and-true no-recipe-required dishes my family has handed down and enjoyed for generations.
But today, during my son's morning nap, I was feeling especially inspired. I grabbed a stack of cookbooks from which I've never cooked, a "pad" of PostIt tabs, and plopped down on my couch to see what I could cook up this spring. And then I found this tool!
A menu planner devised for a wife by her husband and formatted for Excel! It's a month at a glance, has pull-down menus if you'd like to use them, and easy to add tabs for future months! This was exactly what I was looking for!
When I was finished marking recipes from my cookbooks, I started filling in my planner, making room for Date Nights and Leftovers as I went. Before I knew it, I had all our meals planned out until June!
Don't get me wrong, I know there are bound to be nights we don't stick to this plan, but that is when it'll be super easy to cut and paste that meal elsewhere in the calendar! What's even better is I can now see, at a glance, which recipes will be featured on this blog and when they need to post!
Do you meal plan? What's your system?