Thursday, November 3, 2011

Meal Planning, Part 4 - Where to Stay Organized?

Okay, so I've covered why you should meal plan. I've talked about assessing what your needs are. And I've gone over what systems you will need to have in place.

This next part of meal planning is the one that might cost you some money, depending on which option you choose. This will help you determine where you will stay organized.
  1. Digital - the computer
    1. There are many ways to organize on the computer. Microsoft Office programs (Word or Excel), Google docs, online calendar, online meal planning software (you usually have to buy this), or probably "there's an app for that". If you are tech savvy, you'll probably be drawn to go this route.
    2.  Pros:
                                                               i.      Easy to link online recipes to the menu.
                                                             ii.      You know exactly what meals you had last month, the month before, and the month before that (so you won’t keep serving your family the same meals).
                                                            iii.      Easy to create next month’s menu since you can cut and paste.
                                                           iv.      You will eventually get to the point where you no longer have to plan meals since you’ll have it on file from the last year.
                                                             v.      Doesn’t waste paper.
                                                           vi.      Easy to create a shopping list based on the meals and that list can be saved and reused.
    1. Cons
                                                               i.      Not in an easy-to-see place since you have to get on your computer, ipad, smart phone or other digital device to see the menu.
                                                             ii.      Linking on-line recipes to the meals is great if you have a computer/ipad, etc in the kitchen - but useless if not. You'd have to print out the recipe anyway.
  1. Paper
    1. Those who have a planner may want to write their meals in there. Another paper option is a notebook created just for menus. Print out 12 monthly calendar sheets and put them in the notebook. You can put tab dividers in if that's helpful. Then you can put your recipes that you need that month in with the menu or just write a note as to where they are. Or it can be as simple as a piece of paper with the meals written down put on your fridge. If you want to go paper, it may take a few things to see what works for you.                                                                                                                                                **TIP***If you create a notebook, be sure to put the menus in plastic sheet protectors so that you can mark off the meals you've had with a wet-erase marker without having to mess up the menu - that way you can use them again.                                                                         This is my method for my lunches and breakfasts (see picture)
I crossed out the snacks as a reminder to my girls that snacks are off the table (pardon the pun) until they start eating their meals better!
b.      Pros:
                                                               i.      You know what you cooked when so you don’t repeat meals too often.
                                                             ii.      You can take notes easily on what to change or do differently next time.
                                                            iii.      You can keep your meals, repeat them, and eventually not have to plan meals anymore.
                                                           iv.      You can keep a shopping list in the binder for the menus, so you don’t have to recreate them.
c.      Cons:
                                                               i.      Depending on where it is, you can't see it at a glance.
                                                             ii.      If you do a weekly menu, this is a lot of paper - not great for the environment and could be a lot to keep up with and keep organized.
                                                            iii.      It takes money (most likely) and time to create it well.
                                                           iv.      Takes up space on a counter or desk.
3.      Whiteboard
a.      This is my method for my dinners. I have a dry erase board on the side of my fridge. Read about why it's not on the front. Here's a picture:

b.      Pros:
                                                               i.      Doesn’t waste paper.
                                                             ii.      Easy to see at a glance.
                                                            iii.      User-friendly for husbands (or roommates, kids, etc).
                                                           iv.      Easy to erase or alter.
c.      Cons:
                                                               i.      You don’t know what you had on the menu last month, so you may tend to repeat the same meals.  
                                                             ii.      You have to hang it or tape it on something.
                                                            iii.      Costs money.

Next post - The actual "how to" -  Come back tomorrow to find out about how to actually sit down and plan!

Previous posts in this series: 
Meal Planning, Part 1 - Why?
Meal Planning, Part 2 - Self-Assessment
Meal Planning, Part 3 - Implement a System 

    1 comment:

    1. I used the dry erase approach -- had a weekly calendar with our events/schedule on one half and meals on the other half. But now that we've remodeled the kitchen, I don't have a good place to put it. Or I need a prettier way to display it. Tried taping a paper calendar inside the pantry door, but then I never looked at it.