Monday, February 25, 2013

99 Kitchen Challenge: Meal Planning!

We have been meal planners for quite awhile now.  And like everything else in our life and home, it's always changing and evolving.

I don't intend to hash the subject to death around here, but it is a big part of how we stay organized when it comes to the kitchen.  So, I thought that it would be fitting to pop in with a quick update on our process and see if you all have tips and ideas to share for the readers as well.  It's all about making our lives quicker, healthier, simpler and less expensive in the meal department. 

Like I said, we have been meal planners for years now, you can find my last post on the subject here.  Do we stick to it every.single.day.  Not always.  Do we still eat out occasionally?  Absolutely.  However, growing up, we ate home cooked meals nightly, and eating out was a huge privilege.  My parents worked full time and still managed to provide us with wonderful meals every night of the week.  Looking back, it created more memories and values than I ever realized in the moment.  And we have always found that when we come together and eat together in our own home with our own kids, that we are bonding, laughing, learning and cherishing our time together. 

So, plan meals for the family time, but we also do it as a sanity saver.  The weeks that we take the time to plan ahead are the weeks that we have less stress and eat better.  It allows us to save time and money at the grocery store and doesn't cause as much waste at the end of the week when it comes time to clean out the fridge.  We can also select our meals based on our schedule, and plan quicker meals on nights we have plans and make the larger meals on nights we are going to be home.

When we plan our meals, I plan them on our shopping list so that it's all in front of me at the store.  I also jot them in my planner at the same time, since we plan our meals around our schedule. 

But my hubby doesn't carry my planner and to ensure he is on the same page, I also transfer the list to our kitchen memo board, that I created awhile back out of a $5 cabinet door from the Habitat ReStore.

Since it is kitchen month, I decided to grab a bit of paint and do something crafty, just to get my fix.  The menu board was functional, but I wanted to beef of the top with some molding to give it a little extra oomph.


We used a simple piece of wood molding found at our local hardware store to create a cap to the menu board.  To affix the trim, we used a small amount of wood glue, combined with our brad nailer.


Next, we filled the holes with paintable wood filler, and once dry, lightly sanded the putty away.


A new coat of paint and some updated vinyl labels {cut with my Silhouette}, and we had an updated menu board!


Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain....  It is just a piece of fabric that I clipped up as a test run as I am in the mood for a bold print in the dining area.  Not sure it will stay, I change my mind faster than a cheetah taped to grandma's back...  I will be sure to keep you updated.

Anyway, back to menu planning.

The biggest change to our process is that we signed up for a weekly meal planning service.  Sure, this costs us a very small chunk of change each month, but we have found that it has saved us so much time, and provided us with healthy, quick and full course menu options.  In the past, I would spend a few hours of my Sunday going through coupons, recipes, pinterest and more recipes, putting together a huge shopping list and trying to come up with new ideas.  Now that I use a meal planning service, they do it for me!


Every week I receive a menu for an entire week.  The menu includes the recipes and the grocery list for that week as well!  I keep each week's plan in our meal planning binder with our other favorite recipes, that way if there is something listed that doesn't work for us, our stomachs or our schedules, I can quickly find a replacement item.  The longer we are subscribed, the longer we can build up a good selection of recipes.

That means I spend far less time on the process, still save money since I am not over-purchasing random foods, and spend more of my Sunday playing with my kids. 


Organizing always comes down to investing some time upfront to save time and money down the line.  Our meal planning process is a good reminder to me that sometimes it is important to assess ways to save even more time, by utilizing the smart and savvy businesses we have at our fingertips.  Some people purchase groceries online, some people have someone help clean their home or watch their kids for a few hours a day so they can be more productive.  We can't do it all...

And no, this is not an infomercial and no, I am not being paid or compensated for chatting about meal planning services.  In fact, it is just my way of sharing how we decided to utilize a service that is helping us make better meal choices and saving us time to boot!  Win win!


Here are a few online meal planning sites, all with similar philosophies and services:

5Dinners1Hour:  Michelle has been a long time sponsor and she fits IHeart Organizing like a glove.  She offers a service that helps you to make your dinners for the whole week, in just one hour on the weekend.  Imagine opening your fridge each night after work, and popping dinner right into the oven.  Sigh...

emeals: Every week, your meal plan arrives in your inbox, complete with seven simple, creative, family friendly dinner recipes.  Each includes an entree and side dishes.  Along with the meal plan, you'll receive a details grocery list organized by section and coordinated with the weekly sales at selected stores.  A variety of options are available based on your eating style.

Food on the Table:  An online budget meal planning service designed to help families eat better and save money.  The meal planning template combines the weekly sales from your local grocery store with your family's food preferences.  It is also available on the web with apps that let you manage your lists from your smartphone.

The Six O'Clock Scramble:  Menus include the nutritional value and won't take more than 30 minutes to prepare!  Meals also feature seasonal fruits and vegetables for great flavors and savings.

Relish:  A weekly menu planner aimed to help busy families put wonderful meals on the table every night. No sloppy casseroles or expensive kitchen blunders. Instead look for everyday food...with a gourmet twist.



How do you save money and time when it comes to meal planning?  Where is your "go to" for new recipes?  What other ways do you utilize fab companies to save you time and sanity?


99 comments:

  1. Luckily, I only have to feed myself so my meal planning consists of two dishes that I don't mind eating for a whole week straight!

    I have a maybe unrelated question for you. Where do you get the chalk pens that you use for your board? I love them, but can't decide which to buy because they're a bit expensive to try each and every brand.

    I'm making some chalkboard labeled mason jars, and would love to use a pen instead of a stick of chalk. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I'm not Jen, but I use the Chalk Ink Wet Wipe Markers. I love them! And I hate real chalk...gives me the willies!

      Delete
    2. I have used both Chalk Ink Wet Wipe Makers and Craft Smart Chalk Markers and love both! I also have a chalk phobia, big time, so these have been fabulous! I found them on Amazon and Craft Stores.

      xo,
      Jen

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  2. Do you have a favorite service?

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    1. I use emeals and love them! They offer so many great plans to select from, we use the Clean Eating plan.

      xo!
      Jen

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  3. I know how you feel about meal planning... I find it so helpful, but it can away so much of my Sunday searching, planning and shopping for meals. Now I try to reuse a couple recipes I already know. I've also divided the task with my partner. I give him a night or two to cook, and send him the grocery list so he can shop instead of me. Sharing it has made it much less daunting and time-consuming!
    {lamourcheznous.wordpress.com}

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  4. I've used a meal planning service off and on for years. It's a real time and money saver in my book! There are also several good cookbooks that have weekly menus with grocery lists (and of course the recipes!). I believe it's helped expand our children's palates.

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  5. I LOVE your menu board! We do meal planning too - but I usually have one of those days-of-the-week notepads on the fridge. I think a nice chalkboard like yours would look a LOT nicer in our kitchen. Consider me inspired!

    Also,I love that you made a reference to the "cheetah taped to Grandma's back"! That ad is hilarious!

    Sarah

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  6. I love that! "I change my mind faster than a cheetah taped to grandma's back." That is to funny! I also love the fabric that you're thinking about for curtains!

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    1. Me too!!! I chuckled at her cheetah comment. :)
      I, too, love the fabric!!! It looks like a good fit with the new rug and things you have added recently, Jen!!! :)
      Love the menu board. It would be fun to do something like that here, but I have nowhere to hang it.. no walls. LOL

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  7. Interesting! I've always avoided these things to save money and choose exactly what I wanted, but they don't look too expensive and looks like you can customize. We aim to spend $300/month (2 adults, 1 kid), so I might have to experiment with this a couple months and see if I save any money (or stress...although I enjoy meal/grocery planning)...I just feel I waste food.

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  8. Jen, when I first started using your Peek at the Week and posting the meal plan on the fridge my husband teased me relentlessly about being so neurotic. Now he's totally on board. We moved to a new house recently and he asked me last week why I haven't been posting the meal plan! It's because I bought your planner and had been keeping it there, but it's just as easy to take it out and pop it on the fridge, which is what I've started doing.

    We shop on Saturdays and do the meal plan after the groceries are bought. No special tips or tricks really, other than buying what's on sale and planning the meals around that. Fridays our local market sells rotisserie chickens for $5 and fresh baked bread for $1, so we do make-your-own sandwich night every week, varying the toppings from week to week to keep it fun. (The kids love this.)

    I also love having the meals planned because in general that helps us to know in advance who's cooking. We're both great cooks but there are certain meals that one of us does better - or likes doing better - than the other.

    I have to say that using a weekly meal plan really helps eliminate evening stress and has definitely saved us grocery $$$.

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    1. Such a great story! :) And I love that you are using the Peek at the Week printable, THANK YOU!

      xo,
      Jen

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  9. I love having meals planned out for the entire week. I also put a list on the side of my fridge so my family can see what is planned. I have five children, so there is always some amount of complaining no matter what I plan. I have made a six week menu that has been wonderful. I have the grocery lists all typed up in advance, too.
    http://thesparitarian.blogspot.com/2011/12/six-week-menu.html
    When I want a break from that menu for a week or two, then I simply pull out my Everyday Food magazines (so sad they discontinued them!) and flip through all the recipes I have marked. Then when we LOVE a new recipe, I either integrate it into the Six Week Menu, or I put it on a new list until I have a new "seventh" week for the rotation.

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    1. Sounds like you have a fabulous system! Kudos!

      xo,
      Jen

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  10. We began planning a full-month menu at the beginning of the year. It seemed like an overwhelming idea at first, but I'm in LOVE with it! I just made a monthly calendar in MS Word and added what we had scheduled to it (soccer practice, church, etc.). Then, my hubby and I sat down with our binder of favorite meals and planned everything out together. At the bottom, I listed a few "back-up" meal ideas just in case. These are things that our whole family enjoys that can be prepared quickly and that we always have everything on-hand for. I printed and posted the full month calendar and made changes, as needed.

    We moved things around quite a bit in January and used that to help us plan for February. We only moved 1 or 2 things around in February. We just sat down yesterday to plan March and it took all of 15 minutes!

    I keep a grocery list saved on my computer to update throughout the week. I use my menu calendar to make a list of certain things I'll need for the full month at the top. This includes different types of meat, cheese, and frozen veggies. So, when I see what's on sale at our local grocery store the next week I know how much to buy for the month. For example, frozen veggies will be half-off next week, so I know exactly what to buy for the full month of March. This has kept me so much more organized in my shopping!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. That is awesome! Love your planning!

      xo,
      Jen

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  11. I have been using e-meals since about October and it has changed my life!! Plus I keep every one and put it in a big binder and then at the end of the year i will have a huge collection and probably just start over from what i have in my binder. :) i chose the "clean eating" menu and it is fantastic!

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    1. Ditto to everything you said! We are on the same plan and keep them in our binder as well. Great minds my friend {and great name too!} ;)

      xo,
      Jen

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  12. I only have to cook for two but I meal plan for the entire week as well. I subscribe to several food/recipe blogs and when I come across something that I like during the week, I bookmark it into a specific category. Then, once a week, I plan out the next week's menu. I have a basic formula that works for us. In addition to the handful of menus that I've chosen, I make a grain, granola, soup, salad dressing, dip, and spread from scratch. I use the grain for quick lunches (sauteed with veggies, etc). I freeze half the soup to be available for nights when the schedule fails lol. We eat a lot of salads and doing new dressings each week keeps it fresh. I make a dip such as hummus or white bean dip for dipping fresh veggies as a snack during the week. The spread (like pesto, for example) is used for sandwiches, mixed into grains, or added to toast. Granola on hand makes a great snack with yogurt or almond milk. I wish I could say that I do it all in one hour but it takes me closer to two hours on Sundays. If I have a packed Sunday and there isn't time for cooking that day, I have an alternative schedule that maps out the cooking over the week and I get it done in about 20-30 minutes per night. This is all a work in progress (I've been married less than a year!) but it seems to be working more nights than not and for emergencies, there's always Thai food or El Pollo Loco LOL! I considered subscribing to one of these services but we stay pretty vegan / gluten-free throughout the weekdays and it's easier to just use what I have in my archives although it means sitting down for 30 minutes on my lunch break at work to figure out all the details.

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  13. Here is another suggestion and it is fREE! Yvonne at Stonegable has a weekly link party called on the menu monday. SHE lists her entire menu for each day WITH printable recipes and then all the links are recipes for other dishes too!!! Go to: http://www.stonegableblog.com/2013/02/on-menu-monday-week-of-feb-25-2013.html this is the link to this weeks party. XO, Pinky

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  14. So glad I stopped by today. I use to meal plan for a month at a time but since adding our 3rd kiddo I just don't have the time anymore and find that I scramble way too much too stay on top of planning. I will definitely be looking into some of these meal planning sites!

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  15. Where is the fabric from? I love it!

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    1. Here is the fabric source: http://www.fabric.com/ProductDetail.aspx?ProductID=49108e05-cf14-4fd0-aa7c-641b2f4d9be6

      xo!
      Jen

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  16. This might sound simple but I check my pantry and freezer to see what needs to be used up. If a recipe doesn't come to mind right away, I type the ingredient into the allrecipes app and choose from that. We make a list for the week, figure out what we need from the store once that's done and that's it. It takes about 10 minutes every Sunday morning. We all get to have a say in what ends up on the menu for the week. So far it has worked great for us :)

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    1. Oooh, great tip! We try and do that too! If we have extra food or leftovers, we just replace one of the planned meals with those. xo!
      Jen

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  17. Another good one is the Fresh 20. They occassionaly have groupons too which make it even better.

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  18. for years I used the savingdinner.com menu plans she has lots to choose from and the original book is still a stand by in my house. The website like so many has changed focus and content over the years and doesn't quite fit my family anymore. We have 3 adults and 6 children in our household (2 - 11yo) The 5 dinners in one hour plans are working for us!!! I've been using them loosely over the last 3 - 5 months. We double a lot (almost all) the recipes. My family likes variety, so it works. Things I don't want to make get substituted with a family favorite, and we always have pizza on Friday nights, so... six meals is a full week for us. Even if I don't follow all the steps and prep the food in advance just having all the groceries in the house is a huge time saver.

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    Replies
    1. That makes me so happy to hear! :) Michelle's site is so great!

      xo,
      Jen

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  19. A meal planning service? I never knew it existed!

    And I love your mealplanner! And like Diane above I've wondered about the chalk pens. Which are you using?

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    1. Hi El!

      I have used both Chalk Ink Wet Wipe Makers and Craft Smart Chalk Markers and love both! I also have a chalk phobia, big time, so these have been fabulous! I found them on Amazon and Craft Stores.

      xo,
      Jen

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  20. I LOVE your menu board! My handwriting is horrible, so I don't think I would be able to use a chalkboard for mine. It's funny that you posted this because I just created a post last night about my menu board and meal planning (http://easylivingmom.com/easy-menu-board-and-meal-planner/). That is my #1 time saver (and sanity saver) in my house.

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  21. I meal plan as well but the menu is always scribbled down in a notebook stuffed... somewhere!! Consider me inspired. I have one of those hideous pantry doors that announces that it is, in fact, the PANTRY. I'm thinking some chalkboard contact paper may be purchased soon....:)

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  22. Love the fabric for your curtains!! Where did you get it?

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    1. Hi Jodi!

      Here is the fabric source: http://www.fabric.com/ProductDetail.aspx?ProductID=49108e05-cf14-4fd0-aa7c-641b2f4d9be6

      xo!
      Jen

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  23. I was just looking at starting that same service! Which plan are you using? I can't decide...do you know if you can change it week to week? Also I love the menu board - adorable as usual! I currently just have a piece of chalkboard contact paper stuck to the side of my fridge, so that's great inspiration. :)

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    1. Hi Catherine!

      I use emeals and went with their Clean Eating plan. And yes, they offer the ability to switch so you can try out different options. :)

      xo,
      Jen

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  24. im seriously considering jumping on the emeals train as well.

    i just don't enjoy the process of planning meals (OR cooking, per se...baking, another story though! ha! ;) )so a little investment is worth it if i can then free up time for something in other areas where i really WANT to spend it.

    do you find you and your family enjoy the meals suggested? and, are they affordable? that's really the only thing that's holding me back at this point - would love to hear your perspective.

    another service that i have used (and enjoyed!) is plantoeat.com. my favorite feature is the ability to upload ALL of my favorite recipes from multiple sources into one destination. they also have a feature that will create a grocery list for you based on the meals you've chosen from your virtual collection.

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    1. We did not like the meals that emeals suggested at all. They were often super unhealthy, and I say that not being a health nut at all! Some of them also weren't "dinner" at all. We choose the veggie plan since my husband is allergic to poultry, and one of the meals literally was a fruit salad (with no greens, just fruit).

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  25. I LOVE eMeals! It saves us time, money plus we eat better!

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  26. I second the comment about the Fresh 20! They are the first paid meal planning service I've used so I can't compare them relative to another paid service. But I love them. Would recommend them to anyone.

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  27. Inspired by reading through some of your older blog posts last month, I finally did a meal plan this fortnight, for the first time ever. As a relatively disorganized mum of three, this was a huge step for me lol.... and Oh My Goodness what a difference it has made!! I wish I had done it sooner! Not only does it save me a huge amount of money as I'm not popping into the shop every other day, but it saves me so much sanity, knowing what I will be making for dinner every day! Love love LOVE it. And the kids are thrilled too, as they helped choose the meals and really like knowing what we'll be having. :) So a big huge THANK YOU from me! :)

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    1. Awww, YAY! This makes me so happy inside!

      xo,
      Jen

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  28. Please tell me what you use to write on your menu board?? Is it a chalk pen ?? If so which kind? I have used a type of chalk pen but it doesn't come off?? I would love for my writing to be gorgeous like that ?? Any tips would be greatly appreciated !!!!!
    I heart your blog!!!!!!!!

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    1. Hi Cassie!

      Yes, it is a chalk pen/marker. I have used both Chalk Ink Wet Wipe Makers and Craft Smart Chalk Markers and love both! I found them on Amazon and Craft Stores.

      xo,
      Jen

      Delete
  29. Yay for meal planning! I have my meal plan on my shopping list as well-- so convenient. I vote yes for the curtain. It's beautiful! Thanks for all of the helpful info! Happy Monday!

    ~Abby =)

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  30. I've gone from weekly planning to monthly planning and find it so much quicker. I also buy up all my meat, fish and cupboard items for that month at the beginning as well. I then allocate a weekly budget from what is left over from our monthly food one ( after big shop) to buy veggies + extras in the weeks.
    What I have found is my pantry doesn't get overstocked with items and stays organized! No more out of date items. Plus as well as saving money, I find I am more organized.

    I plan each month with set favorites, fish is always on a Friday, meatless Monday and homemade pizza or soup to get rid of veggies. Nice thing is I save it on the computer and can rehash it for another month e.g. Feb turns into November. Grocery list is saved there also so hubby can access it as well. Extras get written on a designated pad in the kitchen.

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  31. I use e-meals and have for more than 2 years. I do the same thing that you do--if there is a meal that just looks like something that we won't eat, I exchange that for something we do want to eat. I subscribe to two of the meal programs that we like which gives me choices each week as well. I have been very happy with e-meals and it has saved me so much angst over meals that I actually like to cook now! I also save a lot of money by only buying what I need. When I first started with e-meals, it took longer at the store because I was purchasing things that I was not used to purchasing, but I was quickly able to zip right through the store and get home with what I would need for the next week's meals. Yay!

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  32. Thank you so much for writing about this. I had tried an app on my iPad for meal planning which worked great for a couple of weeks. But the amount of time I had to spend looking up the recipes online (which the app let you do so you could import them automatically) took too much time for me to keep it up for long.

    I'm a working mom and I've been contemplating paying for an online meal planning website and you gave me the last push I needed. I'm so excited to try out my new 5 Dinners in 1 hour Clean Eating plan. I love that it will help us eat together (which we haven't been doing recently because of our schedules and how long it takes to make dinner) and eat healthy, well-balanced meals while also saving time on my busy work days (I work 4 days a week, 10 hours a day) by prepping it all in 1 hour on my weekend.

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  33. My meal planning is DIY, but a little more high-tech. I use a website/app called Springpad. It's great for saving all kinds of information, but my favorite part is recipes. When I see a recipe I like online, with a cluck of a button Springpad will save it for me, and will do its best to break out the ingredients, instructions, number of servings, cooking time, etc (depending on how the site your getting the recipe from documents it).

    On Sundays, I'll sit down and add recipes to the board view for each day of the week. Then I can export ingredients to my shopping list. Since its an app as well as a website, and it all syncs automatically, that means I've got my grocery list on my phone, and the recipes on my iPad when I'm back in the kitchen! And you can share with other people, so my husband can access grocery lists as needed. Works for us!

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  34. cute cute cute! Having a menu plan is a huge stress-reliever. And having it posted keeps those "what's for supper" questions to a minimum. Just point to the board!

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  35. Off the subject....but where did you get that fabric????? Love it:)!!! Love the menu board....

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    1. Thank you!
      Here is the fabric source: http://www.fabric.com/ProductDetail.aspx?ProductID=49108e05-cf14-4fd0-aa7c-641b2f4d9be6

      xo!
      Jen

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  36. I do once a quartercooking, except I make enough meals for 4 months and plan when we are going to eat them. Saves time, money, and prep in cooking night. I have been doing this for 7 years and every time I run out of meals and try to just meal plan and cook it never works. I know cooking over one weekend takes a lot of energy but it works for us.

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    Replies
    1. That is incredible and inspiring! High fives to you!

      xo,
      Jen

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  37. I'm not sure if anyone has mentioned this in the comments, but I found a website, Plan to eat (plantoeat.com) that is absolutely wonderful for menu planning. You can upload your own recipes, or upload directly from a website with an easy "plan it" button - similar to the "pin it" button. You drag and drop your recipes onto the calendar and it will generate a grocery list for you. You can also customize which stores you buy from and it will generate your grocery list based on the aisles of that particular store (you have to tell it what aisle things are located in.) I tried it free for a month and ended up buying the year subscription, absolutely the easiest menu planning ever!

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  38. I have never thought of using e-meals! That would save me so much time and money (in the long run) and cut back the time that I would need to be spending getting things ready for each week! I also love the idea of your menu board. It's so functional and fabulous! I may have to make that one of my future projects! Love this post!

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  39. I've used meal plans on and off - they are great. My favorite are Happy Herbivore's meal plans! They are all low-fat, plant-based and they can be made in 30 minutes or less. You can even do all your cooking for the week at the beginning. Great option for people trying to eat healthy, but not sure where to start or what to eat! Plus, there are family plans or individual plans.

    https://www.getmealplans.com/

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  40. Yay! Reorganized food pantry today and continued myself on meal planning. When my husband was writing out bills he noticed all my trips to the grocery store. I can honestly say since we moved a year ago I let my meal planning. A sure sign of disorder, eating out too much, and one stressed mama. Thankful to be putting my self back on the monthly schedule.
    A few months ago I started to have 1 teen girl (we have 3) be responsible for 1 meal a week. They complained and were not happy with moms new system. What they do not know is I hope by summer to have them responsible for 2 a week. As I prepare my house and family to continue work on my credential/masters I know down the road it will be worth it. Look forward to the day when these amazing young women step into my shoes as mama has a class to go to!

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  41. Another shout out to The Fresh 20 here! They have great meal plan options... including vegetarian and gluten free!

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  42. i have used emeals before - love that they have an aldi option! i use a very basic system for meal planning using printables! i wrote a post about it here recently:
    http://stephaniesmith7.blogspot.com/2013/02/green-meal-planning.html

    love that menu board! i might have to make one for myself

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  43. I just started using a meal planning service. It saves so much time! I have been saving the menus/recipes/shopping lists in a binder but have not really come up with a good system. Can you share your binder? I would love to see how you are organizing them so that you can easily reference back to them.

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  44. I haven't fully embraced dinner meal planning yet. For some reason I have a difficult time committing to a whole week in advance. I know meal planning helps and I am baby stepping my way towards it. Right now I do categories each day so at least I narrow down my options. Like Mexican on Monday, Fish on Tuesday, etc. We usually have pizza on Friday night and a fancy breakfast on Saturday night. That is 2 less nights a week I have to think about.

    I do have my breakfast meal planning down though! And it makes my life much easier. We just rotate the same 7 breakfasts.

    http://www.raisinglemons.com/parenting/breakfast-at-our-house/

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  45. Does anyone know of any in Australia, I would love to use a meal planner but can't seem to locate anything here. Its a great Idea, what a way to streamline life.

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  46. You should consider adding this site to your list... the meals are friendly for different diets (Paleo, Whole Foods, Regular stuff, etc.)
    http://onceamonthmom.com/
    I haven't actually used it, but I've really been thinking about joining.

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  47. I never even knew meal planning services EXISTED until this post. I work most evenings and even though I'm home for dinner, I'm not there during the time where I would usually be prepping/cooking. My husband loves being in the kitchen a whole lot less than I do so most of what I make is made ahead of time and he just has to pop it in the oven but we're in a rut! I just signed up for emeals and he was THRILLED with the first weeks plan!

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  48. This is actually my first week of subscribing to a meal planning service and we love it! I love having a plan, but taking the time to plan overwhelms me each week.

    We are using slenderkitchen.com $6/mo or $36 for the while year! She has weight watchers points for every meal too to help us stay on track to our weight loss goals.

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  49. WOW. I'd always thought meal planning for for...I dunno who! Not me! But you make it sound so simple and useful. I'll have to start checking them out. I usually DREAD making the shopping list (we shop for 10 days), but I do love the shopping part. Thanks for sharing! And also making this seem like more of a reality!

    Dana
    http://www.thirtyoneladies.com

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  50. I didn't read all of the comments, so sorry if this is a repeat. How do you handle leftovers? It always seems we have enough food leftover to have lunch and dinner. We are a multi-house family ( as in 2 of the kids are with us 50% of the time) so we have to plan meals on nights with 2 adults and 1 2 yr old, then 2 adults and 2 older kids.

    When I was meal planning for a short time, I would plan a leftover night to eat up some of the food - I cannot stand waste! But it would be nice to have menus and ideas that didn't require eating the same meal more than 2 times (dinner and lunch the next day).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there!

      We don't have too many leftovers in this house, I have four hungry boys to feed! But when we do, my hubs and I eat them for lunch the next day or whip something up on the weekends.

      It sounds like there are sites in which you can input your ingredients and find recipes, maybe you could do that with your leftovers, to mix things up a bit?

      xo!
      Jen

      Delete
    2. That's a good idea :) I am sure once my boys get older I will be in the same boat, and wondering how to increase recipes to keep them fed! lol

      Delete
  51. Wow I haven't heard of a meal planning service. We try to plan a few dinners at home and I cook all of my 1 year old's food at home. I just started a chart to plan out meals a few days in advance and it has helped me plan for the grocery and for the week. I wrote a post about it: http://www.marcigilbert.com/2013/01/24/organizing-a-toddlers-meals/
    It isn't visually appealing, maybe I will work on that next.

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  52. I love Relish (which no other commenters have mentioned yet) they give you a choice of meals, you pick the ones for the week, scale them for your family and you're off. My family likes the food, and they offer a once monthly set of freezer meals also. I've subscribed for YEARS, and finally have decided I have enough weeks set up that I might discontinue for a while and just work off what I have.
    My other tool is "living Cookbook". I LOVE to cook, and hated that the services made me feel like I couldnt try new stuff. this electronic cookbook let s me import recipes from online, and keep them for later. I just add them to my week when I feel like it, and add the ingredients to the list.

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  53. Our issue is that we have one vegetarian, one gluten dairy free, and one low fat. Meal planning is torture for me. Not sure there is a meal planning service available that would be able to figure out all of our needs.

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  54. I just signed up...we will see how this goes.
    I do not mind cooking but I hate thinking of WHAT to cook.
    I have three very busy kids therefore I am a busy busy mom
    and when I do not plan, we eat out which is not good for us and
    very expensive.

    thanks for the post.
    S

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  55. Hi Jen!

    I have an unrelated question please. Where do you announce your giveaways winners???? On the same post as where the giveaway was? Or on another post altogether?

    Thanks!
    Jean

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    Replies
    1. Hi Jean!

      They are announced within the giveaway tool {rafflecoptor} on the bottom of the original post. Sometimes it may take a few hours for me to get them pulled once the giveaway has ended.

      xo!
      Jen

      Delete
  56. just signed up for emeals! thank you! if anyone wants to sign up i found a coupon code for 20% off: skinny :)

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  57. Jen, have you tried the AnyList app? I'm totally in love with it. It's a virtual grocery list that you can share with others, so my bf and I can both add items to it from our separate phones and cross them off once purchased. That way, if one of us makes a grocery run without the other, we know just what to get. Plus it automatically sorts items by section in the store. Seriously awesome. :)

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  58. I've been thinking about signing up for a meal planning service but am wondering a couple of things. One, has it been cost effective for your family? Two, do you let them know about any food issues or allergies so that is not included in your menu plans?

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  59. I just checked into plantoeat.com as a couple of the comments suggested. It looks AWESOME. I can't wait to give it a try. I love that you can import your own recipes and do not have to rely solely on what the service gives you. They also are more reasonably priced that some of the other services and even offer a 30 day trial. Thanks for the suggestions, everyone!

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  60. i was JUST staring at an empty spot on my kitchen wall last night, imagining a blackboard/menu planner! TA-DA! this is proof that i NEED to do that! thanks! =)

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  61. Just signed up for emeals because of this post!! Question - what are the tabs in your meal planning binder? (besides emeals) I'm not sure if I should do by breakfast lunch dinner, or meat/veggie/dessert etc... Thanks Jen! I super heart your site and Etsy store!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kat!

      I sort my binder by courses. Main Dish, Appetizer, Salad, Lunch, Snacks, etc... You could break your main dishes down even further too {types of main dish}.

      xo!
      Jen

      Delete
  62. I have been organizing my meal planning too! Because I'm an organization nerd, I used excel to write down all of my dinner recipes and included helpful notes like number of servings and where the recipe is located. I also wrote down all of the ingredients. This has already helped to have everything in one place. My plan is to create weekly menus of recipes that fit together so we don't waste as much food.

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  63. I am so excited. I finally signed up for a meal plan service! I went with 5 meals 1 hour! I am a night shift nurse. So 3 nights of the week my husband and kids get home at 5:30 and I have to leave at 6:30. After usually having been awake for the 24 hours prior to going to bed, the last thing I want to do is wake up early to try to figure out meals. I am super excited about the idea of premaking everything and having the lists all made out for me!!!!

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  64. What a great idea! Thank you as always for sharing!! Love your blog! Ok I just adore that doggie treat container. Would you mind sharing where it came from?? Thank you in advance!!!

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  65. I love the menu board! What font did you use to cut out the days of the week? I am looking for a scripty type font to use for an Easter basket for my daughter!
    Thanks! :)

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  66. One of today's Twin Cities groupons is half off eMeals! Not sure if you purchase it monthly or if you already have a yearlong subscription, but I instantly thought of you.

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  67. Jen, I love your post on meal planning. I agree, it's the only way to stay sane and make family mealtimes happen consistently. Thanks so much for recommending The Six O'Clock Scramble meal planning service. I'd be delighted to provide you with a free trial if you want to see how it compares. If so, I'm aviva at thescramble dot com.

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  68. Hi Jen,
    I've been following your blog for about a month now so I'm doing a bit of backtracking! (Also, getting some fabulous ideas along the way!)
    I'm not sure if this was a question above already but I was wondering with your meal planning, are there any left-overs after meal-time or are they portioned according to your family? Some things I've read in the past have plans for maybe 5 or 6 days with a built in day for leftovers so I just wanted to ask. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Nicole!

      Our meals are typically portioned for our family of five, and we rarely have leftovers. However, we do on occasion, and they make for great lunches for the hubs and I.

      xo!
      Jen

      Delete
  69. I have been obsessively reading your blog for about a year now, when I was re-purposing my dining room into a play/create room for my kids and stumbled upon your IKEA expedit toy storage...let's just say I haven't looked back, I've got my binder going, paint in mason jars, laundry organization, a garage in the works, and now this meal planning, I got right onto subscribing. The 5dinners1hour will save my life, really. Cooking is not my thing at all and taking the time to do so, I'd rather clean toilets! I am sooooo grateful for all your posts. They are inspiring!

    ReplyDelete

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