Last summer, I had a client (I was a real estate agent in my pre-mommy life) with three kids under the age of six. Their family of five was living in a 1,200-sqare-foot condo, and although the quarters seemed tight, their household worked like a well-oiled machine. Every drawer had a label; every task had a responsible party. There were dry-erase and magnet boards all over the place detailing dinners for the next month and which child was in charge of things as simple as saying a prayer before dinner.
I snapped photos of their dry-erase boards during an open house and sent them to my husband with “LOL” as the message. Little did I know that I would be implementing some of the same systems a year later! (Mommyhood has a way of doing that to you!)
So when I recently discovered The Project Girl’s free downloadable menu planner and grocery list forms (via Violet Lulu – thank you!), I was ecstatic. I’ve been struggling with keeping our pantry stocked and our refrigerator full (without filling the compost with wasted produce I never got around to using), and I love finding ways to save money and be more efficient. Plus, the forms are super cute and look great printed and posted on the fridge (or in a binder!).
But…I wanted to take it a step further. A couple steps further, actually.
You’ve heard of the capsule wardrobe, right? Well, I’ve created a capsule menu planner. First, I took The Project Girl’s free downloadable menu planning forms and made them editable using Adobe Acrobat Reader. Now, I don’t have to print them out to fill in the blanks. I can simply work on my plans using the computer and print them when I’m done. The beauty of this system is that I can save them as PDFs and re-use them later by updating the dates and needed grocery items. (The Project Girl’s free downloadable menu planning forms are at the end of the post.)
But wait…it gets better. I took my haphazardly organized (if organized at all) recipe binder and organized it into a capsule menu planner.
First, I gave it a cute cover. I mean, what’s the point of doing something if it’s not cute?!
Next, I put my menu plan for this week into a sheet protector and inserted it into the front of the binder. I use the one that has dinners only on it (version two at the end of this post) since my husband and I do breakfast and lunch separately (usually leftovers or sandwiches).
Here’s a detail view of my menu planner for the week:
After the menu planner page, I moved all my recipes for the week to the front of the binder right after the menu plan. That way, I don’t have to go looking for them each day. (There’s another great reason for this that I’ll share in my follow-up post!)
I also added a sheet protector to hold coupons. On my menu planner page, I put a (c) next to the grocery items for which I want a reminder that I have a coupon. (Now, if only my daughter would stop squealing and distracting me at the checkout like she did today – therefore totally making me forget to use my coupons! Grrrrr…)
When you head to the grocery store, you can either take your own binder or just pull out the menu planner page and your coupons. I took my whole binder today, but my little girl kept throwing it on the ground. Next time, I’ll just stick my list in my pocket!
You could even add tabs for different types of dishes and to keep your current dishes (the ones you’ve picked for the week) in front of your binder. I like to put desserts and staple items like bread (I bake my sandwich bread fresh every two weeks) at the end of my binder.
The whole process of planning my menu for this week took about half an hour, but the awesome thing is that I can recycle this menu plan in future weeks. All I’ll have to do is re-open the PDF on my computer and edit the grocery list based on what I already have in my pantry/fridge at that time. Just be sure to save your PDFs in a certain folder on your computer, and use filenames that will be easy to connect to your printed menu (like the date of the menu).
OH, did I mention that this system saves me money? And not just from using the coupons (or forgetting to use them like I did today). That’s right – instead of wandering the aisles aimlessly, buying too many perishables, making impulse shopping decisions and/or buying duplicate items that I already have in my pantry, I got only exactly what I needed and could use within the week. My final bill was about 25% less than my normal amount for one week.
Sound awesome? I know, right?! You can download your editable forms by clicking on the images below. Version one includes spaces for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Version two, the one I use, just has a “meals” section which I use for dinners only.
So there you have it – a fun and easy way to get yourself more organized every week. Are you loving it? Yes?! Great – because I have another great way to make meal preparation super easy and quick. (But you don’t have to sacrifice making gourmet, restaurant-quality meals for your family). Sound awesome? Check out my follow up post on ruthie pearl – Be Your Own Sous Chef. Be sure to say hello when you stop by! 🙂
How do YOU plan to use The Project Girl’s free downloadable menu planning forms?