Capsule Menu Planning

January 30th, 2012

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?


33 responses to “Capsule Menu Planning”

  1. nicoleigh says:

    I think I’m going to have to look up capsule wardrobe!
    But I do believe I need to begin menu planning. Even though I feed just myself, I tend to buy many more grocery items than what I need. I have a pantry that is well stocked for a single gal! Jeesh. Time to menu plan from my pantry!

  2. Jasmine says:

    Ah, thank you for making the .pdf file editable! I love the forms but would rather print them with the info included rather than write on them, so this is perfect for me. I am currently in the midst of my first real attempt at menu planning, so I’m hoping this will not only motivate me, but organize me as well. Thanks again!

  3. Lauren says:

    I am glad you like it! I can only take credit for making them editable. Jen gets all the credit for coming up with the original forms! 🙂

  4. libbywilko says:

    LOVE that you included the editable pdf.. thanks guys 🙂

  5. Love this – I adore Jen’s printables and had no idea myself how to make them editable so thanks for sharing (and your capsule idea) – off to share on FB ! thanks again

  6. OK just one question – when i downloaded the form it will not save the information you enter (says it will only save a blank one)- you mentioned you were able to save them and then edit later as you re-use weeks, Am I missing something? Thanks for any help.

  7. […] meisten hyperventiliere ich dabei bei Artikeln wie Capsule Menu Planning (ja, ich verspreche, ich hole das Thema noch mal auf Foodfreak raus) – es gibt allen ernstes […]

  8. Linda Lawhead says:

    I like the layout of the meal planner, and the ability to edit/add with computer. Is there a way to change the color of the font of the form? The light blue is pretty, but hard for me to see! Thanks!

  9. Nikki says:

    Hey guys I cannot seem to make these editable. When I download them the say “You cannot save data typed into this form. Please print your completed from if you would like a copy for your records.” What am I doing wrong?

  10. Lauren says:

    Nikki, you may need to update your Acrobat Reader.

  11. Lauren says:

    No, that is not editable! Sorry about that. You could always print in black and white.

  12. Linda Lawhead says:

    Thanks! It’s a tad bit better in “black ink only”

  13. Kim M. says:

    Thanks for the editable form! LOVE it!

  14. Nikki says:

    Thanks Lauren. I’ll try that. Love the capsule menu.

  15. Nikki says:

    Just updated to the latest version of adobe acrobat reader and still cannot edit. I have to be doing something wrong.

  16. eskmom says:

    Thanks so much for your printables. The menu planner is better than my current one and i love the project planner.

    Thank you for helping me organize and run my crazy reality better.

  17. […] This is the follow-up post to my guest contribution on Be sure to check out my original post on her site, Capsule Menu Planning! […]

  18. […] Project Girl’s blog. So many organizational tips and printables! I already posted about her Weekly Menu Plan Printable, which I love, and there are some other printables I’ll talk about later. Best part is, […]

  19. Megan says:

    I love the forms but my main issue is that the text is too large. I cant write it all the detail or even fit some words on the grocery list section. Is there a way I can edit the text to make it smaller?

  20. Ashley says:

    Is there any way to pin this form on Pinterest?

  21. […] I was looking for something specific, namely,  a meal and shopping plan and her particular post on Capsule Meal Planning hit the mark. I read her post, downloaded the plans, and put pen to […]

  22. This is great thanks!

  23. Michelle Rogers says:

    I LOVE this! I have tried to make one of these for the last two years and this is EXACTLY what I am looking for. Thank you thank you thank you again! Been using it for the last two months and let me tell you I am happy the kids are happy and its just awesome!!!!

  24. […] found this free template from and use it for my weekly/fortnightly shopping. It helps me see what I have in the cupboard, and […]

  25. […] Mahalos to for these simple and very effective fill &print menus.  I love them for these 3 simple […]

  26. […] for menu planning.  It can be found on the Project Girl website.  Here is a post on how to put together a menu planning […]

  27. Raegan says:

    I wish there was an option for the week to start on a Sunday!

  28. mrsjrl12 says:

    It’s so hard to stay organized and make it to the supermarket every week much less with a clear idea of exactly what’s being made for dinner! I’ve been meaning to get this done for over a year now and this has made life a lot simpler and cuter! Thanks Ladies!

  29. Janet says:

    Thank you!! This is just what I’ve been looking for. I prefer to work online rather than from paper.

  30. Jeanette says:

    I really love the menu that says “meals” on top. but I was not able to download it. when you click on the link it send you over to a website for go daddy. can you by any chance send me a link for this menu planner or send me the planner directly? I would love to have it

  31. […] also need a grocery list got organize the food you need to prep. One of our favorite templates is this fillable PDF file because you can simply enter (and change!) your plan and grocery list before printing it […]

  32. Cathie says:

    I’ve been using the projectgirl’s meal planner and went on to find something that is editable. Thank you! My only issue is, are you not able to save it and print it later? My adobe says only a blank copy can be saved. Thanks in advance for any help!

  33. Deanna says:

    Thank you so much for doing this! We have been using your template for I think 9 years. It takes about 1 hour a week of planning and 1 hour a week of shopping, but that is all and the money saving is worth it! No wondering what to make for dinner that night, we shop our pantry, we don’t buy food we don’t need,we don’t eat fast food because we ran out of time to cook, we shop the cheaper grocery store. We estimate that we save about $100-$200 a week this way. Thank you so much for your post!

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