Simplified Organization

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Simplified Menu Planning: Day 23 – Set Up Your Menu Plan Calendar System

31 Days to Simplify Family Meals

31 Days to Simplify Your Menu Planning

Set up your pantry, grocery list, menu plan, and dinner recipes to simplify and streamline the process. Dinner happens every day. Be prepared. 31 Days to Simplified Menu Planning will show you how to develop a simple, easy, and effective strategy for feeding your family every day: without an arsenal of recipes.

Welcome to a month of practical, hands-on, and real-life organization and simplification posts! I’m joining up with The Nester’s “31 Days” meme with “31 Days to Simplified Menu Planning.” This series will outline the process I went through to cut back, simplify, and de-stress the meal preparation process, from pantry to grocery store to dinner-on-the-table, and everything in between. Of course, it took me 3 years, not 31 days, and I wasn’t nearly so methodical in figuring it out as this series will be. But it is oh so worth it!

Ways to Keep a Menu Plan

Preparing, organizing, and shopping now covered, we turn finally to the actual menu planning process.

After all the work and paring down already accomplished, menu planning really is so much simpler. With the “Simplified Dinners method,” you do not have to

  • keep a running grocery list as you plan dinners
  • go to the grocery store before you can make the meals you’ve planned
  • plan your menu on any particular schedule

With Simplified Dinners or after going through the simple menu planning process outlined by this series, you can menu plan according to your own convenience without food-related contingencies. Your pantry stock is being resupplied on a planned schedule and you’re not running out of your master staples, and your menu options only use those preplanned items. So, you are able to pick a dinner to make from your pared down recipe options anywhere from each morning to a month or even two in advance.

Making a plan and having one in place does bring peace of mind and stability, even if the grocery shopping is not dependent on it or the dinners aren’t continent upon the grocery shopping. So, it is still a good practice that keeps the household routine smooth and less stressful.

There are several ways to keep a menu plan; they are all equally valid and work just fine – so long as you work them. Experiment and pick the one that works best with your situation and your style.

  • Paper Calendar: The standard menu planning method is to write your dinner plan on a calendar, usually a blank template. You can’t really go wrong with this method, unless your paper gets lost or ruined, and you can possibly even recycle plans on a monthly or seasonal or yearly basis.

  • Paper List: Instead of assigning certain meals to certain days, you instead can simply list meals you want to make in the next week or whatever span you decide to plan for. Then each morning or afternoon (if a meal doesn’t require soaking beans or thawing meat), pick which meal appeals the most or is most convenient that day.

  • Digital Calendar: I use Google Calendar to keep my menu plan. It has the fun feature of being able to share calendars, so I have shared it with my husband (who uses Google Calendar at work) and with a couple friends (it’s one way to share meal ideas!). With a digital calendar, there is also the convenience of setting some meals to repeat at designated intervals or on certain dates. Additionally, if plans change, it’s easy to drag and drop meals to different dates.

  • App: There’s always an app promising to simplify your life and keep your information at hand. If that’s your thing, then I’m sure there are lots of options to try out. Beware, however, that using an app generally means the information is only on your phone and not available if the battery dies or you lose it.

I’m sure there are even more methods than these. How do you write and keep your menu plan?


Mystie Winckler began menu planning at 11 years old when her mom delegated one dinner a week to her. Marrying at 19, she’s had a lot of practice over the years. But between growing and homeschooling her family, meal planning often requires brain power that just isn’t there any more. Simplified Dinners is her solution to take the effort and thought out of healthy, frugal cooking. And now it is available for you, too! During the month of October only, while this series is running, use discount code 31days and receive $4 off!

And now, from you:

  1. I’m a paper girl. :) I take four pieces of printer paper, tape them into a large square, color the edges a bright color, measure out large squares on each side so that I have 7 across and 4 down. Then I date them all and start writing down events that are going on, make notes for items I need to make and plan out meals with my Basic Menu Plan I keep in my Home Management Book. I’ve so enjoyed reading this series!! I’ve gotten some new ideas and had fun seeing I’m doing almost everything so far. Yay!!! :D Thanks for taking the time to post this and encourage me. :)

  2. I LOVE Paprika – ipad, iphone and on my mac. I do find it annoying to have to wrestle my iPad from my toddler to get my recipes, however (hence why I have the iPhone and mac versions!).

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