Saturday, November 14, 2009

Menu Plan Series - Part II

{note, this part is a little longer}

• Have some lists and systems that make menu planning easier (in addition to cookbooks you use frequently). I’m going to tell you all the things I’ve done with my recipes and how they are useful for menu planning, including the two types of lists I have that make my menu planning so easy.
  • First: I don’t have very many cookbooks. I have a couple of reasons for this: one, I find recipes mostly online and through friends & family so I don’t need an extra cookbook that just takes up space in my house; two, I used to have like 5 or 6 different cook books but I discovered after having them all for about 3 years I only had a recipe or two in each book that I used. I copied the recipe (making note of where I found it, of course) and gave the books away.
  • Second: As I said, I get most of my recipes from family, friends and online from food sites and blogs. I like to have physical copies of my recipes rather than just on a computer {online} so I have two binders full of these recipes. Each binder has tabs separating different categories so that I can be organized about my recipes. These binders replaced my old 3x5 cards (I typed up all my recipes that were on 3x5 cards and then printed them and placed them in the binders). Included in each binder is every recipe I get a family member or friend that I like {tip: never save a recipe you don’t like. It’s kinda pointless} and when I see one online that I want to try, I print it off and put it in the binder.
  • Third: I have a couple of lists that are very important to my menu planning.
  1. List #1: This list is called “Meal Ideas”, which is a Word Document so I can easily make changes to it when necessary. This is the list where I keep ideas for meals that we have tried and which have been designated “keepers.” I organize this list by placing each meal idea under a column header which designates its main ingredient (my column headers are listed as follows: Beef, Chicken, Pasta, Potatoes, Vegetarian, Seafood, Other, Crock-pot). This method of organization helps me to be sure I don’t plan 15 recipes each month with beef, making it easy to create a balance. This list is what I use to help me remember the recipes I’ve put in the Recipe Binders and it comes in very handy when I meal plan.
  2. List #2: I love trying new recipes. I follow numerous cooking blogs and meal sites (,, etc) where I get lots of meal ideas. Whenever I find a recipe that I think we would like, I put its title on a Word Document list I have called “To-Try Recipes List” under the category header that would be most appropriate (categories are similar to the List #1’s categories)
  3. List #3: After writing the title of the new recipe on the “To-Try List”, I will copy the recipe and paste it (along with the URL of where I found it – giving proper credit is a very important thing) into another Word Document titled “To-Try Recipes”. Then when I decide I want to try one of my new recipes, I use the search option available with Word to find the recipe. After I’ve used a recipe and if we decide we like it, I move the title from List #2 to List #1 and I put the printed copy of the recipe in it’s respective binder, where it will forever have a home.
Note: If I find a new recipe that is not online (i.e., received it from a friend or a cooking group and it’s already in print), I put it in my binders and put the recipe name on the “To-Try Recipes List”, along with where exactly I put it.
This system may not work for you. Figure out a system that will work for you and get it in place and organized. If your system isn't organized, your menu planning will be a real hassle.

Check back on Monday for Part III of the Menu Plan Series!

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