Happy Monday Friends!
I am pretty excited about what I have to share with you this week!
I am pretty excited about what I have to share with you this week!
Here's a little fun fact about me: I am pretty "in to" meal planning. Geeky, I know! But not only does it keep my grocery list (and bill!) in check, but when dinner time rolls around, I like having a game plan ready for me. If I'm stuck facing a refrigerator or pantry saying "What should I make for dinner tonight?," we usually end up calling for pizza!
Until now, I have been using a pretty basic, pretty functional system:
Each week, I pull out my "collection" of tried-and-true recipes, which are organized in clear-paged books into the categories of "Favorites," "Classics," "To Try," and "Desserts." I page through the books and identify what sounds good and/or what will work with items we have on hand! I then assign a meal to each day of the week on our little green wipe board, making an effort to vary our sources of protein and carbohydrates across the week. Once my meals are identified, I assemble our grocery list and set off for the store. I actually stick to my meal plan most of the time!
Then...a while back, I came across this picture on Pinterest:
I was absolutely smitten with this menu board concept (and not just because I am allured by all things labeled and color-coded!) Although my meal-planning system was working, my recipes were in major need of updating and organizing...and despite having dozens of recipes, I was often making the same things over and over and over again. This menu board concept allowed me to plan a whole month at once (major time saver!), ensured that I made a different meal each night...AND it looked super pretty and organized with all the labels and colors (very important!)!
Although RobbyGurl has a pretty awesome product here (and she even sells them!), I really wanted to give the menu board a go myself...yeah, I'm kinda stubborn and controlling that way! I really loved her concept, but there were a few things I wanted to customize in order make the final product more specific and functional for my needs!
I gave this project a lot of thought, and it took me a while to identify a system that would truly work for me. After a lot of thinking, organizing and sorting, putting it away for a while, pulling it back out, and thinking some more....here is how my menu board turned out!
Today, I am going to show you how my menu board works...then later on this week, be sure to check back, because I'll show you how I made it!
Are you ready to see how this menu board works?
At the start of the month, I clear the magnetic calendar, put up the correct month at the top, and write in the dates with a dry-erase marker.
I start our monthly meal-planning by looking at our family calendar and identifying parties, outings, or other meal-related commitments we having coming up. I designate these days with the "OUT:" label. I specifically designed my labels to be slim enough that I can hand-write in where we will be going when we are eating "out."
I then assign meals to the rest of the days we are home, using my "meal magnets." As I said before, I make a specific point to vary our protein sources across the week, ensuring that we have at least 1 vegetarian and 1 seafood meal each week. (The color-coding system I employed here is organized by protein, so I simply make sure I have all my colors represented each week!).
Then, I add my red labels, which are all "sides and salads." Some of my red labels are actually recipes, and I add those where appropriate. However, most of my red labels are a bunch of "code" letters!
Here are what my "code" letters stand for!
Like our protein, I also like to make sure we get a variety of whole grains through the week. I add my little red letters to each meal, so when I am both prepping my shopping list and the actual meal, I know exactly what I need!
Are you still following me? In the picture above...on February 19th, we will be having Barley Risotto with Salad (S) and on February 26th, we'll be having Meatloaf Muffins with both Wild Rice Timbales and Salad (S)! Just like with the color-coded protein labels, these red labels allow me to quickly assess if we are getting too much of one thing and not enough of another!
There are a few other fun features I added to my meal-planning system to really make this menu board versatile, flexible, and perfectly tailored to my needs!
I very often double recipes (whenever the recipe lends itself to freezing!) to save time cooking down the road. To remind myself to buy extra ingredients and/or make the full recipe, I add these + labels on the appropriate day.
Since I often cook extra and therefore have meals in the freezer, we eat "leftovers" at least once a week. So just like the "OUT:" label, I can add the "LEFTOVER:" label and hand-write in what that meal will be!
Lastly, I created the "NEW:" label. One of my concerns with this type of meal-planning system was that we would eat the same recipes over and over because they were the ones labeled and on the board. What about all those recipes on my Pin Boards, in my email, and in all those cookbooks on my shelves? To make sure we keep our rotation fresh, each month we have 1-2 "new" recipe nights. Like with the "OUT:" and "LEFTOVER:" labels, I write in what the actual recipe is below the label!
And what happens if we really love a recipe and want it to become part of the regular rotation? I printed a bunch of blank labels that I can hand-write on so I don't have to run back to the computer every time we find a good new recipe!
To organize and store all my magnets when they are not in use (because I have a lot more than 31 recipes!), I bought a simple craft box that can tuck in behind the menu board!
So...I've showed you how I plan my meals for the month and how my
complicated creative label system works! But what about the actual recipes? Where are those?
I really loved how RobbyGurl has all the recipes color coded with the menu labels and how streamlined and accessible they are right under the board. However, I was NOT up for re-formatting all my recipes - lol! My books with clear cellophane pages (from the Y100 Store in Okinawa!) were working really, really well for me...so I kept that system! I did sort, purge, and re-organize my recipes (more on that in my next post), and made corresponding spines to match my magnets. Now, when I see that there is a yellow recipe on the board....I reach for my yellow book of recipes. Easy!
I keep our recipe books contained in a magazine filer (some have to be stored backwards so they'll fit!). The calendar, file box, and magnet box all fit nicely on my counter...in plain view, but out of the way!
I've been using my menu board for about a week or so now, and I have to say I am just thrilled with its functionality. It may seem complicated, but it has all the features that I need to make it truly usable for our family!
As I said, I have a whole other post in the works about how I made this board! (You can now read it here!) Check back in a few days, and I'll show you all my templates and tools for making this menu-planning gem!
Have a great Monday!
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