My dear friend, Rachelle, and I share a mutual love for efficiency. She is a fellow blogger, author, and freelance editor (with three historical fiction novels to her name!), and today she is sharing her meal planning system with you. Please give Rachelle a warm welcome!
We’ve all been there. The meal planning rut. When 5PM is the dreaded witching hour, nothing in the pantry seems to inspire you, and you just don’t feel like making … anything.
Maybe it’s time to switch things up!
If you’re like me, you probably feel like you’ve tried it all: meal plan scheduling on paper, meal planning digitally via an app like Cookbook or Trello, maybe even a rotation! But nothing seems to work for you and your family. Or you just feel like trying something new for a change.
You’ve come to the right place.
How about a calendar app solution that is out-of-the-box and not even originally invented for meal planning at all?
Say hello to Google Calendar.
Yep, that Google Calendar.
My Breakthrough Moment
A bit of backstory: After being married a couple years, I ditched the dreaded weekly meal planning task and landed on a monthly meal plan rotation using a spreadsheet instead! No more starting from scratch every week.
This changed everything, for years.
But then it simply became time to move on.
My clunky spreadsheet was a bit too restrictive when our life season changed. Sure, planning out every meal worked for us when we were just DINKs (dual-income-no-kids) and I was rushing in the door from work to make dinner, but when Little Miss came along, I needed something newer, faster, and easier.
So I tried everything again:
Paper planning. The Cookbook app (which I love for my recipe rolodex, just not the meal planning feature — too many clicks!). Trello. Then I floundered into the no-plan method, which made 5PM the least favorite hour of my day.
I needed a new system that did most of the hard work for me.
So I created a new Google Calendar, named it Menu, and it took me less than half an hour to set up my monthly meal planning schedule. Let me walk you through the process.
Here’s how to get started:
1. Create a new calendar for your meal planning schedule.
Open your Google Calendar app and under “Other calendars,” click the “+” and “Create new calendar.” Then name that calendar “Menu” or “Meal Plan” or “Family Restaurant” or something else that makes you smile.
Now you’re ready to get started!
2. Create your meal plan calendar using recurring all-day events
First, block off nights you know you don’t have to cook!
For example, in my family, Thursdays are always date night, so I created an all-day calendar event that recurs every Thursday simply titled “Date Night.” Kids have soccer practice every Tuesday? Don’t cook; whip up sandwiches and call it good. Always eat out together on Saturdays? Then don’t worry about assigning a recipe to that day!
This second step takes the most amount of time but is worth the investment.
Think about the days of your week and what would make dinner a success.
- For instance, for me this means having a family favorite with lots of helpings on Sunday nights, because that simplifies packing lunches throughout the week.
- I’m home all day and usually have the least on my to-do list on Fridays, so on that night I’m always game for trying out a new recipe I’ve pinned on Pinterest because I’m rested and have the time to invest learning something new (and there’s no work lunch to pack for my husband the next day, so if dinner is a dud, no worries!).
Whatever your week looks like, plan your menu around your busy schedule and you’re much more likely to stick to it! Name the “events” after the recipe and make them recurring (every first Tuesday, etc.) so you don’t have to repeat this step next month if you don’t want to do that.
If you don’t know what recipes to plug in, I encourage you to whip out a sheet of paper (or make a note in your phone) and write down a list of your favorite dinner recipes. Include those meals such as:
- The one your kids are always asking for
- The go-to recipes you don’t even have to read anymore
- And don’t be afraid to list “breakfast” or “pizza!”
Aim for listing at least 20 different dinner ideas, and you’re set! That’s a different meal for each weeknight in a month, with room to repeat your very favorites.
Feeling fancy? For extra credit, categorize.
Group your favorite meals into categories by theme (Italian, Asian, Mexican, American, etc.). This step will help you avoid monotony within any one week’s meal plan. (If left up to me, we’d have chicken every night for a week. I’d never notice, but my husband would get bored!)
Now you’re starting to see your meal plan calendar take shape!
3. Get creative (optional)
Here’s my favorite part.
I color-code my categories (chicken in yellow, date night in purple, etc.)
At the beginning of each month, I pull up this Google calendar and review my meal planning schedule (you’ll notice there are “empty” days in August!), filling in as I go with new recipes I want to try, etc.
Then I print out the calendar and stick it on the fridge so I can easily see what’s for dinner and grocery shop. I can also consult my phone to access the meal plan, and my favorite hack is I have this calendar selected in my Echo app so when I ask Alexa to review my day, she tells me what’s for dinner!
So there you have it, a meal plan in Google calendar!
Wait a second.
No meal plan is ever perfect.
You may be wondering, Do I stick to my monthly meal plan religiously? Of course not!
I often deviate from the plan. So why do I do it? Because I find that just having something planned eliminates fifteen minutes of fridge-staring as I try to decide what I want.
Grocery-shopping is painless, too. Looking at my meal plan, I pull up in Cookbook whatever recipes are slated for the week and add missing ingredients to my Walmart Grocery Delivery cart!
Here’s a peek at what one of these meal plans looks like after a month of using it (oh, and I printed it when I was out of color)!
I hope your meal plan calendar serves you as well as mine does!
Rachelle Rea Cobb is a freelance editor, an author of six books, and voracious reader. She married a man with the same name as her fictional hero and they welcomed their baby girl in spring 2020. They live happily ever after in a fixer-upper by the sea. Rachelle is a huge fan of chai and lemonade (though definitely not together). Visit her blog here.
Which Type of Meal Planning Tool Do You Prefer?
Using a digital tool or pen and paper planning?
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