New interactive printable for menu planning

For the next four weeks, I’ll be writing about meal planning 101 over at BabyCenter.

You can see the first in the menu planning series here.

As I have reflected on my shift from frozen dinner queen to healthy weeknight chef, one of the tools that has been pivotal in my success is a simple, interactive menu planning printable. I made for my own sanity back in September of 2012 and at this point I can’t imagine using any other method.

Here’s the step-by-step approach that has worked wonders for me.

Step 1: Explore Recipes

Every Saturday morning after the boys have finished hockey and their music practice, I sit down with my computer, open up Pinterest and Food Gawker and troll for dishes that sound good, fit our budget, and are do-able in under 30 minutes.

Step 2: Copy Links & Ingredients to My Menu Printable

When I find a recipe that will work, I simply copy and paste the link to the recipe right into the day section of the form. While I have the recipe open, I copy and paste the ingredients right into the appropriate section of the grocery list, too.

Step 3: Save the Menu for Future Reference

Once my menu and shopping list are complete, I save the PDF in a file folder titled “Weekly Menus” and add the date to the name. I have gone back and re-used “old” menus or the best recipes from old menus many, many times.

In addition, any recipe that has made a weekly menu cut is pinned to our “Dinner Ideas” Pinterest Pinboard for future reference.

Step 4: Print & Shop

Once everything has been saved, I print it off, rip off the shopping list, pin the menu to our family whiteboard on the fridge and head with the shopping list to the grocery store.

Step 5: Open Recipe & Cook

Each evening, I glance at the menu attached to our fridge and open up the recipe link in my browser or on our iPad and get to cooking. If I’m not home, it is very easy for my husband to do the same — or a babysitter. Anyone can cook with the full confidence that we have all of the ingredients needed.

Step 6: Add Printed Menu to a Binder

If the week has been particularly successful – with multiple recipes that people like, I will three hole punch the sheet, jot the date at the top, and add it to a basic, white 3-ring binder I keep in the kitchen for future reference. If the week has been full of “meh” recipes, I skip this step.

Until now we’ve kept this printable behind a gated wall exclusively for Boot Camp participants. But the drumbeat for an interactive menu planner has been getting louder and louder lately. In fact it’s gotten SO loud that we’re finally making it available for a single purchase. You can get the menu planning printable here.

What’s your favorite meal planning tool?