Earlier this month, though, I decided I was tired of getting to dinner time and not knowing what I was going to cook that night, having no flash of inspiration, or missing ingredients if I did actually come up with an idea of what I wanted to cook. I decided I needed to come up with a system that would actually help me to plan meals... and stick to the plan.
My solution: Refrigerator Magnet Meal Planning!!
I have the week's menu, including entrée and side dishes, all lined up on the front of the fridge. This makes it easy to see at a glance what meal is planned for what day. I have my week starting on Wednesday, as this is the day I do my grocery shopping.
I also have many other entrée, side dish, even dessert magnets ready and waiting for when it is time to plan the next week's menu.
(To be honest, this collection of magnets has grown quite a bit since I took this photo. I kept remembering more recipes I had forgotten initially!)
So, how did I make this? I discovered that you can get printable magnet sheets from Staples. (At the time of this writing, the item number is 386943, you can search for them on Staples.com.) You can put these sheets through your inkjet printer, or you can write on them yourself. I chose to print mine because I'm a bit OCD and wanted them to look as good as possible LOL.
With my word processing software, I set up a new document as if to print labels. I used that as my template and filled in all the names of the different dishes I wanted to have available for meal planning. I used different colors for the different categories: Black for the day of the week, Red for entrees, Green for side dishes, Blue for desserts. Not pictured are the ones I added later: Purple for "Leftovers", Light Blue for "fend for yourselves" (for the times I'm not able to cook for the family).
After printing the documents onto the magnetic sheets and letting them dry overnight, I carefully cut out the magnets along the lines from the label template. I then arranged the magnets on my fridge so that entrées were together, side dishes were together, and desserts were together. This makes is super easy to browse through the options when selecting the next weeks' meals, and my kids can even help with meal planning now.
I'm heading into week 4 of using this system, and it has really been working for me! Because it's all just magnets, I can rearrange the plan if something comes up, i.e. I don't have 2 hours to cook this chili tonight, but I do tomorrow so let's swap today's and tomorrow's plans. Plus, my family always knows what to expect for dinner. There's something very satisfying in hearing one of my daughters get all excited over what's for dinner. :)
I hope this information helps you to master your own meal planning, whether you copy my method, modify it to fit your needs, or do something else completely different. Happy planning!!