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5 Simple Steps to Easy Meal Planning


It’s that time of year again. School supplies have been on sale for weeks, the pool is closing, and the little yellow school bus will be stopping for all of the children up and down our street. While we homeschool year-round to some degree, we mostly keep to reading, math, and some life skills in the summer months. Now it’s time to set up the school area, get out all of this year’s books, and start “school.”

The beginning of our homeschool year brings with it not just academic work but co-op and other group activities, piano lessons, sports conditioning, AWANA, and more. It can be a struggle to put good meals on the table while juggling all of the various activities in our day. A few years ago, I put together a grocery and meal planning system that saves me oodles of time while still making sure my family gets nutritious meals at a reasonable hour. Here is a step-by-step guide to how I accomplished this…and how you can as well!

Easy Meal Planning System

You will need the following supplies for this meal planning system:

  • your family’s cookbooks and recipe box
  • blank business cards
  • plastic business card holders (for three-ring binders)
  • permanent markers
  • pens and a highlighter
  • access to a spreadsheet or word processor and printer

1. Collect your family’s favorite recipes from their current location. Write the name of each recipe, where it is located, and any side dishes on the front of the business cards. Then flip the card over and write all of the necessary ingredients for each recipe and side dish on the back of the card. I also have a few cards that say “leftovers” and “out to eat.”

2. Using a permanent marker, label seven of the spaces on the business card holder with a day of the week. Leave the extra spaces blank. I plan for five weeks of meals at a time, so I made five of these holders. My meal planning only covers evening meals, but you could follow the same procedure for lunches and breakfasts as well.

3. Using a spreadsheet or word processor, make a list of all of the ingredients on the cards. Also add any non-food items that you regularly purchase on grocery trips, such as trash bags or laundry detergent. I divided mine up according to category and put them in the order they are found at my favorite grocery store.

4. With calendar handy, complete your meal planning by placing the cards in each day’s space of the business card holder. This system allow an easy exchange of cards until a workable meal plan is in place. The Well Planned Day Homeschool and On the Go planners and the Well Planned Gal’s Online Planner would all work well with this system.

5. After all of the spaces contain a card, flip the holders so the ingredients side is up. Using a highlighter, mark each ingredient on your grocery list. If I need multiples of certain ingredients, I make tally marks next to it. Then I just take the list to the store for an easy shopping trip!

Using this meal planning system, I can plan our menus for the month and make a grocery list in about ten minutes. If our plans change for a meal, I can just switch out the cards and make that meal another night.

How do you menu plan? Is it a joy or a challenge? Take our Planner Personality Quiz to discover your planner personality type and discover tips to help you plan effectively, no matter what your personality may be.

At age eight, Stephenie McBride developed a life-long interest in teaching others. She taught English as a Second Language and Kindergarten in a public school for six years. Stephenie and her husband, Ben, adopted their two children from Kolkata, India, in 2000 and 2004. She has been an at-home parent and home educator since 2001. They use an eclectic mix of materials and approaches, with a strong emphasis on Charlotte Mason. Stephenie is the Assistant Editor of Publications for Home Educating Family Magazine. She also created and writes for Crestview Heights Academy Homeschool Curriculum. You can read more about Stephenie and her eclectic homeschooling adventures at crestviewheights.wordpress.com.

  • Renee

    That’s a great system. I will definitely try it! I also use tally marks when I make my grocery list. One time my husband went grocery shopping for me and came back with several boxes of chicken broth. He apologized for not buying 11 because they ran out. He thought my two tally marks was the number 11. Lol

    October 13, 2013 at 1:18 am Reply
  • Sandi Cullers

    I really enjoyed the article. I live in a senior bldg and this has given me some ides for Potlucks!

    Sandi Cullers

    August 22, 2014 at 3:08 pm Reply

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