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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

an easy way to meal plan for one year with free printables ♥

it sounds crazy i know.
but it's not! trust me!
i've been working on this project probably for at least a year.
oh not because it took that long to finish ... just because i'm a slacker.
along with the fact that i was going back & forth between making my own printables for this whole system, and what i was coming up with just wasn't to my liking.
so i mentioned last week that i teamed up with my bestie AmyJ. for this project
SHE designed, created and cutified a whole new meal planning kit for me ...
and even more exciting, we have a few free printables here today just to get you started!
so exicted.

i'm going to keep it as simple as possible and break it down into a few easy steps.
the most time consuming part might be filling out the monthly calendars but i finished mine over the course of a few evenings (watching shark tank) (i'm obsessed)
i really hope you love this whole set-up! 
let's get started ...

how will meal planning work for you? is a year too much to think about?
would you rather just tackle a week or a month at a time to start?
planning for 12 months is a little extra work, but worth it when you're done!
and it's really all about repeating & rotating meals you make now and leaving space to try new recipes later. either way Amy's kit allows you to plan with the weekly calendar...
and if you decide to plan monthly, that calendar is a free print at the end of this post.

what you'll use for supplies is up to you ... but Amy's kit makes it all so simple 
aaaaaand way cute. like way. 

a binder & page protectors are the necessities, but i also used a few other things ...
stick on tabs 
(these were Martha Stewart from Staples)
a couple clipboards
(dollar bins at target)
any recipe cards or page markers 
to make finding & organizing your dinner or make ahead recipes easier
(Amy's cute recipe cards come in her meal planning kit)

start by filling out a master meal list & a new recipes to try list.

so basically your master meal list consists of all the things you make for dinner currently
... family favorites, quick & easy meals, really anything that you cook for your family on a regular basis.  
i filled mine out in groups by meat & category ... for instance:
beef, chicken, pasta, misc/quick meals

the new recipe list is just simply that :)
any recipe you've been wanting to try, those magazine clippings stuffed in a file somewhere, 
all those recipes you pinned on pinterest... yeah those.
all that ... write it down on the recipes to try list.
don't forget to source it ... in case you're like me and can't find a certain recipe among the seventeen thousand pins you pinned to your meal board.
cookbook page numbers, magazine volume numbers ... whatever 
... however you keep your stuff
if you just jot down where it came from you'll be able to track it down faster.

if you're planning for the year, 
print out 12 copies of the free month at a glance calendar at the end of this post
along with the shopping list & the week at a glance page (from the meal plan kit)

i put the calendars each in their own page protector along with 2 shopping lists
(i grocery shop every other week, if you shop weekly print 4 for each month)
and 4 week at a glance planning pages
(i use these to copy down what the "week in meals" looks like
and i put it up on the fridge for my family to see ... i'll get to that in a minute)

don't forget to fill out the sticky tabs for all 12 months 
and attach them at the end of each page protector

to fill out your meals for the whole year, use your master meal list and just start with January ... 
fill in most of the days of the month with the meals you currently make.
i like to make it easy by keeping certain days for certain meals, for example...

mondays - chicken
tuesday - beef
wednesday quick & easy/misc.
thursday - leftovers (yay!)
fridays - pasta

that's why keeping the master list separated by type makes it easier to rotate the meals as you fill in the days ... you can see that my calendar has a few blank spaces, i left those open for trying new recipes and don't forget to leave space for when those new recipes become a part of the master meal list... as the months pass i'll look back at the additions to the master meal list and slowly fill in those blanks.

make sense?

you can fill in all 12 months or just do a few at a time every so often...
 whatever works best for you.
this is the most time consuming part, but like i mentioned before 
it took me maybe a total of 1-2 hours to fill all the calendars in with dates and meals

sunday afternoon is usually the time i like to sit down and take a look at our week
cut coupons, plan meals and such ... i'll just grab a weekly meal planning sheet from behind my monthly calendar, fill in what is on the menu ... and make adjustments from there based on what's going on that week ... church, practice, birthdays ... whatever.
but it's nice to have it already laid out in front of me, 
i just have to fill in blanks and do some tweaking.

plus my family really likes knowing what's on the menu!
 i also jot down quick things for breakfast & lunch 
which helps to eliminate arguing over what they have for breakfast in the morning)

by the way a few of my favorite things about Amy's pages are ...
the encouraging verses at the bottom of each page
(cause God knows i need encouragement when it comes to dinner time)
the cutest clipart in the history of the world times infinity in every corner
aaaand a spot to write down what you should be baking during the week.
cause it's no secret i love to bake. well really i just love cookies.
so go fill this space out right now.
bake something.
do it.

last thing to do!
fill those page protectors with all the recipes you have clipped, cut or printed on paper 
and put them in the back of the binder behind your calendars.
when it's time to cook dinner, check your calendar and flip to the back for easy access to your recipes 
(i keep only dinner or stock up in the freezer recipes back here, 
baking and other recipes are in a separate binder)

i actually took it a step further and created a template in publisher for recipes from the web that we decide are keepers.  i hate having things printed from the internet with all the mumble jumble and random ads & images in my recipe inventory ... it's not pretty :)
i take a few minutes to copy & paste the text with the main image along with the source into my template and i add a space for my own notes about the recipe.
but that's an optional step. if you're crazy like me.
problems. yeah i know.

Amy's kit comes with pantry & freezer inventory lists to help keep track of what's in the back of those hard to see spaces in the kitchen ... and will help avoid the dreaded missing ingredient issue just as you're about to start dinner
i put them on clipboards and hung the pantry one on the inside of the door
the freezer list is in my basement near my big box freezer which holds bulk purchases from sam's club or extra freezer meals if i cook a few ahead of time

i also like to keep my cookbooks on display.
they're within reach and double as cute decor in a wire basket

you can tab the pages of the recipes you make most often
then just grab it off the shelf and flip through your tabs for easy access

well, i think that's it!
information overload i know!
funny thing about all this, is that i do not enjoy cooking ... at all
 baking yes ... cooking, no.
but i'm very very italian so i love to eat
and those two things don't go together so well

so having any sort of plan in place, makes me feel like being prepared and cooking dinner most of the week is something i can accomplish ... happily. with no curse words.

Amy also whipped up this super cute binder cover for you!
you can slide it into the front of your blank binder or inside of a page protector
i just love this so much 

{click on the images to download the files}

{click on the images to download the files}

aren't they so sweet?! enjoy them!
i plan to do a follow-up post about my coupon binder and how i use Amy's planner printables
as well as a little info about that pantry inventory list and how i organize my pantry!

if you have any questions just leave them in the comments 
i'll do my best to answer them quickly ♥
happy planning!

linking up here!


  1. Glad I popped over! I was wondering if you posted this yet. And whew, did you ever!! Kudos. I'll be reading it several times to grasp all good bits and tips. Thanks so much to you and Amy : ) Happy cooking/baking!

  2. Thank you so much for posting your method of using this kit. I purchased the kit last week (absolutely love it), but was a little stumped on what to do with the master meal list page. The freebies are a great addition to the kit, and very much appreciated. :)

    1. than you for your comment Pam! you're so very welcome I'm glad it helped you! ♡

  3. Okay, this is fabulous. I always try to do meal planning and fail miserably, but I'm totally willing to give it a try again! Anything can be accomplished when it looks so dang cute!

  4. Thx for the printable attachment in the email darling, I'm gonna have to re-read this when I'm ready to start my meal planning project.

    And OMG I AM TOTALLY IN LOVE WITH YR HANDWRITING ON THE DIVIDER TABS!!!!! Have u ever considered make it into a font? Or did u already? If so, plz pass on a link, and if not, u should!

    It's just the cutest <3

    Angela @ATypicalEnglishHome made a how to post about that, and here's the link if yr curious:

    plz PLZ do consider it, if u haven't already!

    Thx again <3

  5. Girlfriend! This is so amazing! I bought her kit a month ago and need to print it out. You guys do beautiful work. Thanks so much for sharing this! Happy Birthday again! xoxo Jen

  6. I love it!! When I first saw the title of your post, I was she insane?" A whole year of meal plans? I can barely do one week. But, you made it so easy with the help of Amy's insanely cute printables!! I have all my recipes on Paprika (app for apple products) which is great. They even have a menu planner, but I'm not a fan of how the menu planner is set up, besides my family can't see it unless they go on my app. This will be perfect for planning. I love it!! You've encouraged and motivated me to start planning my meals again!! Thanks so much :)

  7. Absolutely fabulous! I'll be making the switch to SAHM in July when baby Girl #2 is born and am getting all my "stuff" like this together. Thanks for sharing, Ladies!

  8. I love this post. I really enjoy menu planning and these printables are so gorgeous.

    I dont suppose you would share your recipe template it looks beautiful???:) Like you I really don't like the look of recipes that I print off the web, it's all too jumbled, I like order!! I actually laminate my recipes and that way it doesn't matter if they get splattered whilst cooking, you can just wipe it off good as new.

    Thank you for the inspiration:)

  9. I get so excited when you have a new post because it is always something fabulous..and this gem did not disappoint! I am organized with my meal planning but you gave me some fantastic new ideas and now it will look sooo pretty! Thank you for being amazing and sharing your talent!

  10. I love these! They are so so so perfect for me in every way. Right down to the clip art and the verses.

    Thank you so much.

    Amanda Rose

  11. I'm with Mindfully Making, is there a chance you'll be sharing or even selling your recipe pages you've created. I'm very much into recipe formats matching, especially when they're in a binder all together. :) I'm loving how easy you make meal planning look. I'm actually excited to give it a go again and heading on over to Etsy now to get the cutest printables ever! Thanks for the post!

  12. Oh those are beautiful! I am stopping by from Org Junkie and planning my menus has helped so much. I hope you will stop by and share 3 posts including this one on my Small Victories Sunday linkup, where I share my menu plan amidst my weekly recap and linkup

  13. wow. you are like the ultimate homemaker!

  14. I love the cute colors and clip art! and the verses at the bottom are a nice touch. I've got 4 boys (5 including husband!) so I feel like I ought to meal plan more. I can handle a week at a time. I get overwhelmed if I try to do more than that, we go through so much food over here!

  15. I would love it if you could share your recipe template! It's so cute!

  16. So excited about this, this was a summer project---to get my meal planning organized--and now I know just what to do! Thanks for sharing!

  17. Love these! I will be purchasing them on Etsy very soon!

    Random question- Love your Kindle cover. May I ask where you purchased it at? Thank you!

  18. Love this!!! I'm going to try to get this completed before school starts back and I would love it if you would share your recipe template. It's so cute!!!

  19. I love meal planning too! You’ve posted some great tips Jaime :)
    Happy Cooking Everyone!

  20. Ah man! Going to have to buy this for sure! I printed your freebies, but really want the cute master list and weekly plan to go with it!

  21. This is just amazing!! I cane barely keep up with a week and its just me. Now I can plan and make things easier when he Mr is home. He's a trucker so he's gone a lot and kiddos grown and gone to college too. Its fantastically fabulous!! Thank you.

  22. Is there somewhere I can print or buy your recipe template? I love it!

  23. This is FANTASTIC! I meal plan 2 weeks at a time and I haaaaate it. I hate doing it so much, but it keeps me sane, and everyone else in my family safe from 'I don't know what to make for breakfast/lunch/dinner' rants and tantrums. Working out an entire years worth of meal planning, while it might take me a full day to do it, would save me so much loathing through out the year. lol Even better, this system is almost identical to my system, but on a grander scale! I'm totally in on this. Thanks for this post! Very helpful!

  24. I think those cute printables made your planning that more enjoyable! They serve as a great visual, and it can easily be noticed, so that you won't miss any task that needs to be done in a timely manner.

    Faye Fowler @ Master Copy Print

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