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Meal Planning that Works!

Those of you who follow ReMarkable Home on Facebook may remember that I recently asked my Facebook followers for ideas on meal planning.  I struggle with getting a real meal on the table on a regular basis.  Its seems I can always talk myself out of cooking.  I can never make a definitive decision on what to make.  I will think of something, and then I will talk myself out of making it with excuses like, “It’s too time consuming,” or “It’s not very healthful,” or “So and so won’t like it and will complain,” or “I don’t have all the ingredients and don’t want to run to the store.”  Most nights we would go out or get take out of eat cereal or pancakes or quesadillas or macaroni.  Not good.  I want my kids to be in the habit of eating healthful foods in a healthful way, and I was not doing a good job of teaching them that.

So, I posed this question on both my personal Facebook page and my RH Facebook page:

“I am REALLY bad at making dinner on a regular basis. We often end up eating cereal or pancakes or some other unhealthy quick fix. I am looking for some ideas for how to go about planning meals that will take the last minute decision making out of it. How do you plan your dinners? I'd love to hear your ideas.”

I got a lot of responses and ideas.  My sister’s idea was brilliance and a light bulb went off in my head.  It was the perfect solution!  Here is what she said:

“I read an idea once that might work: Put all your recipes on recipe cards & put them in a recipe box. Each day, look at the card that is in front. If you have the ingredients, make that recipe that night. If not, write the needed ingredients on a shopping list and move the recipe back in the stack. Look at the next recipe and either make it or write the ingredients on your shopping list. Continue until you find a recipe you have the ingredients for. Do this every night. No more thinking things up to make - just make the front recipe that you have ingredients for. Just an idea.”

I decided this would work perfectly with a slight modification.  I wanted to make sure we didn’t end up eating chicken 4 nights in a row, or ground beef for 6 days straight.  So, I assigned a meal type to each day of the week as follows:

  • Sunday: Beef or Pork
  • Monday: Meatless
  • Tuesday: Chicken
  • Wednesday: Salad
  • Thursday: Ground Beef
  • Friday: Leftovers or Breakfast for dinner
  • Saturday: Date Night for Mom & Dad, Kids eat pizza

I printed out all my recipes that I already had typed up.  I also took a few blank pieces of paper and just wrote the words of dishes I make that I don’t follow a recipe for, like hamburgers or tacos.  Then I sorted all the recipes according to the categories above and put them in a binder with dividers.

Meal Planning Post

Each Saturday, I go through the binder and look at the top recipe for each day.  If I have the ingredients it stays on top.  If not, I write them down on a shopping list and move it back one spot so I can make it the following week, unless I know I will be going to the store before that day, in which case I just leave it in front. Then I write what we are having on our dry erase menu board so my kids don’t have to ask me “What’s for dinner.”

This has been working so well for me and our family.  We are eating together nightly, having a real meal!  It is amazing!  The kids are LOVING it! 

I also told the kids they could each choose two things they don’t like that they don’t have to eat.  One chose baked potatoes and chili, one chose chili and peas, one chose chili and lettuce.  Can you tell my kids don’t like chili? I was just glad they didn’t think to choose beans!  Anyway, they know they don’t have to eat their choices but they do have to eat everything else.  And they know if they don’t eat, then they get nothing else until breakfast.

When I am making something I know will be objectionable to most, I try to make a dessert to entice them to eat or tell them they can have ice cream.  For side dishes, I make a vegetable or fresh fruit or both.  Sometimes I make rice or potatoes.  After the meal (or on Saturday when I am meal planning) I make a note on the recipe of who liked it and who didn’t.  I am also planning to add more recipes to the binder as I come across new dishes I want to try or have been served at someone’s home.

I just wanted to share this idea because its been such a problem for me for so long and this plan is working so well.  I hope it will help some of you as well.

I am considering taking a photo of dinner every night and posting it along with the recipe the next day.  I won’t do step by step photos because I don’t have time to take them while I am cooking dinner. 

Would YOU like to see the recipes of the things we eat each night?  If so, please leave a comment saying so. 


  1. I would like to try your recipes, looks tasty.

    Interior Glass Doors

  2. That is a clever idea! I know I'm much more likely to make a good meal if I know I've got the ingredients and don't have to think up something new every night. Good luck!

  3. What a great idea!! I totally struggle with dinner & would love some new recipes!!! Thanks!!

  4. I will hopefully be posting last night's dinner! It is still working well for me. No excuses, just cook! lol

  5. I would like to see

  6. I'd be interested in recipes as well! I've tried a similar version but it didn't work well because I didn't have a weekly shopping list that matched food sales.
    And I've pinned the photo onto my Pinterest food page so I remember to check back when you post more! Thanks for the ideas.

  7. I would love the recipes. I have found we eat out way to much. This is a great idea and one I would love to start.


I appreciate comments so much! I love to hear your thoughts or answer your questions. Thank you for taking the time to comment! Some Firefox users have had trouble commenting. PLEASE email me at remarkablehome@gmail.com if you have any problem commenting. Thanks so much!

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