Meal Planning 101

About a year ago, I lost a dear friend to Breast Cancer.  When I reflected on the many things I learned from her as we all surrounded her with support and love, I knew that not paying attention to my health was essentially an insult to someone who fought so hard to have one more day. I started to gather information on how to eat better, how to be more active, and how to start saving up for the unexpected emergency.

I came across a great meal planning tool on Pinterest that I knew I wanted to try because it would be a useful way to gather all the healthy recipes I had in emails and print outs. The only problem – it’s tedious. So I waited and waited to officially get started on my binder.

I finally delved in and started to post pics on my Instagram account (@nechaidez) this week.  I’ve had quite a few people ask me to share this tool so I’m sharing….but not claiming any credit for the amazingness of this tool. The menu planning guide and templates I used below can be found at Handmade by Carmona. She has a video and free printables to get you started. It’s a pretty simple tool that is easily adaptable to reflect how you categorize food.

Using her tool, I started my meal planner.

  • Step 1 – gather all your favorite recipes and separate them by meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
  • Step 2 – put them in their own sections
  • Step 3 – number all the pages in each section
Ignore the colors - I hadn't watched the video when I took this picture. The number is the page number of the section and the text is the name of the recipe.

Ignore the colors – I hadn’t watched the video when I took this picture. The number is the page number of the section and the text is the name of the recipe.

  • Step 4 – write each recipe and corresponding page number on a separate post it (color coded by food category).
    • My post-it color and themes for breakfast that I modified
      • Lime = Grains
      • Red = Breads
      • Orange = Eggs
      • Blue = Potatoes
      • Green = Fruits/Veggies/Legumes
      • Yellow = Other (mostly meat heavy items)

I adopted the worksheet sections to reflect how I saw my categories of food. I even went back and changed orange to Eggs when I realized I didn't need pasta in my breakfast section.

  • Step 5 – On a laminated menu sheet, attach recipes in the appropriate meal sections for the entire week. I haven’t gotten this far yet so I apologize for not having a picture. I’ll update once I have a week’s worth of meals laid out!

By putting recipes in their sections, you can then look in your fridge and see that you have a lot of potatoes. So when you’re planning your menu, you can go straight to the section that has potato recipes (blue) and plan out some meals that will use up the potatoes before they expire.

I apparently have a lot of veggie/fruit/legume breakfast options (green section)

I apparently have a lot of veggie/fruit/legume breakfast options (green section).

It also lets you see if you lean to heavy in one direction or the other when you lay out the whole week….helping you stay accountable to having a well rounded nutritional intake.

I’ve only just finished my breakfast section, but I can already see how useful and easy this will be to use. I’m going to become much more intentional about what I eat and more accountable to myself about what types of calories I choose to consume.

The biggest perk – I will spend less money eating out and waste less groceries that spoil because I forget I have them.

That’s a win-win!

2 thoughts on “Meal Planning 101

    • Thanks! I love to cook but am lazy about it, so then I overspend by eating out. Trying to do better and know this will help. If I ever have a family, I might already be in the groove to meal plan which should (in theory) make my life easier. Ha!


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