Meal Planning

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As mentioned this morning, today’s task for Organization Week is to try meal planning.  My goals for meal planning are to: 


  • Spend less money by having more purpose with my grocery shopping;
  • Eat more variety; and
  • Try out fun recipes.


There are many ways to plan your meals — plan all meals vs. planning a few; plan daily or weekly; electronic plans or paper plans.  Here’s how I’m going to approach it:


Last night, I found an old 3-ring binder and organized it into sections as follows:


If you’re like  me, I flip through magazines and see wonderful recipes and tips, think to myself, "Oh! I should try that!," throw away the magazine, and forget the awesome recipe or tip.   Now, I plan to tear out the pages, hole punch them, and place in this folder:


Once I try a recipe in the book, I will flag it if I like it or I will tear it out and throw it away if I don’t:


I could also print out recipes from the Internet or blogs.  I’m just a paper kind of girl — I could never do this electronically.


Some tips I want to explore further:


I added a paper calendar to the front with some meal ideas for the week.  I don’t feel compelled to stick to this list (and I might not plan for every day and certainly NOT for every meal), but it will help me when I’m stuck in a rut.

IMG_0428 - Copy

I also added a plastic pocket sheet so I could keep all my coupons with my recipes:


I plan to take the whole binder with me when I go grocery shopping, thus eliminating the need to make a grocery list for the planned meals.


What do you think?  Once I build up my binder, I think it will be AWESOME!  I’m pretty excited.  I’m going to stick to this habit for 21 days (that’s how long it takes to make something stick!) and see if I like it.


Onto  my eats…. I snacked on some apricots this AM:


And lunch was a grilled Barney Butter sammie with blueberries (I’m out of veggies!):


PB goodness!


Lunch Break is OVER!  Time to go back to work.  🙁



  • mags August 18, 2009, 9:14 am

    i know you don't count calories or really measure foods, but how much barney butter do you think you put on your sandwich. it looks delish!!

  • Amanda (Two Boos Who Eat) August 18, 2009, 9:16 am

    I love the binder idea! I can't wait to see how it works for you. I always manage to have some sort of veggie or fruit go bad because I don't know what to do with it. I think meal planning will definitely help prevent this!

  • Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point August 18, 2009, 9:17 am

    mags – a giant spoonful? LOL i dunno… maybe like 1.5 serving?

  • Nina August 18, 2009, 9:20 am

    Caitlin, this is actually hilarious. I hate my apricots just now, and now for some reason i feel like i copied you. hahaha!

    i think am really going to copy you on the binder thing because I love that idea. I tried it when I was in college, but never followed it through bc i was too poor. hehehe. I'm going to do that!

  • Nina August 18, 2009, 9:21 am

    and now i realize that that doesn't make sense. I ate the apricots BEFORE i saw your post, hence the copying. i'm a spaz this morning.

  • Heather August 18, 2009, 9:23 am

    I love the binder idea- I have lots of recipes/magazine articles all over my apartment. I may try to find enough recipes to go through a month and put them in a binder!

  • Linda - one scoop at a time August 18, 2009, 9:25 am

    I've been meaning to start a similar binder myself for ages, but have put it off. I really like the calendar component to help highlight and remind me of the groceries I have at home. Every month I end up throwing so much food away because I had simply forgotten about them.

    I also can't wait to see how it works for you in upcoming posts!

  • kayevs August 18, 2009, 9:26 am

    I really like your binder idea, especially the tabs for ideas and tips. I have been doing food planning for a long time now since I also HATE to waste food and am living on a budget 🙂 This is how I do it (and it has worked well for me). I ABSOLUTELY need to use a list so I know exactly what needs to be bought. This is not to say that at times an impulse buy is not made, but it is much more infrequent! So back to the plan…I plan my list by meals. So for example, I'll say, "what do I need for the breakfasts I want this week?" And I'll write down…milk, granola, yogurt, fruit, bread, peanut butter. Then I move on to lunch, dinner, and snacks. I have a few lunches I rotate and buy ingredients for. But for dinner I actually write down the meals I will have and buy ingredients specifically for each meal. I don't tell myself when I will have each meal, just that I will have it. Then throughout the week or two weeks, as I make that meal, I'll cross it off the list (had veggie burgers once…crossed off). Then I know what meal ingredients I still have left to use. I know this was a long explanation, but I figured I'd share 🙂 So far I spend about $300-400 a month for 2 people. Good luck. I'll be interested to read more about this!

  • Emily August 18, 2009, 9:27 am

    I enjoy reading about being organised – it takes me a lot of work for me to be that way, so it's good to feel inspired!
    I use a binder for ripped out recipes too – I just replaced it with the Bon Appetit one, which turns in to a stand too – I am very enthused with it 🙂

  • Rosey Rebecca August 18, 2009, 9:29 am

    Wow you're so organized!! I like your 21 day system too. I read something once to try something 8 times before you decide if you hate it and want to give up on it. That's the rule I follow.

  • Christina G. August 18, 2009, 9:41 am

    I love the binder idea…..I should do that with all of the recipes I've acquired.

  • lookingforserenity August 18, 2009, 9:42 am

    good for you & getting all organized 🙂

  • Betsy August 18, 2009, 9:43 am

    I have one of those binders with everything from beauty products to outfits to recipes, it's so much fun to collect it all without having to keep your magazines!

  • Kelly Blechertas August 18, 2009, 9:55 am

    I hope it works for you — that system would be way too complicated for me LOL
    I'd be a nightmare at the store with a binder!
    I'm curious to see how it works for you 🙂

  • J August 18, 2009, 9:56 am

    I started a recipe binder a couple years ago and it is the best idea ever! No more printing or tearing out recipes and then never being able to find them again.

    I plan my meals weekly and I think I would eat so much crap without it! I mostly just plan dinners and depend on salads or leftovers for lunch. Inevitably I don't feel like cooking one night or have leftovers for dinner some nights, and I find that planning four or five dinners gets me through the week with not much wasted food.

  • Lizzy August 18, 2009, 10:00 am

    Love the binder idea Caitlin! Your tips are soo helpful! Yesterday i totally cleaned out my room, but still have to tackle my closet. as for your recipe binder, i totally think i'm going to start something like that with food recipes and even things that i find in my fashion magazines that i read all the time! thanks again for all the tips!!!!

  • brandi August 18, 2009, 10:04 am

    great way to organize everything! I just wouldn't be able to carry the binder with me, but my purses are HUGE (just the way I like 'em) so I just can't carry anything else.

    I usually pick 4-5 meals I want to make that week, but I don't set the day. That way, I have everything I need, but we can decide before starting to cook which meal we want.

    i can't wait to see how you like it!

  • Angelea August 18, 2009, 10:05 am

    I love me some meal planning! 🙂 It's seriously the only way I don't wander around my kitchen and the grocery store in a haze. You gotta make a shopping list though! When I'm planning, as I select each recipe, I add needed items to a separate shopping list. If I don't, I always miss something. Keep us posted on this project! I do things on paper too and am being swallowed up by recipe copies, so I probably need a binder too.

  • Jessica August 18, 2009, 10:05 am

    The binder is an awesome idea!

  • Eve August 18, 2009, 10:06 am

    Great idea! I don't plan meals out as much, but every Sunday I look at my week and see which nights I will be home for dinner (I have a lot of evening obligations), and come up with ideas for each night. Then google recipes to see what I need. Works well for me 🙂

  • Beth @ CrossBorderCravings August 18, 2009, 10:10 am

    That is some SERIOUS organization! I think it's such a good idea – I might even try something similar myself :O)

  • Rhianna and Nick August 18, 2009, 10:15 am

    I even take my meal planning a little bit further with regards to grocery shopping. Before I leave to go to the store, I break down my grocery list based on my planned meals.

    I break the grocery list into categories, such as produce, dairy, freezer section, bakery. And then I go through the recipes (sometimes from my memory–do this enough and it's easy–and sometimes from a book/article/etc.) and place each needed ingredient/item under the appropriate category. That might seem a bit over organized even, but it makes shopping a SNAP and fast. That way, I am able to see that I have two meals that require feta (or whatever) and I can buy this more economically…

    Also, this keeps me from buying something that's not on my list (unhealthful little splurges) and keeps me from wasting too many leftovers…

    It works well for me!

  • haya August 18, 2009, 10:15 am

    what an awesome idea! i am totally going to try this out. i feel so scatterbrained today, since its the second day in a row of non-proper meals (popcorn and tj's pb pretzels for supper last night? uhhh yeah.) after a weekend of somewhat scattered eating as well (lunch on sunday was a peach and half a pint of raspberries from a farmer's market i found near harvard sq).

  • Paige@ Running Around Normal August 18, 2009, 10:16 am

    That's genious! I love it all except the whole taking the whole binder to the store. But I'm definitely borrowing this idea:D

  • eatingmachine August 18, 2009, 10:17 am

    I like the binder-for me it helps if stuff fits in my purse (which, um, that binder totally would)-otherwise I leave it at home, in the car, even (yikes!) the shopping cart…

  • NYgirl@heart August 18, 2009, 10:17 am

    Your binder idea looks awesome, but if you're at all like me, carrying that thing around with you every time you go shopping will turn into a giant pain in the ass. I just take the recipes out that I plan to use for that week and bring them with me, but I also think about it in advance.

  • Whitney@whitsgettingfit August 18, 2009, 10:19 am

    That's a pretty great idea! I try to plan meals on google calendar, but I usually just use it as an idea as well. I like how everything is together in the binder.

  • Tay August 18, 2009, 10:20 am

    What a great idea! I've been meaning to start something like this for the longest time. I was going to tear out and paste magazine pages into a notebook. Right now, all my magazine clippings are in a filefolder, but it's super messy. I totally understand how you physically need it in front of you and not electronically. I'm definitely stealing this idea (or something like it!)

  • Pam (Highway to Health) August 18, 2009, 10:21 am

    I really like the binder idea. Plus you can print out any recipes you find online. I can't wait to see how you like it!

  • domesticaffections August 18, 2009, 10:35 am

    Love the binder! I've lost track of so many great recipes but stuffing them in my archaic recipe box. It's time to revamp! I usually just jot down our meal plans on a piece of paper I stick on the side of the fridge, but I like the idea of having a place for everything. Thanks Caitlin!

  • Peanut Butter Swirl August 18, 2009, 10:38 am

    one of my favorite lunches 🙂

  • Lauren August 18, 2009, 10:40 am

    Your binder looks great! I have become a devout meal planner. I keep recipes to try and recipes I love in a binder, and I use a notebook to plan meals to make throughout the week. Some might say it's tedious, but I actually enjoy doing it!

  • Ali August 18, 2009, 10:49 am

    That binder looks awesome! I can't wait to see how well it works out. If you find it really helpful, I may try and do it too when I have the time!

  • Anonymous August 18, 2009, 10:50 am

    I just found your blog not too long ago and I love it. The binder idea is great and I've been using one for a while now. I think they are also called Home Management Binders. I have a tab for menus/shopping, recipes, volunteer work, travel(packing lists etc.), projects and a family tab with each one of my kids and their shot and health records. I know that's a lot but your binder is how I first started! It's all organized and in one place for a quick reference. Thanks for all of the great posts!

  • jesstyler August 18, 2009, 10:51 am

    I love the binder idea! I too have SOO many magazines that I think ooh, I need to make that … Maybe I should try your idea.

  • Anonymous August 18, 2009, 11:01 am

    I just posted about the home management binder. A great website for how to make a binder for organization is I realize that this is a grander scale for some but what's great is that you can personalize it to you! Also there are free printables for menus and calendars and other ideas on the right.

  • Amanda August 18, 2009, 11:04 am

    I also have a three ring binder where I keep all of the recipes that I am interested in trying/have tried and liked! However, it's not an active part of my day-to-day meal planning … more like a cookbook that I will revert to in need of a new idea.

    I am going to try to make one new recipe a week … any more and I know that I will get overwhelmed (maybe I can increase from there!) Looking forward to see how it all turns out!

  • Sheri August 18, 2009, 11:07 am

    Love the binder idea. Can't wait to hear how it works out for you.

  • Bec August 18, 2009, 11:12 am

    i have a recipe binder but instead of hole punching the magazines i slip them into clear protective sheets which also helps keep the recipes clean and neat while cooking!

  • Diane, Fit to the Finish August 18, 2009, 11:20 am

    I love being organized. With a family of nine, I too have a fabulous binder that I use for coupons.

    I like the idea of a recipe binder too. Right now I just have a list of all our favorites, so if I need inspiration I can pull it out and remember, "Oh, yeah – we all liked that dish!"

    Thanks for this!

  • Coco August 18, 2009, 11:25 am

    I think your route to meal planning sounds great! I am a total paper girl and a binder with ripped out recipes or printed out ones. Your sandwich looks great, I should really start grilling my nut butter sandwiches!!

  • emily - eatventures August 18, 2009, 11:34 am

    That is what I do, only I have three! I have a binder for workouts and exercise advice torn from magazines, a binder for recipes, and a binder for tips and ideas (skin care, decorating, dyi, etc)!

  • Holly August 18, 2009, 11:44 am

    I have a binder JUST like that, where I stick in recipes and tips and fitness stuff I pull out of magazines. I've never thought to translate it to meal planning – what a GREAT idea! I look forward to seeing more of this on your blog and maybe integrating it into my life. 🙂

  • Julie August 18, 2009, 11:52 am

    Wow, I love that binder idea. I'm always saying "oh I should try that" when I see fun recipes but I end up tossing the magazine. I need to try this method.

  • Niki August 18, 2009, 11:54 am

    That's a really great idea! Interested to see how it work for you!

  • Trainer T.s Fitness August 18, 2009, 11:58 am

    Love this idea.

    I started a binder like this,now its 2 of them and I never could get it to work like a food list binder now they are offically recipe books!

    I now plan my meals for the week and buy what fits that.
    I can't wait to see how this works for you…keep us posted.

  • Jen August 18, 2009, 12:00 pm

    I had to laugh when I read your binder post. I started out with the same idea and now have FOUR binders bursting with recipes and tips. I think I have a recipe addiction! We're shopping for a netbook to be my kitchen computer so I can try to keep all of this online as I'm running out of room. Good luck!

  • Nicole (dishin') August 18, 2009, 12:12 pm

    I love your binder idea. I have a lot of subscriptions to magazines so now, instead of saving the whole thing, I rip out the recipes I like and stick them in a binder. Now I have a variety of recipes that will be prepared at some point. Much less clutter too!

  • southerngracesblog August 18, 2009, 12:21 pm

    I definitely love the binder! I hope it works for you!!
    Grilled pb&j= love 🙂
    Enjoy the rest of your afternoon!

  • courtney August 18, 2009, 12:45 pm

    I think that is such an AMAZING idea! Im such an organization freak, I think I'll have to try this!! Thanks for the idea 🙂

  • seesaraheat August 18, 2009, 12:46 pm

    I like that you keep a binder, I've thought about making a scrapbook or something out of all the recipes I've torn out of magazines over the years (and have never made!) so thanks for the inspiration 😉

  • Jolene - EverydayFoodie August 18, 2009, 12:48 pm

    I think you will like your new organized meal planning binder! I meal plan, but still make a list so I know what I need to get for each meal. I only plan suppers (ie. chili for Monday. I also tear out pages from magazines, but then leave them in a stack and wait about a year before I go through them. I haven't thought of hole punching them, but I am going to start doing that!

  • Anne Marie August 18, 2009, 1:19 pm

    i love that binder idea! i'm a huge meal planner, but i only plan meals for the upcomming week. i have to try to add variety, as i'm a creature of habit. i must admit that it does make grocery shopping and saving money so much easier!

  • lilveggiepatch August 18, 2009, 1:24 pm

    I've been thinking about this recently, too… I have absolutely NO purpose at the grocery store and end up with things I don't end up eating and not getting the things I need. Tonight, I will get organized!

  • Leianna August 18, 2009, 2:05 pm

    I have a 3 ring binder too with all my favorite recipes and glad other people do that too! Good luck!

  • Beth August 18, 2009, 2:23 pm

    I don't use a binder, but I do take a minute (err, 15 minutes) each Sunday to make a loose plan for the week. I write down possible recipes, where I saw them (i.e. cookbook, online, magazine) and add necessary ingredients to my grocery list. I also buy a few staples that don't need recipes – such as frozen shrimp – and have those on standby for nights when I need something quick and easy. It does save a ton of time and money.

  • Oh She Glows August 18, 2009, 2:24 pm

    You are the organization queen this week!!!

    I love your idea. 🙂 Can't wait to see how it works for you.

  • Sarah August 18, 2009, 2:47 pm

    Great idea to use the binder. I meal plan every week and it just takes so much stress off of dinner time. I know I already have the ingredients for a healthy meal. I do have a to make a list, even if I have the recipes with me. I'm just too type A to not make a list!

  • katie August 18, 2009, 3:09 pm

    saw this blog entry on meal planning and thought of you.

    meal planning is something i really should work on though, i feel like i waste so much food [and money] buying random stuff at the grocery store and not using it before it goes bad.

  • mtbcy August 18, 2009, 3:59 pm

    Great ideas for meal planning! When I started a few months ago it was really helpful for me to take similar steps and also make a grocery list. I would write down the ingredients I needed for the specific recipes accoring to category (produce, dairy) etc. so that I didn't double up or buy to much/to little of things. It helped me save money at the store and made my grocery trips go much more quickly. Good luck- it looks like you're off to an awesome start!

  • Erin August 18, 2009, 4:30 pm

    These are great tips! I remember my mom used to bring a little binder of coupons to the store when I was a kid, and somehow we stopped doing that over the years, but I'm definitely reinstating it. In this economy, it's necessary!

  • Jess August 18, 2009, 5:39 pm

    That is a great idea! I do something similar with my torn out or printed recipes (and boy do I have a TON- I get a few cooking mags and tear out the things I like then pass the "leftovers" on to my friends-I love network recycling!) and keep them organized by course (ie soup, salad, pasta) and/or main ingredient (veggie, chicken, seafood) it's not a perfect system but it cuts down on all the tabbed magazines in my closet. I may have to convert to a binder though.

  • healthy ashley August 18, 2009, 6:03 pm

    I think your binder is pretty kick butt! I love how you're making it work for you rather than you stressing about meal planning the "right way." Can't wait to see how it works out in the grocery store!!

  • Stephanie August 18, 2009, 6:15 pm

    I love meal planning!! Do it every week 🙂

  • theskinnyplate August 18, 2009, 6:56 pm

    I really like the idea of your foodie binder! What a way to stay on top of things.

  • loreejo August 18, 2009, 7:27 pm

    I've been meal planning for many years and never feel bound by the plans…on the contrary I feel liberated because I have all the ingredients to make many different meals, which night for which meal is flexible. I have those clear plastic sheets to hold the magazines pages instead of hole punching them coz I found I was accidentally tearing them out a lot. I like your additional tabs!

  • Nicole Chow - August 18, 2009, 8:58 pm

    Hi Caitlin – I really liked your organizational 3-ring binder idea. I think I just might do that! Also, your closet looks great!

  • Tasha August 18, 2009, 10:48 pm

    OMG! What a great idea! 🙂

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