In this post: Meal planning can help keep you sane during busy weeks. Plus it’s super handy during emergencies to know at a glance exactly what is in your fridge, freezer and pantry!

To help keep our family organized I like to gather recipes, make lists and plan out every meal for a week’s worth of eating. 

But I get bored easily so I created another one planner and then another one after that. Before I knew it, I’d created not only meal planning printables, but also several other kitchen printables to help keep our kitchen organized. Which led to a WHOLE KITCHEN BINDER!

the kitchen binder

But first, the why of meal planning for me…

We have three kids. I run a business from home, Dean works in the city. We homeschool. Everyone has different likes and dislikes when it comes to meal times. We even have a few food allergies and intolerance issues.

When I fly by the seat of my pants and don’t plan out our family’s meals, we tend to eat out, which isn’t good for us.

And we spend more on groceries because we pop into the store just to pick up a cooked chicken, a frozen (dairy free, gluten free, expensive) pizza or some other quick no-prep extra something. Which always leads to just one more thing in the cart. The next thing we know we’re way over budget for the week.

Also, Dean and I tend to gain weight when I don’t meal plan. Bummer.

But when I plan our meals for the week, it’s almost magic!

We keep the grocery budget down.

We eat healthier.

And I’m happier all around because I’m not panicking over what to make everyone for dinner. (Or that we just dropped $60-80 on another freaking unplanned dinner out!)

The Kitchen Binder - in action

How I Plan Meals with My Kitchen Binder

In order for me to plan meals, I need to know what we already have available in both the pantry and the freezer.

Before I started using the Pantry and Freezer Inventory sheets that I created, I would constantly forget what we had. The pantry was sort of easy to check, but the big freezer is down in the basement so checking that required a little more effort on my part.

Effort I often didn’t make.

Pantry and Freezer Inventory Printables

But the inventory sheets make it much easier and each one gets updated as I’m making our weekly meal plan.

I also keep a grocery list nearby to jot down items we need as I’m making our meal plan.

grocery lists

Basically my meal planning process goes like this:

The Kitchen Binder Meal Plan

1. Check the freezer and pantry to see what we have.

2. Check our master meal lists to see what everyone likes (like these 10 family and budget friendly weekday meals).

3. Start writing meals onto the menu/meal planner sheet for the week.

4. Jot down items we need from the store as I go.

5. Completely fill in meal planner for all meals and snacks.

6. Post the meal plan somewhere easy to see like the fridge or the bulletin board.

I’ve found that many of these meal planning tools help too!

I’ve also started to organize about 20 years worth of recipes using My Recipes printables. That’s a job and a half. But it will be totally worth it in the end, I’m sure!

If you’d like to make use of the kitchen printables I created for our family, click here to buy the complete set of kitchen binder files for only $15!

the kitchen binder for post


Do you meal plan for your family? How does your process go?

shannon sign off

home made lovely book on table with get it now text button

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    1. Lol. Well the kids don’t eat dairy at all and I really shouldn’t. So it’s not really cheese.

  1. Hi Shannon,
    I am an organisational freak and when I moved from my parent’s and after that subsequently with my husband, I absolutely wanted to bring everything under a meal planning banner.
    I loved the idea of two people knowing exactly what they wanted and hence no waste or anything of the sort. However, after doing it for a month or two, we let go of the process. Namely for two reasons:
    1. We frequent the farmer’s market. Given that 70 to 80% of our meals were vegetable based and cooked from scratch, we are always at the farmer’s market to check out what’s in season and looks good.
    2. Similarly for fish, we go to the mongers to see what’s the good catch.
    3. Since most of the time we were cooking things from scratch our pantry/ inventory needs were just grains, dairy, oil and spices; which always came cheaper online.
    So very reluctantly my husband and I, gave up on our obsession to plan every meal. However, what we did retain was a relaxed system of marking down meals that we were planning with the produce we had at hand. It’s working backwards I know but it works for us.
    Whoops! That was a long comment. I just wanted to share. I love the idea of the kitchen binder so much though šŸ™‚

  2. thank you for sharing these shannon, it must have been a lot of work for you – they’re lovely!
    melbourne, australia

  3. I just found your blog!! And you create beauty & inspiration my friend! Then I read this post because I need some help in this area…? and find out you homeschool as well!! Which makes me love your blog all the more! Thanks for sharing your life & gifts. ??

  4. Hi, I just ran across your printables because of a post I was writing on pantry/meal organizing = peace of mind! Yours are awesome. I want to use yours myself, but I also want to link to yours in my post series. Is this okay?