Week #10 challenge – Menu Planning!

April 3, 2011
This week we will be organizing our Menu Planning system (or creating a new one, if you dont have one)!  I am honored to have Natalie from endlesscrafting.blogspot.com host the challenge this week. She has an EXCELLENT menu plan.  She will be sharing how she plans her family meals.  Having a menu planning binder makes dinnertime SOOOO much easier!  You don’t have to think about what you are making for the week. Its all in your binder and ready for you to utilize.  I will also be having a giveaway today, to go along with the theme!  5 Dinners 1 Hour is giving away 3 months of menu plans to 2 winners.  (See the end of the post below.)

Here is Natalie’s Post…

Hi! I am Natalie from Endless Crafting and I am so delighted to be guest posting for Toni today. Toni is an amazing organizer and I just know we would be fast friends if we were neighbors! Thank you for this opportunity!


Let me introduce myself a little….I am a stay at home my of 4 children with our 5th due in June! Being a busy mom organization is my sanity. I dispise clutter and love a well maintained home…but this did not happen over night! It has been 16 years of trying all kinds of organizational techniques and learning what works for our family. I’ve learned that what may work for one family doesn’t work for all. This was the case for menu planning. Dinner time would come along and I didn’t have a plan…I found myself staring at the fridge trying to figure out what I could make with the things I had on hand..I had to get a handle of this important part of our day.

Dinner time with the family sitting together!

I finally put together our family’s menu planner and it has helped tremendously.

Here’s how I did it: 

1. As a family we sat down and compiled a list of recipes we love. Each child giving their input and ended up compiling a list of approx. 50 dinners, 7 breakfast, 11 lunches, several snacks and our favorite desserts!

2. I typed each and every recipe we used down to the really basic ones just so I had them visually. If I was going to make hamburgers I would write down that recipe, even though I know how to make hamburgers without a recipe…having it there visually helped with my planning. Typing them up took several weeks during naptime…pace yourself! 🙂

3. I then purchased a 6×9 binder from Staples. I wanted it to be small so that it wouldn’t take up precious counter space. I also purchase clear page protectors to easily clean up splatters from cooking.


4. Once they were all typed I used the handy excel sheet from Food Storage Made Easy found here to calculate how much of each ingredient is needed for each recipe. This serves as an inventory tracker. It helps me buy just the things my family eats and keeps track of how much we have on hand and what I need to buy. Now I know how many jars of peanut butter and jelly I need to make pb& j sandwiches throughout the year! Crazy huh? Not to mention the money that I saved just purchasing the things I know my family eats!

5. Then I took all of my printed recipes and organized them into categories such as Chicken, Soups, Mexican, Italian, Beef, Pork, Salads and typed them into a organized list.

6. Now my favorite part….because it takes the guess work out of what’s for dinner!

Once they were separated I figured out weekly menus using a variety of meals for 10 weeks. The 10 weeks then went into a menu planning sheet that I created on Excel. In each of our weekly menus there are many meals that will leave leftovers for the next night. For example if I served a roast on Sunday and we had left over meat I will use the meat for enchiladas or tacos the following night. Friday night is reserved for our date night (yes, we still go on dates after 17 years of marriage!) I don’t cook on those nights.. the kids will have leftovers or we will put together a simple dinner like mac and cheese for the kids. On this sheet I list the meals for the week and the ingredients needed to purchase at the market. I take this handy list with me to the market and stock up on items for the next time this weekly menu comes around (10 weeks later).

And there you have it a complete menu planning system to keep your family happily fed! Thanks again Toni for letting me be here today and share with your readers!

Thank you Natalie for your fantastic Menu Planning post!!!  
I am in awe. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it!

Now on to…

Michelle at 5 Dinners 1 Hour is giving away 3 months of dinner recipes to 2 lucky winners! I have been using her dinner recipes for about 3 months and LOVE-LOVE-LOVE them. I now rely on them for my weekly shopping list.  Every weekly menu has the recipes along with your entire shopping list. There is no thought to put into it.  Its awesome!  Michelle’s menus fit great in a Home Management binder too!  I keep mine in my binder.

Here is what you have to do to enter the giveaway:

1. Follow my blog {A Bowl Full of Lemons}
2. Follow Michelle’s 5 Dinners 1 Hour blog
3. Leave a comment here telling me if you are a good cook or not & What your “normal” dinner routine is?

*The giveaway starts NOW and ends on 4/5 at 11:59 pm. Good Luck!

Michelle is offering A Bowl Full of Lemons readers a great special.  If you subscribe to Michelles meal plans {here} you will get $3.00 off a 3 month subscription. So instead of paying $15.00 for 3 months, you will only pay $12.00.  

If you are joining the challenge this week, grab a button and link up your blog!  

Happy Menu Planning!

92 comments on “Week #10 challenge – Menu Planning!

  1. I think I am a good cook only my Hubs and I definitely have different cooking styles so he doesn’t always “get” my recipes which is why I love the idea of following someone else’s recipes for a while! This prize is so great! My normal dinner routine is trying to throw together whatever I can while holding my Baby. 🙂

  2. Becky B. says:

    What a great prize! Right now I wish I could cook more eccentric recipes, but this time in our lives I’m just able to get out basic stuff that is yummy but easy!

    Becky B.
    Organizing Made Fun

  3. I think I’m an ok cook. I’ve been a stay at home mom now for almost a year. I’ve struggled trying to have a routine but now I want to focus on making dinner easier. So I’ve done one week of menu planning and so far it’s been good. I just struggle with recipes and ideas. So any ideas or help would be perfect. 😀

  4. I was spoiled with a mom that is a great cook. I wasn’t too interested or had time till became a SAHM. Now I’m constantly asking my mom questions and been practicing. I just try to buy on sale then plan meals on Menu Chart. I. Also like to cook meat and freeze it in advance for a quicker meal.

  5. I follow Bowl Full of Lemons

    sharonsaad at gmail dot com

  6. I just signed up for email subsciption to Michelle’s blog.

    sharonsaad at gmail dot com

  7. I am becoming a better cook. My husband is an awesome cook so I feel the pull to do better. Since my oldest boy is getting a bigger appetite I have had to make bigger and better meals. Chicken nuggets and apple slices don’t cut it for him any more.

    I am getting better at thinking about prepping dinner before 4pm!

    I love your give aways!

    sharonsaad at gmail dot com

  8. Mrs M says:

    I have been doing a basic menu planning thing for a few years. I’m not sure my head could cope with too much organisation on this!

  9. Amanda says:

    I am a follower of A Bowl Full of Lemons

    navy_wife9360 at yahoo dot com


  10. Amanda says:

    I am a follower of 5 Dinners 1 Hour

    navy_wife9360 at yahoo dot com


  11. Rhiannon says:

    I think I am a good cook. 🙂 I love to cook, to me, it is relaxing, and I look forward to coming home from work and cooking for my family. 🙂

    We don’t really have a specific dinner routine persay, but we try to eat at 6:00 each evening.

  12. Lori says:

    I just followed both of you. I think I’m a pretty good cook, getting better too! I have 3 girls, including an 11 month old, so I am really trying to meal plan better now between dance, soccer games etc..it’s tough! I have been wanting to organize my recipes better and am glad I found this post – I need to get that 6X9 binder! 🙂

  13. Amanda says:

    I am an okay cook. Somethings I think I am really good at and other things I think I am just okay at. My normal dinner routine is something a piece of cake and planned out and started in advance and other times it’s a disaster fiasco trying to figure out what to make. My husband is in the navy so that messes with dinner plans a lot as well. Now we have a little girl who eats full time big people food so I’d really like to get a good meal plan put in place for our family.

    navy_wife9360 at yahoo dot com


  14. Amy Lynn says:

    I think I’m a pretty good cook, but I get stuck on the creativity sometimes. I plan my meals 7-10 days ahead of time. I tend to repeat meals a lot because I can’t think of new ones. I love making meals ahead of time and having them ready to heat!

  15. Jackie Koll says:

    I follow you 🙂

    I love this post – I put together something similiar back when we did recipe binders and already have a post in the works for this. I love the inventory sheet she shared, though, that is something I’ve wanted to create but couldn’t get it to work, now I have something to morph into my own. Thanks, as always, for these challenges – they not only challenge but they offer great tools as well!

  16. Keeley says:

    Oh, what an awesome contest!

    I’m not a great cook by any means, but I’m not bad either and I keep getting a little bit better everyday as I learn new techniques and about new ingredients. I’ve found that I really need to vary my ‘routine’ a little bit. I seem to cook the same things all the time.

    My ‘normal’ dinner routine is to just cook whatever we have. I go grocery shopping on Friday’s and just seem to buy what we used the previous week so it seems that I’m making the same stuff all the time. I’d really like to change this up and I’m working really hard on changing a little bit at a time.

  17. Mariliz says:

    I’m a good cook. But I don’t have a lot up my sleeve, always looking to learn new recipes. Thanks.

  18. I am not a very good cook at all!! I hate trying to figure out what we are having to eat and then find the energy to cook it. I would love to win this becuase it wouyld probably give me more time with the kids and be less stressful!!!

  19. CindeeQ says:

    I signed up for Michelle’s plan a couple of weeks ago, LOVE IT!! Takes all the guess work out of dinner. We have been on an organizing kick since January and we are still going strong.

  20. I am a follower of a Bowl full of Lemons.

  21. I am a follower of 5 Dinners 1 Hour blog.

  22. Pearlann says:

    I think I am a pretty good cook, but I am like many who an hour before dinner I am scrambling to figure out what I am going to make. But somehow we always end up around the table by dinner time!

  23. I think I am a fairly good cook but really would love to win this. I try to plan out a menu for the week but sometimes by the end of the week, I don’t feel like cooking and we just end up eating out. That’s what this weekend has been (plus I really need to go grocery shopping).

  24. Colleen says:

    Natalie amazes me!! She has 4 kids and one on the way she has such a lovely and organized home. I love how she had everyone’s input for this project.

  25. Amanda says:

    I am a follower of your blog! 🙂

  26. Amanda says:

    i am a follower of 5 dinner 1 hour blog!!

  27. Amanda says:

    I am generally a good cook, but I have a hard time thinking of meals to cook. I think meal planning might be something i need to invest in.

  28. ChasandKylie says:

    I am a follower of A bowl full of lemons and 5 dinners 1 hour.
    I cook alright. Nothing fancy and the same old thing most of the time.
    I have been gathering ideas for months now on how to create my own menu plan.
    Thank you for all the information!!

  29. Janine says:

    I am a follower of your blog and I have learned so much from reading your posts over the past few months. Thank you for your inspiration!

  30. Janine says:

    I also follow 5 dinners in 1 hour, but haven’t taken the plunge yet. I guess I am a little scared that I won’t be able to do it, but I have to, I just don’t have the time to cook everyday anymore.

  31. Janine says:

    I am a good cook, when I want to be, which isn’t often. With all the running around I do, I just don’t have the time to get a good, healthy meal on the table…. blah, blah, blah. Hopefully, I will get with the program and be able to bring the food to my family table.

  32. I’m a reasonably good cook, I think! We have five children and I find that they don’t like very many things that are “mixed” – casseroles and the like. I tend to prepare a meat in the crockpot, steam some veggies, make rice in the rice cooker, serve fruit and salad and let them pick and choose. I’d love to win the chance to have this all mapped out for us….we could use some new recipes to try!

  33. TeeBLiterary says:

    I think I am a fairly good cook! I really love love love to cook and bake!! I’d love to when the meal plans, its hard to find time every week to plan and figure out what I need. When I do have the time to do something special, I love cooking French food:) Julia Child is one of my favorites;)

    I’m a follower of both blogs!

  34. grammyscraps says:

    I’m a pretty good cook…at 67 years of age I just began a menu plan a couple of months ago. What a relief it is to not have to think about what’s for dinner tonight. Hubby loves it, too, cause he just has to look at the weekly menu plan posted on the refer to know what he’s getting that night.
    I’m a follower on both blogs…thanks!

  35. adavila87 says:

    I am very much a beginner in the cooking department! Before I got married I did not know how to cook and I have been married less than a year. At first it was easy to learn and try new recipes because I was not working, but now that I am, meal planning helps, but I still dread scrounging for easy recipes that I can prepare on weekdays. When I have done a meal plan my routine is easier, but I have had those days when I forgot to defrost the chicken I was supposed to be cooking. I NEED this meal planner.

    And I follow both blogs!

  36. Donna says:

    I follow a bowl full of lemons! Thanks for a great giveaway!

  37. Donna says:

    I now follow 5 dinners in 1 hour!

  38. Donna says:

    I am a pretty good cook but i do need to streamline our dinners

  39. I follow both of your blogs and I think I’m a pretty dern good cook 🙂
    On good weeks I have menus planned out for the week, but then I get a kink in my routine and am running to the store ever other day, ugh!

  40. Annie says:

    I’m a decent cook but I’m too quick to go out if I dont have a plan, which this is right on time for me!

  41. Follow the blogs and am glad I do, I glean so many helpful ideas.
    We plan a menu in that we list off the plans for the week but don’t assign them to days. This helps to make sure the ingredients for all meals are in the house. After lunch I ‘dinner think’ and plan it out then start preparing around 5:30. It works for us.
    Love looking at new ideas and new recipes.
    ~ Kristi

  42. b says:

    I follow both blogs and I have to tell you, I’m a last minute cook. I try to plan menu’s, but it just doesn’t happen!!! Thanks for the great ideas.


  43. Jill says:

    Follow both of you!
    I’m an ok cook with horrible critics! Meals are torture at our house. I’ve talked about menu planning for months now just haven’t sat down to make it happen yet.

  44. I am an avid follower of your blog!

  45. I just signed up to follow Michelle.

  46. I am an excellent cook according to my husband, but find it very hard to find things that he likes to eat. I try to plan my menus every two weeks following his pay schedule but still somehow manage to end up going to the store and spending too much several times a week. I am struggling to get with a food budget and stick to it!

  47. cindi m says:

    I am a good cook. I don’t have a routine….I try to plan for the week, but inevitably things come up and I make do with what I have on hand. I cook in larger quantities and freeze leftovers, which makes it easy to take out a ‘dinner’ last minute.

  48. I follow a Bowl Full of Lemons! 🙂

  49. I now follow Make 5 Dinners in One Hour!

  50. I am a disastrous cook. I’m basically Murphy’s Law in full motion in the kitchen. However my kids have gotta eat. Sometimes we do some casserole, boy scout dinners, french fries, brownies. Ya know, we do what we can 🙂

  51. The Greedy's says:

    I follow you

    chrisgreedy at gmail . com

  52. The Greedy's says:

    I’m following 5 dinners in 1 hour

    chrisgreedy at gmail . com

  53. The Greedy's says:

    I’m a decent cook. I get stuck in a rut too often though. I love to find some great family recipes that are easy and quick to prepare that are also fresh & healthy. Thanks for the giveaway.

    chrisgreedy at gmail . com

  54. cheeksb says:

    I follow you!!!

  55. cheeksb says:

    I think Im an OK cook but I hate the whats for dinner question!!!

  56. I follow “bfol” blog it’s GREAT!



  57. I also follow Michelle’s blog too. 🙂



  58. I like to put myself in the “good cook” category, but I really need help with menu planning…I’m not so great in that area.



  59. Vanessa says:

    I follow both your blog and 5 dinners in 1 hour blog. I’m an okay cook and make dinner for my husband and I when I get home from work.
    I love your giveaways, but you should clarify if the reader is supposed to leave multiple comments, one for each qualification (subscribe to your blog, her blog, and cooking comment), or only one comment and must meet all the qualifications.
    Thanks and love your organizing posts.

  60. Mollisol says:

    I follow A Bowl Full of Lemons.

  61. Mollisol says:

    I now follow Make 5 Dinners in ONE Hour.

  62. Mollisol says:

    I would say I’m an okay cook. My usual routine is to take some kind of meat out of the freezer in the morning and then steam some vegetables to go with it at night. My routine could definitely use some ‘spicing’ up.

  63. Mom to One says:

    I follow both blogs 🙂 I’m a good cook, but struggling with finding time to menu plan! I tried Michelle’s trial week last week and was amazed at the ease & convenience!

  64. Ms. S says:

    I’m now following the “5 dinners, 1 hour” blog! What a great site…thank you for sharing! I love to cook, but I am a very poor cook! My routine is sending a text to Mr. S an hour before he gets off work to see what he’s in the mood for. Usually it’s whatever I want to make. So, due to lack of planning, the easier the recipe, the better (aka: pasta & sauce, mac & cheese, stove top, tacos, hamburger helper, etc). This also means a not so healthy diet for Mr. S and myself. So I am looking forward to investigating the new site to see what I can “cook up” now!

  65. Elsa says:

    I follow your blog!

  66. Diana says:

    I follow your blog!

  67. Diana says:

    I follow Michelle’s blog!

  68. Diana says:

    I’m a pretty decent cook especially now that I’m a SAHM. I do a big grocery shopping every two weeks then come back for produce, milk, etc. as needed. I usually menu plan based on what we want to eat that coming two weeks and/or what’s on sale.

  69. Maggs82 says:

    I would say I am a decent cook. I have a heck of a time figuring out what to have for dinner. It is one of the big stressors of my day. My kids are pretty picky eaters (like somoething one week and don’t the next). I am always looking for ways to organize and plan menus to make my time in the kitchen more enjoyable. We end up eating Hamburger Helper, Schwans premade meals, lots of pasta, etc. I really want to be able to make healthy and homemade meals for my family!!

  70. Maggs82 says:

    I am now following both blogs!!

  71. I follow A Bowl Full of Lemons!

  72. I follow Make 5 Dinners in 1 Hour!

  73. I think I’m an okay cook. I don’t have much experience yet, but have tried a few things without disaster. My typical week includes a few Crock-Pot recipes, a pizza, and a mix of prepared and homemade foods.

  74. Kate says:

    I follow 5 Dinners 1 Hour

  75. Kate says:

    I follow a Bowl Full of Lemons

  76. Kate says:

    I think I’m an okay cook. I love to cook and I try to stay on my menu I plan for 2 weeks at a time!! I love to browse for ideas! Great blog

  77. I follow your blog via Google Reader!

  78. I am an OK cook, but my husband usually outshines me. 🙂 I try to have a dinner plan by late morning, but am just starting to discipline myself to try actual menu planning.

  79. Lorena says:

    I follow your blog.

  80. Lorena says:

    My husband is the cook in the house, but I’d love to help out.


  81. Laura says:

    I think I am a good cook. My husband doesn’t complain (too much lol). I’m getting stuck with thinking of supper ideas lately. I need some inspiration!

    I follow your blog and 5 dinners in 1 hour.

  82. Molly says:

    I already follow both blogs! And the answer is NO, I am not a good cook. I would really like to get better though and I’m working toward that goal!

  83. I’m a follower here.

  84. I’m a follower there.

  85. No, I am not a good cook. I’m trying, though, and getting better.

    My normal dinner routine is I make dinner by myself while my kids either watch tv or my daughter does her homework and my son just hangs around. (I know, not great but it’s all I can do right now. I’m working on that, too.)

  86. Paula Smith says:

    I’m a good cook, but I’m not always the best PLANNER of what I will cook. I’d LOVE to improve my menu planning skills and make FEWER trips to the store. We make it a point to have supper at the table each night whether it’s a fancy meal or fast food. I’m a follower of both blogs.

  87. Cassie says:

    I follow recipes pretty well, but don’t do a good job at creating foods. I have been trying to get better at planning dinners for us, but I am not that great at it.
    I have been following your blog for a little while now and am now following Michelle’s blog! Thanks!

  88. Cassie says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  89. Becci says:

    I love, love, love to cook!! I try to make a weekly menu, but it doesn’t always happen. I love the recipe binder and your blog. Organizing is my passion! Thank You for all your ideas!!

  90. jadxxv says:

    I’m Toni Spilsbury, The Organized Cook™, helping busy moms take “back” the family dinner while saving valuable time and money. What Julia Childs did mid-Century by bringing fabulous French cooking to the housewife, The Organized Cook™, will bring efficiency and organization to the modern-day busy mom. My way of cooking is unique from anything on the market today and answers the question, “what’s for dinner tonight?”, with the question, “what’s for dinner this week?”. My signature recipes create healthy, delicious meals using my unique algorithm that plans and organizes family dinners to reduce waste while saving time at the grocery store and in the kitchen. The Weekly Meal Plans include menus, grocery shopping lists, cooking instructions with time and money saving techniques. My book, The rganized Cook, is due out September 1st. Check out my YouTube Channel at YouTube.com/OrganizedCook for cooking demonstrations and helpful tips for saving time and money while making dinner.

    Toni Spilsbury

  91. Tina Whitman says:

    I’m an OK cook. My family only likes the basics. If I try anything complicated or different, they won’t eat it.

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