I’ve seen many a meal plan that consists of a month of meals all mapped out in advance, which is way too waterfall for me! By that I mean it is planned out in too much detail, too far in advance to accurately plan. Example, say I’m supposed to make chili next Tuesday but it turns out to be a surprise 75 degree sunny day and I don’t feel like chili with that weather. Or I don’t have time that day to make chili, I need to make something faster. Not that chili isn’t pretty fast, but compared to heating up left over wonderful something or other it is. I’ve also seen food logs of various sizes and styles to track what I eat but I need a meal planner and food log combined in one, I barely have time for either much less both. Secondly, back to the chili and time example, I don’t know about you but I feel like eating different things depending on the weather and/or the days’ schedule (which can change quickly with a baby, full time work, a business, and a farm) and I may not have the time I’d need to make something I thought I would. Even a week all mapped out is too restrictive for me. I need to be Agile with meal prep. So I created a flexible bullet journal spread that I can use for the month to plan out what to eat in manageable chunks of time (weekly sprints) AND log what I actually eat all in one place, (including the spoon of peanut butter lunch I have some days versus whatever fantastic thing I had planned to eat). For those of you who are Trim Healthy Mamas like me, it is also a great way to manage fuel sources and quickly find recipes in multiple cookbooks.
So, is it complicated? Hard to create? Hard to learn? Hard to use? Not one bit! First a picture of the full spread ready to be populated, next I’ll break down how to use it effectively.
The days of the month go down along the left side. The top is broken up into sections, Breakfast/ Sipper (these are all day drinks that you sip on to boost metabolism and heal your body – check out Trim Health Mama or THM for more info.) Lunch/ Snack, and Dinner/ Dessert. Then, on the far right and along the footer, I add in several recipe ideas for each category (usually seasonal, because we also try and focus on things that are ripe/ ready to eat at that time). By the way, this is also a GREAT planner for others who eat seasonally; gardeners, farmers, and those who get CSA’s. I also include the cookbook it is found in (under ?), page number (under PG), and fuel type, (Under F). Now I have a list of things that I will likely eat for the month and exactly where to find exact ingredients. I often leave some open spaces because I may want to add in more things as the month progresses. Here is an example of what it looks like at this point.
To make a meal plan from this, I first check the weather, all the schedules for the week, and/or what will be ready to harvest and I chose what makes sense and what I want to make for the week. Notice, I plan for the week, not what to make and eat each day, and 95% of the time everything gets made because I make it when I actually can not when some planner says I should. I use a post it note to jot everything down everything I plan to make for the week, that post it note will be used a few more times too!
I then go to each of the recipes (which I conveniently already listed where they are) and create an ingredient list for the grocery shopping which I do digitally and then just pick up the food at the store. I do this weekly except one week a month I often don’t get anything but instead focus on using up whatever is on hand so it doesn’t get wasted. I also purposely make more than we need so there will often be left overs to freeze. I usually, select three diners to make each week and rotate left overs from other weeks to keep things mixed up and also to make sure everything gets used! I’ll often make a dessert and something for breakfast. I often keep breakfast the same for the week, by making a big pot of oatmeal or a breakfast casserole to eat on. Sometimes it is a shake or eggs something I make each day. Lunch is usually left overs from dinner, a salad, or sandwich, or a random free for all like peanut butter on a spoon. I then put the post it note on my recipe book holder in the kitchen to remind myself what I got ingredients to make, because I do forget that quickly sometimes? 😉 Lastly, I make things as I can/ weather and schedule permitting 😉
“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry” Robert Burns
Now, the beauty of being Agile is that what I plan to eat and what I actually eat are not always the same thing. So, I use the open spaces after each date for what I actually do eat as the day progresses. Easy Peasey! Here is any example of what a completed month with Post-It notes looks like.
I have been using this spread for over a year and it has been working beautifully for me. I hope it works at least as well for you. Please share any tweaks you make below and be sure to tag me on any social media if you share your awesome meal planner/log. I love to see the way other people make a good thing so much better!