Monday, May 2, 2011

Meal and Menu Organization

When you make a grocery list do you do so with a menu in mind for the week? Or do you just spontaneously buy what is fresh or looks good? Do you go once for the whole week or run to the supermarket each day to buy dinner? How do you prepare for a trip to the grocery store? Let me tell you a couple of my secrets for meal, menu and grocery organization.

I spend about an hour each Sunday preparing what I am going to cook for the upcoming week. I try to incorporate meals from various cultures and select recipes that will utilize food that I already have in my refrigerator or pantry (money saving tip!). To go with every meal, I try to come up with new ways to prepare vegetables and throw in some bread, pasta or starch every now and then to make the meal more well-rounded. I make every effort to have a vegetarian meal each week and limit the amount of red meat I eat, as well as limit the amount of chicken each week because it can get old quickly. As I am selecting the meals and their accompaniments I mark things on my grocery list that I need. I wouldn’t be able to keep track of all of this if I didn’t have some form of menu organization.

My new favorite menu organizer is a member-only feature of All Recipes, but I’ll give you a sneak peak! Another menu organizer is offered by Epicurious, which I have not yet tried. I have to tell you I was very skeptical about trying All Recipes’ menu planner, but I jumped in with both feet and love it.

Above is an image from All Recipes of a menu I planned for two days of the week recently. The planner allows you to select various dishes either from the website or you can type in the title and/or ingredients from a recipe you found elsewhere. I get a lot of my recipes and meal ideas from All Recipes, but as mentioned in earlier posts I am subscriber to numerous food magazines and read several food blogs to get inspiration. Oh, and I have a cupboard full of cookbooks. Because my recipes come from a variety of sources I need to keep track of what they are and where they came from so that I can find them again when it comes time to prepare the meal.

What I was looking for in a menu planner was something versatile that I could easily access and modify as necessary. Until I started using it, I didn’t think that All Recipes’ Menu Planner was going to be able to offer that. Thankfully, I was wrong. A few of my favorite things about this helpful resource are: for each meal the nutrition facts are calculated per serving which help me make smarter choices (sometimes), all of the ingredients can transfer to an online shopping list and the recipes I have already stored in my online recipe box can be easily accessed and dropped into my menu for the week. Lastly, the menu planner also features pre-created menu/meal ideas for one specific meal or a week of meals, usually based on a common theme, such as BBQ, entertaining, Cinco de Mayo, or $10.00 dinners.

Before using the online menu planner feature I simply wrote out my meal ideas on a large sticky note and mounted it in my pantry for extra easy access. Alternately, there are a few cute notepads on the market to aid in menu planning if you’re after something flashier. Another idea if you get your recipes online would just be to print them out and arrange them in a file folder for the week. Be sure to file them away in their home after the week is over, though. Any of these options will work equally well I just wanted to share with you my recent findings and the change I made in the way I organize and keep track of my weekly meals.

Bon Apetit!

All Recipes has not endorsed this blog post in any way. I happen to be a faithful All Recipes user and hope that you will check out their website for some awesome recipes created by people like you (and me!).


  1. love this, Ali! makes me think i need to step up my game and plan some meals... really great tips! i'll see if Tyler can help me plan in advance so we don't to the nightly scramble and just eat crap :(

  2. Good luck, Ali! It makes preparing for dinner so much easier than doing a daily inventory of what is in the fridge or pantry.