Resources and Recipes to Make Your Meal Planning Successful

With the Plan It- Don’t Panic meal planning challenge beginning this Monday morning, now seemed like the perfect time to share some really helpful resources to help you succeed with your menus.

Learn more about how to make meal planning work (and some different methods for doing it), find tons of my favorite online recipes and cookbooks, and score some great resources for planning and tracking all of your meal planning efforts.

The How-To of Meal Planning:

Healthy and frugal meal planning help Part 1 and Part 2 (this is my weekly method that works based on shopping once every two weeks or so)

A Seasonal Menu Plan (this is a method that requires more planning up front but can be used for months at a time with little effort afterwards)

Healthy Homemaking: Meal Planning Primer (some basics on meal planning)

Organization in the Real Food Kitchen: Planning to Make Food Preparation Happen (so that what you plan actually ends up on the table!)

Organization in the Real Food Kitchen: Meal Planning (includes my 21 meals list and how I do monthly meal planning)

Cook More Real Food: This was an event that I ran over a year ago, with 4 different components-  Pantry Inventory, Fridge and Freezer Inventory, Meal Planning and a Freezer Cooking day. There are several videos within these posts, showing how I do my inventories and planning.

My Recipe Binder

A Basic Guide to Menu Planning and Back to the Basics: Menu Planning, both @ Simple Mom

A New Way to Menu Plan, 9 Tips to Successful Meal Planning and Menu Planning 101 @ Simple Bites

Recording Your Menu Plan

Plan to Eat (an online meal planning program that allows you to store recipes, categorize and tag them, pull in recipes from your favorite sites, make simple drag and drop menus, create instant shopping lists and more)

ListPlanIt (these are the printable/downloadable organizing lists that I have been using for a couple of years now- their meal planning ones are fantastic, and I use so many other lists with my membership as well)

Sunday Planning @ Design Finch (seriously adorable free printables- menu planning, weekly planning, cleaning charts, everything!)

Free menu planning printables @ Money Saving Mom (This include many different variations on meal planning- one week, 2 week, monthly, shopping lists, and options like vertical or horizontal)

Free Daily Docket and Grocery Shopping printables @ Simple Mom (This is the grocery shopping list that I use- I print out extras and keep them on top of my fridge. The daily docket is more of a general organizer, but includes rooms for meal planning if you want something that will multi-task for you.)

Weekly Menu Planning and Shopping Lists @ Life…Your Way (these are among a HUGE list of other free printables, over 150! Pick and choose individual ones for free, or download the entire package in nicely organized folders for only $7)

Evernote.com- I’m the first to confess that I just don’t “get” Evernote. People rave about it, I’ve tried it out and haven’t found it particularly helpful. I do know that they have a desktop app, as well as a phone app. Maybe those who use and love Evernote could share in the comments how you use it and why you love it?

iPhone/iPad apps- I don’t use this option at all, but there are sooo many apps out there. Does anyone want to share which ones they use?

Google Docs- I know that many people simply create a free google doc and store their menu plan in there, just tweaking it weekly or monthly, however you do your planning. You can also save previous menu plans if you like, so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel each week, but sometimes just recycle a previous menu plan.

Google Calendar- Although I don’t use this for my meal planning, I use it for all of my blog planning, and for our family calendar, and I think it is fabulous. You can repeat events if your family doesn’t mind the repetition (but you can choose how often they repeat- once a week, every two weeks, every month, every 3rd Friday, etc.) and have reminders sent to your email. I know that Tsh from Simple Mom uses this method.

Image by Annie Mole

Recipes

A selection of my favorite whole foods recipe ebooks:

In the Kitchen ebooks

Healthy Snacks to Go (love the many simple but wholesome snack ideas in this one- our favorite are the mock-Larabars!)

The Everything Beans Book (if you’re looking to include more frugal and nutritious bean recipes in your meal plans, this is the book for you)

In the Kitchen- Real Food Basics (lots of information and basic, wholesome recipes for those just starting out with whole and traditional foods)

Treat Yourself (so, maybe this one isn’t truly necessary for menu planning, but yummy nonetheless- healthy desserts!)

Against the Grain (grain-free recipes, many of which are suitable for GAPS or SCD)

Simple Food {for winter} and Simple Food {for spring} – Both of these books are packed with delicious seasonal recipes. The winter one has a lot of comforting soups and stews in particular.

Real {Fast} Food (another one with wonderful basics on nourishing cooking and lots of simple, tasty recipes)

Fresh- A Salad Cookbook (this is from The Nourishing Gourmet, one of my favorite food blogs and a dear friend as well, and the recipes are wonderful. Lots of main dish salads, as well as green salads and various side salads, some grain salads and more.)

Sourdough from A to Z (this sourdough ebook is amazing- tons of recipes for everything from breakfasts, breads, desserts, as well as main dish items like tortillas, biscuits, pizza dough and more)

Other Recipe Books:

Sue Gregg Cookbooks (I have and adore the grains book and use it frequently. Her other books are also awesome and on my wish-list. Very simple, family-friendly yet nutritious.)

Jamie at Home (I love this book by Jamie Oliver. Some recipes are more complex than I prefer, but I am still often inspired and have loved some of the simpler recipes. The food and garden photos just make me swoon.)

Nourishing Traditions (probably still my favorite cookbook after many years)

Image by homard.net

Recipe Blogs I Like:

Recipe index here at Keeper of the Home (yes, shameless self-promotion)

Simple Bites

Heavenly Homemakers (so many that are very simple and wholesome, yet kid friendly)

The Nourishing Gourmet (for those who need it, there are a lot of dairy free recipes here, but just a wide variety in general)

Kitchen Stewardship

Passionate Homemaking

Nourishing Days

Naturally Knocked Up

GNOWFGLINS

Modern Alternative Mama

Frugal Granola (plenty of gluten-free recipes here)

A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa

The Purposed Heart

AllRecipes (not a food blog, but I still go to this site often when I’m looking for something in particular. Just skip over the recipes with processed-food ingredients and you can often make easy adaptations to make a recipe healthier. I love the ingredient search function and store a ton of recipes in my Recipe Box.)

Phew! I hope that is helpful!

For those who are new to all of this and feeling a bit overwhelmed, here’s my suggestion. Don’t look at a whole bunch of these links. Pick a few that sound particularly helpful or interesting and look at only those ones. Maybe it’s some new recipe inspiration, or some great printable pages for writing down your menu plan. Just don’t overwhelm yourself with too much “good” stuff (because when you get overwhelmed, even good stuff isn’t useful).

What are your favorite meal planning and recipe resources?

Disclosure: There are some affiliate links mixed in to this post. They’re mostly for recipe books or programs that I really like and personally use. I don’t recommend things that I wouldn’t use myself or can’t stand behind. There is no obligation at all to use my links if you purchase anything, but know that when you do it helps to support this site, so thank you!

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About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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Comments

  1. I do realize I am months late in commenting on this post, but since I just ran across it while writing a post about how I am physiologically incapable of meal planning I wanted to say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!! We’ve just been given the recommendation to start a GF/Casein-Free Diet trial with my son and I am DESPERATE to get this whole concept down. You have really provided some awesome resources! As an addition to your list, I’d like to add Cozi.com (another FREE meal planning online calendar and app) which I heard about recently… and (of course) haven’t yet used successfully!

  2. When we had to cut the budget over the summer to pay off credit cards (we are now debt-free!), I finally got my but in gear and planned our meals. Best thing ever. But now that we are renovating our kitchen (all I have are walls now…had to do something with all that extra money ;) ), I am very limitied to what I can cook – no oven, no stove…..only a Foreman grill that fits two burger patties, a large electric griddle, a crock pot, and a Blentec blender (like an affordable Vitamix), and the fridge. I have been able to make some stuff so far, but would LOVE any tips and recipes that you have when one is renovating the kitchen!

  3. I just got lost on this page :) Can’t wait. I have my post ready to go for tomorrow. Woo hoo!

  4. These are great. Thanks for sharing! I’ll be looking through them all for ideas. I NEED to get into meal planning again!

    I found a meal planning printable from Peace Creek on the Prarie I really like. I think I’ll use it during the challenge, although we’ll see what’s in store. It’s really different than others and is very flexible. I use meal plans this way anyway, so why not plan them that way from the start?
    http://peacecreekontheprairie.com/large-family-homemaking-forms

    I also want to suggest two books I LOVE:

    More With Less (a Mennonite book that has tons of recipes and tips that are very frugal and easy).
    http://www.amazon.com/More—Less-Cookbook-World-Community/dp/083619263X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1316319217&sr=1-1

    Family Feasts for $75 a Week (the recipes are fantastic and the cooking tips blew me away. really.)
    http://www.amazon.com/Family-Feasts-75-Week-Penny-wise/dp/0848732960/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1316319162&sr=8-3

  5. Kelly Richardson says:

    I have always been a fanatic about planning my meals…until recently. The past two years (hmmm…something to do with having babies four and five only 14 months apart???) I have had a REALLY hard time doing my meal planning. I’ve hated it because cooking stopped sounding fun. I recognized that part of it was our transition to whole foods. Sounds sad, but I love to bake and so part of the joy in cooking for me was in ALSO baking. Whip up a quick dinner and there is time to make dessert. Now I cook much healthier foods, but I haven’t always enjoyed the process. Plus, it used to take me HOURS to comb through all my recipe books and bookmarked websites to find the foods that I felt like cooking for the next few weeks. I just don’t have that kind of time.

    I’ve been working on making my own database of recipes – but that’s been time-consuming, too. Anyway. Long story somewhat shortened – this post has been wonderful in terms of resources AND motivation. After reading it, I got to work. In 10 short minutes I had a list of almost 50 dinners to choose from for my family (grouped by theme) that I know we like (some include breakfast for dinner). Meal planning suddenly looks doable – I can choose meals based on time constraints and weather (while basing my side dishes around seasonal produce) and we’re good to go! Thank you so much for your many ideas. I don’t comment often but I love your posts.

    • @Kelly Richardson, That is awesome. I love that you were able to get motivated and do something that will make your life easier, at a time when I’m sure you need it. Having organized recipes makes a huge difference. I find I need to do it every few years, as our preferences and favorite recipes change. It’s time to do it again. Perhaps it will be one of my projects during this meal planning challenge (which is for me as much as it is for everyone else!). Thanks for commenting! :)

  6. Wow, Stephanie! This is such a great resource. Thanks for putting it all together. I’ve recently got back into menu planning and it’s been going great, but I know I could improve upon what I’ve been doing. I can’t wait to read through “The How-To of Meal Planning” section for tips and ideas. (And thank you for sharing the link to my site also!)

  7. Just clicked through your entire post…whew! Thank you so much! I especially enjoyed looking at all the free printables. I can’t wait to start printing tomorrow. I just started posting about meal planning on my own blog, so this is timely. Thank you!

  8. LOVE this! I will add a link to my blog! I have just started to use http://www.saymmm.com and I really like it and all of its features! Other favorite food blogs: http://www.chef-n-training.com (not the healthiest recipes necessarily, but I tend to take a recipe and sub healthier ingredients as I can and tweek them, if possible, for my allergic son). My favorite thing about her blog is that the recipes are all really very easy, pretty quick, and don’t require anything fancy! Everything I’ve tried has been great!
    Also- thanks for clarifing about the start date.. I was wondering! LOL

  9. Thanks for sharing links to my site and shop, Stephanie!

  10. Thanks for all of the helpful resources!

    I have to say, I am one of those who LOVE using Evernote, especially for keeping track of recipes I find on other blogs. I’m actually putting together a post about how I use it to organize my online recipes I want to try. I’ll post a link here once it’s up.

  11. An amazingly comprehensive list! I’m honored you included “Real{Fast}Food”! I’m looking forward to delving into the links as well. Thanks for putting this together!

  12. http://www.tastebook.com is GREAT for putting all your loose recipes in one place. You can put all your recipes on there and then categorize them. It’s like creating your own cook book and you can even order it and they sent it to you by mail. I haven’t ordered a cookbook, but I like it because any recipe I pull off any site I put in there and its all organized.
    I have labelled on cookbook ‘Company Meals’ -so I know that whatever meal I see in there, I know will go over well with company.
    I even have one called ‘Medicinal Recipes’ -so I can put my little herb concoctions in there, elderberry syrup recipe, etc.

  13. Wow! What a helpful post. Thank you so much for writing it.
    Many of the sites I already read, and many of the cookbooks I know and love, but there’s so much good stuff here, to make meal planning simple and wholesome.
    I really appreciate it.

  14. Meal planning has always alluded me. It take me SO much time to plan that it’s not worth it. Then I had an idea that turned into a plan that I think will work.

    Last night I had a successful meal that all three kids and hubs liked (this rarely happens). The best part it took me 20 min to put together and then I had 25 mins to play with kids while it cooked. While eating I had a great idea for meal planning. I got a 3-ring binder and some page protectors. I then wrote the meal down with the recipe for each thing. Then I put it in the binder. I am going to do this for any successful dinner. I think this will help me with meal planning.

    Sometimes I get distracted with all the other recipes out there and make things to difficult for myself. I’m busy with working full time, hubs in college full time, and home schooling 3 kids. Simple is my slogan. I can look through one binder and pick meals that I know will please, are healthy, and easy to put together. I might even have four binders, one for each season, to rotate though for more variety! I’m going to move my cook books to a book shelf and use them for inspiration and enjoyment. I’ll stick with my binder of meals that I know will work and then try new things only once or twice month.

    I think it just might work!

    • @waggie, I’m in the same boat as you with working and hubby in school. Our son is 18 months, so I don’t have homeschooling in the mix yet. When I started meal planning a couple years ago, it took me a long time to put together a meal plan. It often consisted of many recipes I never tried. But I did what you mentioned, kept the recipes that work and now I spend 20 minutes planning meals for the week while looking at what’s on sale and in season. I understand the challenge now, but it does get easier! Hang in there!

  15. I’d just got pepperplate for my iPad. Haven’t messed around with it too much but it seems to be a lot like plan to eat.

  16. No offense…I thought you said it was starting Sept. 26th? I’d *LOVE* for you to start this Monday instead! I’m excited about it…thanks for the links!

  17. I am so glad to have this as a resource. I can’t wait to get meal planning a part of my routine! I actually just planned the whole month of September and I feel so less stressed lately about “what’s for dinner?” This challenge will also help me to keep that momentum.

  18. This is a great and informative post! Thanks! I can’t wait to click through all the links! (I’m at work now!)

  19. I’m heading out to Bible study, but I can’t wait to start clicking through this post! I have a lot of the e-books you mentioned. I really need a better system for organizing my recipes, so I can’t wait to check out the binder post! I’m so excited about this! The FB group is already hopping for anyone else who might want to join!

  20. Thanks for this informative post! I like a lot of the same recipe sites you have listed. I also like The Fresh 20, a meal planning subscription service that uses only 20 fresh ingredients each week along with 20 pantry staples and 20 kitchen utensils. I’m even giving away a 6-month subscription today!

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