A few years back I wrote an article about organized menu planning for my new bees, but when it comes to meal planning I think anybody can benefit from the tips.
Applying here that small, but significant tip that I shared too in my recent post Homeschool Organization–Where do you begin? when I emphasized the baby step to organization which is to “identify with precision” the need or problem defines the troubled spot real clear.
Here is my answer: When I am meal planning, I am not collecting cook books, but recipes. And let’s take it one step further to make it even more clear what our needs are if we are struggling to put supper on the table and that is to collect recipes our family will eat.
In the picture below is what my recipe book looked liked back then. I now call it my main recipe book.
I basically took the time to go through most of the cookbooks I had and recipes I had collected online and put them in a 5 inch binder. I divided it by these sections; main entree, breakfasts, sides, breads, condiments, desserts and beverages.
The picture above are the cookbooks that I had left to go through at the time. I do not have any of them now because I finished that project. I only kept two cookbooks that were of sentimental value.
Unless we are clear about what our goal is for anything that we are trying to organize, then no clear cut plan will ever emerge.
Are we collecting cook books or recipes? There is a big difference. One we can bring clutter in our kitchen if we collect cook books and the other collecting recipes is clearly defined because that is what we are really wanting to achieve.
Too, with Pinterest now, it is easier to store recipes online. Still though we want to spend LESS time flipping through cook books and online on Pinterest when it comes to menu planning.
The only way to do this is to take time to print them, organize them and have them handy. Make a specialized cook book for your family.
I know there are tons of online grocery shopping and menu planning tools, but they never work for me when I about to menu plan or cook. I like having it all down printed in front of me to flip through or look at while I am cooking. That is just me, you may do better with something online. I need to touch and see my recipes in my binder.
But do you know what is the sweetest investment when taking hours and hours to make a specialized recipe binder cookbook? It is filling the binder with recipes that MY family will actually eat. Avoiding time wasters by flipping through useless pages in a cook book and avoiding spending hours and hours on Pinterest to find something different only to make the same old usual dinner is priceless to me.
Can you see that menu planning becomes a cinch? Your recipe book should be filled with more recipes that your family eats and enjoys instead of recipes that have not been “field tested” by your family. More on that in a minute.
Can you menu plan for 365 days and not repeat a meal? That was my mind-set when I started filling my book and I can do that now. Of course, I don’t do that because some foods my family really loves and wants to have them a couple times a month. The point is that your recipe book is not filled with recipes that your family will not eat and you have a variety to choose from when boredom sets in.
So don’t go through willy-nilly sticking all the recipes in your book. It took me almost 3 years to get the first book done because I would test out a new recipe on my family before it was a “keeper” for my binder. Choose selectively even if it means having less recipes in your book. When I started I promise I couldn’t think of more than about 7 -10 meals that I cooked and that my family actually would eat. I knew I cooked more, but I had to get them all down. I knew that if my crew gobbled the meal down, it was a keeper. If they just kind of liked it, but knew it could taste better by adding this or that ingredient, I revised the recipe to suit my family. The point is it takes time to test each new recipe that you put in your binder. The basic rule of thumb is to fill your binder with more tried and true recipes than recipes for testing.
My recipe binders have now hit one of my must-haves for homeschooling because when I am tired, I can still menu plan for 30 days because I know my family will not only eat but enjoy just about all the recipes I have stored now.
Today, I have 3 binders (first picture above) because it is the way I prefer to menu plan and organize. The big binder or 5 inch binder is my main book basically for all my recipes except crockpot meals and I also took out the breakfast section.
In homeschooling we need to relentlessly use our crockpots year round and I now want those recipes to be kept separate so I can find them easier. So that is my second binder. And then the meal we prefer to eat together as a family is breakfast, so I collect recipes that are unique and fast and keep that binder easy to retrieve. Too, though it is called my Breakfast and Lunch binder because it has home lunch ideas in it also because I don’t want lunch at home to become boring so I keep those ideas handy there.
Heads Up: Don’t make too many binders though you may think it is easier to organize this way. Organization is about keeping things streamlined and you can make this project too complicated by over organizing. I really only have 2 binders, my main and crockpot binder, that I reach for when planning. The last binder filled with breakfast and lunch ideas is just that – an idea book if I get bogged down. Breakfast and lunch are not areas I need help on everyday like my main meal which is supper.
It’s just about time to update my binders again. Since we will be moving and because I can’t take the binders with me, it will be the perfect time to update them when we get settled again.
Look at these easy steps I did in case you want to start one now.
- 1. Go through each cook book slowly or online recipes and decide what your family will “try” (field test) and what they will eat. Don’t do this in a hurry as you probably, like me, paid good money for your cook books and want to get the full use out of them.
- 2. Then decide whether to tear out the pages or unbind them in your books. Keep in mind that organization for homeschooling is not waiting for the perfect looking page. In other words don’t say I will re-type a recipe. You can do that later if you want to because right now you may get side-tracked if you try to do that.
And if you do that, instead of completing a specialized cook book for your family, you may create road blocks by waiting to set up a perfect page. I know, I know, it grinds me also because I like it all matching and pretty pages, but the truth of it is you have time to come back to make those pages pretty after you declutter.
- 3. Each torn out page or printed page from Pinterest needs to go into a page protector. Page protectors are good for messes in the kitchen too since your recipe is protected. Go ahead and put the recipe in the sections you created whether you are know or don’t know if your family will like the recipe.
It is much easier to take the recipe out of the page protector and throw it away than it is to have a big pile of pages laying out, adding to clutter and not usable.
- 4. Field test on your family by cooking the recipes you were unsure of and then I put notes on my recipes when I cooked the ones I was testing. Mark up the recipe, place a check on it or something so you will know if you tweaked it a bit, will keep it or toss in the garbage if there was no salvaging it. Basically, mark the ones you have cooked already so you have some record.
- 5. Throw away all cook books and their clutter. It feels pretty good at this point.
Did I mention you actually look forward to cooking and you have something treasured that was made just for you and your family?
I have created something unique for my family and you can too! Take from this what you can use and I hope it breathes some help into your cooking routine.
I can’t wait to make another set of binders when I move. And this time, I may have to create some brand spanking new pretty divider pages for our recipe binders and new covers too. What do you think? Want to do this now or with me again when I land?
Hugs and love ya,