Let’s Eat Workshop- Week 4 of 4

When it comes to menu planning, the hardest part for me is come up with a variety of meals for the week. Because of this, I organize my nights into themes, as we discussed last week, but the actual organization and storage of my recipes goes even a step further to help ease this {often painful} process.

Here is what I do:
I have 2 3-ring notebooks- one is labeled “Recipes to Try” and the other notebook is labeled “Favorite Recipes.” Each notebook has tabbed dividers that are labeled with the names of the themes I use for each night of the week. I have a “Mexican” tab for “Mexican Monday” a “Take Out” tab for takeout Tuesday and so forth. I also have a tab for “Drinks” Party Foods” and “Misc.”
organize Lets Eat Workshop  Week 3 of 3
As I read my magazines and find new recipes or print recipes from other blogs I see, I file the new recipes in the “Recipes to Try” notebook under the best tabbed section. A new pizza recipe would go under the “Take Out” divider, a new enchilada recipe would go under the “Mexican” divider.
organize Lets Eat Workshop  Week 3 of 3
All these recipes stay here in this notebook until I get around to trying them for myself. This eliminates piles of magazine clippings of random recipes that get lost or damaged before you can try them! And there is no sense of making any of these magazine pages look pretty yet- you don’t know if the recipe is a keeper or not, so just leave it in the folder. {We will discuss making your recipes prettier in one minute.}
When I get around to trying a new recipe, I pull one out of the “Recipes to Try” notebook. If my family loved it, I will then transfer the recipe to the “Favorite Recipes” notebook. This means that I am only keeping the recipes I know my family will eat. That doesn’t mean they all have to rate it a perfect 10, it just has to be good enough for me to save and want to make again. If it doesn’t turn out, I toss the recipe into the trash! No sense in saving a recipe it you didn’t like it, right?
organize Lets Eat Workshop  Week 3 of 3
My “Favorite Recipes” notebook will sit how it is until I get ambitious or find some extra time on my hand. If that ever happens (ahem.) I like to “Make my recipe cards pretty” and file it into my recipe box.
organize Lets Eat Workshop  Week 3 of 3
Making it pretty is a completely individual preference. I like to have a picture with my recipes, so I type the recipe directly on top of the picture, then I print the pictures at Costco & laminate them (because I discovered the hard way how messy I am in the kitchen and all my pretty cards were getting ruined! )
organize Lets Eat Workshop  Week 3 of 3

My recipe box also has tabbed dividers of the themed days of the week- which makes it easy to flip through while planning my menu.

So planning my menu for the week goes something like this:
1. Grab paper and pencil, 2 black notebooks and recipe box.
2. Find a recipe for Mexican Monday by looking in the file box or the “Favorite Recipes” notebook under the tab “Mexican”. Continue in this fashion finding a meal for every day of the week. Use the “Recipes to Try” notebook to find a meal for “What’s New Wednesday”.
3. Make a grocery list.
4. Go shopping.
5. Eat dinner.
6. Live happily ever after.

Again, because my days have a theme, the guesswork is almost done for me. And because my recipes are organized by theme, I can easily flip to the meal ideas for that theme and choose among tons of options!

Ta-Da! Easy, yummy meals in a wide variety! Meal planning is only going to get easier for you, I promise!

organize recipes

Wife, mom of 5, and creator of Somewhat Simple, Stephanie has a passion to create and inspire. She is an Orange County transplant who is now enjoying life in Phoenix, AZ. She enjoys traveling, shopping, organizing, cooking and creating simple projects for her home and family.
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  1. says

    I love the photo recipe card idea. Since I store our recipes digitally, I’m worried that if we ever lose power/internet I will have no idea what to cook. The photos with the recipes are a great idea. Do you use a particular software to do that? Picasa? Picnik?

    I have started using pinterest (http://pinterest.com/joyinmykitchen/) to organize my recipes to try, and I house our family recipes on our blog (http://joyinmykitchen.blogspot.com/2009/06/recipes.html). I’m loving this because I tend to cook off of my computer in the kitchen, so this works out really nicely. I’m looking forward to hearing what other people do too, because I always need ideas!!

  2. says

    Okay I love the sweet simplicity of this idea. I have a folder that I keep my recipes in and it is pretty well organized…but then I started collecting more and more recipes to try so rather than filing them in my notebook I have them shoved in my cabinet on top of the my recipe binder and cookbooks. And rather than trying any of the recipes I just cringe at the mess I have made. I am planning to make a new binder with the recipes to try now. So simple and yet so brilliant. Thanks!

  3. says

    This is by far the best way I have seen menu planning done. I need to get my drawer *cring* cleaned out and organized like your “recipes to try”. I like your philosophy that it doesn’t have to look pretty, because you don’t even know if you are going to keep it. Your two binder method makes it ridiculously simple and easy! Thanks so much for sharing. I hope I get a little bit of time this weekend to get myself started.

  4. Alicia @ Tails of an Apronista says

    Steph, you are just so brilliant!
    I love this new facet to the menu planning idea. I have been struggling with getting back on track after my move and this could not be a more perfect idea! Thank you so much! I have given you a special little shout out on my blog today in hopes that some of my readers find you and get inspired to start menu planning too!
    Thank you again for the great ideas!!

  5. says

    I LOVE the idea of printing the recipe on the picture. I always type my recipes up to make them nice and neat and usually in a fun font to make them pretty. I often have a picture that I try to include so I make sure mine looks like the picture. lol So this is genious to print it on the picture, makes it pretty, fun, and helpful.

  6. says

    You are so good! I had the two binders, to try and our favorites, but I didn’t think to make the tabs match my week. I had salads, soups, veggies, breads, etc. your way is soooo much easier. Thank you!