Eating, Organising

Simple ways to meal plan better + free printable!

April 20, 2017

If you’re looking for a really simple way to meal plan, this post is for you. I’ve tried to meal plan in various ways – with apps, notebooks, folders, using groups where meal ideas were shared, and none of them stuck. I wasn’t consistent with any of them and that was because they just didn’t work for me or my family.

What I needed was to be able to meal plan, store recipes that I use regularly, keep a record of what food we have, and store recipes to try out. Personally, I need to physically see and touch a recipe, make notes on it etc, and I couldn’t do that with apps. Since starting the Live Lagom sustainability project, I’ve been consciously trying to keep track of the food we have. We would end up wasting quite a bit and sticking to a meal plan has helped tremendously. I also didn’t want to have to use lots of paper week after week, so I came up with a way to use one binder for everything.

How I created my recipe binder

I began by putting together a ring binder to contain all the recipes. The one I use is a Staples BETTER binder. It’s very affordable, and the rings open with the press of a tab, which is really handy. It holds up to 275 sheets of paper and comes in tons of colours, so if you wanted to separate your recipes into individual binder, you could colour code them and have a binder for each food group. There are larger versions as well, so if I ever need more space, all I would need to do is transfer everything over to the new binder and add more plastic sleeves to store the recipe sheets.

I popped a cover sheet (I created one that you can download for free at the end of this post) into the front clear pocket and wrote onto the spine label. I then put in a pack of punched plastic sleeves. These will keep the pages clean and prevent them from getting damaged with spills etc.

Recipe binder with printables

Meal plan without waste

The binder has two interior pockets. I use the one at the front of the binder to store a laminated sheet of paper that tells me what we currently have in the house. Knowing what you have is crucial to meal planning without wasting anything.

I use a Staedtler correctable pen, which is great on laminated surfaces because you can use the eraser on the back of pen and rewrite. There’s no need for wipes or any other removers.

My ‘What Have We Got?’ sleeve is divided into the following sections:

Fruit & Vegetables

In the Fridge

Pasta, Grains & Lentils

Snacks

Meat/ Seafood/ Chicken

Tins & Jars

Bakery

Cooked Foods/ Leftovers

I fill this in before I plan meals so I can try to pair ingredients together and use up things like that packet of bulgur wheat that has been sat on the shelf for yonks! Once I have meals written down for the week, I look through the recipes to ensure I have everything I need. Anything I’m missing, will go on a shopping list so I can ensure it is purchased for the week. If you’d like to add this sleeve to your recipe binder, I’ve created a free printable that you can download at the end of this post.

Organising your recipes

I divided my recipes into the following sections:

Appetisers

Bread

Chicken

Desserts

Festivities

Lentils

Meat

Pasta

Rice

Seafood

Sauces

Soups/ Salads

Vegetables

 

Food tracker printable filled out

Use some coloured tabs to do this. I had Avery printable tabs left over from a project years ago and typed out the sections, so it was really quick to do. These are no longer available but I found an inexpensive alternative – Post-it index tabs – that will do the job just as well. You’d just have to write on each tab to distinguish the sections, or use a colour guide if you prefer a cleaner look. I used my Dymo label maker to print out mine.

Recipe binder tabs

 

Then all I did was fill in the sections! I printed out recipes that I use regularly and love and popped them in their sections. I’ve left additional plastic sleeves in so that whenever I find a recipe I love, all I’ll need to do is print it and slot it in.


Recipe binder layout

There is an interior pocket at the back of the folder and I use this to store clippings of recipes that I see in magazines that I would like to try. Nothing makes it into the binder unless it’s a recipe we use and love.

Use your binder for more than just storage!

Since receiving my Instant Pot, I’ve adapted a lot of my recipes for pressure cooking, so I use post it notes to record the adaptations. I can try different settings and will always remember what I used previously. Or I’ll amend a recipe to cater for Yusuf’s allergies and will make notes so I know what to use in the future. I use my Personal Planner to write down dinners for the week and that way I’m constantly looking at it as I use the planner for other things throughout the day.

Recipe binder notes

Recipe binder and meal planning

 

I’ve found that this is such a great way to meal plan, store recipes that we use and love, know what food we have, and store recipes to try out. I’d love to see your recipe binders, so if you create one, please tag me on Facebook or Instagram!

This post was created as part of a collaboration with other bloggers who all have great tips for meal plannning! Links to their posts are listed below:

Meal Planning for Ramadan + FREE Printable

10 Tips to Meal Planning Success

Home Management Binder with Evernote – Includes Meal Plan Note!

Meal Planning For One & Family

10 Meal Prep Recipes you Have to Try

To download the free printables, sign up for the And then she said newsletter below! Note: you’ll need to click on the link in the email you receive to confirm your subscription first 🙂

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24 Comments

  • Reply Janine April 20, 2017 at 11:48 pm

    Loved it 💗 can u be my mentor lol that laminated food sheet is definitely the way forward I’m starting to realise I work best this way too as I’m always using my white board i have in the kitchen..and I’m all about writing things down.. il b sure to tag u if I get round to printing this soon Insh Allah jzk Allah khairan for sharing. X

  • Reply Liyanah April 20, 2017 at 11:56 pm

    Your mad organisation skills never cease to amaze me!!! I don’t know how you do it, but some how you do. Mashallah x

    • Reply Iman May 4, 2017 at 2:51 pm

      You are far too kind missy! xx

  • Reply Aicha April 24, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    Thanks for sharing lovely idea now if I could just get my husband on board with making a weekly menu

    • Reply Iman May 4, 2017 at 2:51 pm

      Try and involve him in the planning 🙂 that way he gets a say and can choose some of his favourites too!

  • Reply Sahar April 24, 2017 at 8:19 pm

    I wish I had the patiwnce to be this organized! I am truly happy there are people like you who gives inspiration for what may seem little for others!

    • Reply Iman May 4, 2017 at 2:50 pm

      I’m so glad you liked it Sahar! 🙂

  • Reply Farah Abdullah April 25, 2017 at 3:25 am

    Mashallah! I really admire people who are so organised that they find the time to organise some more with planners. I have long wished to be the same…

    • Reply Iman May 4, 2017 at 2:50 pm

      May Allah put barakah in your time inshaAllah!

  • Reply Asbah April 25, 2017 at 11:40 am

    I mean seriously? You are a working mom to two?
    You are definitely my next standard!

    I like organizing but to this level is kind of mind boggling for me :/ but well you have passed on the inspiration.

    Also your handwriting tells how organized you must be 🙂 loved it.

    And i love my pressure cooking too 😉 saves alot of time and hassle !

    • Reply Iman May 4, 2017 at 2:33 pm

      Thanks Asbah! Little things like this really help to keep things in as much order as possible with the chaos of daily life!

  • Reply Fozia S April 25, 2017 at 3:27 pm

    Masha’Allah you are so organised. I don’t meal plan but think I should…am usually scratching my head most days wondering what to make the kids and hubby!

    • Reply Iman May 4, 2017 at 2:32 pm

      That’s what I was like before I put this together! I was beginning to hate mealtimes!

  • Reply Lubna April 25, 2017 at 5:25 pm

    Awesome…..this looks fab product for someone like who keeps forgetting things to-do most of the time….thank you for sharing about it….helps a lot in organised planning….

    • Reply Iman May 4, 2017 at 2:32 pm

      You’re very welcome Lubna, I hope it helps!

  • Reply Aisha April 25, 2017 at 5:44 pm

    OMG! This is awesome. MashaAllah. You are an inspiration and you make it seem effotless or maybe because you put in the effort and give it to us easy peasy….Allahumma barik!

    • Reply Iman May 4, 2017 at 2:31 pm

      Aww bless you Aisha! Thank you for your kind words <3!

  • Reply Fatima April 27, 2017 at 5:50 pm

    This is indeed a fantastic idea. I’ve been thinking of doing this since a few years but have been really lazy. I think I should get going now.

    • Reply Iman May 4, 2017 at 2:31 pm

      Perfect time to get all sorted before Ramadan Fatima! 🙂

  • Reply Chelsea April 28, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    Ahh this is soooo cute I love it! I always feel disorganized and I’m always scrapping at the end of the week to put recipes together and write all of the ingredients on the grocery list. I love the laminated pages and how you can just erase…so cool! Thanks for sharing this awesome idea!

    • Reply Iman May 4, 2017 at 2:31 pm

      Thanks Chelsea! The laminated page is my favourite too!

  • Reply Yousra Naeem May 1, 2017 at 11:28 am

    Oh man I want to be this much organized in my life. Like you are a big inspiration ❤
    This is such a great idea but I think time consuming as well but in the end you will feel so easy as you already Know​ what to cook and what is available.
    Totally loved it💕
    And thank you for the free printables ❗😍

    • Reply Iman May 4, 2017 at 2:29 pm

      Bless you! It’s only a little work to begin with and then it saves you so much time later – you’re right!

  • Reply Maheen May 14, 2017 at 12:58 am

    Asa! I stumbled upon your fb page & blog today and am loving these posts! I’ve been meal planning recently, and have had random ideas of how I would like things to be (eg have a handy list of what’s in the fridge – I used to have that on the fridge with a magnet previously, but with a 2 year old that isn’t sustainable anymore), and have struggled without a memo board (can’t get one fitted either). This is simple and still incorporates all of how I’d like the planner to be! Hopefully inshaAllah this is going to stick. Going to check out your other organising posts too 😀

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