About a month and a half ago I took a few days and gathered all of my 'go-to' recipes and all of the other ones that I throw in occasionally and even some new ones I'd found that I wanted to try. I then organized them in my recipe box by category, mains: beef, chicken, meatless; desserts; sides; sauces, breads, etc.
Then I decided what to use those 3 sections for in my book:
* Section 1 has my permanent daily schedules written out - it will eventually be one page for each day of the week M-F, but for now it's 2 day's/page b/c my schedule will be changing near the end of May because I will no longer be babysitting and I didn't want to waste the extra pages in the book (I include my food prep. time in my schedule so I thought the best place for it would be in my food book).
* Section 2 has lists of EVERY meal that I make (not recipes, just what they are). It's broken down just like my recipe box - by type and each type is on a different page.
* Section 3 has my menu plans in it. I just write each week out and once I've filled up the page (front and back), move on to the next page.
So, on the weekend when I am getting ready to do my meal planning for the following week, the only thing I need to get out is my notebook. Everything is right there in one place and I can just pick and choose from Section 2 (the list of foods) what I want to put together for each meal. I typically plan 2 weeks at a time because I only do my major meal grocery shopping every other week, then I just pop in for fresh fruits/veggies, or minor things we need on the off week.
Then after I've written out my 2 weeks worth of menus, I take it one day at a time and go thru the menu/recipe and my fridge and pantry and write down anything I'm out of that is needed to make that meal and then do the same with the next day and so on. Then I go thru and add things to my list that we typically use every week (snacks for the kids, basic kid friendly things I like to keep on hand in case one of them hasn't been feeling well and isn't up to eating what I've prepared and any lunch items I need to get the kids and I through those 2 weeks since Michael takes leftovers to work).
Doing this has cut a tremendous amount off of my monthly grocery spending. So much that we're probably going to lower our budget since I know I can come in WAY under what I originally had budgeted. We'll put that money toward the final debt that we're paying off.
For more wonderful kitchen tips, visit Tammy's Kitchen Tip Tuesday post.