Meal Planning Revisited – How to Build a Recipe Bank
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Do you find yourself cooking the same five meals over and over again? Break out of that rut by creating a recipe bank for fun and efficient meal planning!
The Recipe Rut
I’m all for trying to save money and eat healthier by cooking at home. But it’s so hard to do again and again and again! Even if you do a ton of research and create the best Pinterest recipe board, it’s easy to fall into a recipe rut and cook the same five meals on repeat. I recently caught myself in this loop and decided to put an end to it once and for all. How did I do that? By creating the ultra meal planning tool – the recipe bank!
Problems that Need Solving
One problem I have with meal planning is that I tend to forget recipes. I know that there are dozens of recipes that I can cook with no help from a book or video, but for the life of me, I can never remember them. This means that I end up cooking the same handful of simple recipes again and again. Delicious as spaghetti might be, I need to mix things up.
Another issue for me is that I often don’t want to go through the annoyance of scrolling through my recipes board on Pinterest to find that one chicken meal that I pinned six months ago. I’m all about trying new recipes, but I never think of it until the grocery shopping has been done, which means I don’t have that special ingredient that is necessary to bring the whole thing together.
I started looking at my other spreads, like my habit tracker, and then it me like a ton of bricks. Of course I should have a place for all of my meals! That would solve my problem of recipe amnesia. My goal was to create a page for quick reference that had a ton of meals, because who wants to flip to a bunch of different pages to decide on a meal plan? I wanted my solution to have movable, interchangeable recipes so I could keep things fresh.
I present to you my meal planning masterpiece!
The Recipe Bank
This recipe bank is the perfect fix for all of my problems! I can organize my meals and make them extremely accessible for a simple meal planning session. On each flag, I wrote the name of the recipe on the end so I can see it when they are all stacked up as shown. I also wrote the ingredients I would need to buy from the store for each recipe so I could easily flip to my Master Grocery List and add the ingredients to my shopping list.
The recipes are color coded so I can find a chicken/veggie/red meat/fish recipe in a glance. The pink flags have a wide variety of red meats, like sausage and beef simply because I don’t have a whole bunch of colorful sticky notes and we don’t eat that many red meat meals anyway. I also have several side dishes on the green flags in addition to vegetarian main courses. That’s because we cook the same side with everything, so it’s nice to be reminded of tasty alternatives.
How to Set it Up
I also have the bank divided into two sections: Old Favorites and Something New. Like the headers? I used my new Pentel Pocket Brush Pen for that dark, bold hand lettering and I’m kinda in love with it. My new and never-tried recipes get stuck onto the Something New page so I can quickly determine what cool new recipe we’ll try this week. Now, I couldn’t fit the whole recipe onto the little flag, so I do still need to look up the cooking instructions when the day comes. But I wrote the name of the recipe word for word so I can easily look it up later. Until then, I can jot down the necessary ingredients for shopping.
These flags probably do exist somewhere in roughly this same size (maybe these?), but I just used regular 3″x3″ Post It Notes and cut them in half. Using my little 6 inch metal ruler and an X-Acto craft knife, I simply cut these notes in half to get the right size. I didn’t use the full square notes because they were simply too big, but three columns of the halved notes fit perfectly. You’ll also notice that I have them oriented downward instead of from left to right. I’ve found that having the free side of a sticky note flapping around near the center of the journal tends to lead to bent up notes. So I filed them facing down, and it works very well!
Meal Planning – The Practical Application
This week, I finally remembered and drew up a rough weekly spread. It was so nice to sit down with my bullet journal and zone out to Amazon Music (You can get a free month long trial, and it’s a great deal especially if you’re a Prime member!) while coming up with a meal plan. I struggle so much to just sit down and do it, so I’m really glad I had the patience and foresight this week!
I used little Post it Flags to jot down my meal plan for each day and stick it on. I could just write them down, of course, but being able to relocate the meals as plans change is nice. I’m all about flexibility! I also used some brand new little pens to draw up this spread. Let me introduce you to my lovely Faber-Castell Pitt artist pens and the beautifully fine Pilot Razorpoint pen.
I loved using the Pilot Razorpoint to write on both the Recipe Bank flags and the weekly spread flags because it writes so tiny. It’s essential to be able to write very fine on some the the recipe flags. You can imagine that it starts to get crammed pretty quick. And Pilot has never let me down before! They have some fantastic pens – I first fell in love with this brand thanks to their fountain pens.
And the Faber-Castells? Swoon! These pens have a stunning feel. They are so damn smooth, my friends. I really need to review them more in another brush lettering post. They are just so good!
There is one more method I have found to be fantastic for the practicality of meal planning. Let someone else do it for you! Blue Apron is a great way to take some of the stress off when planning meals for the week because you can have three whole meals (sides and all) delivered right to your door. I just finished a box from Blue Apron last week and it was delicious! They send such interesting flavor profiles and ingredients. For example, in the last order, we received Cod Sandwiches, Spicy Hoision Chicken and Broccoli, and Spiced Beef Skewers. That last recipe included a side dish of baked squash that we absolutely loved, plain and simple. We are adding it to our side dish rotation.
Besides being interesting, the Blue Apron recipes are shockingly easy to execute. They send very professional step-by-step instructions with pictures to help you prepare these delicious meals! So why don’t you diversify your recipe bank and experience new flavors? Get $40 off your first two boxes shipped straight to you by clicking my link and get a taste of the action!
A Much Needed Improvement
One other fun fact about the recipe bank is that when you switch to a new bullet journal, you can take the recipes with you! Simply peel them out of your spread and transfer them into your gorgeous new Leuchtturm1917. If any of the flags lose their stickiness, you can create a new one very easily. This really is one of those simple little tricks that can make things so much easier. I can’t believe it took me this long to think it up! It just pairs so beautifully with my master grocery list, but that’s just the beauty of the bullet journal, though. Experiment until you find a system that works for you!
What about you? How do you like to meal plan, if you do at all? Tell me in the comments below!
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thanks. I’ll use this methode in my work. bless you.
It’s such a helpful way to keep things organized, Encarna! Enjoy!
Thank you so much for this! I’m adopting this idea for my new year’s planner.
I think you will find it’s incredibly helpful Siska.
Now I know what I will be spending my Friday evening doing ?
Yes! I love my recipe bank and I bet you will too Jasmin.
Easy and Flexible,…. thank you for sharing!!!
Thank you for reading, Patricia!
I am very much in love with this spread! I am going to make it today. Also, do you have those recipes anywhere on your blog? Some sound REALLY good and I’d love to check out how to make them!
I’m thrilled you like the post, Jalynn! Unfortunately, I don’t have these recipes anywhere. This post is so old I don’t even know where I found them to be quite honest. But if you see the title and search for it, I bet you’ll find some of them because I stayed pretty faithful to the post titles when I wrote these down! Good luck finding some of these delicious recipes 😀
Great idea! If you cover your recipe bank pages with e.g. Contact paper or stripsbod Sellotape then the sticky notes will stay sticky longer!
Wonderful hack! Thanks for sharing.
Dear Shelby, You made my day. What a great Idea, i was struggling for a long time to find a way to plan our meals. Thanks alot. Love, Marjon. (The Netherlands)
So glad you found this helpful!
I did something similar last year, but instead of sticky notes, I used small index cards (2 x 2). I wrote all of the names on one side and ingredients on the other, color coding for meal type (red meat, poultry, pasta, etc). I even threw a card in that says new recipe so I would get a chance to use a Pinterest find. Then I put them on my menu board and make my grocery list from there.
Wow Penny, that sounds like a really organized system! And a great one at that!
What a genius you are! I have been doing meal planning with a journal and find myself rewriting things alot – thanks for a solution to that.
I’m so glad that this post helped you! It really has been a life saver for me in terms of time saved and making sure that I am not just eating the same meal over and over again.
That looks awesome. I’ve been trying to find a meal planner that is easy to use. This is like the perfect one. Keep up the awesome work.
I’m so happy to hear that, Breezi! I hope this technique is perfect for you 😀 Thanks so much for reading and saying such sweet things!
Thanks so much for this amazing idea! I know there are recipes I’ve tried and loved over the years, and I always think I will totally go back to them… but where are they now? lol… I have no idea. I’m hoping this will help keep track of our regular recipes and the new ones we love!
One question… in the photo showing your weekly page, I see a nifty post-it dispenser tray… where did you find it? Thanks again!
Thank you so much for the kind words! But I’m gonna be honest Sherri – I have no idea where this little tray came from. I think I may have stolen it from my mother in law! This dispenser is the closest thing I could find. Sorry, I wish I could help more on that front! Good luck finding a post it dispenser that suits your needs 🙂
Thanks for sharing this great idea! I currently have recipes in both digital and hard-copy formats. I’m hoping that this will help me organize and consolidate my recipe ideas into one place.
I hope it helps, Mel! Thanks so much for reading! 🙂
I am brand new to bullet journaling and am so excited to give this a try. This seems like such a simple, but effective way to meal plan! Thanks so much for sharing your gorgeous spread.
Welcome to the wonderful world of bullet journaling, Hilary! Thanks so much for stopping by and for your kind words. I hope you find this spread to be as effective as I do!
I love your meal planning idea and agree it is a huge $ and time saver! I went to meal planning last year when I was in my last year of school (clinicals) with 5 kids and their activities, work as well as a great hubby! I had to keep it super simple, so I downloaded a couple cute & simple free weekly menu printables to my computer. Every Saturday I sit down for a couple minutes and scroll through Pinterest and my cookbooks for quick ideas, throw together a quick list then make my grocery list in the same sitting. It has been a lifesaver and I’ve continued even though school finished! When I have more time I’ll have to try your journal idea….it is so cute & I love the organization!
Thanks so much for stopping by and reading, Julie! Finding a system that works for meal planning is amazing. So much of our life revolves around meals, so keeping it organized is, like you said, a lifesaver!
Wow I totally love this idea! I’ve been trying to come up with a system like this for awhile and I’m definitely going to give this a shot.
Awesome, I’m glad you like it! I hope you find it to be just as useful as it has been for me!
This is a great idea! I have been using a master list that I composed in WORD…in 3 columns, landscape, and print out and fold in thirds. Then I just keep that list with me, circle what i want in pencil, and erase OR more often than not, just print a new one for the next week because i usually make notes on it and don’t want to bother erasing it all.
I think I will just cut and paste (literally!) the master list into my bujo so I have a permanent one with me too!
And THEN, your recipe/ingredients tracker is ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT! I can’t wait to get started on mine!
I must admit I have a recipe addiction….I collect…copy, edit, print, and put them in notebooks…yes, plural! Plus pinterest is my enabler…along with many other websites. i collect them, and forget to include them when shopping so I rarely try them! THANK YOU!!!
(Just a hint for any other addicts out there…Instead of just hitting PRINT on an internet recipe, I copy and paste the recipe into Word. I use narrow margins and 2 columns, so I get a lot more recipes in the same space that one recipe would take if you print from a website. I take out unnecessary extra words and ads and junk i don’t want…minimize the chatter in the recipe, and I don’t have to read thru all that stuff again when I do the recipe. It really doesn’t take much time to edit…totally worth it. I always save the source info. Hope that helps someone else. Thanks for your great posts all the time. I’m new to Bujo and learning so much!
I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I had the same problem with Pinterest. I so rarely tried those gorgeous recipes that it was criminal. Since I’ve started this bank, it’s been loads better in making our cooking schedule much more interesting. Thanks for the tip, by the way! 😀
I love the columns idea and gave it a quick try just now ~ I too have EXTENSIVE recipe collections in Word and on my bookshelves!! I’d rather read a cookbook than a novel any old time – you too?
I’m really loving it. It’ll take some editing – I’m kind of anal about having the whole recipe on the same page if possible. But that’s cool, I get to revisit the recipes I wanted to save, and hopefully transfer them to my BUJO to try a few each week or so.
Thanks for the idea!!
Thank you so much Shelby for taking the time to share your wonderful system!
I am starting today with new hope to over come some challenges in meal planning:
Our family, as many others, have several allergies to consider in meal planning.
My 16 year old son is finishing cancer treatments.
Fussy family member foodies that want the best every day.
Ugh! It has felt frustrating doing menu planning; like a rubix cube that I just can’t complete.
So when I get a day or week that really works, I don’t want to forget it !! So I plan to add an easy point at the end of the week.
As you remove the stickies from the week: write with pen in the box, what was written on the stickie. Now I have a journal of what worked. I can start building a bank of ‘weeks that work’. Why try to reinvent the wheel every week. In a few months I will have a bank of ‘weeks that work’ that I can pull from!
Maybe this could be helpful to others.
I think I will try to add a breakfast & lunch column as well. It may help me see and adjust the day if there is way to much carbs, sugar, salt or soy in a day.
Thanks again! Keep up the great work!
Thank you for commenting, Holly! I can’t even imagine how tough it must be to balance all of that every week. It must be exhausting! I like your method of adding easy points so you can keep a detailed log of what works. Good luck building up a recipe bank and log – and congrats on your son finishing up cancer treatments! 😀
At last!!!! Something which I think will totally work for me. As a mother of three and working full time – this is a god send. Tried everything but to no avail. Either eat the same things or go for carry out. Love the suggestions of pens etc too. Many thanks.
I’m thrilled that you enjoy the post! My hope is that it can provide a bump of inspiration for really kick starting a robust meal plan. The same stuff every week – it just really wears on you! Thank you so much for commenting, and I wish you the best of luck in figuring out what works best for you!
Freaking Brrrrrrrilliant! It’s 8 pm, I got started and will probably be at this for a couple hours! Thanks!
Whoo! I’m glad you love it! Thanks so much for commenting, you made my day 😀
This is genius! Quick easy, simple meal planning. Though I’d probably do a spread just for veggie dishes, and one for chicken dishes etc. since we have a lot of recipes in rotation in my family being Swedish/Danish/Pakistani. 🙂
Wow, I bet you have a very interesting family cookbook! I’m glad you like the post and I hope it helps you organize all your delicious recipes 😀
hey i trying to start with bullet journal and this meal planner sound really great and easy, but one question. maybe not only for this meal planner.
Where do you put it, at every month start, in the middle of the book, at the end? As well with habit tracker or saving things,or idea collector, i imagine somewhere in between its confusing…so i thought at the end, but then you have filled pages, nothing and the the trackers?
Would be so lovely if you would explain or share your opinion, greetings lynn
Thanks for commenting and asking! I put things on the next page available, so whenever the idea pops into my head. If I tried to frontload the journal with all the important stuff and spreads, I feel like I would get nervous of screwing it up and I wouldn’t be able to continue. Putting it in the back could totally work for you if you’d like to give it a shot, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Just keep your index up to date, or if you have a page you want to visit again and again like the recipe bank, consider putting a paper clip or bookmark there so you can flip to it easily. I don’t find it to be too much of a problem finding stuff in the middle, because even without the index, I’m usually able to remember the general section and flip through there. I hope this helps and good luck on your bullet journal journey!
I have a serious love/hate relationship with meal planning. As in I love the thought and hate (so I don’t) the actual planning. Over the years I’ve tried a multitude of different methods. To no avail. I have the same problem as you – always cooking the same things… It causes me to get lazy and then we end up spending too much dropping by the grocery store for the specialty items randomly throughout the week or just going out. I have compiled numerous “go-to meals” and that’s always as far as I get. *AND I HAVE GOOD INTENTIONS!* I like your idea having all the ingredients listed and by category. I believe I am going to give this a go. I think I’ll print out a handful of recipe cards and fill them out to keep in my notebook as well, so all of the recipes are right there – NO EXCUSES! Wish me luck and thank you much for the inspiration! 🙂
I totally understand your love/hate relationship. I have been struggling to plan consistently for years, and it is so easy to fall into bad habits – like hitting up the grocery store every five days because we forgot to grab cheese or green onions or something. I hope you find this technique to be as helpful as I did! Good luck!
Genius! I get into the ‘same thing’ rut or (worse) the ‘stop for take out’ rut. I’m going to work on my ‘master list’ of meals now and get some ‘super sticky’ post-its.
Awesome! In the few weeks I’ve been utilizing the recipe bank, we’ve had much longer strings of cooking at home and much more interesting meals. The “take out” rut is a dangerous place to be, so I’m really happy to report that we’ve steered well clear of that since using the bank. Good luck starting yours! I think you’ll love it 🙂
I love this idea……What do you do when the sticky runs out?
Thank you! If one of the notes starts to fall out, I plan on just rewriting it on another sticky note. I am thinking it won’t be a problem for a while since they are pressed flat into the journal, unlike all the sticky note on my wall that get exposed to wind or other factors.
When I wanted to make a visual schedule for my little boy, I typed out the schedule “blank” and put it in a clear page protector. Then typed up all the activities, printed and laminated. I used double-sided tape as my “sticky” and not only did it work VERY WELL to use and reuse every week, but if it ever lost its stickiness, just use another piece of tape!
Since it is pretty much impossible to laminate in your bujo, if you cover the page or pages in clear packing tape, it works the same. You can do as many pages as you need this way.
Hope this helps!
That is a great idea, and I’m definitely going to give it a try. Thank you for sharing! 🙂
I’ve been cooking for over 45 years, and until recently I never thought about making a meal plan. But now it seems to make sense, and I like the ease and practicality of your method. I’m going to add the cookbook title and page number for those recipes that I have in my small collection of cookbooks.
I’m so thrilled that you enjoy it, Lorraine! I don’t do meal plans every week, but I find that shopping and cooking each night is so much easier when I do. And I need to do the same thing – adding recipes from cookbooks. I’m so bad about buying cookbooks and never cracking them open to use the recipes! It’s because I buy them when I’m hungry 😆
Great ideas, Shelby! I’m in the middle of making a layout in my bullet journal with my dinner go-to meals. I also decide my dinner meals for a whole month. I sit down the last Sunday in the month and plan out all our dinners for the following month. I figure if I’m going to sit down and plan out a week (I used to do this every Sunday), I could easily spend a little more time on just one Sunday and plan out a whole month. 🙂
That’s wonderful! I wish I could do that in such large batches, it would be heaps more convenient! Unfortunately, I short-circuit after planning more than two weeks in advance, so I have to shorten my timeline a little bit. I bet that the bullet journal is wildly helpful for plotting that all out, though 😀 Thanks for dropping by and happy planning!
This is the absolute best idea I have seen in a long time! Thank you SO much…just what I needed.
I’m glad you like it! I hope it’s as fun for you as it is for me!
That is a great system! I use Plan to Eat, which is basically a digital version of the same thing. I have a big bank of recipes that are tagged in ways that make sense to me…quick, easy, veggies, etc. You add recipes to a queue (think Netflix) and drag and drop them into a weekly spread. It even kicks put a shopping list for you. As I find new recipes that I want you try, I just import them to my Plan to Eat “recipe box” & put them in the queue so I don’t forgot about them. Super neat program and inexpensive too.
I bet that’s awesome! I’m a paper and pen kind of a girl, though. Every time I use a digital planner or organizer, I use it for two days and completely forget about it! I’m glad that there is an option for folks who prefer digital. Thanks for sharing!