Organize This: Recipes (and how I meal plan now!)

In recent weeks, I’ve found myself tightening up little areas of our home. I’m not sure if it’s a case of “We’re moving soon so I need to finish everything,” or just that with me nothing is ever finished. Either way – I am LOVING knocking out some of these smaller projects that have been nagging at  the back of my brain for a while. Whether it’s an area that I hadn’t gotten to yet (our bakeware!) or a system that needed tweaking based on the changing needs of our family (our family command center!), it’s been fun for me to get back to some smaller nitty-gritty organization projects. Organizing and finding just the right solution for our family right now is one of the tasks that makes me happiest.

My latest project: freshening our recipes and meal planning system!

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For those of you who have been around here a long, long time, you may recall that I developed a pretty “sophisticated” meal planning system…just about four years ago now (what what?). It was one of my first big projects here on THIHM, my first project to go “viral,” and still my most viewed post(s) to date. You can read all about my Magnetic Menu Board here!

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Back when I developed that system, I ultimately decided to sort and organize my recipes based on main protein source. From this simple concept, the whole color-coded meal planning system was born and REALLY worked wonderfully. For the almost four years since I developed our menu board, I have used it quite faithfully and sold many Magnetic Menu Board templates in my Etsy Shop so others can easily make their own!

I still love this system, and if you are a busy bee and need a way to streamline meal planning/shopping/preparation, I highly recommend you check it out.

However, things change, right? Schedules and priorities change. How we use our time and what we need organized and streamlined shift around. Over the last year (especially while my husband was deployed), I found myself not needing or wanting to plan an entire month’s worth of meals at one time. It was starting to feel cumbersome and unnecessary (especially since I was mostly cooking for myself! #mythreeyearoldwonteatanything) Instead, I was planning out one week’s worth of meals in my planner.

Even though I wasn’t using the magnets or the magnetic calendar anymore, I was still using and LOVING my color-coded recipe books. The only downside to no longer using the magnets (that had all the recipe names printed on them) was that I had to leaf through all my different recipe books to plan out a single week. It wasn’t a huge deal, but in recent weeks, I found myself wishing I had a “key” of sorts that listed all my recipes so I could pick meals and plan the week much easier. This was just the itch I needed to give my recipe books (that were still holding strong) a bit of a refresh and refine my whole system at the same time!

Ready to see?

Since I was giving my recipe books a refresh, I picked out a new color scheme too. I started by printing out a new set of Recipe Book Spines onto photo paper (so that they are nice and glossy!), and my new Recipe Catalog onto heavy-weight cardstock.

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I trimmed down the printed recipe book spines and then secured them to the spines of my recipe books using clear packing tape, just like I did four years ago. #ifitsnotbrokedontfixit

I know I will get questions about my recipe books, so let me answer it here! I bought/hoarded a bunch of these clear-paged books while we lived in Okinawa, Japan (at their version of the dollar store). Unfortunately, I haven’t come across anything here in the US that looks or functions exactly the same. However, you can mimic the function of these books by filling binders with clear page protectors!

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With pretty new spines on all my books, it was time to do the nitty gritty work. I haven’t sorted, purged or reorganized my recipes in the four years since I first did this project (whoops). There were new favorite recipes that needed to be added (either from online or from cookbooks), and old/un-used recipes that could be tossed. I also acquired a bunch of my Mom’s handwritten recipe cards when we cleaned out my folks’ home, so those were also added in. I trimmed recipes down and secured smaller recipe cards to copy paper using clear tape before sliding them into the pocket pages.

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With my recipes now updated and sorted, I filled out my Recipe Catalog (with pencil!), making sure that the recipes in the books corresponded with the recipes on my sheet!

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I LOVE that I now have visibility of all my recipes on a single (double-sided!) sheet of paper. Each Sunday, I sit down with my planner and fill in dinners across the week using my recipe catalog. Like before, I try to use a recipe from each column (to vary the protein source across the week),; I also try to make different recipes from week to week to avoid fixing the same things over and over again.

This FREE 5-week email course will help you clean out and improve function in EACH area of your kitchen!By the way, I am using this planner this year!

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With my weekly meals planned, I then populate my Grocery List with all the necessary ingredients. My recipe books are close by (and color-coded) to help me find recipes/necessary ingredients quickly and easily!

I print about 10 or so of these grocery lists out a time. I keep them clipped up on the refrigerator, so we can add items to the list all week long! When it’s time to head to the store, I grab the list and go! 

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And that’s it! My refined meal planning system that I’ve been using of late. There’s nothing too complicated here, but in just a few hours of my time (after the kiddo was in bed), my system feels fresh, up-to-date and ready to rock for at least another four years 😉 For where we are in life right now, I am loving this simple and fuss-free approach to recipe organization, meal planning, and grocery list making.

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And want to know something really fun? If you want/need to get your recipes in order, I’ve done all the hard work for you. All my templates are now available in my Etsy Shop!


Updated January 2017: These files have now been updated, expanded and re-packaged into a bigger, more comprehensive Recipe Organization system.  Get all the details and your Recipe Organization Printable Kit HERE!

Get your Recipes sorted and organized with the worksheets in The Ultimate Kitchen Printable Pack - 200+ printable pages to organize and improve function in every area of your kitchen!


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I’ve combined my Recipe Book Spines, Recipe Catalog (double sided), and Grocery List printables into a neat little pack that is available for instant download HERE! I have the kit (as well as my original menu board kits) available in 6 new color schemes!

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Go to the printable kits here!

If my Magnetic Menu Board system was a bit too much for you but you are still looking for a good way to meal plan and prepare for your grocery shopping, I urge you to give this system a try. It’s easy to use and maintain (and pretty to look at!), so it’s a win, win, win!

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Organize This

My Organize This series is all about (relatively) simple and quick organizing projects that make a big difference in your day-to-day life. These aren’t intended to be large organizational overhauls, but rather quick sessions you can accomplish in an afternoon or weekend! This recipe organization project is exactly that: quick and easy enough to do today or this coming weekend! Catch up on other projects in this series by clicking on the pictures below:

Organize This Bakeware-013 Organize This Printer Station-01 Organize This: Recycling Storage Solutions for a Skinny Pantry Organize This: Thread Organize This: Laundry Supplies Untitled-1-16 Small Toy Storage Bags-001 Organize This: Fabric Organize This: Batteries Organize This: Your Gym Bag Organize Your Cleaning Supplies with these simple & colorful DIY cleaning kits! Get your Lego kits organized and labeled with this simple organizing project! Never loose a manual or piece again! Is your purse a black hole you can't find anything in? Check out my solutions for creating order in this most used item of the day!

What do you guys think? How do you organize your recipes? I’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions as I am always looking for new things to try!

Looking for even more PRETTY PRINTABLES to get your recipes, meal planning, coupons (and more!) organized, check out The Ultimate Kitchen Printable Pack HERE!!!

Ready to organize your kitchen? These 200+ printable pages can help!

I hope you all have a fantastic long weekend. Despite the cold, I have a few projects up my sleeve. Fingers crossed I’ve got some upates in the family room to show you next week!

Have a good one, friends!


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7 Responses to Organize This: Recipes (and how I meal plan now!)

  1. Daiso has an online store, as well, but it looks like you can only order the clear binders by the box. There are different sizes, also.

    You can also get art portfolios that have clear pocket pages at art stores, but for the 8.5 x 11 size, they are closer to $10 each, which is high. Also, office stores have presentation binders that are similar, again at a higher price.

    I love this system! I'll add it to my wish list of projects, and hopefully, it won't take too long to get to.

  2. Great job Megan, you created a really simple and good looking meal planning system. Lovely package, all those beautiful colors, it makes me wanting to print it out today. I like the way you combine recipes through the week, using each book for at least one day. It gives you a chance to be more creative, while eating diverse and healthy food at the same time.
    Wanted to ask you something. How often do you update your recipe books? What do you do with new recipes you saw on TV or social media?

    • Hi Sacha!

      Thank you so much for your comment. I do love this system so much and it’s been working great for me for years. To answer your question, so many of my recipes now come from online or email, so I am always printing them off and just sliding them right into my binders, in whichever what they go in. Every few months I go through and pull out any that we don’t like/make.

      Hope that helps!

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