How To: Custom Menu Planner

Even before PJ came along, meal planning was really difficult for us. Paul and I both work in the HVAC industry, which is ruled by the weather. The length of his day has wild swings from getting home in the early afternoon to late in the evening. And mine is ruled by traffic, which varies from annoying to tear your hair out awful. So even when I had it together enough to have a meal plan (not as often as I would like), we would end up throwing it out the window. And then what’s the point?

I tried meal planning apps, calendars, lists, you name it. My problem with most of them was that they were set up for “make this on Monday, make this on Tuesday, etc” and that never worked for us. I would look at what I was supposed to make that day, think “Well that ain’t gonna happen,” and then have no idea what else I could make and we’d end up going out. Do that a few times a week and you’ve got a fridge full of stuff going bad, and a guilt complex Marie Barrone would be proud of. Lists were a little better, but carrying over some of the common things from week to week was a pain.

And then I saw a meal planner on Pinterest (of course) that was made out of a photo frame and had an idea how to build a better one. I used:

– An 8 opening photo frame (about $10 from Walmart)
– Wet erase markers
– The Coolibah app for iPad (free app, design elements are 99 cents per pack)

If you don’t have an iPad, you could use scrapbook paper and stickers exactly the same way.

My big breakthrough was in what I decided to put in the frame. Instead of days of the week, I set it up in categories. Here are some examples:




I also made separate categories to keep track of my frozen meals, 30 minute or less recipes, and casseroles that I could double and freeze for later.

Once I had all my categories set up, I put them in the frame and used the markers to write on the glass. I wrote down every recipe I had ingredients on hand to make. If it used fresh ingredients, I wrote it in green, and if it was in the freezer I wrote it in blue. When it’s gone, a wet paper towel clears it from the board.


So there you have it, another of my “surviving the week” strategies! I made this a couple of moths ago, and it works great. I update it after every grocery shopping trip, and it sure beats staring into the fridge trying to remember why I bought that container of cherry tomatoes!

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