Tag Archives: spreadsheet

How to Plan Meals for Three Months in Three Hours: Hour Three

So at the end of hour two, you should have your meal plan completed, and you could be finished. However, I have found that taking the process one step further makes a big difference. During hour three, you gather all the materials you need to make actually preparing your meals easier, namely recipes and shopping lists.

Hour Three: Creating a Seasonal Recipe Book

If a lot of your recipes come from online sources, it’s simple and quick to create a recipe book of all your meals for the season. Even if they come from traditional cook books that you keep handy, I suggest copying all the recipes for the season into one place. That way when dinner comes around, you can simply pull it out and go. I even keep a bookmark in mine so I know exactly where I am. Every second counts, right? (Only if you are obsessive like me. :D ) Plus if your recipes are all in one place, your husband can even pull off dinner if you’re sick. I can’t tell you how many times I had to scrounge through pinterest half delirious with cold medicine before I figured this out.

Here’s how to create a personalized recipe book as quickly as possible:

  1. Buy your materials – I like to use a 8 1/2 x 5 1/2 binder, because it’s more compact than the traditional full page binder size and therefore takes less counter space. It’s really easy to scale your recipes to print on half a page (more on that in a minute). Grab some half size page protectors, and maybe some tabs and you’re ready to go. You’ll also need a word processing program and a printer that’s not running out of ink. :D
  2. Create a title page and table of contents (Optional) – Open up a new document in your favorite word processing program. Type “Fall Recipes” (or whatever clever title you come up with) on the first page and maybe throw a cute piece of clip art in there. On the next page, add a table of contents. Most word processing programs can auto-generate one. In the most current version of Word, it’s under References >> Table of Contents. As long as you put the title of each recipe in the “Header 1” style, it will automatically add it to your table on contents. Now’s a good time to make sure your document has page numbers too.
  3. Gather your recipes – Run through your menu and type each recipe onto a new page of the document. Copy and paste from the internet, type it out of your cookbook, or even take a picture–if your camera is high enough resolution that you can read the recipe. You can be as lazy or as fussy as you want with formatting, but the point is to get them in one place and in the order you are going to make them. Make sure to choose a heading format for the title if you want your table on contents to auto-generate.
  4. Size up the fonts and print 2-to-a-page – This last step is the real trick: make sure each recipe fills as much of the page as possible. Size up the font on each page until the page is just filled, but not flowing over to the next page. Then make sure your table of contents is up to date–you may need to hit a refresh option to see all the recipes. Then print your recipe book, but select the option to print 2 pages on every page. (Trust me, it’s in there somewhere.) Ta Da! Your recipes now take half a page each.
  5. Fold in half, put in page protectors, and start cooking – Yup, if you fold the page in half, it fits perfectly in a half size page protector. Congrats on making your own cook book.

Hour Three: Pre-Writing Your Shopping Lists

Ah, but there’s one more quick trick. Now that you have all your recipes in a binder, you can easily pre-write your shopping list. Pre-writing your list means that it takes a lot less time to write your list each week, which means you can be out the door faster!

For each meal, write the ingredients in the shopping list column of the meal plan sheet. Leave out any pantry staples that you always have on hand (like flour, salt, and milk); list just the specialty ingredients. I leave off chicken and ground beef, and common vegetables too, since I always have those on hand. Use your judgement as to what to put on.

And that’s it. I’m currently going through the process of revamping my fall meal plan. Anyone interested in seeing my step-by-step?

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Spreadsheet Wednesday: Garden Planning

Before we even had space for a garden, I had fallen in love with Square Foot Gardening.  Never mind that I hate dirt, bugs, and anything resembling hard work.  The possibilities of raising tons of produce with such little effort really caught my eye. (And my husband would point out that it doesn’t hurt that this gardening method takes place in beautiful, little, tiny grids. I can’t deny it.)

Now I’m approaching my third summer of square foot gardening.  I’m working on a major expansion to my garden, and I’ve mostly gotten over my fear of dirt.  We’ve had some successes and some failures over the last two years, but like every spring, I’m optimistic that this is our year.

Like most things in my life, there are several spreadsheets in my files for garden stuff, but this garden planning sheet is the one I’ve found most useful lately.  Simply enter the total square footage of your square foot garden and the total number of squares of vertical space (climbing trellis) available.  Then mix and match plants to your heart’s content.  The spreadsheet will calculate how much room your desired plants should take up and let you know when you’ve reached maximum capacity.

To add new plants, you’ll simply need to know how many fit in a square foot.  You can use this conversion chart to calculate from the spacing on the seed packet.

Once you’ve finished selecting your plant, I highly recommend you take a look at this companion planting sheet by My Square Foot Garden.  It’s a lifesaver that prevents us garden noobs from planting potatoes and tomatoes next to each other. One of the niftiest garden tools out there.

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Spreadsheet Wednesday: Packing Lists

Edit: Fixed the link to the spreadsheet.  Sorry folks.

I meant to share this before we went on vacation, but I was too busy using this spreadsheet at the time. :D  This spreadsheet is one of the cases where a little effort to design it well once will save a lot of time in the future.  (As opposed to some of my other spreadsheets, which I spend hours making and never use . . .)

Click to view and download a copy

Yes, as the title so brilliantly implies, these are my packing lists.  I’ve only got parent, baby, and toddler lists right now, but I’m sure I’ll add child and teen lists as our family gets older.

I love this spreadsheet because I don’t have to even think about what to pack for a trip anymore.  I print out lists for everyone on packing day, tape them to their door, cross things off as I go, and don’t take them down until everything is packed and in the car.  It takes all the “did I forget to pack black socks?” out of vacationing.

Changing the numbers in the boxes labeled “# Days Total” and “# of Days (w/Laundry)” (meaning days in between doing laundry) will change the numbers on the items of clothing you need to bring, and amounts of food and diapers for the kids.  You may need to tinker around with the formulas to get it to your personal ratio of re-wearings versus laundry done.

I’ve also sorted the packing list by categories so I don’t need separate packing lists for summer and winter or if I’m going to exercise on the trip or not.  Also useful for packing like items in similar places.

Okay, maybe I should stop drooling over my spreadsheet.  See you later.

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Spreadsheet Wednesday: Food Storage Link Love

Since at the time you read this I will be on a mini-vacation with the in-laws, I’m including a little link love for this Spreadsheet Wednesday.  We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled and original programming next week.

The girls over at Food Storage Made Easy are honestly one of my favorite resources for building your food storage.  (Not sure what I mean by food storage?  Read their great explanation.)  Everything they have to say is on the ball and I love their practical approach of doing one things at a time to move towards a healthier lifestyle that incorporates food storage.

But most of all, I love their spreadsheets. Oh yes, I’m that much of a geek. My favorite is the 3 month supply calculator, which makes the project of figuring out what you need easy. But there are more of great resources available, so check them out.

One of these years I’m going to follow their baby steps emails and get my food storage in proper shape . . . But for now, visiting their website counts, right?

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Spreadsheet Wednesday: Coupon Lists

Click to view and download a copy

I’ve decided this month is food spreadsheet month (since I’ve already shared my Summer Menu and Pantry List), and although this one doesn’t have to do with cooking, it certainly has everything to do with my grocery shopping.  So this is my coupon planning spreadsheet. I know, it doesn’t look like much, but it saves me a lot of money and keeps my head on straight when shopping.  And once printed out, it’s much more portable than my massive coupon binder. :) Continue reading

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Spreadsheet Wednesday: Pantry List

Click to view and download a copy

So this will be a quick one, but it goes well with last week’s Spreadsheet Wednesday: my pantry list.   This is another one I keep laminated (or sheet-protector-ed) on the fridge.

The list itself is self-explanatory.  These are the ingredients I keep on hand for various recipes.  I don’t list these ingredients on my menu plan, since I assume I have them already.  The first two columns are the most used, along with the paper products section.

I use a dry erase marker to circle items as a run out during the week.  Then, as I prepare for a shopping trip, I quickly go through at least the first two columns to check for things that haven’t run out yet, but probably will before the next trip.  That way, I don’t forget the eggs. Or the onions.  It’s surprisingly devastating to run out of onions.

I’m thinking of switching to a system where I print out a new one of these every week and use a highlighter to mark items.  Then I can just take it to the store with me instead of writing out the list separately.

Do you keep a pantry list?  How do you keep from forgetting the eggs?

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Filed under Cooking & Meal Prep, Spreadsheet Wednesday