Meal planning is a personal and individual thing. We all have different systems. I love my paper notebooks and sticky notes in cookbooks, but last year I tried something new for meal planning, and I’m actually still using it.
I use Gmail for both my personal and work email, and I love my Google Calendar. Likewise, my husband uses Gmail and loves his Google Calendar. We share our calendars with each other, so that we know what the other one has planned for the week. I subscribe to my favorite sports teams’ Google Calendars. And I even created yet another Google Calendar with my favorite classes at the gym.
So, why it took me so long to use one for meal planning I have no idea. For a while, I put the evening’s menu on a dry-erase whiteboard. It was fun and cute. (And occasionally, I still do it.) But it wasn’t a functional way to actually plan a week’s worth of meals.
Intrigued? Here are the basics of my Google Calendar approach.
1. Create a new calendar called “Meal Planning.”
2. Create an entry for today, and make it an all-day event. Put “TBD” in the event name. Set it to repeat daily forever.
3. As you determine each night’s meal, open that particular day’s TBD event, and replace “TBD” with the name of your meal.
4. Be as specific or as vague as you want. Sometimes I know exactly what I want to try, and I even include links in the calendar entry if it’s a new recipe. Sometimes I just know that it is going to be chicken and salad. I will fill in the specifics on the fly.
5. Include plans to eat out, and include notes if you know certain members of the family have plans. For example, if my husband has a happy hour, I might note that he is not going to be home for dinner and my son and I are on our own.
6. Update each entry, noting what you actually had for dinner. I find this calendar useful not just as a plan for the future but as a record of the past. It helps me see if maybe we had had too much red meat or were eating out too much or if we haven’t had stir-fry in a while.
This works well for me because I am in my Google Calendar all day. I find this to be a useful way to help me remember when to get groceries and when I need to do morning food prep for a slow cooker meal.
One of the (frankly, glorious) side benefits has been that my husband no longer asks what’s for dinner. He is able to see the Google Calendar, so he knows what the plan is. As my son gets older, I will invite him to it as well … with the hope that he’ll help me do some of the planning (and cooking!).
If you don't already have a meal-planning approach or if yours isn't working, try a shared digital calendar and see what you think. I'd love to hear if it works for you.