Are you ready for some meal planning inspiration?

At the beginning of the August inside our Love Yourself Lean Facebook Community I challenged myself and our members to a Mini 5 Day Meal Planning Challenge.

Over the course of 5 days I shared my step-by-step system for effective meal planning.

At the end of the challenge I gave everyone a FREE 7-Day meal plan.

And a collection of 10 simple and easy recipes as a thank you gift for participating.

You can access the 7 Day Meal Plan and the collection of recipes inside the LYL Facebook Community.

Not a member yet? CLICK HERE to join now.

Here Are The Daily Meal Planning Challenges And Tips That Where Shared:  

Take 10-15 minutes to sort and organize your cookbooks – donate any cookbooks that you no longer use. Keep cookbooks that you love and use.
If you don’t have cookbooks to sort, you could sort out your Pinterest meal boards to help with your menu planning or you could work on a recipe binder (more on that in Day 2 of the Challenge
Here are a few tips to help you organize your cookbooks for better meal planning:
  • Only have cookbooks that you use or will use – gift or donate cookbooks you know longer use.
  • Group like cookbooks with like cookbooks – baking, desserts, family meals, holidays, by author, by type of cooking (paleo, make ahead, healthy, etc.)
  • Haven’t used a cookbook for awhile? Plan your meals for a week from ONE cookbook – this is a great way to test out a new cookbook or to get out of a cooking rut.
  • Mark your favorite recipes with Post-Its – makes it easy to be reminded of you favorite recipes and it makes them easier to find too.
  • Make notes in your cookbooks – don’t be afraid to add your changes to recipes to make them Love Yourself Lean Approved
  • Keep a basket or container with a couple cookbooks you want to use in the coming week to keep them accessible.
Today’s challenge us to sort through any loose recipes you have and create a recipe binder.
I love recipe binders – they are one of my favorite organization tools. BUT, sometimes I end up with a stack of recipes that I haven’t filed or haven’t even tried (good intentions, right?).
Today is the day to go through any recipes that you need to file, or toss. If you don’t have a recipe binder, go through recipe cards or your online recipe keeping method.
I have been using recipe binders for years and I am convinced that it’s the reason meal planning works in my house.
Do I have every week’s meals planned out perfectly? No.
Do I ever order out unexpectedly because I couldn’t get my act together? Of course.
But when it comes down to it, having favorite recipes in one place, printed out and ready to reference is just so, so helpful.
If you are reading this and thinking or saying, I have all my recipes saved on the computer or on Pinterest, or an online recipe account, and I don’t need that hassle or mess or clutter, keep reading because I am here to tell you that keeping your recipes sorted and organized in a binder is actually more of a time saver than hopping online.
Cue the distraction of the Internet – hopping online to grab that recipe will probably lead you to Facebook or Instagram which will lead you down a rabbit hole and you’ll forget what you were looking for anyway. Or maybe that’s just me? In this online centered world, I crave moments without that constant connectivity and love flipping through cookbooks and recipe binders. Can you relate?
Are you ready to create a recipe binder? Here’s what you’ll need:
  • a binder (or 2 or 3). I have recipes split into 3 binders (every day recipes, desserts, and holidays/celebrations)
  • plastic sleeves to put the recipes in
  • page dividers by category (breakfast, snacks, soups & stews, mains, etc) for quick reference
YES, this will take a little time, but I know it will pay off in the weeks to come. Trust me!
And to help make things even EASIER for you I created the following recipe binder tools for you.
You can access them inside the LYL Facebook Community.

TITLE PAGE – download, print and place inside the cover sleeve of your recipe binder.

LABELS – download, print, trim, and use in dividers.

CATEGORY DIVIDER SHEETS – download, print out the ones you want to use and place them inside your binder.

Once you have your supplies, it’s time to get started – here’s what you need to do:
  • gather your supplies
  • dividers/categories
  • gather your recipes
  • put your recipes in plastic sleeves and sort them according to your categories
As you’re getting your binder set up take the time to toss/recycle any recipes that you’ve been holding onto and you haven’t made and probably won’t make, or any recipes that you made that aren’t super great or worth making again.
Keep your recipe binder where you’ll use it – I keep my recipe binders with my cookbooks in the kitchen.
Today’s meal planning challenge is to make a list of family favorites.
Try to come up with 20-30 favorite recipes and or meal ideas to add to your list. Add this list to your recipe binder for quick reference. Simple.
 In addition to the recipe binder tools I also created a Family Favorites Template that you can download, print and use.
You can access this template inside the LYL Facebook Community.
Today’s challenge is to make a meal plan for the coming week. Need help with ideas? Start with your family favorites list that you created yesterday. Then add in a couple of new recipes to try from your recipe binder.
Whether you’re creating a meal plan for one… for a couple… or a family… you need to start with your calendar.
Meal planning ideas are only as good as the time you have to dedicate to them.
For example, if you work late on Tuesdays, you may want to have something that is either:
  1. Already prepped and quick to cook (10 mins or less in the oven or microwave)
  2. Is good served room temperature/warm or leftover
If your son gets home from soccer practice at 5pm and your daughter gets picked up for dance at 5:30pm, that evening’s meal planning maybe should include either:
  1. Something that can maintain its freshness for at least 45 minutes (your daughter eats at 5, you son at 5:15)… like a piping hot lasagna or casserole?
  2. A “make your own” meal planning idea, like tacos! Just have the ingredients on the table and the kids will do all the work. Pretty cool, right?
With just a quick glance of the upcoming week, you’ll be able to figure out which nights a fancy sit down meal will work vs. the ones where “build your own pizzas” or leftovers may be in order.
To further support your meal planning efforts, I designed a Love Yourself Lean Inspired BLANK MEAL PLAN SHEET, which you can access inside the LYL Facebook Group.
In order for meal planning to be a success, you need to actually set aside time to prep the food. And if you’re anything like me, you need to have something on the calendar and plan around it. I prefer to do the bulk of my meal prep on Sunday or Monday afternoon. Regardless of your situation, making time to prep your meals ahead of time is the best way to bring your meal planning ideas to fruition.
Today’s challenge is all about getting into the kitchen and prepping your meals for the week ahead. Together let’s crank up some tunes in the kitchen and get chopping!
BONUS TIP #1: Save Time with Multi-Ingredient Prep.
When cooking for the week, you will notice early on that many recipes call for the same ingredients. As you’re getting ready to chop and slice and dice for the week… take a gander at all of the recipes and see how much of each ingredient you’ll need. Taking care of it all at once is a huge time saver. A teaspoon here, a cup there…. then, just separate the portions into meal prep containers or small storage bags and you’re ready to rock!
As for getting the meal oven, grill or slow cooker ready… marinating is always a good idea. Doing so makes meats or fish more flavorful. Regardless of whether or not you’re marinating, or just doing a dry rub or seasoning, you can get the hearty ingredients ready ahead of time as well.
Pound that meat, devain that shrimp, chop or julienne those veggies… Then, say it with me, separate and store it!
BONUS TIP #2: Double Duty & Freeze
If you are meal planning for one, or a couple, try doubling the recipes. Then simply break up the meal into individual portions to freeze. This way, should you find yourself short on meal planning ideas (or time) one week, you’re just a quick thaw away from a delicious do-over.
Here are two more of my favourite ideas for utilising the Double Duty method for meal planning:
  1. Roast two chickens and have one for dinner one night, and shred or cut up the remaining one for dinner the next night. Perfect for salads, shredded meat sandwiches, tacos and any other recipe calling for cooked chicken.
  2. Brown up a double batch of ground turkey or beef. Perfect for spaghetti or tacos one night and anything calling for ground meat the next. I also like to have browned ground meat in the freezer for those last minute dinners ready to go.
What are your time saving meal planning tips?
Let me know in the comments.