This is part 3 of a 4 part series. Start here with part 1part 2 (the where), and part 4 (the conclusion) to get the full picture of how to integrate this meal planning guide into your normal routine!
meal planning for busy moms

Okay, now that you’ve got your Google Calendar set up with a new category of  ‘menu planning’, let’s put this together with some more practical tips.

1.  Using Google Calendar to create a year’s meal plan

My goal in doing this for myself is to develop a long range menu plan that I’ll only have to tweak but will essentially be something I can use for the rest of my cooking life.

This is going to take time because we like a lot of variety—which means I’m not setting my recipes up to ‘repeat’ very often.

I also love seasonal food so I’ll be tweaking that along the way.  Say, for instance, I schedule beef stew to repeat every 4 months and then it shows up as my dinner for June 3rd.  I’ll look at my menu the month before and change things that don’t go well for that season, substituting new recipes I’ve found or fresh seasonal items that I find in abundance at the grocery store.  If I enter those into my summer recipes then I don’t have to have them repeat at all—or maybe only once—and then next June, I’ll have a great beginning menu, with lots of seasonal items included.

I’m thinking about this long term so I’ll tweak it all year until I get it how I want it!

At the end of a year, I’ll have an incredible, time-saving resource that helps me take good care of my peeps.

2.  Sources for meal Options for healthy, seasonal, easy and even gourmet recipes.

I use three main sources for recipe ideas—-Cuisine at Home, emeals, and blogs/Pinterest/internet.

Cuisine At Home

It’s most definitely my favorite cooking magazine.  I’ve made HUNDREDS of their recipes over the past ten years and they are so consistently good and gourmet.   I’ve learned so much from their tutorials and just this weekend used a 2010 issue to make the best brunch, complete with a hollandaise sauce.  I lost my collection of them after the fire but my mom gave me lots of old issues from her stash.   Get a subscription!  You won’t be sorry!   Their recipes do tend to be a little more involved but are by far my favorites!


One of the tools I’ve used to help me with that is emeals.  Their program lets you customize your dietary restrictions with your favorite grocery store to give you a meal plan for the week that costs under $100 per week.  They plan their meals based on the sales at the store and their recipes are usually simple to execute and well balanced.   I am a foodie and have been cooking and meal planning for years so I don’t follow their plan exactly but I do use some of their ideas and recipes and I find it to be perfect for the novice mom who’s just trying to get into the routine of getting regular meals on the table.  You could use their program alone and have good, consistent meals every week.   They have done so much work to provide you with a shopping list along with coupon opportunities at your favorite store.  They also have lots of crock pot recipes (usually one per week) that make it easy to feed your family even if you’re crunched for time.  It’s $5/month and worth every penny.  Click the link below to check them out!
eMeals - Easy Meals for Busy People!


Blogs/Pinterest/Food Network

I’m on the internet a lot and I love to find new recipes online.   I have a Pinterest Board full of great recipes and before that I stored some favorite links on my Tumblr site.   I search the Food Network all the time for new seasonal and holiday ideas.  I also love Pioneer Woman!  But then again, who doesn’t?

3. Using Ziplist to organize your recipes/shopping

Christi introduced me to Ziplist this week and she may have just changed my grocery shopping life forever .   I’ve been doing hitchkicks ever since.

It’s a site dedicated to helping you ‘clip’ online recipes, which it uses to make your shopping list.  It also acts as a recipe box for you—a place for you to keep all your online recipes.  And it’s free!  I’ve been using it for a couple days and made my first grocery store trip from the list it created for me.  I DIE!!!!!!  It’s so awesome.

Once you create an account, you can install their ‘recipe clipper button’ to your bookmarks bar, which makes it easy to ‘clip’ your online recipes and make shopping lists from them.

Once you have the recipe clipper installed into your bookmarks bar, you find your online recipe and then once you’re on the webpage of the recipe, you click the recipe clipper.  It’s downloads the recipe into your ‘recipe box’ and then makes a shopping list for you based on those ingredients.  It gives you the option of choosing to unclick the items you already have.  It also organizes the list based on the layout of most stores.  Then you can email or text the list to yourself and head to the store.  You can also download their app to make it easy to add things to your list on the go.

It’s genius.

Pure unadulterated genius.

Now, I can’t wait to go the store.

Well, maybe it’s not THAT good.

I made a little video to explain it all in case this sounds confusing.   (The video is probably just confusing with a southern twang—my apologies in advance!)

4.  The Commitment to Cook

You will find time to cook when you make it a priority.   And the best way to get started is to have a plan.    You get better at cooking by cooking.  It takes time to feel comfortable in the kitchen and it takes even longer to really enjoy it.  Now, it’s one of my favorite things to do.  And my girls get to learn first hand the planning and preparation it takes to put good food on the table every night.  It doesn’t happen by magic but by smart ( not necessarily hard) work.

Just decide that it’s going to be a priority for you this year.  Your family will love you and thank you for the extra time and effort you put into this very tangible act of love.  And the truth is, it’ll save you so much time and stress because the nagging thought of dinner is not always on your mind.  Get it on paper and suddenly, it’s off your mind!

Happy Planning!

I’ll wrap this all up tomorrow with links to everything in one page and with a giant list of recipe links.  If you didn’t already link to your favorite online recipe in part 1 of this series, do it in this post so we can all benefit from your favorites!


Thank you so much for all your comments and thoughts and ideas.  Y’all are the best internet friends a girl could ask for!


Don’t forget to link up on Wednesday, January 30 for your thoughts on ‘time’ and how to better use it to serve others.  If you implement the meal planning, this would be a great time to share with us how you personalized the system and made it your own.  Get that post ready and link up with us!

63 comments on “Meal Planning, part 3 {the how}”

  1. Great ideas! I felt like you this week, I made homemade ricotta for my manicotti! And it was soooo worth it! Now I’m off to read about your links. After six months of lack of organization I am trying to get myself back to normal, or at least a different normal. Hugs, friend.

    • How awesome, Kelly! I want to try that:))
      And you have rarely left my mind the past six months.
      His peace and His timing are perfect.
      You are precious.

  2. Edie. Um, you are my new favorite person. I am so glad you were in BHG this month so that I could find out about this blog. LOVE IT! I am so excited to get a year’s worth of meals planned. I can’t even believe I’m saying that.

    • I know, it almost seems to good to be true! And so nice to *meet* you—-it was so much fun for me and I’m still pinching myself:))))

  3. Love this little series. I checked out zip list but still prefer the Paprika app. I’ll definitely check out the Cuisine at home magazine–hadn’t even heard of it! Thanks for all the inspiration.

  4. EEEEK! I am grinning from ear to ear! One of my very favorite gals in the entire blogosphere just mentioned little ‘ol me on her blog! 😉 Edie, you are the bee’s knees, sister! Loved sitting by the fire with you today, even if it was virtual. That’s one of my top 10 favorite things to do. Here’s to happy planning and clipping and pinning and whatever else makes you happy and organized. 🙂

    • oh, you sweet darlin’!
      i’m just tickled pink that you shared the best secret of all time with us.
      now maybe my least favorite task in all the world won’t be SO bad:)))

  5. These ideas are great. Can’t wait to try Ziplist. Sounds fabulous!! You are too sweet, sitting by the fire, instructing all of the little ‘ole people in blog land about menu planning. We have our fire going-it snowed today, then rained-recipe for staying in by the fire.

  6. First I want to thank you again for this three part tutorial on how to set up a menu calendar and have it sent to your phone as well as for the encouraging words and advice and recipes that you offered in the series. As I told you earlier, menu planning has been a very daunting task to me. I like that you said, “You get better at cooking by cooking. It takes time to feel comfortable in the kitchen and it takes even longer to really enjoy it.” You are so right! Everything I have leatned to do as an adult such as sewing and photography, etc. took time and practice in order to get anywhere near “good” at it. My problem with cooking has ALWAYS been that I basically loathe it. I can follow recipes and cook meals that my family does enjoy eating, but I have never enjoyed the process. My goal for myself is to do just that, enjoy cooking. And I think your 3 part series is a great jump start to me achieving my goal. Thank you again for sharing this very valuable info. I am looking forward to getting started!

  7. Thanks for all the tips Edie! I do have a quick question though. Why do you like Goggle calendar better than ICal? Just wondering and would love some insight. I have some of our meals through my ICal but I’d love to hear why to switch if it would make life easier : )

    • i don’t exactly know why, sarah.
      i use iCal all the time from my phone and add events and set reminders.
      but on the computer it’s just not as aesthetically pleasing to me.
      i like Google better when I’m at the computer.
      it’s hard to pin down.
      but with the ability to sync them i can have the best of both worlds.

  8. I left a gargantuan comment yesterday, but it didn’t post 🙁 So, today…I’ll just suffice to say, THANK you for this series. And my husband made fun of me the whole video bc I was talking to and amen-ing you…but then, he stopped in his tracks when you said you’d already cooked everything for this week out of order…say WHAT? (That’s familiar!) Now, he knows why I like you so much 🙂 Looking very forward to getting all my ducks in a row with these wonderful tools!

    • oh rats, it may be in moderation, morgan, i’ll check!
      and you are SO welcome.
      yep! out of order in week 3, it’s how i roll!
      actually, i was out of order in week 1!
      some things will never change:))))

  9. Love your ideas! Maybe this will be the year I finally get it together in the kitchen. Kids are grown and out on their own, so I’m only cooking for myself and hubby. Does anyone have suggestions for sites that have delicious, easy, meals for two people?

    • i don’t have this problem, yet, Rachel but I would imagine I’d just make the same amount and either freeze or give away!
      there’s probably a whole genre of blogs dedicated to this very thing, though.
      let us know if you find it!

    • Cuisine at Home has cookbooks that feature all their made for two recipes. They call it “Cuisine at Home for Two”. I second Edie’s recommendation for the magazine. My most raved about recipes have come from this magazine. I usually have to double bc of all the kids here, but you could also halve the recipes easily or make it as written and freeze leftovers for homemade TV dinners.

    • i would love to see how your beautiful, creative, energetic self implements all this stuff, laura! and yes, love ‘new to me’ anything:)))

  10. Oh my word! Ziplist is amazing! I’ve been clipping away for the past hour. Meal planning has been on my to do list and these posts are an answered prayer. And keep the videos coming- they’re my fav!

  11. Hi Edie! This series has been LIFE CHANGING! As a mom of 6 I had to learn a long time ago to meal plan, and to do it consistently, or else chaos (well, more chaos than usual) would reign supreme. BUT, the Google calendar menu plan is genius! One question – when it comes time to cook dinner, are you cooking from the recipe in the description of your Google Calendar on your iPhone? My, *ahem*, 42 year old eyes have a hard time seeing the small print. I’d love to get the info from my Google Calendar to my Kindle, but for the life of me I can’t figure it out. Any tips? Today I’m schooling myself on Ziplist. Can’t wait to add that to the new things I’ve learned from you!

    • Oh, honey, as I was trying to make PW’s Marlboro Man sandwich from my iPhone last night, I’m so with you on the small print. Actually, I normally just use my computer but I was so giddy with having it all on my calendar from my phone that I HAD to do it that way last night.
      Kindle would be perfect. Surely there’s a way:))))

      • Glad I’m not the only one! I’m hoping one of your readers will see this and clue me in how to get it on my Kindle. I loved having the recipes on my phone when I went to the grocery store yesterday. I normally get into a quick panic fit wondering if I forgot to add this or that from the recipe onto my grocery list app, and this time, I just went to my Google Calendar to triple check everything. I also ordered the Cuisine at Home magazine yesterday. Can’t wait to get it!

  12. I am feeling very 20th century…..I thought for sure someone would be as caveman as me and admit they don’t know how to do anything of this and just use the old paper and pen to organize. I am trying to keep up with technology, but find all of this overwhelming. I still love hearing all the ideas and your recipes are fantastic….it is fun being a part of all of this even if I can’t quite implement it.

  13. Ok, you may have convinced me to switch my blog recipes to Ziplist. Especially on my new site, I have people asking if I will use the ziplist feature, but it takes a little time to learn on the bloggers end. If you are dying over it as a user, it may be worth it.

    And, I need someone to share their seafood recipes on my blog. hint, hint.. (I don’t like seafood. Ducking.. I know, I know, it’s so good for you and I have to start populating that category on my site. haha)

    • okay, miss jen, i just added their plug in to my site tried one—it worked like a charm. guess i’ve got my work cut out for me:)))
      and i’ve got some good seafood stuff, just need to blog it!
      mucho love,

  14. Love, love all the stuff you teach me Edie! Learning lots from you about being a domestic engineer although I am well over half a century old. ( I am still struggling with loving the classic literature though. haha) May I ask where you purchased your awesome monogramed cell phone case? Thanks for all the time you spend on your blog. I read it faithfully.

  15. Edie, I cannot thank you enough for this series. It has found me in a season of life where it is like a lifeline. Four months ago we welcomed our fifth child into our family (my oldest is 8). I do not enjoy cooking, I am worn out by the end of the day, and I dread the point in late afternoon/early evening when I have to think about what in the world we are going to eat for dinner. Your story, your words of advice and wisdom, and your very practical steps and solutions are so encouraging. I especially love that you ended with “The Commitment to Cook”. I am realistic that this will be a journey, but I think just stepping forward into this change will lift a huge weight off of all of us! Thank you again!

  16. I’ve been menu planning for a few years. My husband lost his job over 3 years ago and was unemployed for almost 2 1/2 years. Strict menu planning was one of the main things that kept us barely above water. I started using Pepperplate a few months ago and it changed my life. It’s similar to Ziplist. I love it because I can sync it with my phone, my computer and my Touchpad. I have friends that can’t believe I can feed 3 adults and 2 teenagers for less than $100 a week. I’m going to check out the emeals site. That sounds interesting. Thanks!!

  17. Love your blog. I’ve been reading it for a long time. Your hospitality series really spoke to me!

    This series hits home since one of my goals was to meal plan more regularly this year. We moved to China this past year, before that my husband did all the cooking and we both worked full time. I enjoyed cooking but he said it was relaxing for him! Now over here I have stopped working to stay with our kids and need to get into the planning side of cooking. I am downloading ziplist to play with it. I’ve been using Paprika for awhile and love it. My computer, iPhone and ipad are all synced granted it isn’t free but I do find value. It doesn’t list the sale items which seems like a good plus for ziplist.

    Thanks again for what you do and the words you write!

  18. Love your blog. Think this is a great idea but have a question. Given the fact that that you might have meals repeating at different intervals (e.g. 60 days, 35 days), how do you make sure that you won’t have two meals repeating on the same day? Is there a way you can limit on the google menu calendar one entry per a day? Does it notify you if there is a ‘meal’ conflict?

    Thanks for this great tip!

  19. Did you know ziplist can send your weekly menu plan to your calendar? Making it that much easier to record it there. I love it!
    I have planned our menus for our entire marriage. People do ask how I afford to feed my family of ten, and planning is a big part of it. Our food budget is $25O a week and we manage that easily, in part because we make everything from scratch (not too tough when there are three teenaged girls in the house who love to cook and are home schooled) but also because we plan what we’ll eat so we know to prep the starter the night before if we want sourdough with dinner the next night, or remember that since we’ll be going to Whole Foods, we can tie that in with a trip to Trader Joe’s at the same time, or any other thing that requires thinking ahead.

    I am a ziplist addict and the app works fabulously well on both Apple and Android products.

  20. Nuh. Uh. This is crazy… I just made a ziplist account, and it is mind-blowing. Thanks, Edie, for this great Google calendar/ziplist meal-planning strategy! So excited to get going…

  21. Oh, my…bless you. I’d never heard of Ziplist, but it looks like a great tool. I’m switching over to Google calendar now that my paid menu plan gadget is about to expire.
    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. If you find something that acquires the grocery for you, be sure to post that. 😉

  22. I am SO glad I found your blog!! I’ve used the Google calendar for a while and love that I can have my different schedules categorized (ie: homeschool schedule, church, me, boys’ activities, birthdays), I have a different color for each category so I can see them easily. I’m thrilled with this idea of putting the recipes in there & repeating – oh!! – just brilliant! Thank you so much 🙂 I’m considering the ziplist, but am currently using an app that goes between my android & my husband’s iPhone called “Our Groceries”. Thanks again!

  23. We must ne kindred spirits! I use my calendar for meal planning – I have a standing calendar entry for meal planning every Monday and I write the meals for the week in the notes section. I use Ellie Krieger for many recipes because they are healthy – but I can’t wait to check our your suggestions. My family shares an app called GroceryIQ so anyone can enter an item. Low on shampoo? Plug it into the app and voila! It appears on the home shelf within the week. Used the last bit of peppercorns? No problem, the pantry will be restored before the last grind of the peppermill.

  24. I know this is an old post, but I see that Ziplist is closing. I am devastated! (I know, first world problems.)

    What are you planning to use when our Ziplist goes away?


  25. Ziplist doesn’t work anymore. Do you know of any free apps that can function the same way? Please help. I can’t clip recipes from the web like before.

  26. I’m with Holly and Goldie. Would love to know what app you might be using now that ZipList sold out to Epicurious. I tried the Epicurious app and it stinks to high heaven.

  27. I just stumbled across this series and I think I can safely say you just changed my life, as well as validated what I have re-discovered this summer – that I enjoy cooking and that I enjoy it even MORE when I have a plan. Happy Cooking!!!

  28. I have recently started doing meal planning. Most of my recipes come from Cooking Light. I find the recipes to have a gourmet feel, while controlling my calorie and fat intake. I’ve started pinning recipes from Cooking Light to a board I’ve called “Keeper recipes”. My first week it took me all day and I had magazines everywhere! I’m still working on putting menu’s together and I’m glad I’m doing it.

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