Monday, November 11, 2013

Make Meal Planning Work for You: Create a Family Cookbook

I recently posted on how to make meal planning work for you, but I know some people think it's too time-consuming. 

You know what? You're {a little} right! Meal planning can be a daunting task because of all the factors that come into play when deciding what to fix each week. 

What do we have on hand?
What will my family eat? 
What's on sale?
What can I fix early in the day when we have activities at night?
What meals have we already eaten recently?
What will my family eat? (Yes, we have picky eaters.)

It's enough to make you throw up your hands in defeat. But don't. Please. Meal planning is supposed to be a time & money-saver. It's supposed to work for you, not drive you crazy.

If you're struggling with meal planning, here is a simple solution that might make it a little less of a headache:

A Family Cookbook

What is a Family Cookbook?

Basically, a Family Cookbook is a compilation of your family's favorite foods with their recipes

Here's a simple step-by-step guide for how to create your own Family Cookbook: 

(1) Create a master list of your family's favorite meals including main dishes (meat & meatless), sides, breads, soups, salads, appetizers, etc.;  

(2) Print off or photocopy all the recipes for each family favorite meal item on the list; and

(3) Organize the master list of favorite foods and their accompanying recipes in one place for easy access. 

If creating a family cookbook would help you be a more productive meal planner, here are 3 tips to get you started:

1. Brainstorm with your family.
Sit down and let each family member share his or her favorite supper foods. As each person contributes, take notes. Encourage them to share favorite veggies, breads, soups, even appetizers. Any meal idea is fair game for me!

Here's a glimpse of what our Master List looks like:

I've inserted hyperlinks to recipes that are on my Pinterest boards. The other recipes are from various cookbooks, my recipe box, or committed to memory.

2. Find your recipes.
With your list of family favorites, locate the recipes that you've not committed to memory. Ideally, it would be best to keep all your recipes together so you don't have to scan cookbooks, Pinterest boards, or your recipe box at dinner prep time. Although a little time-consuming, finding the recipes now and copying or printing them off to keep in one place will actually save you a good chunk of time in the long run.

ALL of the recipes listed on my favorite recipes master list are in my Homemaking Notebook for my convenience. Don't have a Homemaking Notebook? Store them in a 3-ring binder that you house in the kitchen with your other cookbooks.

3. Organize everything.
I have a section in my Homemaking Notebook labeled "Meal Planning." That's where my master list of meal ideas and all my recipes hang out. The recipes are organized by category (soups, meats, meatless, sides, etc.). You can make your cookbook all fancy with tabs for each category & recipes alphabetized or plain-Jane functional like me. The key is having all the the meals your family loves and their recipes all in one place, kind of like a personalized family cookbook.

This is my Homemaking Notebook where our Family Cookbook resides. It is always in the kitchen.

Inside I have tabs set up to help me locate my Meal Planning resources.

The Master List of Meal Ideas

Some recipes copied from cookbooks & off the internet

More recipes

As you can see, my Family Cookbook is nothing special in appearance: it's basic & functional. 

From start to finish, it took me about 2 1/2 hours to compile and organize. But you know what? It works! On Sunday, when I went to plan the meals for the week, instead of the 30-45 minutes it usually takes, it only took me 15! And that included making a shopping list for all the ingredients I'll need.

This is a work in progress, but already I'm feeling more at peace about meal planning.


Because I don't have to reinvent the wheel each week. I don't have to scour my cookbooks for recipes; I don't have to wonder if everyone will eat it; I don't have to think about all the ingredients I'll need. Everything is there in one place. 

As homemakers, we have a great responsibility to be good stewards of the financial blessings the Lord has granted us. Meal planning is one way we can make the best use of His resources

What about you? Do you have a list of family favorites that you rotate regularly, or do you just wing it? Would a family cookbook work for you?

For some of our favorite recipes, check out my "Pinned Recipes I've Tried" board on Pinterest.

If you would like to have posts delivered to your inbox, click: Growing in His Glory. Or join us on Google Friend ConnectFacebookTwitter, & Pinterest.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin


  1. Such a great idea. It is the perfect way to organize all of these recipes you try and love. (And we love naan in our house and gyros too!)

    1. Thanks, Deanna. I think as I find new family favorites, I will just have to keep adding them to the family cookbook.

      Yeah, Greek food at home is the way to go! Super delicious, healthier, and more economical.

  2. Wow, Keri! What a great resource! I just need an ounce of your organization. lol! I'm pinning this because a lot of people can benefit from your tips. I however, am a lost cause. ;)

    1. Jillian, you crack me up! Everyone thinks I'm uber-organized but you do NOT want to look inside my purse right now. It's a nightmare! Where are my keys???

      Thanks for re-pinning :)

  3. Love this idea, Keri. My daughters and I have been talking about a family cookbook. Love the way you encourage us to collect and organize our ideas and thoughts. I am thinking about doing just that over the next several months and then putting it together for Christmas gifts next year. I'd also like to add a section on how I meal plan, batch cooking, adapting recipes, Once A Month Cooking, etc. Maybe a section on canning & preserving too. Oh, my, you've inspired me!

    1. Wow, Linda, you've inspired me! A family cookbook Christmas gift is a great idea!! I'm sure your family would love to see what recipes have been special for you especially if you have any heirloom recipes.

      I have yet to add the dozens of dessert recipes we love, but that's next on the agenda, as well as favorite canning recipes.

      Thanks for your encouragement!

  4. A friend of mine did this as well, and her main purpose behind it was for her daughters. She wanted to be able to hand them a treasury of their family favorites and all the things they remembered mom cooking on their wedding day. I should probably mention that she has 5 daughters, so keeping it in a file on the computer is a must!

    1. What a treasure that would be! A great wedding gift for sure. I guess once I get some more recipes in there I should really consider digitizing it. A friend of mine has already asked for a copy :) And knowing my luck my binder would get lost or destroyed.

  5. I love your family cookbook - with all the tabs & everything it's quite attractive!

    I have mine in a word document that I update & have printed from time to time - and I also keep an electronic form on my computer. That way, if a friend says, "I'd love this recipe" I can just copy & paste it into an email : )

  6. Visiting from BlogHer- great idea! I kind of do this in my head, and with the requests the family gives me, but then I inevitably forget something at the market or for grocery delivery (yes- spoiled, I know) I think you have inspired me to just sit down and DO THIS- before some of my favorite internet recipes become broken links.... oh, the horror!