Google Calendar for Menu Planning

posted in: extra | 10

Google Calendar is a great online tool. Of course there is the obvious use for calendars, but you can also set up calendars to use as journals, menu plans, blog planning, birthday reminders, and even school calendars or schedules. I like to set up each of these as separate calendars so that they show up in different colors and they are easy to toggle on and off individually.

My Menu Plan calendar usually has all three meals planned out, because then I don’t have to think about it. My plan for the day includes all necessary eating, and I’m not left at a loss pre-coffee in the morning, when noon strikes after a full school morning, or when 4pm sneaks up on me. It helps to see that meals are planned, so I don’t have to think it through over and over again.

The great thing about using an online calendar for menu planning is that I don’t have to type out “oatmeal” or “granola” a zillion times, because I can set it as a repeating event.

Menu planning on the calendar has had a couple unforeseen advantages: When I buy something that has to be used within a certain amount of time, I just put it on the menu before that time. I bought two extra extra-cheap turkeys at Thanksgiving time and spaced out on my calendar when I would cook them. Then, when the after-Thanksgiving recipes started coming out, I chose one per turkey as a big-freezer-batch plan, and added that to the calendar after the turkey day and subsequent turkey-broth-soup day.

My favorite feature of the online calendar for menu planning, though, is the ability to drag and drop dinners. So life happened and I served a short-cut, plan-B meal instead of the plan? Just drag that meal to tomorrow or next week! Tonight’s dinner had a bunch of leftovers? Just move tomorrow’s dinner plan to the next day or next week! Forgot to soak the beans? Just start them now and swap tonight’s meal with tomorrow’s.

And I would be remiss if I did not here mention my own menu planning solution: Simplified Dinners, which makes planning and preparing dinners a breeze. This system means I need fewer brain cells for planning, shopping, and cooking on a day-to-day basis.

I have my list of dinners that use only the items on my basic master pantry list. My grocery list is only about replenishing my basic supplies rather than being dependent on menu planning. And I have a resource list of dinners I can make, knowing I have the ingredients on hand. Simplified Dinners has truly been a lifesaver!

Find out more about how to keep track of things digitally in my free online workshop:

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You’ll get instant access as soon as you register!

What sort of calendar or system do you use to keep track of your menu planning?

10 Responses

  1. 5xblessed
    | Reply

    As domestic as I am, menu planning has been an illusive art for me. Don’t ask me why – it just seems overwhelming and impossible. However, as I have begun doing “Work the Plan” and then reading your blogs on Circle Time and stopping “the Plan” to organize and instigate that into our homeschool time (We call it “Our Gathering Time” and our theme hymn is “We Gather Together to Ask the Lord’s Blessing)…menu planning doesn’t seem so intimidating. I just printed off a few copies of a freebie weekly menu plan and have been at it 1 1/2weeks. So far so good. But I would like to consider the pros and cons of digital. Even though I have not gotten any of the Work the Plan down on paper…I have done brain dumps and gotten in and gotten major projects done and reorganization. Yea! and my children are loving their memory work binders and learning the hymns. They are doing a fantastic job. Thank you Mystie for all your amazing ideas.

  2. a. borealis
    | Reply

    Hiiiiii :)

    I keep a paper notebooks and do a bullet journal of sorts. Each week is two pages: the left side is my “Weekly Menu Outline”, where I list Soup, Extras, Evening Meals, and Garden. The right side is my “Week of” running list of Events, Goals, Chores, To Do. I love the physical nature of writing things down, keeping track, and having a tangible record to reference in the future. And of course, little kid scribbles, quotes, ideas, weekend lists, food and drink stains, stickers, etc. are interwoven in. It’s almost like a time capsule. I always stay on track with the “two page” method for each week, very clearly dated, and often add other pages as I go (always double-paged to keep my weeks “open faced”): seasonal lists, packing lists, records of family or health issues, brainstorms, chore revisions, and so forth.

    On the Weekly Menu Outline side of things, I plan for 2-3 soups a week (our lunches during fall, winter, and spring), then plan or record all the various “extras” I do in the kitchen, from making kombucha, soaking grits, or soaking beans, to making tapioca pudding, paté, or rendering lard. That kind of thing. I am lax with my Evening Meals section and usually fill it in as I go. My habit is to pull out a variety of frozen meats at the beginning of the week and then go with the flow on a day-to-day basis. As long as I have the basics to work with, I have an idea of what I will do that day. (Though I am trying to be better organized and start earlier.) Finally, I love keeping track of what we are eating out of our garden. It is so fun to compare year by year, even week by week, to see what is changing, what was earlier or later, that kind of thing. This section tapers off during the winter months, but goes strong 3/4 of the year. We eat largely out of our garden for most of the year with the amount of food I put by.

    I am filled with a sense of accomplishment when I look at my records. It is a system I’ve developed over the years, tweaked now and then, and it is absolutely my organizing bedrock. Everyone in the family knows about mama’s “Organizing Notebook”. I was so tickled when the bullet journaling phenom showed up last year – it is almost precisely what I have been doing for YEARS. It was gratifying to see.

    I like your google calendar idea. I’ve dabbled a bit with Outlook’s calendar functions and it looks similar. I’ve wondered about expanding into that arena (at least for family scheduling) as our kids get older so everyone has access to the preview for the week and month. And actually, now that I think about it, my SIL posts her weekly menu just to keep the kids from asking, “What are we eating tonight?” multiple times a day. Organizing it into Outlook’s calendar could totally take care of that problem….hmmmmm….filed in the “future reference” part of my mind.

    As always, thanks for sharing! I love what you do!!!

  3. Susannah
    | Reply

    Do you enter meals as “events” or “tasks”? By the way, thank you so much for all your helpful advice! I love learning from more organized moms.

    • Mystie
      | Reply

      They are events at the time of day we eat the meals. I don’t use tasks on my calendar. :)

  4. learninglittlebits
    | Reply

    HI Mystie,
    I am curious why you like Google Calendar and Gmail over Microsoft Outlook. I have Outlook and that is what my husband uses for work, but it seems most people prefer Google. I am trying to choose between the two and I am not a tech savvy person so am curious why you chose Google instead. Thanks so much!

    • Mystie
      | Reply

      I love the Google search function, I love the snappy responsiveness of Gmail. Outlook feels like a clunky outdated program. I like the web interface and how I can access my account on multiple computers or devices and it’s the same set up everywhere.

  5. Anna
    | Reply

    Hi Again Mystie,
    By keeping your home management binder digitally, how do you effectively communicate what needs to be done to others each day or in your absence.? I had a home management binder for years and it was all set up so others could run my home if I was gone or ill.

    Also, wanted to let you know that I play with Google Calendar and Outlook this past week and I prefer Outlook paired with Todoist. It works great together!

    • Mystie
      | Reply

      That’s great that you found a combo that works for you!

      Hm, I’ve not been gone or ill, so I guess I haven’t set it up to have that contingency. :) My husband is fairly competent around the house himself and doesn’t need things spelled out if he takes over. I wouldn’t really expect anyone taking over to do things my way or need me to micromanage. But different personalities handle things differently. He has access to my laptop, so he could browse my Evernote if he needed something. We both use Google Calendar, so he sees my calendar and I see his automatically. It helps us stay on the same page.

      We do have a public white board where I put up notes to the children what they need to do and our general agenda for the day.

      • learninglittlebits
        | Reply

        I use a white board too. I have had several family emergencies where others have had to help with my children. I don’t expect people to do things the way I do, it’s just that I have soon to be 10 children (only 7 at home) and people panic. They want to know how things normally go and what they are going to do with “all those kids” for a day.

        I am enjoying your email series even though I don’t like gmail. I tried to use gmail for about 5 years and just have never liked it. GASP! I prefer outlook 2016. I love the pairing with OneNote and Todoist.

        Thanks so much for your response.

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