Using Your Planner for Adjustable Meal Planning

Meal planning is amazing for organization & stress-relief! This modified method will work perfectly in your planner & is flexible when life gets in the way.

Do you remember those pre-kid days when dinner was incredibly easy? It used to be such a last-minute decision for us. I’d stop at the grocery store on the way home from work, take my time browsing the aisles for ingredients that went into a new and complicated recipes, and then meander down the wine aisle before calmly making my way to the register. The time of day didn’t matter; spiciness didn’t matter. Then I’d drive home in my quiet, tiny car, and take my time preparing the meal. I had never heard of meal planning before.

Those were the good old days. Now grocery shopping is a family event (rushed many times) with a precise grocery list. Our meals are no longer the spiciest I can make, but more pleasing for younger tastebuds. And cooking the meal is no longer the peaceful experience, but more like warfare because at least one child gets upset at not being picked up. Sorry darlin’, but Momma’s not going to hold you and chop veggies at the same time! 

I have recently become a huge fan of meal planning. I sit down at the end of the week with my planner and a pretty pen, and I plan out our meals for the next week. Then I know exactly what I need to add to our grocery list before we go shopping Sunday morning. If I know what to expect during the week, I know what nights I need to make a quick dinner, what nights I might have more time (when Hubs will be home to help with the kids), and what nights to not even bother with cooking.

Meal planning is a huge help when it comes to budgeting and stress-relief. I love that we’re not wasting money on food we didn’t use, and I no longer have that 5pm panic of trying to figure out what to cook while I’ve got cranky toddlers running around my legs. 

However, just like with all planning, things can go awry. Hubs can work late and not be home to wrangle the circus on a night when I planned a more intensive cooking session, or sometimes we’re in the mood for something other than what’s written in my planner. And because I’m a little OCD, I hate making corrections in my planner. It’s not a huge deal, but I did come up with an easy solution: now I do adjustable meal planning.

How Adjustable Meal Planning Works

  • At the end of the week I still sit down and plan my dinners for the week. I pick 7 dinners, and instead of writing them on the day in my planner, I write them on a small sticky note. (After all, pretty pens & sticky notes are two of the must-have planner accessories!) Then I put the sticky note on the day I think we might have that dinner.Meal planning is amazing for organization & stress-relief! This modified method will work perfectly in your planner & is flexible when life gets in the way.
  • When life gets in the way of meal planning, I simply re-arrange the sticky notes accordingly. No more scratching things out and trying to keep track of what meal was skipped.
  • Another option is to keep your selected meals in the notes section of your week. As you use the meals, move the sticky note over to the day. Then you have a clear view of what meals you have to choose from as the week progresses.Meal planning is amazing for organization & stress-relief! This modified method will work perfectly in your planner & is flexible when life gets in the way.
  • When the week is over, you have two options for the used sticky notes: you can leave them on the days and just move on to the next week with new sticky notes. Or you can keep a blank paper (I’d recommend something heavier like card stock) in your planner to store the stickies as meal ideas. Then when you go to do your weekly meal planning you’ve got a bank of ideas to choose from. If you’re nostalgic or want to keep track of dinners for dieting purposes, simply record them with ink in your planner as you take off the sticky note.

Other Tips:

  • You can have different sets of stickies, one for main dishes and another for sides. Just store them in columns on your bank page. Feel free to make it prettier and color code it by using different colored sticky notes for each, or different colored pens.
  • Get creative. It might be difficult to find sticky notes that fit in the exact shape and size of your planner squares. So trim them down to fit however you need them.
  • Not a planner addict? No worries! This can still work for you! Instead of keeping your meal plan stickies in your planner, keep a weekly calendar on the fridge.

Since I started using this system, I stress a lot less about dinner. I have a plan, but I can still go with the flow if something comes up. It keeps the kids happier if I’m spending less time cooking, and I can plan healthier meals for all of us. I love this because I can have all the benefits of meal planning with the added bonus of flexibility.

Are you a meal planner? Would this adjustable meal planning system work for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts – tell me below in the comments!

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About Samantha

I am a SAHM to three kids and a menagerie of pets. I love coffee, books, crafts, wine, cooking, and more coffee. Seriously, I couldn't function without coffee. Read more about me!


  1. Great idea! I used to use Plan to Eat, but it got expensive!
    Yana recently posted…GUEST POST: Framing Effects in the Classroom – What can Teachers Learn from Politicians?My Profile

  2. I actually already use a planner, but your’s is so much more organized than mine! I will definitely be using some of your tips!

  3. This is a good idea. We do try to plan our meals, but I don’t have a good routine for it yet, so I need to get better at it.

  4. Super clever! I -hate- crossing out things in my Day Designer. It ruins the pretty. Meal prep can definitely be added into my planner for the upcoming school year as I am trying not to eat out as much.

    Courtney |

    • Exactly! I hate crossing things out! And doing meal planning this way is so much easier than guessing every night.

  5. I’m so bad at planning…this makes it seem much easier! Thanks for sharing!

  6. This is such a great tip! I’m due in December, so I know I’m going to have to start planning meals way better than I do now!

  7. Great idea – cute planner btw!

  8. Great planner. very helpful , lots of options and very flexible.

  9. Oh god, i have to admit that the thing I’m bad in planning is food. My food is so hectic, that’s bad xxx
    I know your planner is a great idea, but no way I’m gonna maintain it 😀
    Yuliya Oleynykova recently posted…My Summer Wardrobe StaplesMy Profile

  10. That’s an awesome idea. I plan my meals but on my laptop or i take a print out. Ofcourse there is always scribbling and adjusting , this could come handy for that.

  11. Ooh what a fun idea to do sticky notes! I would write them down and then cross out and move arrows and yea it can get messy.

  12. Meal planning is a great idea, so you can always have it when you go grocery shopping and you will not forget anything.
    Sophia recently posted…No Matter How Pretty You Think You Are, There Is Always Someone Prettier & No Matter How Good You Think You Are There is Always Someone Better.My Profile

  13. Love this! I used to use this technique and was eating so well and feeling great! I stopped and really need to get back into it. It’s so easy!

    Rachel |

  14. I really need to get back into meal planning. I do so much better with our grocery budget and the shopping trip is much faster. Great post!
    Healing Mama recently posted…Seasons Of Loneliness In MotherhoodMy Profile

  15. Love this idea! Planning your meals can help your mind so much!
    Christine – Jar Of Lemons recently posted…Vegan Spring Rolls w/ Spicy Turmeric Coconut SauceMy Profile

    • Thank you so much, Christine! It has really helped me feel better about what we’re eating every night. Less stress and healthier foods! 🙂

  16. I’ve tried a planner a couple of times but it’s never taken off for me. The sticky note is a great idea though particularly for meal planning! I’m always adjusting what we eat which day based on things that come up, so this would be a really good solution.

    • I hope this works for you, Becky! You can always tweak this to however you need it. It would work perfectly on a chart taped to the fridge, or however you do your meal planning.

  17. I have become such a planner addict lately and I am totally going to do this. I hate when I cross things out or draw arrows to a different day for our meals. You’re a genius!
    jessica recently posted…Disney with Toddlers, What Not to Miss.My Profile

    • Jessica, I’m always happy to meet a fellow planner addict! It really bugs me to scratch things out, too! I hope this helps! Plus, now you need more planner accessories! 🙂

  18. It’s really important to have a system in place. I really need to adhere to one. I know it would benefit me greatly!
    Kristin Cook recently posted…You Owe God Everything (Part 2/3 in the series You Don’t Owe Anyone Anything)My Profile

    • Kristin, I can’t tell you how much easier it has made my life! Give this a try and let me know how it works for you! 🙂

  19. I always say I’m going to start meal planning, but I never get around to it. Your system looks so easy I think I’m going to try it today. Thanks.
    Mary recently posted…Summer 2016 ~ Adventure ListMy Profile

    • Thank you, Mary! It’s really so easy and makes life so much better! We’re planning healthier meals, and I don’t get stressed out when something comes up and changes our plans.

  20. Oh my gosh, I love my planner, Like, I don’t know what I would do without it. And this is SUCH a great idea! I’m so tired of erasing and rewriting different meals when I have to change things up. Thanks for sharing this great technique!

    • Yay! I’m so glad you liked this, Justine! I like using sticky notes way better than writing the meals in ink. You never know how things are going to change throughout the week, and this just makes it all easier!

  21. What an awesome idea! It sure beats all the crossing out and scribbling, and drawing arrows from one day to another. We almost never stick to a meal plan exactly as I write it up, so I really need this kind of flexibility.

    • Thank you, Kyla! I have felt so much more organized doing things this way! I really hated crossing things out, then forgetting what meals we skipped. This is so much better! I hope you enjoy this!

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