Tried & True Menu Planning: The Home Hour: Episode 84

What’s for dinner?  Kirsten has no idea what she’s making tonight, but her co-host Graham never has to ask this question! For almost a decade Graham has been using the same special menu-planning system to get dinner on the table. On this episode of The Home Hour we take a deep dive into Graham’s tried and true method for how she feeds her family.

She swears this system has helped her to not only save time thinking about what meals to cook and what groceries to buy, but has also helped her to avoid waste and save money.  By using a special binder of her own design, Graham has been collecting recipes and assigning them to designated weeks. In a separate section of the binder, she lists every ingredient of each recipe needed for the week. These pre-printed sheets serve as a guide for checking her kitchen inventory and as the basis for her weekly shopping list.

To learn more about the details of this system, how to stay flexible when plans change, and how she adds new recipes to the mix, be sure to listen to this episode on the player below or on your favorite podcast listening app.


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  1. Thanks for the Meal Planning Information! I was so inspired and did the binder the same day I listened to the show! Again, thank you so much!

  2. Hey Sandy!
    AWESOME! SO thrilled you found the episode helpful and inspiring! Thanks for listening!

  3. Love this and I really need it! I get the general idea but am unsure of how to get each week separated out from the spreadsheet and shopping list…would love some more detail on it. thanks thanks thanks!!

    • Hi Ryan,
      Thanks so much for listening. We are trying to put together an instagram story on this to give everyone a visual… however, in the meantime if you have any specific questions or need any specific details, feel free to shoot us an email at Hello@thehomehour.
      Thanks again for listening and commenting!

      • Hiya! Just listened to this episode the other night. I’d love to see more detail! Did I miss the instagram story? Or are the images the copy of the story?

        • Hey Karen! I so hope you found the episode of use to you. Yes, the images above are the pictures we posted from my “binder” but if you need anything specific or if it doesn’t make sense to you, just let me know and I’ll try to get you whatever you need to get you up and running successfully. Happy to help since this really is a game changing system. Best, Graham

  4. I also got inspired to try this system! I finally started storing my recipes in one place (Evernote) a few years ago, but never completely listed my dinner repertoire. I was pleased to find out I have almost 100 dinner recipes to work with now…after I trim that list down a bit I’ll start making my menus. I’m wondering what you do about sides and breakfast/lunch? I created another spreadsheet tab for my favorite sides and throw-together lunches. For my kids I basically have a 5-meal weekly schedule that repeats every week but I might swap out sides/fruits/veggies/protein within that template. For me and hubs it’s usually leftovers or salads. Thanks so much for sharing such a helpful system!

    • Hi Rae,
      100 dinner ideas! Amazing! I love the idea of an extra spreadsheet for sides and breakfast/lunch! Thanks for listening and I’m so glad to hear you were inspired by this episode 🙂 And my husband and I usually do leftovers for lunch as well!

  5. I love this system and can’t wait to try it! A suggestion I have is to put each recipe in its own sheet protector in the binder for that week. That way you can pull it out and follow it when cooking, and it’s easy to wipe off and keep it clean. I often tape my recipe to a cabinet door so it’s right in front of me when I’m cooking.

    • Hi Dina,
      Great idea! I’m sure other listeners will read the comments and follow that advice— yes! My recipes are all covered in oil stains so that is a really smart idea! I often cook straight from recipes off my laptop with is definitely living dangerously LOL! Thank you for listening and I hope this system works for you! 🙂

  6. I’m thinking of trying this but what do you do with leftovers?

  7. Hey Rebecca! I’m a HUGE leftover person. Love em. What’s best about this plan is that I often have enough to freeze for the next go around (think of a few extra containers of chili), and I will either eat leftovers for lunch, or often find there are TONS of people around town who enjoy having some extra food come their way. I SWEAR–it’s still less expensive even giving some food away! Plus, people will start bringing YOU food if you begin giving them some. Additionally, I find I’m more apt to invite people over for dinner spontaneously to share in what I’ve made, because I know I’ll have enough. Best of luck and please keep us posted on your progress. And thanks again for listening. ~Graham

  8. I have been trying to figure out how to simplify this process for years! I’ve been close to this idea but couldn’t seem to get to the next level with it. Now it seems so obvious! I’m giving this a try but I will say it has taken waaaay more than 2 hours to pull it all together. I did have a running list of dinners we cook, so I was able to skip that part. Gathering the recipes for me included printing online recipes out, photocopying cookbook recipes and typing up the “recipe” for easy meals that I know how to cook but my husband doesn’t get. I want them all in the binder in sheet protectors so that on my husband’s nights to cook, everything is all in one place. The hardest part though was dividing them into weeks. I was weighing out what the kids would actually eat with making sure there were some easy/quick options plus a variety of proteins and cuisine types. I’ve actually ended up with 7 meal options for nine weeks and we normally shop for 4 meals a week. I also divided it out into a winter/fall and spring/summer category so I will do this process again in the spring. Some of the meals work year round so I don’t think the next round will be as tough. All that to say, I am finally at the assemble the binder point and implementation phase and I am SUPER excited. I fully expect this will change my life. Thank you!!

  9. Hi Kirsten & Graham, I recently discovered your podcast (2 mos ago) and I’ve been catching up listening to all of them! I really love you both, you make me laugh and remind me of my friendship with some of my college girlfriends 🙂 This episode especially spoke to me and I am spending this Friday night composing my master list of entrees for my family. I can’t wait to put together my binder. I just checked out the Katie Workman (episode 94) cookbooks for a little dinner inspo!!! Thanks for all your wisdom and all the laughs. Keep it up!! Annie from Denver

  10. This comment made our day Annie! Thrilled to hear you are enjoying the show and and finding it useful! And yes.. college girlfriends are THE BEST!
    Thanks for your sweet note and for being a listener!

  11. Hi! I just got to your podcast via a recommendation on “Didn’t I Just Feed You?” I wonder if you could share your spreadsheet so we can plug and play. I’m an artist and I don’t really know how to create spreadsheets – It’s not the way my brain works. So any help organizing would be amazing. Thanks!

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