A few weeks ago we made a little menu planner in Excel so that I could better keep track of what items I had to use in my fridge, freezer and store cupboards, and to help me shop more sustainably with less waste.
I have two other aims by doing this: to keep up the momentum with which my 4 year old has decided to expand he foods that he is willing to try, and also to try and find a balance with my compulsion to hoard tinned and dry packet goods. As I have experienced food poverty a few times in my lifetime I have found comfort in having an emergency stash of food that I know I have if the worst were to happen, but I do recognise that this rather limits me and is quite problematic in the world’s actual smallest kitchen.
This simple little Excel spreadsheet allows me to populate tabs with the items I have in my freezer or store cupboards, or with meals that I would like to cook, and generate a weekly menu using simple drop-down selectors, before formatting a printable menu.
A few IG followers asked if they could look at the spreadsheet set-up, so I have uploaded it here for download. I have made a few changes so that it is easy to use even if you don’t use excel extensively, and changed things like the typeface (switched to simple Verdana, so that it will display for everyone) so that it can be styled as you wish. I’ve also adjusted the week to run from Monday-Sunday, but again, that’s easily editable. Download the Menu Planner spreadsheet.
How To Use The Menu Spreadsheet
In each of the tabs ‘Breakfast’, ‘Lunch’, ‘Dinner’ and ‘Snacks’, populate the columns with your selection of possible meals, or the items that you have in your freezer and cupboards.
In ‘Setup’ tab, click into each cell of a particular meal, click the little drop-down arrow that appears and then choose the elements of your meal from the options.
Once your menu is populated click on the ‘Printable Meal Planner’ tab, which compiles a final printable draft of the weekly menu, whilst filling in sentence syntax, etc.
You’ll want to play about with the styling of this is you wish to print it out, but I recommend leaving the line height as-is, as it fits perfectly on an A4 sheet.
And that’s all there is to it, really. You could use the individual meal tabs to fill in what you have in your freezer and cupboard to help you work through bloated food stores, or use it to come up with a menu to shop smartly from, or add to it as you expand your (or a child’s) menu and recipe repertoire so that you don’t fall back on cooking the same six dishes in rotation. I’m using it as a combination of all three aims, and it’s really working for me.
Let me know what you think, and if you have any helpful home/life organisation tips!
Header image is of a Macaroni Cheese I made last week. It was unbelievably good.