How To Use Evernote To Create Paperless Automated Meal Plans

evernote is the perfect tool to simplify and automate your meal plans!
I have had so many questions about how I use Evernote for meal planning, I decided to write a more in-depth post about it. Many of you have busy lives, and don’t have time to write detailed plans each week. You want a simple, paperless way to get the job done. Am I right?

Well friends, this is your huckleberry.

During my 21 years as a mom, I have tried just about every technique under the sun, and this has won me over.  I’m in love, I’m in love, and I don’t care who knows it!

So What Is Evernote?
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Evernote, think of it as a brain dump. All the ideas, goals, recipes, plans, and websites you love can be saved and categorized within it, in a way that makes sense to you. You can create notes using photos, receipts, entire web pages, or your own writing. Then categorize them into “Notebooks” and “Stacks” to keep them organized. Here’s a page from my account to give you an example.

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This screenshot shows a partial list of my notebooks and stacks. Have a look at the “Recipes” stack. Here’s what you are seeing.

  • Recipes is the Stack.  It contains several Notebooks.
  • Breakfast is one of the Notebooks in this stack.
  • (10) is the number of Notes inside my Breakfast Notebook. So if I opened it, I would find 10 breakfast recipes.

Make sense?

FYI: This is a screenshot from my phone.  It will look a little different on a computer or tablet, but the basic setup is the same.

The great thing about Evernote is how versatile it is.  It starts out as a blank slate, then it becomes exactly what you need it to be, as you start to customize it.  I have stacks for goal setting, homeschooling, budgeting, blogging, journaling, traveling, homesteading and meal planning.  Other folks use it for home decor ideas, work related projects, genealogy, warranty info, Bible studying and craft projects, just to name a few.

How Does It Work For Meal Planning?
In order to have an easy and organized meal plan, you need three things:

  1. A collection of favorite recipes
  2. A meal plan
  3. A shopping list to accomplish your plan

The good news is, that all three of these components can be stored in Evernote.

First, let’s talk recipes.

To save them from your favorite websites, you’ll need to install the web clipper. Details on how to do that can be found HERE, or by watching the video above.  Once you have this part done, you’ll never have to go chasing after your favorite recipes all over the internet ever again.  The web clipper will allow you to store them inside the notebook of your choosing.  Put them under Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snack, Sweet Treats, or any other folder you like.  Bam.  Done.

SIDE NOTE: If you don’t want to install the web clipper, you can hyperlink directly to the web page containing your recipe. More on that later.

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Once you have your recipes saved, you need to create a meal plan with them.  The screenshot above shows my Notebook containing several completed plans (I like to shop for 3 weeks at a time, but you could do it however you like).  If you were to open one of them up, here’s what it would look like:

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What you have here is a plan AND a shopping list all in one (you would need to scroll down to see the whole thing).  When it’s time to go shopping, I just take a quick look at the list, cross off the items I already have on-hand, and head to the store. I can use this list over and over again, and all the work is done for me!

Oh, and here are three more convenient features I should mention:

  1. I can email my note to anyone (even if they don’t have an Evernote account), so if my husband is out doing the shopping I can send him the list from home, and he can retrieve it from his smartphone.
  2. Everything on Evernote is printable, so if you’re an old-school paper person, this will work for you too. 😉
  3. You can use hyperlinks within your notes to link directly to the recipes (as shown below).  Hyperlinking is easiest on a computer rather than a phone or tablet.  But they will all sync together, so you can use them interchangeably!

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I hope this answered any questions about using Evernote for meal planning. If you have any more, please leave them in the comments!

The 3-Week Meal Plan: Week 2

meal planning

I don’t know how your schedule goes, but my life is always busiest at the beginning and end of each week. So I have made Wednesday the official meal planning day! If you want some encouragement and accountability to keep your meal plan on track, won’t you join us?

Lately, I have been working on automating my meal planning. Using Evernote, I have stashed away 6 separate meal plans, which I am using in rotation. These plans include recipes and complete shopping list, so the only thing I have to do is cross off what I already have, and head to the store. This has been a great load off my mind!

As time allows, I am adding new plans to my automated list, so we can enjoy more variety. This week I have a hankering for some new flavors, so I am trying all new recipes. Except our beloved Amish Oatmeal. That’s not going anywhere. Ever.

Last week was my power shopping trip, where I snagged everything I needed for three weeks worth of dinners. I also did some dinner prep work. You can head over HERE to see what we did.

For this reason, week two shopping will only include breakfasts, lunches and snacks.

Breakfast
(3) Amish Oatmeal
(2) Bacon Mushroom Spinach Frittata – subbing turkey bacon
(2) Pumpkin Pancakes

Lunch
(2) Chicken Avocado Burritos
(2) Cheaters Chicken Noodle Soup – using fresh carrots instead of canned
(3) Peanut Butter & Banana Quesadillas

Snacks
Tortilla Chips with Homemade Salsa
Banana Bread
Fruits & Veggies – whatever is on sale & looks good!

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NOTE: This list assumes you have the following pantry staples on hand: salt, baking powder, vanilla, baking soda, basil, oregano, thyme, hot sauce, salt, pepper, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove, cumin

Produce

  • Garlic
  • Cremini Mushrooms (16 oz)
  • Baby Spinach (4 c)
  • Roma Tomatoes (2)
  • Avocado (2)
  • Cilantro (1 bunch)
  • Carrots (1 lb)
  • Bananas (1 bunch)
  • Onion (1)
  • Jalapeno (1)
  • Lime (1)
  • Fruits and Veggies for snacks and sides (whatever looks good)

Meat

  • Turkey Bacon
  • Chicken Breast (8)

Canned/Baking/Middle Aisles

  • Flour (5 lb bag)
  • Sugar (4 lb bag)
  • Pumpkin Puree (15 oz can)
  • Fine Egg Noodles (16 oz)
  • Chicken Bouillon Cubes (12) or equivalent (I love Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base from Costco)
  • Peanut Butter
  • Semi Sweet Mini Chocolate Chips (1 bag)
  • Tortilla Chips (1 bag)
  • Whole Tomatoes (28 oz can)
  • Rotel Diced Tomatoes & Green Chiles (2 10-oz cans)
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Chopped Walnuts (1 c)

Bread/Cereal

  • Quick Cooking Oats (I recommend Vitacost gluten-free and non-GMO oats at a great price)
  • White Flour Tortillas (8-12)
  • Whole Wheat Tortillas (12)

Dairy

  • Milk
  • Eggs (14)
  • Butter (1 c)
  • Mozzarella (2 c)
  • Sour Cream (2 c)

printable coupons

Printable/Digital Coupons to Use:

You can maximize your savings by reading my top grocery store savings tips, and by taking steps to eliminate food waste. I’d love to hear about how you save time and money on meal planning. Please share in the comments!

Subscribe to Moms by Heart via email to get a free printable Meal Planning Binder. You’ll also get a weekly meal plan like this one every Wednesday.

The 3-Week Meal Plan: Week 1

meal planning

Today is the start of another 3-week meal planning cycle, which means we will be planning, shopping and prepping for three weeks worth of dinners all at once. We will also be doing the shopping for one weeks worth of breakfasts, lunches and snacks.

To save on stress and better manage my time, I have been automating this whole process, by using Evernote to plan several weeks, and then reuse the plans over and over again. You can read about it HERE. I highly recommend this technique!  When you feel the need to spice things up, you can add a few new plans into the rotation.  Before long, you’ll have a whole library to choose from!

Here is one of my master lists, including shopping list.

3-WEEK DINNER PLAN
Sides are chosen based on fruit/veggies on sale at Aldi’s & Costco

(2) Chicken Fajitas
(2) Chicken Quesadillas with homemade salsa
(2) Pasta Fagioli Soup with homemade sausage
(2) Slow Cooker Italian Meatball Soup
(2) Spaghetti & Meatballs (throw 1 can pasta sauce with meatballs into slow cooker, serve over cooked spaghetti)
(2) Pizza Pasta Casserole
(2) Slow Cooker Carne Asada with homemade salsa
(2) Pancakes & Homemade Sausage Patties
(2) Breakfast Burritos with homemade chorizo and homemade salsa (scramble eggs with cooked chorizo and serve on tortilla with salsa)
(2) Hamburgers on the grill
(1) BBQ Chicken Legs on the grill (cover legs in BBQ sauce, and grill!)

1-WEEK BREAKFAST PLAN
(2) Pancakes, homemade sausage & fruit
(2) Egg scramble, toast
(2) Amish Oatmeal & apple
(1) Yogurt & Granola

1-WEEK LUNCH PLAN
(2) Leftovers
(2) Turkey Sandwiches, carrots
(2) Fettuccini Alfredo with leftover chicken
(1) Salad, hard eggs

1 WEEK SNACK PLAN
Celery & peanut butter
Crackers & peanut butter
Misc veggies and fruit (whatever is on sale at Aldi’s)
Simple Granola
Tortilla chips to go with any leftover homemade salsa

NOTE: This list assumes you have the following pantry staples on hand: oregano, basil, crushed red pepper flakes, dried parsley flakes, italian seasoning, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, paprika, onion powder, sugar, olive oil, sage, thyme, sea salt, paprika, cayenne pepper, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, vegetable oil, ancho chili powder, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, apple cider vinegar, sweet paprika, smoked paprika.

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COSTCO SHOPPING LIST

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breast (4 lbs.)
  • Flank steak (4 lbs.)
  • Tortilla Land uncooked flour tortillas (64-100 tortillas for 8 meals)*
  • Organic Diced Tomatoes (box of 8 cans)
  • Organic Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base (to use in place of chicken broth in all recipes)
  • Ground Beef (9-11 lbs.)
  • Cage-Free Eggs (4-6 dozen to last a couple weeks!)

GROCERY STORE SHOPPING LIST

Produce

  • Onions (7)
  • Green Peppers for fajitas (2)
  • Garlic (22 cloves)
  • Jalapeno (3)
  • Cilantro (3 handfuls)
  • Lime (5)
  • Celery
  • Baby Carrots (for snacks & lunches)
  • Apples (4-6)
  • Bag Salad or lettuce (1)
  • Misc fruit & veggies for sides & snacks (whatever is on sale)

Meat

  • Pepperoni (8 oz.)
  • Ground Pork (8 lbs – I get mine at Whole Foods)
  • Chicken Legs (2-3 lbs.)
  • Deli Turkey (1 lb.)

Refrigerated

  • Parmesan Cheese (5-6 c.)
  • Cheddar Cheese, shredded (6 c.)
  • Mozzarella Cheese, shredded (2 c.)
  • Milk (1 gallon)
  • Butter (1 1/2 c.)
  • Yogurt Cups (4-6)
  • Heavy Cream (2 c.)

Canned/Baking/Middle Aisles

  • Tomato Paste (6 oz. can)
  • Spiral Pasta (4 12-oz boxes)
  • Small Shell Pasta (2 12-oz boxes)
  • Spaghetti (2 boxes)
  • Pasta Sauce (4 jars)
  • Bread Crumbs (3 c.)
  • Hot Sauce
  • Can Whole Tomatoes (3 28-oz. cans)
  • White Beans (2 cans)
  • Chipotle Chilis in Adobo (4 tsp)
  • Mayonnaise
  • All Purpose Flour (6 c.)
  • BBQ Sauce – your favorite brand (1 bottle)
  • Quick Cooking Oats (3 1/2 c.)
  • Old fashioned OATS (8 c.)
  • Brown Sugar (1 c.)
  • Honey (1 c.)
  • Peanut Butter
  • Crackers
  • Tortilla chips (1 large bag)

Bread/Cereal

  • Hamburger Buns x 2 (only if you have room in your freezer, otherwise buy them as you need them)
  • Bread (1 loaf)

shopping list button

3 WEEK DINNER PREP LIST

  1. Make homemade granola. Allow to cool, and store in ziploc bags.
  2. Boil 6-8 eggs to go with salad lunch.
  3. Make (2) batches of homemade meatballs for spaghetti & meatballs, and (2) batches of mini-meatballs for slow cooker soup. Allow to cool, and freeze in meal-size portions.
  4. Divide chicken breast into (4) meal-size portions and freeze flat.
  5. Mix up homemade sausage, divide into 8 meal-size portions and freeze flat (raw).
  6. Make 2 batches of homemade chorizo, divide into 2 meal-size portions and freeze flat (raw).
  7. Divide remaining ground beef into (4) meal size portions and freeze flat.
  8. Divide flank steak into (2) meal size portions and freeze flat.
  9. Make 4 batches of homemade pancake mix, and store in ziploc bag.
  10. Make a batch of homemade salsa and store in refrigerator.
  11. Transfer chicken legs to freezer safe bag, and freeze.

printable coupons

Printable/Digital Coupons to Use:

You can maximize your savings by reading my top grocery store savings tips, and by taking steps to eliminate food waste. I’d love to hear about how you save time and money on meal planning. Please share in the comments!

Subscribe to Moms by Heart via email to get a free printable Meal Planning Binder. You’ll also get a weekly meal plan like this one every Wednesday.

Six Habits That Will Slash Your Budget

SLASH YOUR GROCERY BUDGET BY 20 OR MORE

Saving money on healthy meal ingredients can be a challenge. Coupons are few and far between on things like meat, cheese and veggies. So how do you maximize your budget without resorting to beans and rice? Here are my top tips.

Be Loyal to Stores That Give Consistently Good Deals
Find stores that offer good prices on most everything (even the stuff that isn’t on sale), and give them most of your business. Stores like Kroger that offer huge savings on a few items, and grossly overprice the rest will end up saving you less – even with all the extra effort of coupon clipping, and planning meals around the sales. I’ve tried it!  For the long haul, it is best to reward the stores with the best pricing plans with the majority of your business.

Visit the Farmers Market
Buying in-season produce straight from the source is often the best way to score a deal. My biggest savings has come when I spend some time getting to know my favorite vendors, and ask about peak-season bulk discounts. If you’re willing to do some canning or freezing, this relationship will pay off for years to come!

Reduce Food Waste
I’ve written a lot lately about food waste, mostly because it is the biggest money drainer on the American grocery budget. According to the EPA, we waste as much as 20% of what we bring home from the grocery store.  So being mindful of what we have, and when it expires is not something I want to take lightly. Follow a meal plan that includes snacks and beverages to shrink your waste.  Be sure to include leftovers into the plan when appropriate.

Make More Items From Scratch
Did you know a loaf of bread costs around $0.60 to make? Or that you can use dried beans and get 6 cups for $1? Did you know you can substitute expensive pre-made cereal for oats at around one-third the cost? Get into the habit of making a few frequently eaten things from scratch, and save as much as $10 per week or more!

Ditch the Drinks
I am a sucker for a sweet beverage. Especially with my meals. But I have seen such a huge savings by opting for water – not to mention the calories I save! When I do have a hankering for something sweet, I go for something homemade and affordable, like a big batch of sweet tea!

Let Your Family In On The Plan
I can’t tell you how many times I have attempted to make a meal, and then discovered I am missing ingredients because some hungry teenager decided to eat them as a snack! Posting my meal plan in an obvious place, and letting my family know they are accountable to it has helped save money and my sanity!

How about you? What routines help you save money on food?

The 3-Week Meal Planning System: Week 3 (Just $45!)

meal planning

We have been enjoying three weeks of stress-free dinners, thanks to a big planning/shopping/prepping day two weeks ago. We have one more week’s worth of dinners ready and waiting for us, so this week will be an easy one on the budget. This week, I am shopping for breakfast and lunch only. And since I am a stockpile shopper, there is no need for me to buy cleaning products, personal care items and paper goods. Gotta love that!

This week I have a financial goal I’d like to meet, so I am going for the most affordable meals in my arsenal. I expect to pay around $45 for my family of 6 this week.  Woo-hoo!

Here is my meal plan and shopping list for the week. Scroll down to get a printable version.

BREAKFAST
(2) Biscuits and Jam
(2) French Toast, turkey bacon
(3) Yogurt

LUNCH
(2) Tuna Salad Sandwiches & fresh veggies
(2) Grilled PB&J’s & veggies
(2) Egg Salad Sandwiches, veggies
(1) Leftovers

DINNER
See Week One

SNACKS
Popcorn
Celery & Peanut Butter
Fruits & Veggies – whatever is cheap at Aldi’s or Costco

My Shopping List
NOTE: This list assumes you have the following pantry staples: baking powder, cream of tartar, salt, vanilla, cinnamon, butter,

Fruit/Veggies – go to Aldi’s or Costco

  • Fruit & Veggies for snacks – whatever is on sale
  • Celery
  • Onion (1)

Canned/Baking/Middle Aisles

  • Jam – your favorite kind
  • Peanut Butter
  • All Purpose Flour (8 c.)
  • Sugar (1/2 c.)
  • Shortening (1 c.)
  • Tuna (2 lg cans)
  • Pickles
  • Mayo
  • Popcorn

Meat & Dairy

  • Turkey Bacon
  • Eggs (1.5 dozen)
  • Milk (7 c.)
  • Yogurt (3 cups per person)

Bread

  • Sandwich Bread (2 loaves)

shopping list button

COUPONS TO USE:

Savings Tips:

  1. Check your local grocery store sale ads to see who has the best deals this week.
  2. Shop at Aldi’s for your fresh produce.
  3. If you’re lucky enough to live near a Costco, I highly recommend a membership. You’ll find high quality meat, produce and a variety of organic items at great prices.
  4. I suggest printing all coupons, but check other brands (including store brands) before buying to be sure you’re getting the best price.
  5. If you shop at Walmart, be sure to scan your receipt afterwards to get any Savings Catcher rebates. Details HERE.
  6. If you are in need of any of the spices listed at the top, check to see if your store has a bulk spices section. You’ll find the best deals here, and you only buy the amount you need.
  7. Consider doing some stockpile shopping while you’re out to help build up your pantry. If you participate in the $40 stockpiling challenge, you might get it all for FREE!

If you like the idea of doing three week’s worth of dinner prep at a time, come back next Wednesday for a whole new plan!

Subscribe to Moms by Heart via email to get a free printable Meal Planning Binder. You’ll also get a weekly meal plan like this one every Wednesday.