Meal Plan 101: The Master List


The Master List Is Invaluable

Our master list is the single most important piece of my meal planning arsenal.

Before I started using a master list of recipes my meal planning was disorganized and rather chaotic (read: expensive and wasteful).

Remember that big recipe binder we talked about yesterday? It had some amazing recipes in it (even if they were expensive to make).

But….it drove my family nuts.

All of the simple meals that my family loved would get lost in the shadow of that gigantic binder. They wanted things like spaghetti, tacos, pizza, and hamburgers.

Most of us don't need a printed recipe for those things. We just know how to make them. I didn't think to actually write a recipe down and put it in the binder, so when I would sit down to make my meal plan for the week, guess what I forgot about?

Yep....the simple things.

Unless I wanted a mutiny in The Nerddom, I needed to figure out how to stop forgetting about the simple meals. I had to find a better way to plan our meals.

I wanted to be able to keep trying all of the fabulous recipes that I would find without sacrificing all of the favorites that my family missed so much.

So, of course, I did what I always do when I don't want to forget something. I wrote it down on a piece of paper.

That piece of paper eventually evolved into the Master List!

(cue the Hallelujah Chorus)


The list is broken down into five categories:

  • breakfast
  • lunch
  • dinner
  • desserts
  • snacks

I sat down and made a list of every food that I knew my family loved. I added things they had ordered during our eating out years. Then I asked them individually what their favorites were. All of this went onto the master list.

I keep this an open ended list.

I do still try new recipes. Eating would get pretty boring if we didn't try something new every now and again. Occasionally one of those new things ends up being fabulous and everyone loves it. When that happens, it gets added to the master list.

I usually only add one new thing to our meal plan each week, though sometimes I will add two if I'm fairly certain at least one will be very well received.

The important thing to remember is not to overwhelm your family with a lot of new stuff (some of which will suck...just count on it) and neglect the things that they love to eat.

Keeping a master list will keep those simple, but well loved, meals right in front of you each week so that you don't forget to add them to the meal plan.

When it’s time to plan our meals, this master list is invaluable!

Get Your Master List FREE

Ready to make your own master meal list?

Download your FREE Meal Planning Kit.

Don't forget to join me again tomorrow when I'll share with you how I use The Master List to make our weekly menu plan!


What are some of your family's favorite simple meals?

Share them with us in the comments!


Don't miss all of the post from the Meal Plan 101 Series:
Part 1 - How a Meal Plan Saved Us Thousands
Part 2 - Recipes
Part 3 - The Master List
Part 4 - The Meal Planner
Part 5 - The Grocery List

Posted in Family Life, Meal Planning and tagged , , .


  1. Yay someone who plans meals like I do! I start with a menu, a list of meals (dinners) that we want to have over the next couple weeks (based on paydays). I then create the grocery list around that, then finally, plug the meals into whatever days they work best.

    I use leftovers for lunches and, yay you too, separate spots for snacks.

    Question. How do you suggest I work to type the stuff into the form vs writing? I can do on Adobe Pro but at this time don’t have it at home (too expensive for my rare usage). I did get a free trial to use today. Converting to Word leaves non-editable pic boxes. This also may be helpful for you and others. Perhaps a nominal fee for the editable version?

    Thank you!

  2. Pingback: The Importance of Writing Lists - Homeschool Review Crew

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