Internet searches took me to menu binders... expansive collections the blog authors must have spent hours and decades on. Not for me. With two small kids, I have limited time. I needed something quick, easy to read, something portable to take to the store, something I could write all over but still be organized, something disposable...
The best printables I came across that would really work for me were the ones The Project Girl posted under her Free Downloads tab. I have since edited my own to really fit my needs, but hers is where I started. Best parts: place to write/plan three meals a day (because I really do need a plan for every meal of every day, though I do give myself one day on the weekend to NOT cook dinner) and the way the grocery list is separated... so instead of a jumbled list (I make one as I think of or come across the needed item) to go to the store, I have something that can get me through each section faster.
I now can sit down the night before a grocery run (I usually hit up the store once a week, maybe every ten days in order to always have fresh produce and meat for the week) browse the ads, coupons, recipes that I have collected and make an organized list that gets me through the store quickly... with two kids in tow, there cannot be a second wasted in the grocery store... no time to mull over sales or numbers or thinking twice about whether or not I already have this at home... it's grab and go.
Before menu planning, I was so disorganized (even though I thought I was organized) that I ended up purchasing items I thought I needed or thought I would use. Cleaning out the pantry several weeks ago, I ended up taking four grocery bags filled with food to the food pantry because I knew I wouldn't use it. It was insane how much extra food I had. It truly made me realize the money I was wasting by not planning it out.
Recently, I took it upon myself to make a pretty display of what's to come...
It was pretty simple to put together, and it was completely, utterly FREE to me since I used things I already had around the house. I used an old 10 X 13 frame sans glass... the glass had previously broken, so what was I going to do with a glass-less frame?! Twelve clothespins, cardstock, and items from a scrapebooking kit that I had never and would never use. Ah, yes, and a glue gun.
The kit was awesome! It came with all matching paper and stickers that I easily used as backing on the frame (covered the cardboard that comes with it) and cut/glued to clothespins. Stickers for heading and labeling the days of the week. The worst part came when creating the recipe cards. Very time consuming to do all at once, so I have taken to printing and laminating week by week or on an as-needed basis. (P.S. - I laminate with clear packing tape.)
I also have recipe cards that I made and hang on the fridge right by the stove. Sometimes I need a quick reference when cooking, and this method has been working fine for me. Could use a facelift however... pictured: two clothespins hot glued to tongue depressor, magnet strips on back. Good place for a pen holder as well :)