Creating Your Own Meal Solutions Notebook

Welcome back to my 31 days towards 10 Minute Dinners series.

We are spending these first few days instilling new habits or quite possibly dusting off old ones. The goal is to create a solid framework by which to draw upon when our brains are numb, and the “What’s for Dinner?” question echoes through the house.

I don’t know about you, but even though I teach meal planning classes and know many of the meal making short cut tricks out there, I still have those weeks where I am in a brain fog, and can’t seem to shake myself out of the funk. It’s for those very moments, that we need a Meal Solutions binder.

This is not to be your  “put all the recipes that look good here” binder.

This system is going to be your “brain” for quick and easy dinners. I asked you yesterday to Start at the Very Beginning, and gather ten of your family’s favorite recipes. They didn’t necessarily have to be 10 minute type of dinners, we’ll get to that later in the month, but I requested hard copies of favorite recipes.

If these happen to be recipes that you have stored on-line, print them off. Is it one of your favorites that you have ear marked in a cook book? Photo copy it or write it down. You get the idea.

Our goal is to have a notebook (and shelf) where we have all our tried and true recipes stored in one spot.

We don’t want to spend time trying to remember where it is. (Can you tell that I have learned from experience? I can’t tell you the amount of time I have spent hunting for recipes.) If some of your favorites are ones you always make, but you have them memorized, write the title onto a note card and put it in the binder – then find another recipe that you can print off.

Today, I want you to look around your house and find a 3 ring binder that’s laying around.  (If you don’t have one, a folder will work for now.) Gather some page protectors and slide those hard copies into the page protectors.

I love cook books. In fact, I collect them. They sit on shelves, gather on my night stand and are tucked in corners of the house, but reading them and appreciating new recipes, doesn’t get meals on the table.

Planning and implementing the recipes does, so this is our first step.

After you’ve put all the hard copies in one spot, we are going to make an ingredients list for these recipes, so that it’s super easy to just glance at a master list to see what ingredients are needed. Too often I hear friends complain that they got half way through mixing up a recipe, and then realized they were out of an ingredient. They were nervous in their attempt to be creative with the recipe (we’ll tackle that later in the month), so they felt dinner was a waste.

Have freedom with the fact we won’t have to hunt for all the recipe. Keep the recipes and ingredients in one spot.

Below, I’ve started typing up my own ingredients list of our Family Favorite Recipes.  Remember, I am implementing the same steps that I am asking of you.   Feel free to print off my first page. It’s nothing fancy, but right now, we are just getting the basics down. I’ve left some columns for you to fill in your own ingredients.

Dump and Run Taco Soup

There are added benefits of having a notebook like this.

If you are incorporating your children into the kitchen activities, and teaching them to cook, this will be a valuable resource because they can learn to master a few of these recipes. Also, if you are desperate, you can always hand off the ingredients list to someone else, and they can help with the shopping.

I’m slowly working through writing out all of my ingredients from the following recipes, plus about ten more that I will be adding here this month. When I am completed, I will post a master list for you to use. Today, when I am done with this initial ingredients list, I will slide that list into a page protector, along side the hard copies of my recipes.

Next, take your list and designate a pantry shelf or better yet, separate small bins for the varying meals where some of the the non refrigerated recipe staples will be stored. 

When I race through the door and haven’t a clue what I am making for dinner that night, I need to be assured that I will always have ingredients for some of our fast, family favorites. I don’t want to count on easy burritos, only to find I am out of the necessary tomato sauce or tortillas. Those should already be in stock on that fast favorites shelf/bin. Don’t try and keep all the ingredients from your entire top 15 list because that may get overwhelming, but just make sure that you always keep at least five recipes in stock.

Over the next few months, we will continue to add to this binder and bin. At first, it may seem like busy work, but you will thank me later, and you will reach for it regularly. For me, I need someone else helping me do the thinking and this Meal Solutions binder will do that for us if we just put a bit of work up front.

The start of my list.

BBQ Chicken in the Crock Pot

Simple Sesame Chicken

Low Fat Orange Chicken

Asian Citrus Salad (with homemade dressing)

Cheesey Cheddar Ranch Chicken

Easy Sour Cream Enchiladas

Taco Casserole: Our favorite freezer friendly meal.

I don’t want you to think this is too much like school, since I don’t  like paper work either, so over the next few posts, I will share some of the best time and money saving tips that have revolutionized the way I prepare for dinner. (My #1 Time Saving Kitchen Tip? My Power Cooking Hour.)

I’m looking forward to digging in with you.

Have you ever implemented a Meal Solutions Notebook before?

How did it work for you?

Click here to read my first two in my 31 Days Series.

If you don’t want to miss any updates on this 31 Days Towards 10 Minute Dinners, feel free to Subscribe to 10 Minute Dinners by Email or RSS feed, as well as my 10 Minute Dinners facebook page and Pinterest Page.

Don’t miss 31 Days of Good “Enough” Things over at my lifestyle blog, Balancing Beauty and Bedlam.

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  1. LOVE this! I started putting my recipes in a 3-ring with page protectors several years ago, and never looked back. It’s an easy, quick way to organize them, and if I spill something on the recipe, it wipes right off because of the page protector.

  2. Hello I am visiting via the Nester’s 31 days series. Your series is so inspirational and leaves me with such wonderful ideas for dinner.

    I too am participating in the series. My topic is “Decor To Adore~ finding your style”. I would like to invite you to stop by anytime.

    Have a beautiful day and a wonderful fall season.

  3. Loving this series. I have been doing the binder for a while. It is such a lifesaver. If I ever lose that thing. I would be lost. Your post reminded me I need to clean it out though and revamp.

  4. Will there be more posts in this series? I’m a little confused. I thought this was the 31 posts in October that you’ve done in the past… but I haven’t seen anymore about actually setting things up since this post. I’m pretty sure I missed something! 🙂 Help!!!!


  5. My mom made a bind like this for me as a wedding gift last year and I have continued to add new recipes to it. It has helped me out SO much!!

  6. I’ve recently started doing the binder and I love it. I have started printing out recipes that I want to cook from Pinterest. I put it in the binder. Once I make it, I either make notes on it about what we liked or would change, or I pull it out and throw it away! No more pinning endless recipes that never get cooked! Also, Once I cook it, I put it in the back of the binder so I don’t cook the same thing all the time and I know about how long it’s been since we’ve had a particular meal. Thanks for the post!

    • It makes such a difference, doesn’t it? Writing down the notes right away is a great idea. Too often, I forgot how I changed it to make it just what we like. 🙂

  7. I am a missionary in Sierra Leone, West Africa and regularly have “brain fog” days when meal prep is more of a chore than I’d like it to be. I keep a file I call “What to cook when I don’t know what to cook” but it’s scattered and unorganized. I like this system and will be implementing it. The list of ingredients is a great idea. Getting supplies where we are is not so easy so I like to give my husband the best, most organized list I can. I love to cook and this will help me meet the challenges. Thanks for the help and encouragement.


  1. […] out or write them down. Yes, I want you to have a physical copy of each one. Use this to create a simple meals solutions notebook which will be your ”cooking brain” when you’re overwhelmed and need […]

  2. […] next resource comes from my friend Jen at 10 Minutes Dinners.  Jen shares how to Create a Meal Solutions Notebook, otherwise known as your “brain” for quick and easy […]

  3. […] become a reality. Next, gather some of your favorite family meals and get them organized in your Meal Solutions binder.  Trust me, it sounds like you’d have to be super organized to accomplish that, but it’s […]

  4. […] So the trick to successful menu planning is having a list of quick and easy meals ready to choose from.  Whether you do that with Pinterest (here’s a board I created) or with a notebook, it’s a good idea to have a handy resource ready to go.  Here’s a great post from the 10 Minute Dinner site on How to Create a Meal Solutions Notebook. […]

  5. […] a reality. Next, gather some of your favorite family meals and get them organized in your Meal Solutions binder.  Trust me, it sounds like you’d have to be super organized to accomplish that, but […]

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