Sunday, March 13, 2011

Menu Planning Redo

As you may know, I've talked about menu planning a few times on this blog. What you don't know, is that it is a constant battle for me to keep up with my menu planning. My biggest problem is time, but couple that with the fact that I loathe menu planning, and it's practically a recipe for disaster.

Well, a couple weeks ago the broccoli really hit the fan when we got our taxes done, and I realized that we have been spending way too much money eating out two and sometimes three times a week. That had to stop. 

So I sat down with my monthly menu planning calendar and I got to work.

I've been using this system for over a year now, somewhat intermittently. In spite of what some people think about teachers and their supposed part-time jobs, I regularly spend ten hours a day at my teaching job. Add to that a couple more hours a night that I've been spending lately on the yearbook, volunteering my time, and it's all I can do to keep the vomit from pooling in the back of my mouth when I hear about my cushy schedule and summers off. Although I wouldn't say that teaching is the hardest job on the planet, it is definitely the hardest job I've ever had.

That being said, I, and I'm sure every other mom out there as well, need every time saver available to me to manage my responsibilities. Eating out just can't be one of those time savers anymore.

So, as I was saying, last year I posted about menu planning and this laminated menu planner that I could write on and wipe off. The only problem with this system, for me anyway, is that our schedule seems to always be in flux and I would need to move things. Then I would have to apply spit to a Kleenex to wipe off the menu plan for the day, so glamorous, I know, and have to rewrite that menu item elsewhere. Such a chore for me and my impatient self. My problems are so enormous.

Quickly I took to using mini Post-It notes to write my menu plans on, because they could be quickly and easily moved around. The only negative to that system is that the Post-Its didn't fit perfectly into the the menu squares, so I had to trim them to fit neatly in the squares. Because I'm anal about things like that. Again, I have such enormous problems.

This enormous problem has led me on a quest to design a magnetic menu planning calendar that could work for me. I have seen some pretty brilliant menu planning calendars out in the blogosphere this year, but none of them were a fit for me. The biggest problem being that I don't have any usable wall space where I can post a magnetic menu planning calendar. Any menu planning calendar that I use has to fit on the side of my refrigerator.

Enter the Cricut Lite Chore Chart Cartridge. This cartridge was the springboard for my inspiration. I've been thinking about a potential solution for months, and I had decided that I needed to create a calendar grid in vinyl right on the surface of my refrigerator. The problem being, how do I cut the vinyl for a calendar grid and keep all the lines straight and in proportion? I'm sure some of you reading this could do just that with only your Cricut and possibly a program such as Sure-Cuts-A-Lot, or the Silhouette, without using another expensive Cricut cartridge, but my skill set does not extend that far. As it is, I already wasted an entire sheet of vinyl trying to figure out the correct size to cut for my available space.

For my first calendar grid, I used the Fit to Page button on my Cricut, not 100% sure of what it was going to do. I loaded up my $5 sheet of vinyl and pressed the Cut button before I could chicken out. Then I screamed and watched in horror as the Cricut cut a calendar fit for Ginormica, knowing that hitting STOP couldn't save that piece of vinyl that was already soiled. Plus it had to be done anyway, because I needed the numbers to set up a proportion problem to figure out how big I had to cut my calendar to fit in a 16 inch wide section on my refrigerator.

Listen up people, the next time you open your mouth to say "I've never once had to use algebra in all my life, blah, blah blah" this is a prime example of how useful algebra is. I want you to come back here again, bring your children and your children's children, and show them exactly how

Algebra is Useful

I'm going to make a vinyl sign. Who wants one?

Don't all jump at once.

The ginormous calendar that I originally cut with the Fit to Page button ended up being 11.5 inches by 19.75 inches, which was 3.75 inches longer than my available space of 16 inches. Enter algebra and the following simple proportion problem:

11.5      =   x  
    19.75         16         

Solving for x, I found that my calendar should be 9.316455696 inches high, which I neatly rounded to 9 inches. Sir Cricut can only cut in 1/4 inch increments anyway, so what's the harm in taking it to a nice round number?

No harm.

Now I will stop with the numbers. So scary to some, yet friendly to all.

So, before I show you the end result, here is one of the problems with the Cricut Chore Chart cartridge. It cuts the "C" and the "H" for the "Chore Chart" title with the calendar grid.

I just amputated them with my X-acto knife. Easy fix.

Then I pulled away the vinyl parts that weren't needed.

And there were so many.

It wastes a lot of vinyl, but I couldn't see any other way around it. It turns out that my first wasted cut would have been wasted anyway because I forgot to set my blade pressure to LOW, so it cut right through the vinyl and the sticker backing paper. Doy.

I was able to correct that for my next calendar.

Here is my calendar ready to have the transfer paper applied. By the way, I see no way to transfer this grid without the transfer paper. It's the only way to keep the lines straight and keep the calendar from becoming distorted through stretching.

I didn't take pictures of me transferring the transfer paper to the design because that stuff is like fly paper, and I don't have three hands. I know, excuses.

I was a little excited when I was pulling my excess vinyl away, and I made this little boo boo. Not to worry, it can be fixed later. I just need to fit a small scrap piece over the cut and no one will ever know.

I'm calling this picture "Man Does Multi-task." It's Peanut Head eating a doughnut while helping me to tape the calendar grid up so it's level.

Here I'm getting ready to pull the sticker backing paper away and slowly apply the calendar grid. It doesn't pay to rush this part.

S-l-o-w-l-y, slowly said the sloth.

Pretty slick, eh?

You may have noticed that this calendar grid only covers three weeks. That's really not a problem for me, as I have no plans to add numbers for days or even a month label. It will simply serve as a plan as I go menu plan, and just having three weeks done at a time will keep me super happy.

If you wanted it to be four weeks, you could easily cut little vinyl strips to extend the boxes into the area left for a title. I'm not planning on using that part anyway.

In fact, I just amputated it. It just takes up space. I know it's my menu plan, I don't need a title on it. Space is precious on my refrigerator.

Next, I cut out days of the week and put them on. It's a little squished in the Wednesday region, but it's such a cumbersome day of the week, isn't it?

The last step was to make my menu choices. I just typed six choices to a 4x6 print, layered on top of digital scrap booking paper, then cut my squares to 1.75 inches, mounted them on a layer of card stock, and laminated them to protect them from kitchen mishaps.

Then I applied a piece of magnet left over from my bazeeeeeellion magnetic bookmarks, and I was in business.

Pretty nifty, eh?

Now I think I'm ready to conquer the whole World Peace problem.

Since I first posted this, I have found someone will make this menu grid for you for just $9.50. If you want to buy one for yourself, go read this post for the details.

If you want a way to store your extra menu magnets instead of on the fridge, go read this post.


  1. Well, if I lived next door, I'd just come take a picture of yours and post it to my fridge. Wow, I'm impressed!!!


  2. Yeah I have the white board and have to spit on a tissue to wipe it clean when it's a new week. Le sigh. Now I need to go buy that Cricut Cartridge, I think it needs to be added to my collection! :) Love it! It's so pretty!

  3. JILL! This is SO stinkin' cool!!! I absolutely NEED to have one just like it!!! ... oh crap, I don't have a cricut, a cartridge, vinyl or a laminator and I definitely don't know algebra. *sigh* I just knew it could possibly, maybe, absolutely be useful someday!

  4. I have the same enormous problem you do! I loathe the menu planning because I change things during the week and this would be perfect. I may need to lift this idea from you. You're brilliant!

  5. That is just lovely! We should all be so luck to have one.

  6. Very smart! I may have to copy that idea.

  7. That is the coolest menu plan ever! Love the idea of vinyl on the fridge too. I know how aggravating comments about teachers can be....I'm married to one. Anyone that thinks they work too few hours, have too much time off, or are overpaid are idiots.

  8. How much would you charge?? hint hint

  9. I wish I had your immense creativity! You are a craft goddess!

    Now, as much as I would love to have that gorgeous menu planning tool, I doubt it would actually help me to menu plan because I HATE to do it!

  10. This gave me TONS of great ideas! Thanks!

  11. LOVE IT!!!! I was just looking at my menu board wondering what I could change. I would so jump on this but my fridge is recessed into a cabinet area and the sides are unusable. Such wasted space.

  12. so I did a similar thing using your popsicle sticks chore chart for inspiration, um but I totally like this one better so i guess now I am off to redo.. again!

  13. love it! love it! love it!

    heres how to solve your trial and error problem with he sizes- get design studio. pretty simple to use. cheap to buy on ebay (think $25) and it prevents these mis-sizing mishaps. :)

    now... onto the fact that you bought a $40 lite cart. it irritates me to no end that you can ONLY get these at dumb walmart for $40. I havent even paid $40 for a FULL cartridge for almost 2 years! ok, ill step off my soap box now and admit that I have been eyeballing this one for various reasons. One being that my 5 year old needs a chore chart and now number 2 has just become the need to make this menu planner :)

  14. you are amazing and as soon as I'm done building my craft room so that my cricut has a home, I'm going to go through your blog one post at a time and go a little crazy. :-P

    That's an awesome menu planner!

  15. I really, REALLY need one of these! And I agree with Beth - how much would you charge??

  16. Jill.. Goodness you are so talanted!!!! I have the same problem!!... I still use your MENU that you put up last year. I laminated it and its great xcept, like you were saying, the adjusting of menu's. Would you be willing to put the menu names that you made up so i can print them out in photo's then cut them apart and make magnets? I dont have the other things (cricut et) to make the outline thing BUT i could just adjust the magnets in a row. That wold be such a timesaver rather than re-writing over and over and over :) Thanks!! Bonnie

  17. OMG I almost just wet myself at the 'Man does multi task' photo! What a fab idea! (the planner not the multi tasking man, that could be dangerous) Now I am feeling all bad because the menu planning system I had in place has fallen by the wayside and I am never prepared when it is shopping time. So now I am going to have to revive and re-do mine! Thanks for the kick start ;)

  18. That is fabulous!
    I bet it is such a relief to see that you have a plan for dinner. The family loves it too I bet!

  19. That. is. GENIUS.

    Of course you have all the time in the world to do such fancy projects, you're a teacher!! ;-)

    BAAAH! Just kidding of course. I hate that crap, too. I'm a sub, and I see what teachers do. aye craumba!

  20. Once again you make a mundane task into something amazing. You have inspired me to get creative again...Thanks.

  21. ((((((Love))))) your comment about teaching and the cushy schedule. I teach Kindergarten and ALWAYS get that comment. (That it's cushy that is!) I ONLY spend 6 hours at school, then even more working on things at home and I'm 1/2 day :)
    Love the menu planning idea. Can't wait till summer when I have time to make one!!

  22. traveling through the blog-o-sphere, i found your blog. i'm so glad i did!

    i love this. i can totally relate to your "control-freaked-ness" and i am really considering doing this myself!!!!!

    thanks for the great idea!

  23. JILL! From one teacher to another you totally inspire me! I wish I had time to make one of those =) thanks for sharing!!!


  24. Monteray Jack Chicken? I'll be over on Thursday. I hope you have enough for a guest.

  25. This is awesome. I love that you have all the squares to pick from right there. I need to get my recipes organized. Yours are so yummy, but I need more for a flat tummy. Thanks for sharing!

  26. Thanks so much for sharing this idea! I just did one for my fridge and posted it on my blog:
    LOVE it!

  27. THIS is the MOST AWESOME thing EVER!!!!!

  28. A friend of mine repinned this on pinterest. Gotta say:

    I adore you.

  29. Is over Of..... Part over Whole = % over 100..... Made me snicker... I agree with you on the teacher part... our 6th graders have been learning proportions... and I've drilled the 'formula' into their brains for weeks now.

    Love, love, love the vinyl thing!! I've been trying to figure out how to do something like that myself. You just made my life sooooo much simpler...


    PS... Good luck on the end of the year stuff.... my last is Monday... the you know, that oh so 'free' summer...

  30. Hi, I just found my way over here from a Pinterest PIN of your magnetic menu planner. What a genius idea!! I've been doing menu planning intermittently for a couple of years. When I'm doing it I know it works but I sometimes find I fall out of the habit. This is a great idea to make things easier (plus it totally appeals to that part of me that likes making the cool stuff to help me get organised more than I actually like getting organised! LOL).


  31. Super cute! ordered the grids! But I noticed a meal on there called Monterrey Jack Chicken! It's not on your blog! It sounds yum!

  32. Adorable! Couldn't you have used black electrical tape?

  33. I loved this idea. Ordered the grid (it arrived yesterday), so now I just need to print our favorite meals and turn them into magnets. Thanks for such a great idea!

  34. Wow! GREAT idea! This is my first time on your site; I saw it from a Pin on Pinterest. Love it!

  35. Love the idea! Here's a suggestion... what about putting ingredient lists on the back of the magnets to help with grocery lists when preparing???

  36. Wow- what an absolutely fantastic idea! Your recipes sound delish, but mostly I love your system.

  37. Not to be a suck-up, but I adore teachers. ;) And now, you have taught me something GENIUS that I am so thankful for. wait, I think I mean: For which I am thankful. whew!

  38. Found you on Pinterest! Love this idea- especially love that you found someone that is now making it and I dont have to. :)

    New follower- cant wait to read more!


  39. Hi. I am the co-creator of the Stick To It! Magnetic Menu Planner, a ready-made magnetic menu planning solution. Although your idea is adorable and functional, many like myself aren't in the position to create something like that either due to lack of skill or equipment. We decided to create our planners and make them available for sale after we realized that it was cost prohibitive to make just one, two, or even five. I believe our planner is a great option for folks and would be thrilled if you'd be willing to share a link to our website. Thank you so much for helping to ease dinner time chaos!

  40. Love the concept of magnets for ease. I'm constantly trying new recipes, but I guess I could have "new recipe" magnets for those days. Thanks for sharing! Visiting from I Heart Organizing link party.

  41. Hi, I'm new here, from the Iheart organising link. Using the side of the fridge is a great idea. I too thought the unused dinner cards would make me squirm from the cluttered look but your solution is just perfect.

  42. Hi,
    Always love to see home made ingenuity creating a meal planner. :) I am part of a mompreneur team that actually sells magnetic menu planners at a fraction of the price most people will spend trying to create on at home. (and with a high guage magnet, which is important!) So come on by and take a look - we are all about making life easier for moms! And maybe sometime you could guest blog for us. :)
    Happy Planning!

  43. I just started following you because this post that I saw on Pinterest :) I love organization!

  44. One of my girlfriends had this posted up on her pinterest. I'm thinking about using your idea except instead of making my own chart with a cricut (a little out of my price range) I'm thinking about using one of the magnetic whiteboard calendars sold at WalMart and using the magnetic menu pieces :) thanks for the idea :D


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