In Case Your Chef is On Vacation…

… make sure to have a handy calendar that tells you what’s on the menu what you need to put together for dinner. This has been my realization after two sources of inspiration: 1- a crafty paint chip wall calendar demonstrated on my fav daytime show The Chew (DVR) and 2- a post about making a monthly meal plan by Deme over at Fresh Coat of Paint. So, my brain said, colorful calendar for my kitchen involving pocketing extra paint chips at HD + hyperorganization to make dinner plans easy for weeks to come = my brand of crazy savvy! I was even more delighted to come across this neato openable frame with a hidden pocket at Target to create my calendar. The basic idea is that you can write on the glass inside any picture frame using a dry erase marker, making it a totally erasable customizable calendar frame…

frame

The calendar takes shape by choosing an array of *free* paint chips in any color or collection of colors that suits your taste. I trimmed mine down to a matching size using my very handy paper cutter (from Michael’s… prob around $8, use a coupon), that would ultimately fit 7 days across and 4 down on the size frame I bought (12 by 15 inches in my case).

slicing chips

According to Clinton Kelley, double stick tape is the way to go to attach each paint chip ‘day’ on your calendar. It worked well for me, so I’d say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I remember he mentioned that glues cause the paint chips to get that wave in them, which makes sense since they actually aren’t designed for making free crafts (what?). For the backing, you could use a nice piece of large scrapbook paper or posterboard/card stock here, but I was in a hurry and just stuck these to the back of the paper insert that was in the frame when I bought it. Yup, has a little picture of kid’s artwork and a barcode on the other side.

tape and layout

Then for the crazy organization part. I promise it seems kind of OCD, but it is so great! I cannot tell you how much I dread that “What are we doing for dinner tonight?” question in the evening after a long day of commuting, working all day, commuting back… when I have no plan and neither does Chad. We stare blankly and complain about having no food in the house, even thought we grocery shop every week. The problem was we grocery shopped kind of aimlessly and cooked mainly on the weekend which only got us until about Tuesday when we have no food again somehow… you know the drill. So I scribbled down a list of meals that are more involved that I know we like cooking to put into weekend slots and the weeknights I know we have time for cooking. And then put meals that are quick and easy but still reasonably healthy (that are not cereal or peanut butter toast) for quick weeknight dinners when we have other things going on (yoga for me, boxing for Chad, late night at work, etc). Several nights get to be leftovers from the more serious cooking episodes and Fridays are always our night out. Voila. Deme discusses her family’s meal plan here, the first of a three part series, if you want some more details and inspiration!

the plan

Side bar- I realized after a bit of time with the new calendar in action that my frame designed for kids art that I bought for it’s nifty opening/closing, hidden pocket feature also came with a super cheap plastic (safer for kids)  insert which the dry erase marker was a bit more annoying to rub off of. So, new piece of glass cut by the good people of Lowe’s solved this conundrum for about $5 and we’re back in business. I’ve been told Home Depot doesn’t custom cut glass for you, but Lowe’s will.

glass insert

Anywho, with the paint chips in place, glass in place, number your calendar with a dry erase marker writing directly on the glass, assign the days of the week and fill in your meal plan! Now we don’t have to think about what we’re eating for 4 weeks at a time! I just look ahead a day or two and make sure a trip to the grocery store is made to fulfill any extra recipe needs, etc. I find the quick, targeted trip to the grocery store during the week to be far less painful than the aimless long one that usually happens on the weekend. You could also just buy everything you need for your week ahead on the weekend if you really want to have everything in advance. Different strokes…

numbered calendar

So, before we hang this up, and to make this a real marathon of a post, do you remember how our rental kitchen looked on the naked wall before the kitchen island was added, just kind of sad and empty (and more importantly, lacking any function) like this?

blank wall2

Well, after the island, I finally got to hang up my IKEA Grundtal rail as well, which made a huge difference in storage space getting our most used pots and pans out of the cupboards. We had a rail like this at our house in Pittsburgh too and it was so handy- easy access to make cooking seem even simpler. We also removed the crusty old phone and replace its plate with a plain, flat white cover plate…

wall w pot rack

… which I was then able to cover mostly with the new calendar! Doesn’t this wall look purposeful and cozy now? I must tell you I thought the meal planning thing might bust quickly, but after having it in operation a few weeks I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how both us really look to the calendar to find out, oh, ok tomorrow we’re going to make tacos- can’t wait! Maybe it’s something about the ‘needing direction’ mentality we’re programmed for or something? Best of all, no one asks, “So what’s for dinner tonight?” eliminating the need for irrational weeknight despair about dinner. 🙂 (yes, I know there is still an ugly wood switch plate on the wall— I’m debating what to do as they are all over the main level and it’s another issue of investing $ in a rental? beige switches, beige plates… but white trim… indecision, indecision…)

finished wall

Almost forgot to show you the nifty hidden pocket in this frame- perfect place to tuck recipes I have printed off the web that I reuse over and over. More stuff to make life easier! Love.

calendar opens

Does anyone else use a system for planning dinners in advance? We’ve only used this for dinner since we usually just pack sandwiches and simple lunches for work 5 days a week. Anyone made a paint chip calendar? I think the two ideas just go lovely together, as I’m so happy to have my previously purposeless wall all filled out with importance and organization now 🙂

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6 thoughts on “In Case Your Chef is On Vacation…

  1. What a neat idea! My failure to make a meal plan is a major reason why Blaine and I end up eating out (and eating not so healthy) much of the time. This is a great organizer and would eliminate so many trips to the grocery store or take-out restaurant.

    • It really seems bizarre to me how wonderful it actually has been! I don’t know why we need to leave ourselves instructions on what to eat, but when your brain is tired, that little bit of help on the kitchen wall is priceless!

  2. Lindsey I am soooo impressed. I have to make that. That daily decision drives me nuts too. Excellent post daughter!

    • I don’t know what it is about that daily decision, but it is quite freeing to have the calendar decide for you 🙂 Tonight is grilled sandwich night… Gruyere chz, tomatoes, salad, yum…

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