Organizing Your Kitchen for Easy Meal Planning

by Lyn Marsteller on March 29, 2012

This post is part of our ongoing Year of GO (Get Organized) series, written by professional organizing experts who show you how to tackle clutter in one room or area of your home.

By Jill Hively

This month’s National Nutrition Month® theme is Get Your Plate in Shape. This annual celebration is a good reminder to re-evaluate the nutrition goals you’ve set for yourself and your family.  (Don’t have nutrition goals?  Let’s get started now!)

An easy, budget-friendly way to make gradual, sustainable improvements to your family’s eating habits is to plan meals to eat at home.  The beauty of dining at home is that you have the ultimate say about the ingredients in your meals and the methods used to prepare them.  And the best part is that you don’t have to be a trained chef or dietitian to make it work.  You simply need an understanding of your family’s preferences, your goals and a space that supports those goals.

Set up a meal planning center

House all of your meal planning tools and resources in one area—it could be a drawer, a pantry shelf or a binder on the counter.  Be sure to include:

  • Recipes
  • Coupons (if you use them)
  • Previous meal plans (for inspiration)
  • An ongoing grocery list (to record an item when you’ve run out)

Designate a place to display your weekly menu

It’s easier to commit to a plan when it’s written out—and you can direct any “What’s for dinner?” questions to the board.  How great is that?  It could be on the refrigerator or maybe the back side of a cabinet door.

Stock for easy inventory

To avoid wasting money on duplicate purchases or expired foods, you want to make sure you can easily see what you already have on hand:

  •  Turn labels to face out
  • Add tiered risers and/or lazy susans to deep shelving
  • Use baskets as drawers

Keep like with like

This basic organizing principle is important in meal planning.  To get started, think of the aisles in your favorite grocery store.  You can set up similar “departments” at home—produce, crackers, frozen veggies, etc.  You can also take it one step further and designate specific shelves in your refrigerator for snacks, lunches, leftovers, etc.

Which tips could you tackle this month to move you toward your family’s nutrition and meal planning goals?

Jill Hively is a registered dietitian and meal planning consultant in Apex, North Carolina. In her workbook Jumpstart Your Family’s Meal Plan, she encourages families to head back to the dining room table one grocery list at a time. To learn more about Jill’s meal planning philosophy (and her slight obsession with food safety), visit You can also follow Jill on Facebook and Twitter.

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