We Just Discovered the Easiest Meal Planning Strategy Ever

Looking for a meal plan you can actually stick to? With a foolproof system like the bullet journal, you'll be a meal planning pro in no time.

close up of woman writing her journalPhoto: Shutterstock / EM Karuna

Meal planning can be hard to stay on top of, but with a foolproof strategy like the bullet journal, you’ll be meal prepping like a pro before you know it. With a clear, tangible system of upcoming meals and prep days, this efficient tool will revolutionize the way you plan meals. Grab a blank notebook and a pen, and let’s get started.

What’s a Bullet Journal?

A cross between a diary, a to-do list and a planner, the bullet journal (aka bojo, a term we’ve been seeing splashed all over newsfeeds) helps you streamline multiple lists of tasks into one comprehensive notebook. The idea is to jot down quick notes—basically a brain dump of everything you need to do—then mark them with corresponding symbols to help categorize each note (find them below). Though most meal-planning strategies are helpful in the short term, this system is specifically designed to outline goals by the day, week, month and even further in the future.

How to Use a Bullet Journal for Meal Planning

If you love making lists, a bullet journal may be just what you need to conquer meal planning. Each week, start a log page that is titled with the dates, and then list the days of the week down the lefthand side of the page. For each log page, make a list of the things you want to prep next to the day you want to prep them, plus other cooking-related reminders. That way, you can list things you want to prep in advance (for future meals), plus outline the dinners you want to eat each night.

For example, let’s say you want to have turkey meatloaf on Monday, chicken and broccoli stir-fry on Tuesday, Buffalo chicken wraps on Wednesday, and so on. Write the meal next to the corresponding day of the week and the list of prep tasks next to the day you plan to prep them—either the day of, or Sunday when you can do big-batch meal prep for the week ahead. Keep a running grocery list on the bottom righthand corner, too.

Use your bullet journal to meet future goals, too. Schedule your holiday baking before Christmas this year, mark family birthdays so you’ll be prepared to host, and jot down friends’ due dates so you’re sure to have a few freezer dinners prepped for them when the new baby arrives. You can use your bullet journal to help hone your cooking skills, too. Make a monthly goal to check off an item on your baking bucket list, for example.

What Do the Symbols Mean?

The symbol system is what makes the bullet journal unique from other to-do lists. These markings help you keep a clear diary of tasks you’ve already completed and tasks you’ve still yet to do, because you can see them all in one place. Even if you’ve completed a task, you can still turn back to it after the fact.

  Bullets are for items you still need to do. Every task you add will start out with a bullet (hence the name).

X  When you’ve finished a task—say, grocery shopping, big-batch meal prep or cleaning up after dinner—write an X through the bullet.

<  If you’ve scheduled a task—such as hosting a party or taking a cooking class—mark it with a less-than symbol.

>  If you’ve decided to save the task for a future week or month—like if you’re postponing the pot roast you planned—mark it with a greater than symbol.

O  Write an O next to events. For example, note that you have a business lunch so you don’t brown-bag it that day.

  Even if they’re not to-do’s, you might want to jot down notes to yourself in your bullet journal, too. Use a dash for reminders like “Jenn is allergic to shellfish” on a day when you’re hosting friends for dinner.

Meal planning is a healthy habit that can save you time, money and calories. Your bullet journal will help you do just that. Now, get planning!

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Laura Denby
Laura is a New York-based freelance food writer with a degree in Culinary Arts from the Institute of Culinary Education and a degree in Journalism from Penn State. Her work has appeared in Taste of Home, Chowhound, the Culture Trip and Patch.