Meal planning can be hard if you don’t have the right tools. I’m going to show you how easy it is to plan meals with Google Calendar.
To be honest, I keep more than just meals organized with Google Calendar. I organize my entire life with it. Not only do I keep tabs on of all kinds of deadlines and appointments that can’t be missed, but I also track my fitness routine and college homework assignments. (When’s that chemistry paper due?) There are chores to knock out, lists to make and errands to run.
Some people can keep it all straight on paper. I just can’t. I’ve tried. It’s really hard to fit everything in one planner. In frustration, I’ve ended up using multiple planners in an effort to keep everything organized. Who has time to keep three or four different planners up to date? Plus, I hate scribbling down super-repetitive details and then trying to remember what comes next.
This is why I started using Google Calendar. It does all the grunt work for me!
It’s easy to get started with meal planning and once you set up your meal plan you can LEAVE IT and never worry about it again.
Have you been where I’ve been? Since you’re reading this, chances are you have. Don’t be discouraged. I will show you how to simplify with Google Calendar in five quick and easy steps.
- I’ll show you how to create new calendars that can be viewed individually or all together.
- I’ll show you how to use one of those calendars to organize all your meals for days, weeks or months. When I say “everlasting” I do mean that you can set it up to repeat into infinity!
- I’ll show you how to save all your recipes within your meal plan for instant access. Never misplace one again!
- I’ll show you how easy it is to prepare for a new week of meals by compiling your grocery list inside Google Calendar.
- Last but not least, I’ll show you how to access your meal plan and recipes from your smartphone or tablet.
Take a Peek At My Calendar Set Up
Before I give you the whats what, take some time to examine my Google Calendar interface (pictured below). If you’re unfamiliar with it, here’s your chance to see what the inside looks like.
To use Google Calendar, you will need to set up a login. Here’s a link to directions on how to do that.
On the left side of the screen is a section called “My Calendars.” This is your control panel for accessing all your calendars. When you click on a calendar, that calendar information will appear in the middle portion of the screen. If you select multiple calendars, all the information from those calendars will squeeze itself into the middle portion of this screen. I highly recommend you view one at a time. It’s a lot less confusing!
Now as you can see from the picture, I have a special calendar called “My Menu.” It is checked and since my other calendar is unchecked, so you can only see My Menu in the middle portion of the screen. This is a special calendar that I added and it does not come standard. I will show you how I did it.
Step 1: Add a New Calendar
Go to the very top of your screen and click the icon that appears in the right-hand corner. A drop-down menu will appear. Select “Settings.”
Upon loading the Settings page, click Add Calendar and then click New Calendar on the left side of the screen.
A new page will load and there will be a place for a calendar name and description. My Menu. Meal Plan. Name it whatever you want. After entering this information, click “Create Calendar” in the lower right-hand corner.
A little pop-up at the bottom of your screen will appear once the new calendar saves. Now click on the big back arrow in the top left corner of your settings screen to return to the Google Calendar main screen.
Your new calendar will appear in the “my calendars” list on the left-hand side of the page.
Key Note: Before adding items to your fancy new meal calendar, make sure it’s checked in “my calendars” and make sure that the other calendars are unchecked! This is an important step to keep calendar items from getting accidentally added to the wrong calendars.
Step 2: Add Meals to Your New Calendar
To add items, click the red plus button located in the lower-right corner of the mid-screen. This will bring up a “New Event” window.
At the top of the window, enter the name of your meal.
Below that, enter your mealtime. The picture above is just an example. I set up all my breakfasts for 6:30 AM, all my lunches for 12:00 NOON, and all my dinners for 6:00 PM. Figure out what times work best for your family.
Next, enter how you would like your meal to self-propagate. I absolutely LOVE this feature! I can set up a meal plan that repeats itself so I can focus on doing things like homework and spending time with my family!
Example: I can add my Yogurt and Granola Snack on a particular date/time and then tell the calendar to repeat this meal weekly, monthly or on a custom schedule of my choice. There are so many options!
If I planned my meals on paper I would have to repeat the process each and every week. I’m a nursing student so I don’t have time for repetitive tasks. I need all the time I can get. So I’m willing to put in a little legwork now if that means I won’t have to worry about meal planning down the road.
Note: Your meal plan may feel a bit boring at first, especially if you don’t put all your meals in right away. Don’t worry about that. Just keep adding new meals as you find them and your meal plan will grow. The goal is to have about two months of meals planned. At that point the meals auto-cycle and there are enough of them to avoid monotony.
Moving on. Let’s talk about that big grey box at the bottom of the screen that says “Add Description.”
Step 3: Keeping Track of Recipes
I’d like to shout to everyone about the “Add Description” section. This is a GREAT feature! So you’ve put in your meal title and scheduled it to repeat to your heart’s content, but what will happen when the time comes to actually prepare that meal? You’re going to need the recipe!
Why bother with an extra step when you can put everything you need right here! Just copy-paste the whole recipe from whatever website you stole it from (Lez-be-honest) into this box.
Don’t forget to click the BIG BLUE SAVE BUTTON when you’re finished. Voila!
When mealtime comes, pull up the Google Calendar app on smartphones and tablets OR access the calendar’s website from your computer’s web browser. Click and open the meal to view your recipe!
Step 4: Shopping for Ingredients
At the end of my week, I access Google Calendar and look at what meals are set up for the following week.
Important Tech Note: Access Google Calendar through your computer’s web browser. This step cannot be done through the Google Calendar App on a smartphone or tablet. (I will explain everything in a “Sad Tech Note” later on.)
On the left side of the screen, make sure that “My Menu” and “Tasks” are checked. Checking the tasks box activates a panel of list options on the right side of the calendar. Here’s an example of what this looks like.
Click on each recipe you’ll be making during the week. Look through the ingredients and add items you need to the shopping list on the right side of the screen.
Bonus Infos: One great thing about “Tasks” is that you can create multiple lists. I have a separate list for groceries, shopping, homework assignments, and to-do items.
Once I’ve completed my ingredients check, I simply snap a picture of the grocery list with my cell phone and off I go.
Sad Tech Note: I’ve dug in deep and there is simply no way as-of-yet to view “Tasks” from the Google Calendar app. It shows up on my MacBook Pro because I’m accessing Google Calendar through the Chrome internet browser. I hope the developers will fix this soon. Plenty of people complain about it. For now, just snap a picture of any shopping lists you create. Everything else in Google Calendar is completely accessible from the app.
Step 5: Accessing Recipes from a Smart Phone or Tablet
First of all, make sure you’ve downloaded the Google Calendar app. For iOS users, you can find it in the “App Store.” If you use Android, visit the “Play Store.”
Once it is on your phone, just log in to your Google Calendar account. If you already started creating a calendar on another device, it will show up automatically. If it doesn’t, you may be logged in to the wrong account.
Here’s what Google Calendar looks like on my iPhone.
Tap the three lines in the upper left corner to access the list of all your calendars and to change how you view your calendar (day, week, month etc.) My custom calendars didn’t show up automatically so I had to tap on “show more” and then I could see them.
To view a recipe, tap the title. A pop up will appear. If you added your recipe in the big grey box, you’ll be able to see the whole thing in this pop-up preview. Quite handy.
Tech Note: Make sure to program your device to stay awake for longer periods of time. I suggest setting it to a 15 minute wake time. It’s annoying to constantly have to touch your phone while you’re cooking to keep it from going to sleep. Plus it gets your phone all grubby.
Let Me Know If You Discover Other Handy Ways to Use this Program
I hope this tutorial has been helpful. I’m sure I haven’t thought of everything. If you discover other handy ways to use Google Calendar, feel free to share in the comments below.
If you’d like to see other food-related projects I’m working on, follow me on the Facebook. I also post food-pics on Instagram and my name on there is “kaylacooksblog”.
Best of luck to you in all your meal planning endeavors!