Tuesday, December 10, 2013

How to: Meal Plan

Today's topic: Meal Planning

Two weeks ago, I shared with you how I start the meal planning process which includes how I organize my Pinterest boards. Today I want to share with you exactly how I meal plan. Before I figured this whole meal planning thing out, I was a mess. We would come home every night and waste time trying to figure out what we were eating or we would pick up dinner, which would cost us money we shouldn't have spent on food. But after reading lots of different blogs, I sat down one day and planned out meals for the week. It was so easy! Yes, it took some time but once I started I never looked back. It saved us time and money. Since Josh and I both work full time plus extra we need a schedule, it's the only way it will work for us.

Note: Meal planning is not for everyone and not everyone does it the same way. This is the way I do it because it works best for you. Before I was a terrible cook (I think I cooked ten times the first three years we were married) and hated being in the kitchen. But with meal planning and cooking lots of Pioneer Woman recipes, I have come to love it! Josh is rarely in the kitchen today.

One of the many blogs I read when starting the process was Leslie's at Lamberts Lately. Now, Leslie and I don't see eye-to-eye on the meal planning thing--gasp! Totally okay! Everyone does it their own way. But I do take her advice and add it with my meal planning. She taught me an important lesson--"shop from your pantry". What do you have in your pantry that you can use for the week before you go grocery shopping? Leslie is an amazing at using coupons {something I just can't get the hang of} you can read more of her couponing and shopping from the pantry in her post, How to Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half.

There are only a few things I need when meal planning:

1. My computer

2. Paper 

3. Pen

Before I begin, I do a quick straightening in the pantry. This allows the pantry to stay organized {we have a large pantry} and for me to see what I have to work with. I try to pick one or two good items to work with throughout the week. That could be pasta, rice, a few sauces, canned food, etc. I usually know what is in the fridge and freezer but I usually check that after I plan. I also freeze a lot of meals over the summer {I did extra this summer since I was pregnant and knew the meals would be helpful} so I always know what is in my deep freeze and try to use something once a week as well.

Next, I head to Pinterest where I usually get distracted for at least 20 minutes and start the process. I love Crockpot meals. I use my Crockpot {that is currently non-existent because I used it so much it burnt out, so I'm borrowing my mom's extra one} one to two days a week. It's my go-to every week and my lifesaver. I also start in on my Crockpot board and pull at least one from there. We always have frozen chicken so usually it will involve that. Pioneer Woman is another go-to board {yes, she has her own board}. She makes the best food and it's so easy! We both eat a lot of chicken but I try to mix in some kind of other meat twice a week. Josh is not a fan of vegetables which is really hard for me because I could be a vegetarian, so I do have to be careful with some of the recipes I find. Gotta hide those veggies!

Finally after I find five recipes I really like and have read them through, to make sure they're not too time consuming or difficult, I plan for the week and write my grocery list. I always keep the tabs up on my computer so I can see what ingredients I have and need to get.

I'm a visual learner and always need examples, so if you're like me, here is an example of this weeks meal planning:

Gasp! No Crockpot meals! I did two last week!
Chili was made Saturday night for Sunday's dinner and lunches for most of the week
Hamburgers were frozen from the cow my parent's got
Potatoes extra from Thanksgiving in pantry
Meat Sauce for Zitti frozen from summer (great PW recipe!)
Brats from local farmer's market this summer

Sorry it's kind of blurry--didn't have time to fix it!

As you can see, I didn't have a lot on our grocery list. I try to stay around $50-$60 a week. Josh usually buys two big bags of cereal and two gallons of milk--the boy loves his cereal! Some weeks we have an extra big list and have to get more on it. We also have our staples that never change: OJ, bananas, milk, cereal, yogurt, and bread.

Once meal planning is done, J does all the grocery shopping. I don't mind doing it but he enjoys having some quiet time in the evening with his iPod. It's definitely great for me! Together we put the groceries away and I prepare for the week.

Yes, it takes time. Yes, it takes a while to get into the habit of sitting down and writing it out. But for our little family, it's totally worth it! I can usually meal plan and make a grocery list in 15-20 minutes now and I have a good idea of what we have in stock and what we need to get.

This post may not help you at all, but if you're like I was at all hopefully you can get inspired from it...even just a teeny tiny bit. I can't say it enough, if I can do this, you can do this!

Next week I will share with you how I prepare ahead for the week to come!


  1. I LOVE your meal planning posts!! I have been meal planning for quite a while, but I love to see how others plan for their week. Everyone always has some good ideas that I like to incorporate into my planning. Thanks for your great posts!!!

  2. Since it is just me at my house, I don't do a huge meal plan. I usually just pick 2 things to make for the week and then I eat on those throughout the week and then eat a few meals out. Sometimes it is cheaper for one just to eat out some nights. I enjoyed reading about how you plan.