Meal planning in 8 easy steps

If you’re a longtime reader of my blog it should come as no surprise that I am a planning junkie.  Earlier this week, I was talking to one of my good friends about her weekly meal planning.  She admitted to not really having one; she takes the approach of buying staples and then planning day to day.  The type-A in me cringes at the thought of that, though that’s not to say that my way is necessarily the right way for everyone.  It’s right for me.  And it might be right for you, which is why I’m sharing.  For me, meal planning is done in eight easy steps.  Here they are:

1. Start a list – Every Thursday I start with a fresh sheet of note paper and list the days of the week, from Friday to Thursday.

2. Consult the calendar – From there, I check my schedule for the week ahead.  If I have late afternoon appointments or activities scheduled, I make a mental note that dinner for that night will need to be quick and easy.

3. Plug in tried and true favorites – Below the days of the week I’ve written on my list, I write a random selection of go-to meals.  I have certain guidelines that I try to stay within, including: at least three days of meatless meals, at least two days of Mexican (a family favorite), at least one grilled meal during summer months, etc.

4. Fill the gaps – Each week, I plan to cook one or two new-to-us recipes.  This step accounts for the lengthiest part of my meal planning because I have a tendency to get sucked into Pinterest and my favorite foodie blogs; it can be a might bit distracting.  The good news, though, is that there is no shortage of options out there for the cuisine curious like me.

5. Assign meals to a specific day – With my list of chosen meals in place, I begin assigning each meal to a specific day.  If a recipe looks particularly complicated, I make sure to assign it to a weekend night when I have more time to play around in the kitchen.  This is also when I recall the schedule for the week ahead and attempt to plug quick and easy meals into over-scheduled evenings.

6. Specify ingredients – For the most part, I can take a quick glance at our tried and true meal favorites and come up with a list of ingredients for those meals off the top of my head.  But for new-to-us meals, I carefully read through the ingredient list and make a note of what I need to pick up at the store.  I do this on the reverse side of my list.

7. Snap a picture – My techie husband is the genius behind this step.  I had a bad habit of, ahem, misplacing my list en route from store to store (we grocery shop at three or four places).  To remedy this, Jeff insisted that I take a picture of my list so that in the likely event I lost it, my list was readily accessible.  Works like a charm, though I’m not about to give him the satisfaction of being right.  Again.

8. Post the menu – After grocery shopping (and assuming the list is still in my possession) I post the list-turned-menu to the side of the fridge.  Jeff checks it each night during his nightly trash run and if the next evening’s meal requires meat from the freezer, he sticks it in the fridge to thaw overnight.  Beyond that, a certain food-centric little miss checks the menu every morning to see what’s for dinner that night.

Voila.  Easy and efficient.  What does your meal planning look like?

Other posts in my This is the Way we… series include:
This is the way we…lunch
This is the way we…clean up
This is the way we…eat

10 Replies to “Meal planning in 8 easy steps”

  1. I have been working to plan more, it is a must do that has always slipped to the wayside. I think I just got sick of eating at 8pm because I didn’t think ahead of time :)

  2. Ok…so I have to admit, I am probably more like your friend. We DO plan our meals on Sundays (grocery day) for the week ahead, but I need to be better about trying new things, making better lists, etc! We also tend to eat out a bit more on days when we are heavily scheduled!

  3. I think I need a professional planner … interested? Ha!! Afraid I always have good intentions but don’t seem to carry them out. But, I don’t have a family of 6 to feed – that would be different.

  4. I do several of the same things. Most of the time. Summer is more day-by-day because of freedom of schedule. But once school and sports start we have to know ahead of time what we are eating. And we grill probably 4 times a week!

  5. I am always honored to be mentioned in your posts, even if it is due to my inability to meal plan, but I did actually plan it for the following week because we will have a visitor. At least I’m not like my mother-in-law who sends her husband out to the grocery store almost every day….. Thats just craziness!

  6. Thanks for the inspiration.

    We go through “seasons” where we are very organized about meal-planning…and then other months when we throw things together at the last minute. The former option is definitely less stressful.

    Our family eats meatless meals on most days of the week as well. Salads, cheese quesadillas, roasted veggies + potatoes, fresh bread + fruit, etc. Eating “simply” is our style.

    You mentioned Mexican meals. Do you have a good enchiladas recipe? Please share!

  7. Oh yeah, I’m a meal planner! I just wrote about this in my last blog post (it’s a Whole30/Paleo blog post, but I took a photo of my meal chart). Yup, I have a chart made up of go-to meals and I consult it weekly, look at my calendar and plan out my meals once a week, like you. I grocery shop on Mondays, so I plan my meals on Sunday nights or Monday morning.

  8. We meal plan on Sundays right after we eat dinner. Every one in the family gets to pick one meal from the “master list” and then we fill in the rest according to what we have left in the fridge that can be made into meals and how many busy nights we have ahead of us. We are trying to branch out and make new recipes.

    This works for us during the school year, but the summer seems to be more difficult for us to have discipline and then we eat out more than we should. My organization though is sadly lacking and I appreciate these posts which truly give me inspiration!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.