Monday, January 04, 2021

How I Meal Plan + Meal Planning Tips

I first started meal planning when I was 16. I was in charge of buying groceries and I only had so much money to spend with my part-time job, so I had to learn how to stretch my paycheck to feed myself, my mom, and my brother. We didn't have access to internet unless we went to the library, so I didn't really know meal planning was a thing at all. I just realized that I had to buy just what we needed for each meal and some breakfast and snacks, but nothing extra. I figured out that I had to check what we had on hand at any given time, so I didn't buy extra.


So even before adulthood, I was meal planning and I did it in an effort to stick to a budget. Throughout my adult life, I have continued to meal plan as a way to not waste food and money. So I always highly recommend meal planning to anyone. It truly is a good habit to adopt. It saves money, you don't waste as much food, and it also saves time as well because you don't have to figure out what's for dinner.

I started sharing my meal plan regularly in 2014, so I have shared 6 years of weekly meal plans! If you noticed last Monday's post, I shared that it was my final MPM. Of course, I'm going to continue to meal plan, but it's a lot of work getting it all on the blog and I'm switching to a new schedule of 3 posts a week to minimize all the time I spend on this hobby. I don't want to quit because I love blogging but I need to limit the amount of effort it takes to run this blog. I decided to make a comprehensive meal plan post.

How I meal plan:

I didn't start out meal planning specifically the way I do now, but I cannot imagine doing it any other way now that I've nailed what works for us. When I first started, I had a piece of notebook paper that I wrote down all the food I knew how to make and then I would plan from there. Now that I have hoarded hundreds of recipes and also blogged hundreds of recipes, I just pull up my blog or my Pinterest boards and I have a blank calendar that I print out and fill out by hand. I do put my meal plan in my bullet journal and I also have a whiteboard on my fridge that shows a week at at time that I fill out.


I currently do "theme" nights. That sounds way fancier than it actually is. So here is my schedule:

Mon: Pasta

Tue: Mexican food

Wed: Soup

Thu: Asian food or an old favorite

Fri: Pizza or Burgers (alternate them)

Weekend: Crockpot or recipe that takes longer to make (like meatloaf or pot roast) + a Leftovers night


In addition to having the themes, I alternate proteins. So on my pizza weeks, I start out with a chicken/poultry recipe, then Tuesday will be a beef/pork/sausage recipe. I've been doing more substitution of ground turkey for beef, but still for the most part I do poultry then red meat. I used to do a meatless night as well.

I know a lot of people scoff at me for meal planning a whole month. I get questions of "what if you don't feel like eating that food that night?" "What if you don't have time to make that recipe?" My meal plan is not so set in stone that I can't change it when I need to. There have definitely been instances where I'll plan for a recipe and then cannot get ingredients - like stuffed zucchini for example. I cannot tell you the amount of times I couldn't find zucchini for a recipe. Sometimes, we'll have way too busy of a night and we'll grab fast food. Totally fine. I'll either scrap a recipe or make it later in the week. I have yet to have a night where I don't want to eat a food. That's where I believe variety comes in handy.

My favorite meal planning tips: 

Recipes should be easily accessible - whether that's a binder, your cookbooks, a Pinterest board, or a notebook with what you know how to make


Write it down - that seems obvious, but have a way to record what you are making whether that's on a piece of paper, in a planner, on a whiteboard, in a digital app.


Variety - I plan a month at a time, but you can do what works for you, but a big tip I have is to switch it up. If you have Taco Tuesday every day of the week, you're going to get sick of it. I do specific types of recipes on certain days, as I said above. I alternate proteins.

Take inventory - Write down all the ingredients you need and then scour your kitchen to see what you do have and don't need to buy. I have absolutely been guilty of buying entirely too much sugar because I forgot to check my pantry. Or buying another spice that I already had.


To find past meal plans:

You can see all of my past meal plans by clicking "Menu Plan Monday" at the bottom of the page OR click here. I will say that I cannot guarantee all the recipes will be available. Some are linked to my blog, a lot are linked to other blogs - those blogs may have switched names, ceased to exist, etc. So hopefully most of them are still working links!

To follow my current month's meal plan:

I still use my Pinterest to keep my meal plan recipes in one place that is easily accessible to pull up when I prep and make dinner. My Meal Plan board. If you're curious what foods I'm making in the current month, it will always be there!

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave me a comment!

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