April 7, 2011

Meal Planning

I know some of you have expressed interest in meal planning and grocery shopping lists.  I do this religiously every time I go grocery shopping.  I make a meal plan, make a list, then stick to the list (pretty strictly I might add).  It really helps take the stress out of trying to figure out what is for lunch and dinner because I have so many great options to choose from and KNOW I have all the ingredients on hand to make them.  It also saves my family money because I don’t make those impulse buys at the grocery store too often.  (YES-grocery stores are MARKETING MAGNETS!!!  I watched a whole show on the process of setting up a grocery store to get consumers to spend the most amount of money.)  I thought I would walk you all through my meal planning, grocery shopping prep so that maybe it can help you start meal planning or perhaps tweak the process you already have.  (PS..I am always looking for time/money saving tips for grocery shopping/meal planning so if you have some good info-PLEASE SHARE!!)


See what supplies you already have and maybe find some inspiration from your ingredients

Step 2-Check out local ads and coupons

Maybe you can use an on sale item to offer inspiration or ideas for your meals..PLUS save some $$.

Step 3-Write up your meal plan

I used to do my meal plan day by day but realized that my pregnancy whims and cravings had me switching days around so now I just write up a list of dinner’s and a list of lunches or lunch food.  It also makes it easy because I do NOT cook full blown meals EVERY SINGLE DAY.  Some days I just do the quick lunches or dinner ideas OR  If I make a big dinner the night before I will usually have a day of leftovers.   The goal is NOT to micro manage what we eat every single day, rather just take the stress out of wondering what is for dinner…even if that dinner happens to be grilled ham and cheese, steamed veggies, and fruit…which from time to time does happen and is TOTALLY acceptable.  Here is an example of the meal list I made for this week.


Meal 1

Taco Hotdish (Casserole for those NON Minnesotans), Fresh lettuce salad and Sugar free jello w/fresh strawberries

Meal 2

Chicken Stir Fry w homemade Fried Rice

Meal 3

Turkey burgers, sweet potato fries and watermelon

Meal 4

Corndog Casserole (this is a new recipe I found and decided to try because of Tanner’s LOVE of hotdogs..I’ll let you know how it goes), steamed veggies, and pineapple

Meal  5

Grilled BBQ Chicken, grilled potatoes and asparagus, pasta salad

Meal 6

Homemade chicken noodle soup and homemade bread



Meal 1

Turkey and Swiss wraps and cottage cheese w/fruit

Meal 2

English Muffin Pizzas

Meal 3

Homemade Mac n Cheese w/veggies

Meal 4

Chicken nuggets, steamed broccoli and yogurt

Meal 5

Breakfast for lunch-(Blueberry Pancakes and turkey bacon)


Like I said before..this is just a list of options.  I don’t stick to it like it is LAW.  Sometimes if I am feeling lazy I will even go SUPER crazy and have a lunch options for dinner or vice versa…CRAZY I know. 

STEP 4-Make a Shopping list

Based on your meal plan and what ingredients you already have in stock, make a grocery list.  I like to make categories on a sheet of paper: Produce, Frozen, Meat, Dairy, Canned, and Other.  I write these categories down over the sheet then go through meal by meal and write down the ingredients I will need in the right category.  It makes it easier to grocery shop rather than having a laundry list of random items sprawled over the page.  It also can help gage how much $$ you will be spending on your trip to the market-lots of meat equals a higher bill.  However, if you stock up when there are sales and coupons on the higher priced items you can really save LOTS!!

After you have all the meal ingredients written on you list go through and write any incidentals, snacks or breakfast food you may need/want.  For example: I needed brown sugar, breakfast cereal, vegetable oil,  olive oil and fresh fruit for snacks this week so I added it to the list.  Paul is a chip FIEND so he requested sour cream and onion chips as well as frozen pizzas.  Writing down even these seemingly SIMPLE things will save you $$.  Put it on your list then ONLY get what is on your list.


Step 5-Enjoy your STRESS FREE approach to making dinner

I know this sounds SUPER detailed and OCD but it seriously takes me 15-30 minutes from start to finish.  PLUS it makes my grocery shopping and dinner prep STRESS FREE!!!  I  just go to my list and poof –Dinner is done for the night.   I only started planning lunches because the dinner menu was working out so great and I found myself wondering what to make Tanner and myself for lunch everyday with out doing the SAME OLD THING.  It would also be helpful for working moms/dads who want to save money and pack their lunches daily.

Did I mention it saves $$$ too?? Oh I did…Well-  With the exception of milk, eggs and bread runs in between..this amount of groceries and these meals can feed me and my family for about 2-2.5 weeks (3 if I am feeling extra sassy).  But there are only six dinners you say?!?!- remember…I don’t do BIG meals every night, there are leftovers, I use lunch stuff for dinner sometimes, AND there are days when we are running or busy when that grilled cheese and veggies is the dinner of choice.  From time to time I also enjoy the challenge of “throwing” together a meal from what I have laying around.  It makes me feel resourceful. 

Today’s GRAND total I spent on groceries was: $163.54 (including stocking up on meat and olive oil…2 big $$ items)

(Like I said I won’t need to do another BIG trip for about 2.5 weeks)

Pretty good huh???


Hope you find this helpful!!!  Remember: I am always looking for tips too so if you have a secret meal planning/grocery shopping tip PLEASE SHARE!!  Also, none of these recipes are SUPER fancy on my meal plan BUT if you want more details on any of the meals just let me know and I can shoot you an e-mail.

Happy Meal Planning!!!


  1. I need to tune up our meal planning when Ryan gets home next week. We do dinners, but dont always stick through them. I need to go through a cook book and find some new ideas. I need QUICK dinners, since I dont get home til 5:30 and we like to eat no later than 6-6:30. I have 3 bottles of EVOO that Ryan brought home from Italy...I guess it's the "good stuff" which I would know nothing about because they've been sitting in my cupboard since Dec un-opened. You should add to your blog "sign up for your local grocery store card" it's typically free and all you have to do is scan it everytime you shop. I save so much money using my Win-Dixie card, and they always have "buy 1 get 1" if you use your card. Another money saver for you Norhterners....buy a cow, or a partial cow. now that is a saver on meat cost! OR have avid hunters in your fam, that also saves on the meat cost. You can add fish to your summer meal plans when go fishing :) Now thats practically free! One more thing....how do you find coupons! Unless you buy the paper, how can you get coupons? I never can find any because we dont read buy the paper. Well thats all I got, you inspired me to raid my pantry.

  2. I meal plan!! I love it! I make a 3 week dinner plan on an Excel Spreadsheet. I base my dinner choices off of our schedule, which has become quite hairy and busy lately. The kids and I usually take care of the leftovers for lunch throughout the week, so I never meal plan for lunches, nor do I breakfast. But dinner....I do.
    It's SO easy to make a grocery list when you know what you're gonig to be making for the next 21 days! :)
    I try to make something new 1x/week. If the fam doesnt' like it...well, I don't have to make it again. But how do you know, if you don't try it!

  3. OH....and I also want to add, that meal planning has made a gigantic difference in the variety of food that I make. You don't realize how often you just whip up a batch of spaghetti until you write it down.

    Which by the way, I have to heat up my spaghetti leftovers for lunch. :)