Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Meal Planning

"What are we having for dinner tonight?"  Ugh.  Such an annoying question sometimes, but it doesn't have to be.  Consider meal planning as a way to avoid the dreaded 4 pm question.  Meal planning is simply sitting down and loosely deciding what meals you will make for an extended period of time.  I plan out my meals for one week, but others more ambitious than I plan for a whole month.  Allow me to describe for you how I plan my meals.  Your schedule and dietary needs might be completely different, so do what works for you.

On Sundays, I sit down with my beloved planner to decide the fate of my family's bellies for the next week.  Consult your fridge, freezer and pantry for meal idea inspiration.  Breakfasts consist of mostly oatmeal/fruit with the occasional cold cereal thrown in if we are running late.  Lunches usually consist of PB&J and fruit or leftovers.  Snacks are fruit/veggies, a dairy product such as cheese or yogurt, and a carb such as crackers or homemade muffins.  I don't plan these meals.  The rut we are in with these meals is so deep, I know we won't deviate too much.  If your family's palate would not tolerate such repetitiveness, by all means, plan those meals as well.

That leaves my house with only dinner to plan.  Everyone knows meat is expensive, so I try to use it conservatively (more on saving money with meat in another post).  Much of our protein is derived from eggs, dairy and beans/legumes.  I also keep a bag of ground flax and wheat germ on hand to sprinkle on additional protein.  On a typical week, this is what our meal structure might look like (add fruits/veggies/salad to every meal):
  • Egg based dish such as spinach/egg casserole, scrambled eggs with pancakes or omelettes.
  • Cheese based dish such as meatless spaghetti with mozzarella cheese or cheese ravioli.
  • Bean based dish such as bean burritos or black bean salad.
  • Meat as a condiment dish such as shredded chicken on large fresh salads.
  • Meat as a focal point dish such as baked or grilled chicken breasts.
  • A leftovers night.
  • A lazy or treat night such as frozen or ordered pizza, nachos, or meals at extended family.
Meal planning helps avoid the dreaded 'what is for dinner' question.  It also helps cut down on unnecessary, short trips to the store to get one or two items.  You can lessen your need for takeout or eating out.  Meal planning avoids wasting food by eating up leftovers or using leftovers in the next nights dish.

I use meal planning as a flexible guide in my house.  If something comes up or plans change, that is ok, I simply move the meals around.


  1. I grew up w/ my mom meal planning, so it comes naturally to me. I don't know how people grocery shop w/o meal planning! I sit down every week, plan what we're going to have, and then consult the ads. Sometimes I'll switch meals around too, depending on what is on sale, or like you, b/c of schedules. I think when you know exactly what you need, it leads to more frugal shopping on its own, even w/o trying!

  2. curious if you'd share your typical weekly grocery bill?