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The NUMBER ONE question I get from people when I talk about all the different things I am making each week and how navigating the kitchen has basically become second nature to me is “HOW DO YOU DO IT?!”. My answer has always been the same, I meal plan every single week. Even before I was cooking for my blog, meal planning has always been the best way for me to stay on track with every meal my family eats. Meal planning is also one of the best ways to stay on a budget. Recently I have been spending a bit more on groceries and that is only because I am cooking a lot more because of my blog. Back in 2020 (and years before) I was a pro at keeping my grocery spending to under $100 per week! I shop at Whole Foods every week, and people couldn’t understand how I was able to keep my grocery bill so low. I give all the credit to proper meal planning and I am about to tell you exactly how I do it.
Meal Planning vs Meal Prepping
Although both Meal Planning and Meal Prepping go hand in hand when it comes to getting your meals planned and ready for the week, Meal Planning differs because it’s not so much about making all (or most) of your meals ahead of time and storing them for use throughout the week. I like to consider Meal Planning as STEP NUMBER ONE. Whether you are into meal prepping or not, you definitely want to get into the habit of planning your meals ahead of time so you don’t have to think twice about what to make/eat at lunch or dinner the day of.
There are a few different ways you can meal prep; you can prep your favorite bowl or salad and store them in multiple containers so they are ready to go, or you can bath cook certain ingredients such as roasted veggies or grains so they are ready to go and make your meal prep time simpler and quicker. Personally, I haven’t done much meal prepping in the past but it is something I am beginning to incorporate in my routine one way or another. For example, washing my fruits and veggies ahead of time so they are ready to grab and go throughout the week. Last week I made two tray bakes for the blog but it actually worked out perfect because then I didn’t need to make lunch or dinner for the next two days! I will be sure to write another post on Meal Prepping later on to give you some tips!
So, What is Meal Planning exactly?
Meal Planning is the idea of planning out your weekly meals ahead of time and putting together your grocery list with the exact items you will be needing for the week. Meal planning is a great way to ensure that you are sticking to your preferred dietary needs, keeping it interesting so you don’t get bored of eating the same thing over and over again, and making it easy so you don’t have to think twice about what the heck you are going to make for dinner tonight.
I love spending my Sunday afternoon or evening planning my weekly meals. My favorite way to plan is by using my reminders list on my iPhone. I am literally obsessed with My Lists and I have about seven categories that I use to keep me organized. About half of my lists involve food (i.e. I have a list for Whole Foods, Costco and Meal Planning) I like to keep things separate and ultra organized so things don’t get confusing.
How to Meal Plan Like a Pro!
In the image above, you will see two things: First, it’s my lists which I have on my iPhone. I have highlighted my Meal Planning list so you can see how I have it set up. Then the next image you will see how I have organized my meals for the week. Below I will explain how I have done this in better detail:
- each bullet point is a different day of the week (note that I typically plan for meals Monday-Thursday. This is because I usually end the week with lots of little left overs that we usually finish off on Fridays)
- each bullet points (i.e. Monday) has more information typed in below (which you can do on the iPhone by clicking the little “i” icon that shows up). In there I write in what we will be having for lunch and dinner.
The sample I have above is exactly what we are going to be having this particular week.
Monday we will be finishing off a chicken fajita tray bake that I made late last week along with some leftover rice. For dinner we will be making a whole chicken in the oven (which I left defrosting the night before) along with some veggies I already had in the fridge that need to be cooked.
Tuesday we will be having Monday night leftovers (I always make sure to make big portions just for this very reason! I always save myself some time the next day by making a big dinner) and for dinner Tuesday night we will have some left over potato soup that I have frozen along with roasted broccoli.
Wednesday I kept lunch as random because Matt and I have the day planned to run errands plus I am also batching some recipes for the blog, so we usually just eat whatever I am cooking that day. For dinner we are going out for a date night, so NO cooking!
Thursday I have noted potato salad for lunch because it’s one of the recipes I would have made the day before for my blog, so we will be left overs for sure. For dinner I reserved it for a veggie night with some yummy coconut rice.
Friday I kept it open for left overs or a green smoothie and for dinner I left it as TBD because I am not sure if we will end up with any left overs from the week or we might decide to do something fun that night!
Tips and Tricks on My Meal Planning Routine
- I like to plan meals for just 4 night a week: this is something I started doing some time ago because I found myself ending the week with WAY too much food in my fridge. On weekends we usually go see my parents, or go out to lunch, or meet up with friends. Monday through Thursday are my preferred days to plan and I only plan out dinners. This is because lunch is usually left overs from the night before or something quick and easy like a smoothie, sandwich or salad.
- Pick a day (like Sunday) to sit down and plan out your meals: I love spending my Sunday afternoon or evening planning out what I want to make throughout the week. I’ll sometimes ask my husband Matt for some ideas, see if there is something he’s been craving, or I’ll hop on Pinterest for a little inspiration. First, I will note down the meal ideas in my Meal Planning List and then I put together my grocery list off of what ingredients I need to get.
- Plan meals with what you already have in your fridge or pantry: I hate letting anything go to waste. And it totally bums me out when something sits in my pantry for weeks and weeks so I like to go through what I already have at home when coming up with my meal plan. If I see that I have veggies left over in my fridge that need to be used, I’ll typically plan for some kind of bowl that can be paired with rice or quinoa and some type of protein.
- I love to make at least one type of stew or sauce each week that can be frozen for another time: this is my trick that always saves me!!! I love making some type of stew, soup or sauce which I can freeze for later. Since it’s been chilly these past few months, I have been making lots of one-pot dishes (you can check out all my soup recipes here)
Why I Love Meal Planning So Much!
If you’re a foodie like me, and whether or not you love to cook, meal planning is an amazing habit to adopt to make your life easier. As much as I love to cook, it can still become a chore trying to think about what to make for dinner the day of. Once I started planning out my meals and grocery list ahead of time I was able to bring joy back into my kitchen because there is a plan!
Meal Planning also keeps meals fun and interesting! I get bored very easily and rarely make the same thing(s) two weeks in a row. Sometimes I have to remember to remake some of my own recipes because I am always thinking of new things to make! In our home we love trying new things and meal planning really helps make that happen. Getting your family involved in planning what recipes to make is also a great way to keep everyone happy and excited about dinner time.
At the end of the day, we’re all looking to make our lives a little bit easier, especially when it comes to the cooking. So getting yourself organized in the kitchen, just like you would with your daily to-do list, is going to eliminate the headache of having to come up with something last minute. Meal Planning is also a great way to support a healthy and balanced lifestyle as you won’t be resorting to quick meals such as frozen foods or takeout.
[…] This post will include six of my favorite Meal Prep Ideas the Week. You can also learn more about How to Meal Plan Like a Pro in a post I wrote a couple of weeks ago. In that post I go into detail on how exactly I plan the […]
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