easy meal planning

September 9, 2014

My adventure with cooking, meal planning, eating healthy, and providing for my family has been one of the more difficult aspects of adulthood for me. There is still so much that I have to learn, but one area that I have become pretty comfortable with lately is meal planning. Today I’m sharing the easy, low-stress way I approach it.

kapachino: easy meal planning


Right now it works best for us to meal plan only a week at a time. Yes, I have to do it more often, but right now we don’t have much freezer space and so we’re at the grocery store once a week anyway. Planning weekly is also much less overwhelming to me. We have a lot of random dinners with family pop up so this way it’s easy for me to fit them in and shuffle a meal to the next week. This process would work just as well monthly though!

The uniform concept applied to meals

Much like my capsule wardrobe, I like to approach the rest of my life with the “uniform” concept as well. As far as meal planning goes (and we are talking dinners here), that means having specific types of food or meals on specific days of the week, taking the guesswork out of it. For example:

Monday – a tried & true meal since it is the first day of the week, or something in the Crockpot since I have time on Sunday to set it up

Tuesday – something quick to prepare, but it could be new; a good night for salads

Wednesday – leftovers, since we have a few days’ worth built up by this time

Thursday – breakfast for dinner (yum). Can still be healthy if you keep it egg & meat based rather than grain & sugar based (think omelet with bacon instead of pancakes)

Friday – Mom & Dad’s house. I love having this setup with them because we make sure to get in a visit at least once a week and I don’t have to cook!

Saturday – homemade pizza & movie  night

Sunday – since this is ideally a family rest day, I’ll choose a recipe that takes longer to prepare, or that is new to me
kapachino: easy meal planning

Other meals

I’ve mentioned before, but I’m the kind of person who can eat pretty much the same thing every day for a long time with only slight variation. For breakfast these days I scramble 5-7 eggs and add cheese and sausage (I cook a couple pounds of sausage at the beginning of the week and use it till it runs out). Half of this mix I roll up in a few tortillas for David to eat for breakfast/lunch, and the rest is for me (and Meredith, if she wants any). I also have a banana or other fruit.

For lunch I still love to make a big salad with shredded chicken and strawberries, using olive oil + raspberry balsamic as a dressing. On the side I’ll have a Greek yogurt and some dark chocolate covered almonds.

kapachino: easy meal planning


After completing whole30, my focus with meals these days is to keep them real and to eliminate the processed stuff as much as possible. I keep a list in the meal planning section of my notebook for go-to dinner ideas (and where to find the recipe if needed), but sometimes I want to try something new, and here are some places I go to find meal inspiration:

Don’t Waste the Crumbs (real food blog) – my favorite.

Nom Nom Paleo and The Clothes Make the Girl (paleo blogs) – we don’t eat strictly paleo but I like to take their recipes and slightly adapt them because they provide a super healthy base.

More-With-Less (cookbook) – my best friend got this for me when I got married and it’s been a go-to lately for learning to make resources last, trying to make stuff from scratch, and I love the simple, hearty recipes. I actually think I need to read through this again because there is a ton of information in it about sustainability, nutrition, and budget as well.

And that’s it, really. I don’t rely on Pinterest much anymore because I get overwhelmed, and most of it isn’t the kind of food I’m looking for anyway. If you have any other resources for real food inspiration I would love to know about them!

How do you meal plan?

p.s. – whole30 afterthoughts + one month laterbook review of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Posted in: personal, domestication

Comments on easy meal planning

  1. 1

    From Ashley:

    Mike’s mom got me that Mennonite cookbook! It’s great for simple living and learning stuff from scratch. :)

    I do weekly planning, too – I don’t like the commitment of planning longer. What if something different sounds good? Ha. I plan around what we have in the fridge since we get tons of veggies each week from our CSA. In the cold months, I just have about 10 different things that I rotate between and only plan four meals a week since we usually end up with lots of leftovers or a phone-it-in meal (frozen food type stuff!).

  2. 2

    From Kathleen:

    Yay for the Mennonites! I went to a Mennonite college so they are close to my heart. :)

    Belonging to a CSA is another reason to plan weekly, for sure. And you’re right about the leftovers – I always have a meal or two planned that we could easily skip or put off until the next week (ie: doesn’t include ingredients that we HAVE to use up) because we usually end up going to my in-laws’ house at least once, and also do the phone-it-in thing too. :)

  3. 3

    From Caiti:

    Meal planning has made my life so much more streamlined. I follow a similar weekly process, and we usually write our 5-6 meal options on a dry erase board on the fridge and then just pick what we want each night from that “menu.” That makes it feel a little more spontaneous. Generally I aim for 1-2 new recipes per week, 1-2 easy/throw-together meals (salad, soup, sandwiches, pasta, eggs, etc.), and 1-2 stand-by favorite recipes.

    I personally love Pinterest for finding new recipes. I tend to only follow food boards if they share a similar whole foods/veggie-heavy eating style as me, so I’ve had a lot of luck with it. Every recipe I try and enjoy I move to a separate board so that I can reference back to them later like my own personal cookbook :) I don’t really even follow food blogs anymore, but I do love lots of recipes from Heidi Swanson at 101 Cookbooks and I’ve loved every salad recipe from Pinch of Yum: http://pinchofyum.com/category/recipes/lunch/salads

  4. 4

    From Kathleen:

    I love all of those ideas! Especially to follow only the Pinterest food boards that have the whole foods style. I’ll have to check yours out. And we need to get a dry erase board, I think it would help my husband to know what to expect. Thanks for the tips!

  5. 5

    From Kara:

    I plan our meals every Sunday before I head to the grocery store to stock up for the week. I always plan for meals that make for decent leftovers for Kyle since he takes them to work with him the next day. I always struggle with the weekends though. By Friday I’ve run out of ideas and am usually scrambling to think of something for dinner, but it’s SO much easier to know what I’m making during the week!

  6. 6

    From Kathleen:

    Weekends are definitely harder for me too; it seems like when I’m out of the work routine everything can easily fall apart! But at least there is more time on weekends to get it together. :)

  7. 7

    From Nora:

    We do weekly planning in our house. By we I mean me! It’s much easier for me since if i do it too far out I get overwhelmed. I love to make things that produce leftovers because Knight will have them for lunch at work and/or I freeze them for us to use at a later date. My hubs refuses to eat veggies so I’ve gotten creative at hiding them in everyday food and if I can’t do that, I just eat them by myself.

    I put the list up on the fridge so that I remember what I need to thaw or get ready the night before and this way Knight knows what we are having for dinner, too. Takes the guesswork out. I tend to give myself an easy night on Wednesday which means pizza (at home) or grilling (Knight loves to grill).

    I have a ton of pinterest ideas and I’ve gotten really good at swapping ingredients to make it more healthful or as a starting point for my own spin-off. I have loads of cookbooks but lately I haven’t looked at them. Once 10/1 hits, I’m going to commit to making 2 new recipes a month so that we have some more variety!

    Phew, long answer! Sorry about that =)

  8. 8

    From Mikal:

    I am amazed that are people that can meal plan monthly! We do weekly at our house too. My husband and I both like to cook, so we just write down meals on our notepad as we think of them. Then when it’s grocery shopping time we write out the grocery list next to it. Somehow this is just the thing we started doing years ago and now it’s our Official System. What helps us a lot is just knowing that even if you don’t want to cook dinner 99% of the time, cooking and then sitting down to a meal together always leaves everyone feeling good and happy and in a better mood than before. Somedays though it is just so hard to get started on dinner though!

  9. 9

    From Holly:

    I meal plan weekly too, usually on Fridays since that’s the day I clean out the fridge and know what we have on hand! I would love to be able to plan monthly – our grocery store offers 15% off on the first Tuesday of every month so we could save a lot of money – but we don’t have a freezer or a pantry so wouldn’t be able to store everything. My go-to cookbooks are any by Sandi Richard (right now I use this one a lot: http://www.amazon.com/Dinner-Survival-Most-Uncomplicated-Approachable/dp/1416543643/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1410287605&sr=8-2&keywords=sandi+richard) – I love the way the recipes are laid out! You can use her weekly meal plans (there are even grocery lists in the back!) or pick and choose depending on what you already have, which is what I do.

  10. 10

    From Sarah @ Beauty School Dropout:

    I meal plan weekly – these days I’m not trying to many new recipes, just trying to keep everyone fed reasonably healthily. I read of a cool system recently where you write the top 20-30 meals you cook on index cards, write the ingredients on the back, then choose cards each week and flip over to make your grocery list!

  11. 11

    From Kathleen:

    I love that idea! It’s kind of what I’m going for with the list of go-to meals that I’m keeping, but right now I don’t have near enough of them. I’d love to have 20-30 down, and writing down the ingredients for the grocery list is an excellent idea.

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