The Essentials of Meal Planning

+ We’re discussing Meal Planning and Prepping tactics this month! Being more intentional about your meals and groceries can save so much time and money. The first idea was to Eat Seasonally and shop at the Farmer’s Market!

Now, let’s talk about the basics of meal planning. I think meal planning can get a bad rap because we envision hours prepping and thinking, only to find wasted food at the end of the week. There are a few things I do to keep it simple and flexible and, man, has it been a lifesaver for us.

You see, I get a little anxious when it comes to thinking about where my next meal will come from. For finally living a life abundant with food, the scarcity monster from a less-than-healthful-childhood and doctor-sponsored elimination diets tends to rear his ugly head. I’m working on my relationship with food and even further simplifying my diet… but for now, this works!

I know what the week’s meals will be, I know my dietary requirements will be met (it makes sticking to certain diets much easier), and I know that if I work late, Greg can start dinner without asking me first. I keep the meals simple, the recipes full of produce… all while saving lots of money and time! 


1. Start with what you have. Make a list of all food in your kitchen to be used up including leftovers to be eaten. Also check the pantry or fridge for staples (staples that you actually use weekly) that need to be replenished and start a grocery list.

2. Have some inspiration available. Check store flyers or coupons if you use them or, in our case, the farmer's market list of seasonal produce featured that week. These will give you some parameters for what to make and also help keep the budget down. Or try having themed nights like Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, etc.


Right now, I like to stick to the seasonal produce calendar and then rely on some great food blogs for actual recipes. In the past, I've worked my way through a cookbook for a given month so I just made the first four recipes I liked in the book on the first week. Pinterest works, magazines work, friends work... whatever works for you!
+ My favorite food blogs currently are 101 Cookbooks, My New Roots, Gluten-Free Girl, and to balance all of that healthy stuff out: How Sweet It Is.

3. Check your calendar for the week. Will you be out more than usual? Will you be entertaining? Will the week be busy so having extra leftovers might help? I meal plan on Mondays and like to take a look at the week’s calendar. We cook or make breakfast every morning plus a few dinners during the week and a couple of meals on the weekends. After going over commitments and meals out, I start to pencil in the meals to cook. With my meal count for the week, I like to build in flexibility! If I were to plan to make a recipe from scratch for every meal, it wouldn't happen. I’m not always in the mood and things come up. I keep some slots open to eat leftovers or shift things around.

4. Plan a recipe for each meal you want to cook. Try to include recipes that can use up those excesses in your kitchen or the items from the flyer/bounty from the market. Look through your inspiration. Can you make double and eat leftovers the next night? I like to make four servings so I can have leftovers for lunch.

5. Write it down. Put the recipe names, quantities and sources in your calendar and write all the ingredients you need to buy on your list! For example: on my calendar Saturday morning: Baked Eggs with Grits from Evernote. And to my grocery list: Dark Greens: 1c (Sa), Eggs: 5 (Sa), Cheese: 2oz (Sa). I currently separate the list by location (farmer’s market vs. store) and also have a column for ingredients I need to check the fridge/pantry for.

+ When you go shopping, stick to your list!

As I mentioned, I spend about an hour meal planning on Mondays for the upcoming week. I then shop on Tuesday mornings at the market and maybe swing by the grocery store or bulk store on Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon if I need anything else. The list is separated for each stop (it’s either in Asana or on the back of an unwanted envelope) and I’ll sometimes add another list for a quick weekend produce/seafood stop if we need it.

Does this help? Do you guys have any other ideas to keep it simple? I think the most important parts are to use what you have, consult your calendar, and keep it flexible. <3

+ To keep your pantry and fridge in shape, every few months, try to make most of your meals out of stuff you already have!
+ And something to think about: we spend so little of our money on food compared to other countries.