Good morning! It’s a nippy one up in our neck of the woods… 16 degrees. What happened?
I’m hoping the chill in the air breaks by lunch time, because I am finally feeling more like myself enough to run again. I’m hesitant, however, and all too familiar with this go-getter-goes-too-hard-too-fast type of pattern.
Girl feels good after getting over a cold, girl goes out for a run, girl catches another cold, girl questions all decisions to voluntarily subject herself to frigid temperatures. It’s happened quite a few times since we moved to Michigan.
Is it summer yet?
I’ll take that as a no.
Anyways, I didn’t come to complain about the cold. Now that the weather disappointments are out there, let’s shift gears and talk about meal planning. Or, in my case, lack of meal planning.
Are You a Meal Planner?
I have never been one to plan out my meals more than a couple of hours, or at best, a day in advance. It’s just not me. Instead, I usually fly by the seat of my tastebuds and hope for the best. It’s not an ideal theory, but it usually works.
I realize this would probably change if I had a full-time job outside of the home, and at this point in my life I feel very grateful to be able to drive back and forth from work to home whenever I really need to. Don’t hate me.
But then again, maybe it wouldn’t. The years when I was working away from home the majority of my days and nights, I still went in a make whatever, whenever type of pattern. It wasn’t uncommon for me to cook an egg and veggie scramble for dinner, and I often relied on Scott to grill something while I came up with whatever sides sounded good that night.
As time goes by and night events creep up on our calendars, however, I am starting to realize that I will most likely need to change this pattern. Eventually. But, I’m weary.
If I have a goal of making a meal plan for more than a day, I will sit at home and make a grocery list for what feels like hours. I get so overwhelmed. And then if I don’t figure out everything I think I need, I’ll sit in the parking lot of the grocery store and thumb through apps on my phone and recipes on Pinterest in order to nail down exactly what I need for a ridiculous amount of time.
You guys. This happened on Sunday. Unsure of what I wanted to make, I scrolled around so long that I actually got tired and took a quick power nap in my car. In the parking lot. I can’t make this stuff up y’all, it’s bad.
To say I get overwhelmed by the thought of needing all the things for all the recipes at once is completely accurate. Extra stress factors in when it’s cold outside and I don’t want to go through the process of fighting it to get to the store for one or two ingredients, too.
How do you guys do it?
At best, I will plan one or maybe two full dinners on the weekends and then make another trip to the grocery store later that week if I need to. It’s just what I do. Maybe I’m spoiled by having access to a car and a decent grocery store right down the road, but I feel like I can’t be the only one who feels this way.
I realized that something needs to change as I made my husband his requested pasta dinner last night around 10:30 p.m. Seriously. After a long day and several unfortunate events that held him up at work, he got home after 11 at night and asked for pasta.
I whipped up what I thought to be a sorry excuse for spaghetti that consisted of whole wheat noodles and canned marinara sauce, and he loved it. He literally thanked me for it three times. No add-ins, no protein, no nothing. Straight up noodles and sauce is exactly what this guy was looking for and loved.
(This is the closest picture I had to share. Ignore the meat add-in.)
This made me think about how I have incidentally set the bar extremely low for myself.
Was it the break from gluten-free noodles that he liked? Was it the absence of every vegetable in our fridge from the sauce that pleased his tastebuds? I just can’t wrap my head around it.
I have to give myself a little credit though. During the NBA season, if I want dinner at a reasonable hour, it will most likely be me, myself, and I eating at the dinner table. Knowing this doesn’t serve as the best inspiration to get creative with my meals. I know things will change during the off-season and even when we eventually have more mouths to feed, but for now, it is what it is.
After sleeping on it, I have come to a conclusion that I need to be a little more proactive in my meal planning. Miracle spaghetti at midnight isn’t going to cut it for very long around here.
So, avid meal planners, where do you start?
I would love to hear your strategies on tackling meal prep and planning on the weekends. How do you buy everything for specific meals on top of your normal groceries without spending an arm and a leg at checkout?
Any tips on how to create a somewhat original menu without stressing yourself out to the point of wanting to take a nap in the grocery store parking lot would be much appreciated. <3
Questions of the Morning
• Are you a weekend meal planner? If so, how many nights do you plan and buy for at once?
• Any tips? (Show us your ways!)
While I’m probing for questions and answers, I would love to hear any that you might have on what to do once you get your certification in personal training. I’d like to talk about my experience of transitioning from getting my CPT into working at a gym. Do you have any specific questions? I would love to take a stab at answering them.
Leave your thoughts, questions, and comments below!
You’ll likely spend less money if you meal plan. Having food at home to make prevents going out to dinner as often. I usually cook at home 5-6 nights a week for my family of 4. After a while you know the staples your cupboard needs to be stocked with to make your favorites. I make a lot of recipes from oh she glows. Good luck and have fun!
Ps. I ordered the Jessica Simpson sandals you showcased on the blog in both colors and ended up keeping both. I adore them! Thank you!
Those sandals are the best! I’m so glad you love them as much as I do. Thanks for the tips, I’m sure I will need to get my act together soon… or, at least when our family grows to be more than 2. 😉
Hannah @ Sprints & Scones
I think meal planning saves a ton of time and money, but I don’t think it has to be complicated. On Sunday, I pick 4 dinners I want to make for the week and 1 or 2 lunches. I pull out the recipes, make my list, and buy the ingredients. I try to prep as much as possible on Sunday too. I don’t pick which meal will go on which day very often, I just like to know I have options in the refrigerator. Oh, and I always build in one day for leftovers to clean out the refrigerator.
The main bonus? I don’t end up eating the same meal a million times a week. Before I meal-planned, I had stir-fry for dinner like 3 times a week. I also feel really happy when I am driving home at dinner time and already know what I will make and know that I have everything I need. And it means that if Aaron gets home before me, he can start dinner with no problem.
Good luck! I don’t think meal planning needs to be crazy complicated, but it can save a ton of time and money (and prevent stress!). I have some things on my blog about it and so does KathEats. Her meal-planning skills are amazing 🙂
I think 4 is a great meal goal for the week. Building in days for leftovers is key too… I’m all for those. Great idea to have a plan, but not necessarily days to create certain meals. I’m loving these tips, thank you so much for sharing!
I feel the same way. I feel like when I meal plan and buy all the ingredients, things pop up on either my or my husband’s calendar, and we don’t end up eating a meal I planned for…and then I start to stress because we have all these ingredients that are going to go bad because I didn’t use them in time. Or I don’t end up wanting the meal that I planned for, haha. So then I tried to just buy things here and there when I knew we were going to be home for dinner, and I felt like I was CONSTANTLY at the grocery store after work, which is no fun (and I ended up spending more money in the long run). SO, I came up with a new plan of attack that seems to be working well. I go to the store on Sundays and buy enough for 3-4 meals (we don’t have kids so we usually eat out with friends on the weekends), and rather than plan exact meals, I think in terms of needing a protein, a starch, and a veggie side for each meal. Then, I pick up a few different types of protein like chicken breasts (or I just buy a big bag of frozen chicken breasts so I don’t have to do this every week), salmon, chicken sausages, or ground turkey. I usually buy things that I know I can freeze if we don’t end up needing it, which makes me feel better. Next, I’ll grab veggies that I know I can pair with any of the protein options listed above, like broccoli, brussels, zucchini, mushrooms, etc. And lastly, I grab some sweet potatoes, 90 brown second rice, or whole wheat pasta as our starch. Basically, my approach is to get a bunch of things that will make a complete meal, but it still allows me to be a little creative based on how I feel because I can mix and match based on what I bought. AND, I don’t stress as much about things going bad because I can freeze the chicken, salmon, etc., rice and pasta take forever to expire, and if we don’t use the veggies for dinner by Thursday I’ll just cut them up and roast them to have for lunches over the weekend. This may not be the best approach, but it works for us! Good luck! 🙂
YES to everything in that first sentence. Story of my life. Whenever I do “meal plan” (the reasons for the quotes are obvious), it’s similar to your approach, only probably less structured. I try to buy the staples and basics I could turn into meals by selecting protein, veggies, starch on any given night. That’s a great idea to cut up your extra veggies and roast them though! I need to improve on cleaning out my fridge with tactics like that. Thanks for sharing!
cook smarts is KILLER for meal plans! there’s only two people in my house and it’s set up for meals for four, four nights a week. This may sound like its way too much food but it allows you to eat leftovers for lunch and have a few times built in there for leftovers for dinner. You do have to pay for it, but I think it’s 100% worth it. They make a grocery list and a make-ahead guide for you too!!
Hmmm, interesting! I’ve never heard of Cook Smarts. Thanks for passing along the info!
Check out Kathy at http://www.katheats.com/ where she does a lot with Cook Smart. She is a dietitian and active mom and swears by it 🙂
Pretty Little Grub
I go through stages of meal planning. When my husband is home I’m pretty good at sitting down on the weekend and us deciding what to eat for the week and shopping accordingly. But when I’m alone, its just eat whatever is in the fridge & easy. Usually eggs…
Hahaha, guilty. Maybe that’s my problem too… I never ask Scott what he’s up for! I’m sure that would help in the planning process. Thanks!
One of my friends could get a gold Olympic medal in meal planning. I just do my best to have a general idea of what ingredients I’ll need to make 3 meals a week–no specific day, plenty of room for leftovers–I call it loose meal planning
Ha, I think there should definitely be medals in meal planning. Kudos to your friend for figuring it out! I love your strategy. Thanks for sharing!
Sooooo we cook in bulk…like a 12 quart dutch oven bulk…and then portion out the food into single serve freezer containers. We do a few meals at a time (like spend a weekend day in the kitchen) so there is a variety of options in the freezer. Then you pull the food out when you want to eat it, either move to the fridge the night before or microwave it for longer if we pull it out still frozen. Sometimes if we’re on the ball we’ll cook a meal or two every week to add to the rotation and avoid having the massive day of cooking. If you’re not into cooking full meals we also cook just protein ahead of time and throw in some frozen veggies when we go to reheat it. When we do this we’ll also cook a batch of fresh rice and spread it out over a few meals. This doesn’t work for all foods but we tend to lean towards healthy casserole type foods which freeze well. Pasta doesn’t work so well but you can always cook up pasta quickly when you go to eat it.
I will probably never be one to cook full meals in bulk on Sundays. It’s a fantastic idea, but Scott and I are never home for any length of time together on Sundays, and it just isn’t something I care to do alone. I do like the idea of cooking your proteins ahead of time though! That’s probably the part I dread the most, so it would be nice to get that out of the way to pull from for the rest of the week. Thank you for sharing your tips!
Erin @ Her Heartland Soul
I’m trying to meal plan more on the weekends too! It can be hard and overwhelming but it is so worth it when you come home after work during the week and dinner is done!
I agree… I just need to dive in and get it done 😉
Courtney @ The Granola Chronicles
I love meal planning! My husband and I both have busy lives, so I’ve found that prepping in advance helps us to eat healthy meals + saves us money. I usually meal plan throughout the week (pinning recipes I like, making a list, etc.) and then go grocery shopping on Sunday morning. I spend Sunday evenings prepping things like making hard-boiled eggs for snacks, cutting vegetables, etc. It’s part of my weekly routine and I almost treat it like a hobby!
Hard-boiled eggs! That’s a staple I need to have at all times in the house. I’ve been slacking for way too long there! Thanks for the reminder 😉
Kelly Runs for Food
Haha I just laughed out loud at you napping in your car. I totally browse Pinterest on my phone before going to the store, too, and I get overwhelmed by all the options.
I’m going to be zero help in your search for meal planning advice, since I would probably live off PB&J if not for my husband!
Yep, I’m a treat. PB&Js are great! Good for your hubby for taking over duties 😉
I have literally this exact same issue and relate to the extreme stressing out! I’d love to hear tips/tricks too…would they be something you could summarize into another post at some point? I’d love to read everyone’s advice in one spot!
Definitely! I figured if I got enough feedback I could definitely compile the highlights and make it into one future post! Stay tuned 🙂
So funny–I am great at meal planning and my husband throws a wrench in the plans EVERY TIME. He’ll say, “What’s for dinner?” Me, “XYZ.” Him, “Hmmm….You know what I really feel like?” Yeah, it’s never XYZ! LOL I need to put my foot down more and stick with the plan!
Oh, and I totally made spaghetti with jarred sauce and frozen meatballs the other night and my husband acted like it was the best meal he ever ate.
Men… haha! So funny. Maybe one day we will figure them out. Maybe not. 😉
I’m kind of a flexible meal planner. We have probably 15 or so “classic meals” we like and I make often. Each week I pick 5 of those meals, generally one new meal (from Pinterest, blogs,), and plan to eat out one dinner. Then I get the ingredients I need to stock up on and we pick from the list that week as we want. Because I make a lot of the same meals even if one wasn’t technically on the weeks plan I probably have the ingredients to make it! It works for us–enough plan to not waste time/money at the store and enough variety to suit our tastebuds. 🙂
There’s something to be said for sticking to what you know. Great strategy!
I like to meal plan as much as I can! I usually pick 3-4 meals (and exclude the weekends, because I know I will eat out!) I usually plan the meals to have leftovers and then I usually bring those to lunch! Example: Monday night I will crockpot buffalo chicken for sliders, or tacos, Tuesday lunch I will make a buffalo chicken salad! I am gone minimum 12 hours a day though so I rely on quick meals, or crockpot meals, so that helps me have dinner ready when I get home. I think starting with staples you are comfortable with – and adding a new recipe a week also helps grow your menu! I also like to make the same things, but switch them up, (ie for the same chicken – salad, tacos, plain with veggies, ect) It tricks the men, but makes it easier on you! 🙂
I sit down Sunday afternoons and plan, and once you get a good rotation of meals, you will feel much more comfortable! Of course there are weeks I can’t shop, end up eating out all week, or am too busy. You just do the best you can! 🙂
Oh, weekends are and will always be “wing it” nights! 😉 I love the idea of cooking pulled chicken or another type of meat and using it throughout the week. Great tips, thank you for sharing!
Personally, I’m NOT a meal planner either and I’m not planning on becoming one
It’s funny how we are all wired differently! Love this.
It’s hit or miss with me – I either rock at it and plan out (and actually cook) 4 dinners a week or I end up making us omelets and throwing together random dinners throughout the week. The weeks I do kill it, I just try to plan around what ingredients we already have. I love making chicken lettuce wraps like the ones from P.F. Chang’s, but it requires some random ingredients we don’t use for anything else. If I decide to make these, I’ll just make sure to repeat that meal a few times over the next few weeks so we get good use out of spending money on the ingredients. I feel like meal planning is always going to be a challenge, so I love hearing these tips from others 🙂
Omelets for dinner used to be my number one go-to! Sad but true. I guess that’s what happens when you constantly “wing it”. 😉 Love those lettuce wraps!!
I totally get your dilemma. My husband and I used to live downtown in a big city where dinner was often late and there were so many good options for take-out or restaurant dining that we would eat out often. If we didn’t go out, we would grab quick snack meals (hummus, cheese, flat bread etc.)from our nearest grocery. We moved and I have been meal planning a lot more (the grocery store isn’t a block away anymore so daily trips aren’t as convenient.) I use these checklists I got from world market. One is titled “eat” and has each day of the week and spot to write the dinner for that day. There is also a section for snacks, lunches, and breakfast. I fill this sheet out with 5-6 meals (giving us 1 day of leftovers or going out to eat.) The other checklist is a grocery list titled “all out of” and it lists common grocery/household items (organized by category.) I just go through my “eat” sheet and check off what I need to buy on my “all out of sheet.” All in all it takes about 20 minutes to plan. Those checklists have been a lifesaver!
I can’t get past the late dinner. I guess that is what discourages me the most… but if you think about it, it’s almost even more important to plan ahead to eat late, if need be. Chances are it will be healthier and more substantial! I like the idea of these lists, great tips! Thank you!
I typically go to Sams once a month to stock up on meat and to the grocery store once a week to stock up on veggies. The winter months I seem to do a better job of actual meal planning because we are home more and cooking inside more but now that it has warmed up and we can use the grill that is my go to. As long as I have some sort of meat to throw on the grill and veggies to roast we are good. I use whatever meat is leftover for breakfast and lunch. I tried planning out a week of meals but every single time I just ended up with a big fail because something would come up and interfere and dang it I hate scratching something off in my planner instead of adding a check mark!
Ahhh I miss grilling. Can you believe we haven’t had one the entire time we’ve lived here (3 years!)? Craziness. I think that would be a huge progress in the meal planning department!
Ashley @ My Food N Fitness Diaries
It’s funny because YOUR method stresses me out and overwhelms me! 😉 I’ve tried the whole “wing it” approach, and it just doesn’t work for me. I find myself taking way too many trips to the grocery store throughout the week, spending more money than usual, and then we end up with only sub par meals most of the time.
I think the key thing for me is planning mostly uncomplicated, simple meals that don’t involve a TON of ingredients. I’ll usually choose one, maybe two, recipes each week that include random ingredients that we don’t typically have on hand, and the rest of the meals will include stuff that is likely already in our pantry or fridge.
I also try to create some balance in our meals. For example,I try to do something like one Crock Pot meal, one Mexican food night, one Italian food night, one grill out night, maybe breakfast for dinner one night, and then leftovers one night and/or maybe a night out. It helps me feel not quite so overwhelmed when I’m meal planning. I also don’t pressure myself to have a specific dinner on a specific night – if that makes sense? I basically just plan 5-6 dinners for the week, and then go for whatever sounds good or would work for that particular day.
Meal planning has actually helped me discover tons of new recipes with new ingredients that I would never usually make. It personally helps us eat healthier and with more variety too. It also helps me keep on track with our budget because I have a list to stick to and that’s it.
Hope that helps! Apparently I need to write a post on this. 😉
I totally understand that. I can’t really relate yet, but I have a feeling I would if I had a little one running around. I would feel the need to plan more out and be more prepared. I like the concept of quick and easy meals. I NEED to try more crockpot recipes! I’m sure a post on this would be well received. Thanks for sharing, Ashley!
I think meal planning saves my husband and I a lot of money. Generally, I sit down and look at our schedule and plan around it (how much time do I have to cook, will we be eating with friends, etc.). I look to see if we have anything that needs to be used up (veggies, meat, etc) and incorporate it. I ask him if he wants anything specific and then decide on about 4 meals. We usually eat out about once a week and I have “go to” meals and usually try 1 new recipe (if our schedule allows). I buy everything I need for those four along with any snacks or lunch food items. My husband loves leftovers for lunch so that helps. We almost never throw away food. So I feel this works for us. It’s pretty much trial and error though, find what works for you. Note: in the summer when I visit the farmer’s market, I try not to buy too much and plan meals after I come home with the produce.
Good idea! It sounds like I need to sit down every now and then with Scott and talk about what he wants me to make, then pair that with what I feel like having too. I think getting in the groove of cooking more planned meals would get me to try new recipes more often! Oh, and leftovers? YES!
As a wife and a Momma of a 6yr old and almost 9yr old, meal planning saves my sanity! I start out by looking at the calendar for the week. I decide what needs to be a quick meal and what night can I cook a real meal! Then I ask every person what they would like for dinner this week. That usually takes up two dinners. Fridays are always pizza an movie nights. Then I go to my book of recipes. It’s a binder of recipes that I have tried and the family has loved. I also keep recipes I would really like to try from magazines, or the internet. Let’s face it if I pin it, I usually forget about it. I also have a list if ideas for dinner. Now is when I grab the sales add to see what veggies and lean meats are on sale. I try to incorporate those sale items into my family meals. I also try to incorporate left overs into meals. Last nights lemon pepper chicken and green beans became today’s salad. Sundays steamed cauliflower became last nights smashed cauliflower. I also always keep Cooked grilled chicken in the fridge. We can use it for quesadillas, pa ninnies and salads on nights I have to scramble to get dinner on the table. Don’t get me wrong, we still have good old spaghetti and jar spaghetti sauce on some nights when I drop the ball. But hey, it is delicious. And we are all human.
I love that you ask your family for specific requests! I bet this helps a lot with picky eating. Also, Fridays will always be “wing it” or pizza nights for us too. 😉 Lemon pepper chicken sounds great and so does smashed cauliflower! I could definitely get more creative with my leftovers and use them as different meals for the next day, rather than just re-heating the same thing. Great tips, thank you!
I love meal planning, but in all honesty I don’t typically plan all that much. I don’t even make a list most of the time. I like to buy the sale items so I will go to the store and pick one or two proteins, then I will pick three or four veggies, and since fruit isn’t typically all that great in the winter I usually only buy bananas and some berries or apples on sale. Then when I go in the kitchen I roast my veggies (season with something I have at home) and then I will either bake my meat or fry it up in the skillet.
A little trick I have is making big batches of sauce, so I will have some frozen spaghetti sauce in the freezer, or mix up some honey mustard sauce to take, or some nut butter.
Although I must admit I am one of those people that don’t really mind just eating similar things all week, I just change my protein and produce each week to get a little variety, but leftovers are always great!
Sale items are where it’s at! I guess that explains some of my stress. I will totally grab what’s on sale and then stare into the black hole of Pinterest on my phone for answers using those ingredients. I love the idea of making and freezing sauces. Great tips, thanks!
chelsey @ clean eating chelsey
I am definitely more of a meal planner now that I have children. Before, I had the time to just think about what we wanted to eat for dinner that day and head to the grocery store after work. Now? Not so much. I rely on my crock pot a lot, which means that I need to plan a little more in advance so that the work is done for me. I like knowing what we’re eating ahead of time and makes me feel less stressed and ready for the rest of my day after I get home from work. I also spend a lot less money when I meal plan! I know it’s not for some people, but being a full time working mom, I need to rely on it!
I totally get that. And, I give you so much credit for balancing cooking and meal planning with a full-time job AND twin little ones. You’re supermom! 🙂 I really need to get back into the habit of using my crock pot!
Personally, I love meal planning. I pick four to six meals that I want to make (I take six hours and cook all at once and freeze everything into separate meals therefore I only cook once a month or so…it ROCKS!) I get a blank sheet of paper and put these labels on it: Produce, Meat/Deli, Middle, Dairy, Frozen. I go through each recipe and put down what I don’t have already on hand in the correct column so I don’t forget anything. It takes about 30 minutes, but very rarely do I every forget anything. Then weekly shopping consists of fresh produce, milk and maybe one or two other things.
Wow, it sounds like you’ve got it all figured out! I love this theory. I’m not sure I could ever plan for enough to last me a month… but you never really know. Thank you for sharing your ways!
Ohhh my gosh, power napping in your car at the grocery store! You are a gem. My husband is responsible for grocery shopping duties in our house, or I might be guilty of similar behavior. Meal planning definitely taxes me; but it’s a necessity in our household where we both work a lot and exercise a lot, so hanger is a real danger. I am a big fan of using my Pinterest boards to help with meal planning. I make a grocery list on Friday, Conner shops on Saturday, and then we schedule out the week depending on expiration dates of the relevant meats. It helps if you choose dishes where you can use part of one dinner again for another. E.g. make more than two servings of your side dishes when you cook one night, or cook up four chicken breasts instead of two for one dish and two for another. Picking stuff that is simple and fast for weeknights is also a big winner in making life easy. One-pan dishes, casseroles, crockpot, whatev. It’s still a pain in the heiney, but it’s worth it.
Haha, I wish I could say that has only happened once. I love a good 15 minute power nap! And, HANGER is awful. I become such a mess if I get a ridiculous level of hungry. Whatever you do to ward that off, stick to it! 😉 Also, I love casseroles. I need to get back on making those!
Also, hey! I saw this after I commented: Eating Bird Food has a post on meal planning : http://www.eatingbirdfood.com/2015/03/meal-planning-tips/
Thank you for sharing this!
Lol the car napping made me laugh! I read daily and don’t often comment but thought I might be of use here 😉 I DO meal plan and my fiancee and I also have ‘nontraditional’ work schedules. He works afternoons/evenings in sports (broadcasting/producing side of things) and I currently work in a restaurant in the evenings. Here is what I do: I look at both schedules for the week, determine our days off, and we each cook on days off. Days we both work, I cook (something quick, that I make in the afternoon before work). He wanted to cook some nights and I send him recipes how I make them for all our meals. I write out each week, what will be made each night and who will be cooking it, or if we have a family dinner or any event. It took LOTS of trial and error to figure out what kind of things to rotate for meals. I am similar to your tastes (though I love my seafood and fish!), like healthy meals, and he is luckily a ‘white meat’ guy.. but he is also Italian and loves his pasta (I would never get a way with jarred sauce lol I’m jealous) and dislikes me adding veggies into everything in sight (fair enough men). We have a rotating menu of meals that we both approve of to be regular features and I will try a new recipe now and then to see if its good enough to make the cut. Also we get flexible and if we end up with tons of leftovers, we may push back a meal and just eat those one night. We don’t cook big batches.. neither of us are into eating the same dish all week.. that is a week old :/ I could go on and on but it seems I’ve said enough. Seriously, it is not complicated. You don’t need to look up Pinterest meals and buy ALL new stuff every week.. plan around what you have. The grocery bill may be more at first but you will get a hang of it and it will balance out. It makes life so much easier now. Good luck girl 🙂
Yes- this is all so true. I am a dance instructor and work evenings and weekends very often. We also have a three year old. I literally DREADED meals in every way possible. Lately, cooking ahead on the weekends has been helping us a TON! We will do a roasted chicken (breasts, thighs, whatever…) and then will throw in some other meat or protein while the oven is hot. We also cook lots of veggies all at once so that we have some on hand for the whole week. Roasted sweet potatoes and frozen rice are great as quick and easy sides as well. (Pasta too!)
It has made our evenings so much more pleasant! It’s kind of a pain to prep and cook, but saves us time in the long run. In terms of shopping, we just buy whatever is on special that week, so there really isn’t much “planning”- just kind of whatever looks good the day we are shopping. Oh, and the crockpot! The crockpot has saved us!
I’m currently in a rut and have been travelling a lot of weekends. I need to meal prep my lunches at least again and chop veggies etc for dinners. I think I tried to make it really complex and it got overwhelming so I need to go back to keeping it simple and not trying to make 8 recipes at once!
Ughh I find meal planning to be such a struggle too. The thing I’ve found that works for me and my boyfriend is just to be realistic – like I know myself and I know there is no way either one of us is going to make a bunch of new recipes every weeknight. So we try to buy stuff for dinners we know we can throw together without much time or thought and save the new recipe for a sunday night or whatever night we have more time to experiment in the kitchen. Other than that, roasted vegetables, salads and soups, and pasta are our go-to’s. And gotta love breakfast for dinner.
Ashley @ A Lady Goes West
I was WAY better at meal planning when I was working six days a week at the gym MANY hours, but I’ve changed my schedule a bit and can be home for more meals, so like you, it’s easier to have no plan. But I think the easiest thing for me was cooking up 1 grain, 1 meat and some veggies on Sunday. I’d throw chicken with chicken stock in the crockpot, hard-boil eggs, make quinoa, roast veggies and mix it all together for lunches and dinners all week. GOOD LUCK! 🙂 And yes, I eat alone every game night during the NBA season. #firstworldproblems
Katie @ Live Half Full
I wrote this post a few years ago, I hope it helps! http://www.livehalffullblog.com/2012/12/07/my-meal-planning-process/
I also have added a “take out/wing it” night at least once per week and plan around our events. It helps a lot!
Leslie Kolafa (@florafoodie)
Oh my gosh, I just wrote a whole blog post about meal planning I’m going to post soon. Bottom line though is that I keep pretty standard breakfast and lunch supplies around all the time. I pick 4 recipes a week to make for dinners, usually have leftovers for lunch or dinner when there are leftovers, and usually throw together a “what’s in my fridge/pantry” meal to use up extra ingredients. Plus a night of takeout or going out every week. It’s such an obnoxious process, but as soon as you get used to it, it comes so naturally! Good luck!! 🙂
I’m ALL about meal planning, and I’ve definitely fallen into the pinterest trap, too. I’ve found that what works for me is to save all of the recipes that I come across during the week (there are always plenty scattered throughout the blogs I read), either in an email folder or on a pinterest board, so Sunday night when I’m planning out the week’s meals, I can go back and scroll thru my collection of pre-clipped recipes.
And I hope I’m not being a spammer with a link, but I did a post on this exact topic because I’m so passionate about meal planning: http://www.amym4gic.com/2014/11/a-complete-guide-to-meal-planning/.
As for CPT questions, I have many! I’m taking my test in a couple weeks and I’m really nervous about finding a gym that will hire someone with zero client experience. I also have questions about actually adding the certification to my resume, which up until this point is in a completely different field. Looking forward to a post on your transition! 🙂
I meal plan most weeks – I am SUPER busy and also cooking for myself and my fiancé but have a full time job with a less flexible schedule (I am jealous of you, I won’t lie ;). I think the key to meal planning and not getting overwhelmed is leaving some room for the “unplanned” – for example, not having enough time one night or plans that pop up with friends to eat out!
What works best for me is grocery shopping for 3 meals per week. One is always a crock pot recipe or casserole which I make on sunday that I know will last several days in the fridge; we will take to work for lunches or reheat for an easy dinner if we get home late. I also usually plan 1-2 additional dinners so that when I have an earlier day off of work I can cook after my workout and have leftovers the next night! Aside from that, I always am well stocked with frozen turkey burgers and shredded brussel sprouts for the nights we don’t have time to make a real meal and don’t have leftovers. I also will freeze single portions of soups for future easy meals!
Another thing that works well for me when meal planning is trying to come up with meals that are “similar” during the same week – I’ll make shredded chicken for tacos/salads as well as chicken enchiladas the same week to maximize using the same ingredients and avoid wasting anything! (i.e. shredded mexican cheese, sour cream, tortillas, tomato/red onion, and the entire cilantro plant that for some reason is the only size available to buy at the store when you only need 2 tbsp of it)
The struggle IS real, and I have only recently found a rhythm for meal planning in my own life. First, get yourself a dry-erase calendar, stat. Take 15 minutes to think about meals for the next two weeks (or just one week…baby steps) and color code them into the calendar, along with all your events for the month. Once you have the meals written out for the days, start your grocery list. I start with proteins first, then veggies/fruits, and then starches/grains. I’m OCD, what can I say. Let me tell you a HUGE secret…. Frozen food is the BOMB. Not fish sticks or anything. I am talking frozen veggies and frozen meats. Flash frozen veggies are just as healthy and can be steamed right out of the freezer. I toss mine is lemon juice or some (a very little) butter and seasoning when done. I love Mrs. Dash because of the lack of sodium. Frozen chicken breast and frozen salmon can also be your best friend! The salmon can be cooked frozen, but I pull the chicken out a day or two in advance to thaw. My bf and I like to go to the meat market occasionaly and stock up on steaks, chuck roasts, sausage, bacon (mmm) and it goes into the freezer till it needs to be thawed for a meal. My advice is don’t overdo it, and don’t stress if you have to move a meal back a day. We often have leftovers, since there is just two if us, so we have become flexible. Also, I always schedule a breakfast-for-dinner night. Those are the most fun! More advice…get a waffle iron. You can do scrambled egg omelets in them, as well as frozen tater-tot hash browns. Or biscuits, even. Seriously. Best. Invention. Ever. Last bit of advice…get an onion chopper. It will cut your preparation time in half! I use it with onions and bell peppers. I also freeze what I don’t use and throw in a skillet right out of the freezer when I want to sauté them up. Also, mushrooms can be frozen, too. Oh, and look for garlic in a paste form (comes in a tube!). It is a life (and meal) saver!! Okay, sorry for the novel! Good luck to you!! I think I will need to write my own blog post about this now. Haha. Thanks for the idea!! Xo – Stacy W.
I am not a meal planner, but then again, I don’t think any college aged kid is. Haha, with that said, I find your post to be very honest. I doubt ANYONE really accomplishes perfect meal planning week to week, so don’t beat yourself up too much!
To be completely honest, I really like meal planning. I find it sort of weirdly relaxing. I usually pull my laptop into bed with me on a Saturday or Sunday morning and make a loose plan. Most people have a standard breakfast routine and a somewhat-standard lunch routine (sandwiches, leftovers, etc) so I plan out about 4 dinners, assuming that we’ll eat out 1-2 times and the other is a wild card. Usually something I can pull together with standard pantry/freezer items. Then I make my list for all the meals for the week and I divide it into the aisles of the grocery store so I can get in and out quickly (this is where being very OCD actually comes in handy!). Then I do any chopping I can do before hand — for the entire week — on Sunday night. That way I can have dinner cooking in 20 minutes from when I get home. I find it’s easier, and less stressful, for me to know that I have everything I need in the fridge for the whole week. It’s far more appealing to me than going to the store multiple times. Not sure if that was helpful, but there you have it!
Stacy @ Sweating Tulipz
If am a meal planner…but mainly just for prepping food for the week. I make and chop/prep staples and make meals out of those staples. I plan what we are having for at least 4 days of the week, we wing it for 1 or 2 days based on what is left, and have leftovers another night. It definitely gets easier. Start simple. Don’t choose 7 recipes that require you to buy a gazillion ingredients. Buy things that you know you will eat, then get creative! It saves money and it helps you to become a better cook and save money.
Lauren @ The Bikini Experiment
Very cute post and so true! What I have found works for me is very basic meal prep – proteins, potatoes, chopping veggies, etc. Keep things really simple. You don’t want to eat the same thing every night, but it’s too much work to try new recipes all the time too. I’ll save that if I have more time one night or on a weekend.
Check out The Fresh 20 meal planning. Its awesome and save our week!
I am a newlywed and just really starting to learn how to cook for someone other than just myself. I have fallen in love with meal planning! What works for me (and this may sound a little over the top) is to plan a week in advance. For example, this week I am planning what we will be having next week. I take it nice and slow, look up the recipes as I go and jot my ingredients down in my meal planner throughout the week as I plan. I make one shopping trip after work on Friday afternoons for the week ahead. It has really taken the stress out of trying to come up with things on the fly and forgetting ingredients (saving me an extra trip to the store in the dreaded never ending Ohio winter weather). Love your blog!!
Ohhh going Friday before the weekend sounds like a great way to plan and get it out of the way! Thank you for the idea and for reading!
Hi heather, Love this!! Thanks for sharing. Is it weird that I love the process so much that I want to do it weekly?
Hi there, not at all! Some people really enjoy it. Cheers!