You know what I hate more than meal planning? I hate that feeling when it’s 4:30 pm and you have no idea what you’re having for dinner, and your kids are whining that they’re hungry.
Meal planning is a necessary evil my friends, as tedious as it may be. It makes dinner time way less stressful, is better for your budget & helps you make better choices when you plan ahead! I’m here to share how I plan our meals for the week, some tips for making your grocery list & managing recipes, how I grocery shop and some of the systems I use to manage it all!
The planning of the meals
On Saturday or Sunday I look at the week ahead and see what our calendar looks like. Do we have any evening commitments? Are we hosting friends/family? I’m also mindful of where I am in my cycle, if I’m at a lower energy point in my cycle that week I’m going to opt for easier dinners and less cooking.
Assess the refrigerator + pantry
Throw out old leftovers and wipe down the inside of your refrigerator as necessary. Take an inventory of what you have. Do you have a pepper or two that need to be used in a recipe? Check expiration dates and see if there’s anything that’s going to expire!
Eating in season
I do switch up what we eat depending on the time of year. I try to keep in mind what foods are in season as they are better priced when they are in season and more nutrient dense.
In warmer months I’m more likely to use the grill versus baking/roasting things in the oven. In the cooler months I love roasts, crockpot / instant pot meals, or simmering a pot of soup on the stove.
Make a recipe rolodex / rotation
I think everyone should have a “go to” list of family-favorite recipes. This really depends on what you and your family enjoy!!
Some of the dinners on our dinner rotation include:
- roasted chicken
- taco night
- paprika grilled chicken
- thai red curry chicken
- vegetarian quinoa chili
- white bean chicken chili
- chicken pot pie
- unstuffed ground pepper turkey bowls
- braised short ribs
- pulled pork
- sourdough pizza
- pasta & meatballs
Save your go to recipes / ideas in a note on your phone or make a pinterest board! I have a note that says “go to recipes” of some of our tried & true favorites and also have a note for seasonal recipes that I will reference when I’m unsure of what to cook.
Google is your friend
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve googled various food items to find a recipe. “pepper chicken recipe” or “sweet potato onion” or “mushroom broccoli” and just see what comes up! Pinterest is another place to search for recipes. This is a great way to get inspired too.
Brain dump some ideas on paper
After I’ve assessed the week ahead, referenced my pinterest boards / favorite food bloggers / go to recipes I’ll jot down a few ideas for dinners for the week. I try to think about meals that will offer leftovers for lunch OR that can be repurposed into another meal that week. For example, roast a chicken on Sunday, and then make a chicken soup or chicken pot pie for Monday.
I aim to personally cook at least 3 dinners a week, 1 night is leftovers, then we eat one dinner out. We have 2 nights (usually weekend) that are flex nights in which we will either do dinner with friends OR Tyler will cook something.
Start making your list!
I keep a white board in the kitchen where I’m continually adding things that we need throughout the week. You can also make a note on your phone or write in a physical planner.
I also reference a note that I have a note saved on my phone with a reference list of items that we like to sometimes keep on hand. It’s broken down by category (vegetables, meats, fruits, dairy, pantry items, health/beauty, kids stuff, household items). You can access the list here.
Where I grocery shop / source items
I rely on instacart or amazon prime whole foods delivery for a majority of our grocery shopping needs. It is a complete life saver for us!! Our local grocery store (Wegmans) offers curbside pick up too, so occasionally I will utilize that.
In the summer months we participate in a local crop share (CSA) with Salvaterra’s Gardens in Alburtis, PA. I love that we are supporting a local family and we personally know where our produce is coming from. They don’t spray their produce with harsh chemicals either, which is important to us. When we aren’t doing our CSA, I try to buy in season produce when I can from local farmers markets but this isn’t a habit I am very consistent on!
Thrive Market is a go to for pantry items such as oats, flour, sugar, coconut oil, certain supplements, beef sticks/jerky, bone broth, collagen, teas/coffees, chocolate, bars, etc. Prices are often much cheaper than our local stores & they throw in free gifts with most orders. You can get 25% off your first thrive market order by clicking here!
I use amazon for household items such as toilet paper, light bulbs, batteries, paper towels, dishwasher detergent, laundry soap, trash bags, cat/dog food, etc.
I do love our local Costco and usually do a monthly trip there for things such as frozen berries, organic chicken, organic beef, bone broth, nut butters, maple syrup, honey, frozen vegetables, kerrygold butter, sparkling water, drumsticks.
Managing the meal plan
I say that the best system for you is the system YOU WILL USE. If you want to write down your meal plan on a sticky note on the fridge, that’s great. Or if you think writing in your paper planner will help, good. Put it on a chalk/whiteboard on the wall if that works for you!
Usually the night before I look at what I’m making for dinner the next day and determine if there’s anything I need to prep (take meat out of the freezer, etc). If I know that I have a busy day ahead of me, I might consider prepping ingredients in advance.
I try to keep links / recipes handy so that when it comes time to make dinner, I’m not searching for the ingredient list or instructions.
Sometimes life happens and there’s an opportunity to go out to eat last minute or you had a rough day and need to order a pizza! That’s okay!! Remember to be flexible, sometimes you need to pivot from the plan.
Want dinner / recipe ideas?
Don’t forget to follow along on instagram, I share our weekly meal plan & recipes on my stories and love to see what you’re cooking too! Tag me as you’re making your meal plan, you can use my free weekly meal plan template here!