How I Plan Weekly Meals

I think I have gotten either less spontaneous or too anal (in a detailed way!) as the years have gone by.  However, my idea of spontaneity is hub and I getting an 8pm craving, throwing coats on over our jammies and heading to Carvel.  It certainly isn’t deciding what to bring for breakfast and lunch to work as well as what to make for dinner that evening as I’m pretty much ready to head out the door for the office.  That usually resulted in either a hastily thrown-together meal, leftover appetizers from New Year’s Eve or take-out. I needed to consider a weekly plan.  Here’s what I came up with.

Meal Plan

Since the 3rd week of January, I have been using the layout above and below (though have since reduced it to one page) to map out breakfast, lunch, snack (for me only to pack for the office – hub works from home so he’s on his own!) and dinner.  Once I had gotten two weeks under my belt, I really looked forward to mapping this out every Sunday.  Having everything decided (whether we wound up having it or not) and knowing what ingredients I already had and adding what was needed to my shopping list took a huge weight off my shoulders.  It also took away the anxiety that would creep over me during the day at work as I fretted over what to do for dinner when I got home that night.

I planned out dinners first since it had to be something hub and I both like.  I could be more flexible with my breakfast, lunch and snack.  Dinner is almost always centered around a protein, I start first with that then figure out additional the additional ingredients.  So, down to our Zombie Apocolypse Stockpile I ventured.  Or, in other words, the basement!

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Anyone need detergent?

I digress 🙂

I’m not one of those extreme couponers, but I’ve done my share of printing, clipping, flyer comparison and such.  Above is the fruit of my labors stored very Sleeping-With-The-Enemy-like in shelving my late mother-in-law found at a yard sale decades ago.  I had dug them out from that little alcove around the corner, washed them down and filled them up.  As for the freezer, hub and I go to Restaurant Depot to get a bulk of our meat as we can now fit the large quantity they sell in (a 40 lb case of boneless chicken breasts for $1.09/lb!)  What we can’t get there, I usually purchase only on sale at our local grocery store.   I spend a few moments how I want to prepare it before heading over to the shelves to see if I have the accompanying ingredients.

For each meal I list on the left, I put the ingredients needed on the right.  I usually keep to the big ingredients and not get into listing spices, herbs, oils and such. Seeing it laid out like this gives me a better bigger picture of what I have and need.  Items already on hand get a bullet point.  Items to be purchased get a checkbox.  For the latter, I see what day a meal falls upon for which I need to something for it.  Example:  If I have all the ingredients for Monday & Tuesdays meals, but I need items for Wednesday’s supper, then I don’t have to worry about going to the grocery store until Wednesday on my lunch hour if I wanted to.  However, if I need something for Monday, I’ll go then and wind up getting the rest of the items for the week.  When I draw up my shopping list, I transfer these items over from the meal plan and signify with an arrow that I moved it.

Here’s just a few shots of other week’s meal plans:

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And here’s where I switched to one page.  I decided not to include items I already had as I didn’t have to worry about them as much as those I still needed:

94c2df4c2f39242a6a628a19351c6c7bAnd……one more:

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As you may notice, I do have some repeating items – especially my breakfast and lunch. Eggs, oatmeal, high-protein cereal, yogurt, salads and turkey wraps are a few of my favorites as they’re quick and easy to make as well as healthy.  I always include a soup & sandwich night (which I plan for either Wednesday – which my bill payment night – or Friday that hub will handle) Leftovers are anywhere from 1-2 times a week depending upon how much I’ve cooked over the weekend.  You’ll also may notice that I do not include Saturday and Sunday as I’m mostly home and have time to do some experimenting!  Plus weekend cooking provides a bulk of the leftovers for the remainder of the week.

I also include any cooking notes on the right hand side (see first two photos).  In this post, I had explained how I keep certain items stocked at the office.  This not only reduces what I have to pack, but insures that I always have something tasty and healthy on hand when the 2:30pm munchies appear.  If I know I have it at the office I write @ work next to the ingredient.  If it’s something I need to make the night before (like the couscous) I note that.  If there’s something I need for Friday’s breakfast (like a bagel) that I don’t have during Sunday planning, but know I’ll have shopped for it by then, I’ll note will have or  purchased____  I especially note proteins that will need to be taken out of the freezer either the night before or morning of to thaw.

Now, this is just for two people.  A family consisting of children with different appetites, likes and dislikes may require either more (or less) structure.  However, I think the core layout can be adjusted to suit any type of meal schedule.  If this is something you might ant to try,  you can download this meal plan in .pdf format.  I decided to design this in order to keep it on the fridge where it’s not only more visible, but also so hub can participate in any prep.  Clever, aren’t I?  🙂

Happy meal planning!

Elena

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7 thoughts on “How I Plan Weekly Meals

  1. Good morning! I already commented on Instagram that I was going to try your layout in my bullet journal, but then I saw you oh-so-generously created a pdf for me! (Yea, only me, it’s all about me, LOL!) Thank you! I’m still going to eventually add it all to my journal but for now the pages will be awesome and I know they’ll help me manage our meals! I’m going to start with Friday of this week since I already am planning for the weekend (big Easter dinner) and next week should be easy, with some leftovers from Sunday! Thanks again!

  2. I may have missed this in the post, but are you planning meals based on what you have or what you want to eat? May sound silly, seeing as you’ve obviously got quite a stockpile (for which I am jealous, ha!) but especially with your making notes about what needs to be picked up by which days, it’s just a sort of ‘out of curiosity’ kind of question. With my meal planning, I try and do the grocery list first, which is mostly things on sale and staples that don’t go on sale (bread and the like), and try and plan meals from there. And, at the same time, I’m certainly not making trips throughout the week – that’s how we end up spending 100$ on groceries a week, instead of 50$ or less ;).
    I do, however, have to commend you on planning all of this out so much! I plan dinners for the week and that’s it…and would love to be more serious about it, at least having things for lunch beyond PB&J!

    • Hey Jessica,

      I do plan around what I already have on hand. Because of both our cupboard and freezer stockpile, I do have quite a variety to choose from. It did take about a month or so of comparing flyers, cutting coupons and hoping around from store to store to stock up on all the basics we need, but it was SO worth it. We’ve saved so much money. I couldn’t justify going to the store every week and dropping almost $100 for only 2 people. I remember working with a lady who would grocery shop almost every day on her lunch hour for supper that evening. No.Thank.You. I’ve also been tracking discretionary spending (which includes groceries and incidentals) and like to see how long I can go without doing a big shopping (with the exception of milk, bread, OJ and such) It does take a burden off me and having so much to choose from on hand makes meal planning so much more enjoyable. And planning what I take for breakfast and lunch is pretty much a must else I’d have to go out everyday to buy lunch – which is a no-no

  3. This is brilliant! I always find I am rushing to the store daily to pick up things or having poor dinner choices because I am not prepared. Am going to print out your printable today! Thank you!!

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