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What’s for Dinner? My Meal Planning Guide & Review

GroceriesClipArtI do 99% of the cooking and grocery shopping in my house, because it makes the most sense for my family, and because I like it.  What I didn’t like was the weekly “What should we have for dinner this week?”, and the four or five different grocery stores I would visit to get all of my shopping done (ridiculous, I know), and the fact that in the past six months our grocery bill almost doubled what it always used to be. It was time for me to start meal planning.

Getting Started:

My first step was to make a list of our go-to meals… meals that I make regularly and that I can make quickly, easily, and off the top of my head. I ended up with a list of about 30 meals, and then narrowed my list down to 20 favorite meals that I could group into 4 weeks of 5 meals. This allows us two nights a week of take-out, dining out, leftovers, making different recipes, or trying new recipes. It also means that we’re only eating each meal once a month.

The next step was to group the 20 meals. I wanted to make sure that the meals for each week shared similar ingredients (when possible), but also make sure that we weren’t eating pasta all week long, or eating both tacos and quesadillas in the same week.

My last step was to write out the grocery list for each week. This took a little while, but has been very helpful. I store a copy of the meal plan on Google Drive, so as long as I have my phone, I have our grocery lists.

How’s it going?

My first week, I still ended up at four different grocery stores, but at least my list was organized, which definitely cut the amount of time spent in each store. I arranged the meals to match our weekday plans, and prepped ahead whenever I had spare time. One night, something came up, and I had to skip making one of the meals, but luckily none of the ingredients went to waste. I’d call our first week a success!

My second week, I planned to make only 4 out of the 5 meals, and so, I just cut the most complicated and time-consuming meal from the list. It took three grocery store trips to get everything that I needed, but like I said before, at least I knew exactly what I needed at each store.

This is my third week, and when I went grocery shopping yesterday, I just grabbed my phone, wallet, and keys, and headed out the door. Grocery shopping is so much easier when I know exactly what we’ll be eating for the week and what I’ll need to buy. Cooking is also much easier when I know what to make and have everything that I need.


Going forward…

I am planning to continue with our meal plan, as-is, until winter when I’ll probably make a few seasonal adjustments (more soups, less salads). I’m also considering creating a meal plan for my daughter that goes along with what we’re having each week, although her favorite foods seem to keep changing.

It took me a while to get motivated to make my meal plan, but so far, it’s definitely been well worth the time and effort.


What are some of your favorite go-to meals? Have you tried meal planning yet?

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2 Responses to What’s for Dinner? My Meal Planning Guide & Review

  1. Elysa July 21, 2014 at 6:07 PM #

    Great post! Making a go-to meals list helps me so much but I do need to keep modifying by the season and take into account what my son is into at the time. In the winter, we love enchilada casserole, turkey burgers, and in the summer we do simple meals like homemade pesto with tomatoes, bread and salad or hummus.

    • jana
      jana July 24, 2014 at 9:21 AM #

      Thanks, Elysa! So far, it’s really helped me to have a plan, but I’m also learning that it works best if I can be flexible about it.

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