I know meal planning is something that a lot of people my age struggle with (I get a lot of emails about it), so I thought I’d share the system we use. It is, like most things, contained in our Simplified Planner, and it’s pretty simple!
On Saturday mornings, John and I sit down and plan out our meals for the week (Sunday to Saturday). Since our default is to make dinner at home, we first look at the calendar and figure out whether there are any days we know we’ll be dining out (maybe dinner at a friend’s house, or a day where we’re running around and don’t have time to cook). We also check to see whether we’re expecting guests any night. Once those are marked on the planning doc, we start filling in meals for the other nights. We pull ideas from Pinterest (meal boards here + here), from our collection of cook books, and from our accumulated meal plans (we have them going back to when we moved to NC, more than four years ago!!). We do tend to have seasonal favorites that show up often — including, as you can see below, BLTs when tomatoes are summer delicious :)
As we put together a week of menus, we also take into account the weather. (Is it going to be hot or cold? Might make a difference in the kinds of meals we want to prepare.) One other really important consideration for us is the leftover situation. John and I both take leftovers to work for lunch every single day, so we need to have a balance of meals that create leftovers and are easy to pack and reheat… and meals that do not (so we don’t end up with too much food).
Once we have our meals planned, they go on the meal planning doc. (Feel free to download your own copy here!) Sometimes I’ll jot down a page number or website next to the meal so we can find it again easily. Then, we put together a shopping list. We generally shop at two places every week: Whole Foods and a Walmart Neighborhood Market (basically a Walmart with only groceries and a very small home and pharmacy section). If our schedule allows, we go to one store on Saturday, and one on Sunday, which makes it seem pretty manageable. I split our list by the stores: below, Walmart is on the left, and Whole Foods is on the right. We generally shop at Whole Foods for most vegetables and fruit, dairy, and WF brands/brands that aren’t available elsewhere. Don’t mind the shorthand :)
We generally don’t decide in advance which meal we’ll have on which day — we kind of play it by ear, taking into account the leftover situation and which ingredients spoil the fastest. Thankfully, John does the cooking in our house, so once the meal planning is done, my job is complete! (Until the dishes call my name…)
I know everyone’s situation is very different, so I would love to hear: Do you plan your meals out for the week? How many nights do you eat in vs. out? Does your significant other play a big role, or not? I hope this was helpful!!