in the kitchen

Meal Planning Made Simple

Meal Planning Made SimpleMeal planning is the biggest saver in the kitchenYou can save money, time, and resources by meal planning. Money is saved by purchasing only what you need. Time is saved by not running to the grocery store everyday.  Resources are saved because you know what you need for the week so food won’t be wasted.

The biggest benefit, and it doesn’t show up on a chart anywhere, is that things just run so much smoother.  It’s the peace of mind that things are taken care of and you don’t have to scramble. If you have a plan, you’ll eat at home and you’ll eat healthier, too.

Meal Planning Made Simple

Go Gingham: Meal planning made simple

1. Plan ahead

Sunday evening is my meal planning day for the week. From the meal plan, I make my grocery list.

The first thing I do is grab our calendar and see what we have going on for the week. Evening meetings, sports practices, and social events get noted on the dinner menu.

Any evening meetings? That means I need to plan a quick dinner, have leftovers from the night before or serve a meal from the freezer.

Sports practice? Quick dinner, leftovers or something that can I can stop cooking and resume later.  Mom’s taxi service requires me to turn off the stove from time to time.

2. Make a list and post it

We keep our meal plan front and center on the refrigerator. We all like to check it during the week. Also, if anything needs taking out of the freezer to thaw, I try to do this the night before. We don’t have a microwave oven so planning ahead is required.

My kids each cook a dinner each week. I ask them for ideas or what they’re tired of cooking and then I plan accordingly. Some families let their kids decide what to cook completely and we tried that but it’s just too much during the school year. I note their days to cook dinner on the menu or they sign up.

3. Keep it simple

Find a favorite meal.  Once a week we have “Fish-Rice-Salad” which is fish, rice or quinoa, and salad or greens.  Start to finish, it takes less than 25 minutes and everyone in the family can make it AND enjoys it.

Serve beans or lentils weekly.  Get into the habit of soaking beans and cooking them, weekly.  Lentils are even easier because they don’t need soaking.  Beans are inexpensive, full of dietary fiber, and easy to freeze.  They’re a good after school snack and can easily be made into hummus, too.

Here are some weekly meal plans from our house.  You can download our “Dinner Menu” here and start your own Meal Planning Made Simple menu collection.  You’ll need to cut the paper in half and I suggest printing on both sides.  You’ll get 4 menus on each sheet of paper.

Meal Planning Made SimpleMeal Planning Made SimpleMeal Planning Made SimpleSometimes I’m lazy and skip this routine but I’m always sorry, especially when someone asks “what’s for dinner” and I don’t have a plan!  Meal planning really is a saver in the kitchen. Give it a try.  Happy meal planning!

Do you meal plan?  Are you consistent?  What’s your method – paper and pen or high-tech method?

Go Gingham related links:

National Match-Up Day: A step-by-step on how to clean and organize your food storage containers!
Grocery shopping from the bulk bins and food storage containers
Reusing glass jars and how to get them ready for re-use
Frugal grocery shopping – without coupons!
Pantry basics for the home cook – what’s in my pantry
Refrigerator basics for the home cook – what’s in my refrigerator
New to cooking at home? Fear not!
How we keep food waste to a minimum
Confessions of a leftover food lover – that would be me!

4 thoughts on “Meal Planning Made Simple

  1. Hi Sara,
    I love meal planning! My system is very similar to yours. I agree the time/money savings is great. But like you, I find the peace of mind and not having to answer the “what’s for dinner” question (because the weekly menu is posted) to be an even great benefit.

    There have been many late nights at sporting events when people in my family beg to “just go out” when we’re on our way home. Because I already know what I’m serving for dinner (or, in most cases have already made it!) it is very easy to say “NO”.

    It’s a quadruple win because the kids are eating healthier food, they get in bed earlier, it saves me money, and it gives us time to connect as a family.


    1. Kirsten, I agree with you about having a plan! It makes life so much easier to say “no” when asked about another meal spot.


  2. Being retired we have few nights of activities. Our activities are usually in the afternoon so I take advantage of crock pot/solar oven/pressure cooker meals frequently.

    Starting with Sunday, my meal planning goes like this: beef, chicken,fish, pasta,chicken,fish,leftovers. Once a week there is soup from chicken or beef and stir fry from beef, chicken or fish. Pasta typically is spaghetti with a tomato based sauce with either 2 oz of ground beef or lots of chunky veggies added.

    For sides it’s rice or mashed potatoes – cooked in bulk then frozen in individual portions for my husband, I can’t tolerate the carbs-I’m diabetic – and sometimes mac & cheese made from scratch. The veggies are whatever is in the garden and needs to be used – right now it’s green beans, chard, carrots, asian greens, and lots of salad stuff including tomatoes, peppers and a variety of lettuce.

    I have about 10 different recipes for chicken & beef plus the usual baked, grilled, etc. I use lots of herbs and spices to make meals different. Beef and chicken are used in 3-4 oz servings if plain and 2 oz if used as basis for soup or stir fry.


    1. Bellen, this routine is very impressive. I, too, use a crock pot and pressure cooker. Not many people use pressure cookers but it cuts the cooking time of brown rice (which we eat) in half, and is so much better for you. Thanks for the comment.


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