My Meal Planning Routine


     It's no secret in the blog-o-sphere that meal planning is a major money saver. Way back when I had my Kitchen Revival Blog (2010...where has the time gone?!) I explained that I literally cut my grocery bills in half by planning my meals, and avoiding extra trips to the store. Five years later, I still stand by the importance of planning your meals.  But, five years later, my lifestyle has changed, and so have my needs for meal planning.

     Five years ago, I was a stay-at-home Mom of a pre-schooler and an infant, and my meal planning consisted of writing out whatever 7-10 meals sounded best to me, along with the ingredients I'd need, and any other incidentals. That was it. I didn't even have a calendar. Just an old fashioned spiral bound notebook numbered 1-10. I didn't assign each day a meal, because I didn't want to be too committed. I mean, what if I wasn't in the mood for meatloaf on Tuesday? What if I wanted chicken on Tuesday and meatloaf on Thursday? Committing those recipes to specific dates on a calendar felt way too set in stone. I wasn't a committer. I liked to keep my options (and my meat choices) open. And why not? I had all day to cook, bake, sew or binge watch Netflix. Okay, I didn't really have all day to binge watch Netflix, because we all know a 4 year old and an infant won't let you binge watch (or eat) anything. But, you get the idea.

     Fast forward to today, and I'm no longer a stay-at-home Mom to a preschooler and an infant. I'm now a part-time working Mom to a third grader, a Kindergartener, and an infant. My lifestyle now needs to accommodate school schedules, nap times, 12 hour ER shifts, baseball games, and cheer practice. I am now not only committed and scheduled, but probably OVER-scheduled, which means my meal planning needed to evolve. In fact, our lives had gotten so busy, that my meal planning had consisted of nothing more than occasionally pulling up Pinterest in the aisles of Walmart, or considering which restaurant drive-thru we should frequent on any given night. But my grocery bill, fast food bill, waistline, and nagging Mom guilt insisted that I needed a change.

     So now, I sit down each week on Sunday, and make a weekly meal planning page.  Each day is assigned a specific meal based on our plans and schedule. If I'm working a day shift, then I need a meal that I can either throw in the crock pot when I leave at 5:45 am, or one that I've previously frozen, and the hubs can just pop in the oven before I get home. If we have baseball and cheer, I might need to skip cooking and order a pizza. Planning my week like this has not only saved me time, but money, and  I can't tell you how it's cut down on the food we waste. So many weeks when I was planning meals willy-nilly, the ingredients would spoil or go bad, because I had not taken the time to consider that I simply wasn't going to have the time to make a 3 course, two hour dinner that week.

     Other, very simple things got in the way of successful shopping and cooking as well.  Things like forgetting to thaw the meat ahead of time. So, you'll notice that in my new meal planner, I included things on each day like, "thaw pork for Tuesday's dinner" on a Sunday. This reminds me what needs to be done ahead of time, and eliminates the 4:00 pm crunch of "Oh no, I forgot to lay out dinner, better hit up Chick-Fil-A." (While we're on the topic of CFA, though, can we all take a moment to thank the gods of fast food for those grilled chicken nuggets and Diet Lemonade? They are the holy grail of fast food, both delicious and relatively guilt free. Just don't mention the fries and polynesian sauce to my hips, mmmkay?)

     As usual, in my life, no matter how ridiculous it may be, I value form over function. Or rather, I value form as much as function. I knew if my meal planning lists were messy chicken scratches in a notebook, I'd never use them. I'm encouraged by things that are beautiful, and fun, and my weekly meal planner is no different. So, like any good copycat crafter, I scoured Pinterest for a planning page that would meet my needs. I stumbled on these awesome pages from Jillee, and knew I'd found what I needed. I did need to make a few tweaks though, since I start my weeks on Sunday, and her pages began with Monday, but 15 minutes in Photoshop, and I was in business.

     As far as the "Week 21" business at the top, because of my obsession with love for Project Life, I organize my life in weeks of the year. It's how I organize my digital photos, and personal journal, and since Project Life is about documenting your every day life, it was a no-brainer for me to include my meal planner in this method. It's fun too, because it will make it easy to pop this photo into a Project Life layout. How fun will it be to look back one day and see not only what we ate that week, but all of the activities we crammed into a week as well!
     Without further adieu, this week's meal planning sheet:


     Do you have other tips and tricks you use for meal planning? I'd love to hear about them in the comments section!


  1. You're incredible. I'm barely making my meal plan work and I don't even have kids!! Im barely keeping up with jake and I's schedule! You rock!!

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