Daily Life: Meal Planning

Edited with Phonto. https://phon.to

Do you meal plan? Or are you ‘afraid’ to try it? Do you think it’ll be labor-intensive and boring? Believe me, I’ve been there. But hear me out.

We started meal planning a long while (over two years?) ago. I was reluctant for a very long time to try it because we used to fall into the “I want to eat what I feel like”-camp. I thought that meal-planning would feel very restrictive and that we’d be ending up having to eat things we didn’t want to eat all the time. And who wants that, right?


Meal planning has been a fantastic experience for so many reasons (here are a few):

1) I actually enjoy the process of writing our shopping list (LISTS! I don’t care what kind.. I like them all!) and planning out our meals helps so much to be more specific about what goes on the list. We usually shop at 3-4 stores and every Saturday morning, we go over which staples need to be restocked, dairy and produce for the week, and everything else we need for our meals.

2) We don’t have to think about what to make for dinner. We just pick from the list. Oh, the sanity and ease this has brought to our (weekday) evenings. No more arguing about “what’s for dinner?”, because we already know!

We plan 5-6 meals for a full week to leave some room for flexibility like eating leftovers, eating out, or just making a sandwich if we’re not that hungry. We also plan at least one meal that we can throw together from staples or stuff in the freezer, so it doesn’t matter if it gets eaten this week or if we push it back a week. We rarely ever stick to the actual day that we write the meal down for, but shuffling the meals around leaves enough flexibility to pick something for every night that we’re excited about.

3) We actually don’t end up eating what we don’t want to eat because it’s still us who are making the meal list. And honestly, who puts something on a meal list that they don’t like eating? Exactly. Duh! It was a totally irrational fear, I admit it.

4) We plan around sales and make sure that you always buy products at a low price. I’m not an obsessive extreme couponer (they scare me a little bit), but I do get a kick out of lowering my grocery bill by using sales and coupons. It’s really just the smart thing to do and technology makes it really easy for you these days. There’s not much coupon clipping involved if you don’t want to go there (although I still do that quite a bit, but really with very little expenditure of time. I will write about this in a later post.).

5) We hardly ever throw any food out. This is maybe not one of the most important reasons for everybody, but it is for me because I don’t like wasting food (have you watched the documentary “Just Eat It“ on MSNBC a few weeks ago? Mind-boggling! 30-40% of all grown/produced food goes to waste. A lot of it already on the fields – because it gets thrown out because of blemishes or because it doesn’t fit a certain size standard.
WHAT? – and also most of it at the homes of the end-consumer, because many people overbuy and then throw out food that they couldn’t use). Not wasting food also means we’re using everything that we’ve paid our hard-earned money for at the grocery store. It’s a win-win all around.

That subsequently also – in combination with 4) – keeps our grocery bill in check (at least that’s what I am telling myself. This might be a topic for a different blog post, since we apparently spend a lot of money for two people on food or let’s say ‘more than the average 2-person household). But I need to mention that, as I said, we pretty much eat everything we buy. Our culprit might be that we buy a lot of organic items and we do eat quite a bit of meat and dairy and I am not really trying very hard to plan ‘cheap meals’, I’m more concerned with a balanced diet.

I’ll tell you a bit more about the meals that we regularly prepare  and our shopping habits in one of my next “daily life” posts.

Do you meal plan? Do you feel that it helps keep the grocery bill in check and that you don’t waste as much food?

This post is part of my ‘daily life‘ series where I talk about how we do things around here! Find the last post here.

  1. I used to plan specific meals for every day but, like you, ended up shuffling them around. So now I just make a list of 7 dinners and lunches (sometimes lunch is leftovers) and that works out well. I’m lucky in that I have a chest freezer so when things are on sale I can stock up and then just shop my own freezer and pantry for a while.

  2. I so meal plan. I even precook on Sundays for the busy busy weeknights of two full time working parents with a hungry toddler! :)

  3. I do meal plan but I only cook 2-3 meals per week usually. Then the rest of the week I have leftovers or eat simple things like eggs and toast or something like that. I usually only cook a real meal on one week night because I just don’t make the time to cook most nights… It definitely helps to meal plan, though, as I eat way more healthily and spend less money!

  4. we don’t plan out our meals in a defined list per se. we tend to think about what meals we would eat at home and then only shop during those weeks. i’d love to know what most people spend on food for a month. i feel like my grocery bills are high even when i’m not shopping all that often b/c we the better ingredients.

  5. I meal plan in fortnights. :) Usually we can make it the entire two weeks without having to go to the store to get something we forgot. :)

  6. I’m a lazy meal planner, haha. I try to make a plan each week before I go to the store, but I definitely am not as diligent about not wasting food as I should be. Typically, I make about 2 actual recipes a week – 1 recipe I make and have for lunches throughout the week (since I don’t care for typical lunch foods – like salads and sandwiches) and then one other recipe I’ll make on Monday and have leftovers throughout the week. And I also have super easy meals on hand to make if I don’t feel like cooking (which is often), like mac and cheese, frozen pizza, nuggets, etc.

  7. Oh ja… Ich schreibe auch schon seit JAHREN Essenspläne für die ganze Woche. In meiner alten Wohnung hab ich ggü von einer kleinen Einkaufspassage gewohnt und bin fast jeden Nachmittag da rein. Als wir dann umgezogen sind hatte ich überhaupt keine Lust, ständig extra zu einem Supermarkt zu fahren und so ist das dann entstanden. Die ganzen anderen Annehmlichkeiten, das so zu handhaben, hab ich erst später realisiert. Lustig ist, dass ich überhaupt nicht mehr “einfach so” einkaufen gehen kann. Dann fällt mir nichts ein, was ich kochen könnte…

  8. I think we do most of these things too! I had to start eating more meat of late due to doctor’s orders. We have a nice store that gets fresh grassfed beef at reasonable prices. We spend about $90-100 on all organic produce/milk/grain for the week at Monterey Market and about $30 on either meat, poultry, or fish. I always make kale, lentil, and potato soup on wednesdays to use up the two bunches of Kale. We also make a huge root vegetable, meat, bean soup on Sundays for lunches.

    When we lived in Washington, we had less access to such good produce and I subscribed to organic milk delivery ($8 per week, Smith Brother’s farms) and a CSA box with a pound of meat and some veggies. The box would arrive on Wednesdays meaning we always had stew for dinner that day and the next =). Meal planning is fun. Meal planning is also personal and one does not need to stick to “Pinterest” type boring stuff either!

  9. We’ve been big on meal planning ever since we got married – I would be heading to the grocery store every single day if I didn’t plan our menu and make a list beforehand! We have certain things we keep on hand for breakfast and lunches are usually leftovers, so I really only plan dinners. I’ve tried different variations – weekly, every other week, and monthly, and find we actually save the most money (and waste the least amount of food!) when I plan meals for 3-4 days at a time. We still spend way too much on groceries, though! I blame the boys – they’re bottomless pits when it comes to eating :)

  10. I tried meal planning once and it worked for about 2-3 weeks. But like everything else, I got bored with it and stopped doing it. Which I sort of knew would happen!

    I wish I was organized and liked to make lists and plan, but I just don’t and I’ve come to accept that about myself. I think it definitely works for some people, but my head just doesn’t work like that and sadly gets bored easily. We usually buy a lot of veggies and fruits, but very little meat. I make random veggie dishes here and there and about once or twice a week I may make a meat dish, and we try to have fish once a week. I also come home quite late so we don’t really have a sit-down dinner because it’s just too late at that point for it (and too heavy on the stomach). What I’ll do instead sometimes is make a meal for the next day to eat for lunch (for the both of us).

  11. I don’t do it lot, but I always feel like I should. It could definitely save me some money and also I could also put more thought into what’s healthy instead of just going for what I feel like after work. Thumbs up!:)

  12. Oh, there are sooo many good points here. I think I’ll be putting together a list very, very soon. I totally agree with the convinience of having everything planned is much more valuable than the “freedom of choice” every night!

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