Meal Planning 101

One of the most frequent questions I get is, how do you meal plan? Can you make me a meal plan? I could, but I think I can help you learn how to make your own which will be better in the long run.

In all seriousness, I get it. Meal planning is hot, trendy, and it can seem like everyone on Instagram is doing it – perfectly. I’m here to share, it IS hot and trendy but it takes practice and can become more of a habit after lots and lots of practice. That said, you’ve got a number of ways to start but here’s what works for me.

Step One: Every season I go through my pantry, freezer, and fridge and do some clean out. I try to keep an inventory of the freezer (since I find frosty science experiments in there way too often) and monitor my fridge throughout the week. Clearing out the spoiled and knowing what’s already in your house is a good place to start.

Step Two: I ask myself if I can make a meal or at least the base of a meal with ingredients I have already. There’s fish in the freezer, rice in the cabinet, lemon juice, and canned tomatoes (I love cooking rice and adding petite diced tomatoes to it). I’ve got a dinner minus maybe needing some fresh broccoli for a side. This step saves you money and helps you continue to be creative with what you have on hand.

Step Three: What’s in the fridge? Are there any leftovers that you could turn into soup, stir fry, or a scramble? I love taking the left overs like roasted veggies and scrambling them up with eggs for dinner or shredding that leftover uneaten, getting wrinkly zucchini and baking muffins (even if it’s just a small batch).

Step Four: Check out recipes or look through ones you’ve been saving on your Pinterest board and check out the local sales ads as well. I tend to do the most meal planning for dinner but there are plenty of people who will start meal planning by only planning breakfasts or lunch…or snacks! Do what does not feel too overwhelming for you. If you’ve got a stressful week ahead, use your Go-To meal sheet. Find more info about that HERE.

Step Five: I use a planner but you can use a piece of paper, notebook, whiteboard, or anything you like to write out what you’re going to make/when. Then check your recipes for ingredients you already have and write out what you’ll still need.

Step Six: Write down other things you’ll need for the week and if you want to take it a step farther, I like to rewrite my list in the order I shop at the store. It helps me save time and then I’m not weaving through aisles feeling tempted to add things to the cart that aren’t in the budget.

Step Seven: When you’re home, it can help to organize what you’ve purchased and keep your meal plan present. Steve and I have a whiteboard on the fridge that helps us stick to our meal plan. I once read a hilarious tweet that said, “being married is having the we have food at home argument every single day.” I wish I knew who said that because it is SO true.

Bonus step: If you have leftover beer taking up room in the fridge, chances are you can bake with it! I’ll be share to give you some more recipe ideas in that regard soon!

It does seem like a lot of steps when you write it out, but I would encourage anyone who wants to try meal planning to see what they need the most. Do you struggle having a breakfast in the morning? Are you hungry all day at work and spending more than you want in the work cafeteria? First identify what it is you want to plan, start small and practice, practice, practice!

What do you think? Have you tried meal planning? What helps you make a meal plan?


Next time you meal plan, Tag me! @The_Beer_RD on Instagram and hashtag it #theBeerRD 

Five Reasons to make a Go-To Meal List

This Sunday I had what felt like the entire day ahead of me to make a meal plan, prep most of the ingredients, seasonings, and pieces/parts to make my week go smoothly. I had extra time to peruse the grocery store aisle and my husband continued to do dishes while I cooked this, that and the other thing. I realize that without children or truly much responsibilities this day, it allowed me plenty of time to calmly cook and prepare to my heart’s desire.

When I don’t have time to look for new recipes, plan meals and budget all in one day, I find it’s helpful to use my list of go-to meals. You can download my template,HERE, but it’s basically a list of three to five go-to breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks that I know the ingredients, outcome, and approximate budget as well. These are meals and snacks that get rotated in each month at some point, so I usually have their shelf stable ingredients on hand. Here are five other reasons to have a go-to list.

  1. Budget – When money is tight your go-to list can have ideas on it that cost less and it might leave room in the budget for one new food product or recipe that week.
  2. Healthy – Most everyone wants to deliver healthy and delicious meals for themselves and their family. A list of healthy go-to’s can help you stay nourished and satisfied all week.
  3. Known Items – I know what is in the recipes and where everything is, making grocery shopping easier and faster. It also allows me to change up one ingredient every so often, if the recipe calls for cheddar cheese but colby jack is on sale, I can make a quick swap that doesn’t take much thinking time.
  4. Coping with stress – If you have a crazy week ahead and you come home exhausted, I find that sometimes coping with that stress is easier if I don’t have to think about what to make for dinner. I’ve got my go-to ideas and by having at least three to five (or more!) listed, I can find something that sounds good and won’t take me much time.
  5. Goals – There are so many things that can knock us off the wagon when we’re trying to make changes. A list of meals and snacks that are helpful for your goals can help when you’re standing in the kitchen or pantry not sure what to eat. Or it can come in handy when your stomach is on empty and you’re ready to eat everything and anything in the fridge!

The go-to template can be downloaded here, 5 Go-To Meals, if you missed it above. Can you relate to needing some good go-to ideas? Don’t get me wrong, cooking new recipes and meal prepping is great, but when there simply isn’t time my go-to list is my saving grace.