I am often asked how I have time to cook every night and since I do cook often, how I am not constantly running to the grocery store. My answer? It’s all about planning!
Over the last few years, I’ve developed a weekly meal planning process that works very well for us. Planning helps us to save time, save money, and keep us on a healthy track throughout the week. Since I get so many questions about this, I thought it would be fun to put together a post about how I meal plan.
I always love learning about how other people plan for the week and how often they choose to cook at home vs. eat out. So please feel free to share your process and any tips you have in the comments section below!
1. Travis and I go grocery shopping together on either Saturday or Sunday every weekend. Before we head to the store, we select 3-4 recipes we want to make that week. Why not more? Because let’s be honest, life happens, and realistically we won’t have time to cook every night. Sometimes one of us has to work late, has plans to meet up with friends, or we simply don’t feel like cooking.
Just so you get a sense, here is what last week’s meals looked like for us:
Monday: BBQ Chicken Skewers with a Grilled Charred Broccoli
Tuesday: Halibut with Balsamic and Cherry Tomatoes
Wednesday: Turkey Meatballs with Roasted Vegetables
Thursday: Travis was out, so I ate breakfast for dinner (always my go-to when I am on my own).
Friday: Dinner out
Saturday: Whole Wheat Pasta with Chicken, Sun-dried Tomatoes, and Basil
2. When choosing which recipes to make, we generally try to mix up proteins (chicken, turkey, ground beef, white fish, salmon, etc) to keep things interesting. We select a few new recipes to make that week as well as some old favorites. You can read my post about how I organize my recipes here. By selecting recipes in advance, we never suffer the dreaded, “what should we do for dinner” conversation at night when we’re both already hungry.
Since Whole Foods is often our store of choice (it’s walkable from our apartment), I also like to check out what’s on sale before we hit the store and sometimes we dictate our meal plan around that.
In case this may interest you, here’s a list of grocery items that are typically cheaper at Whole Foods.
3. Based on the recipes we select, I create a list (either on my phone or a piece of paper) of all the items we need to pick up. This list also includes any staple items we use on a weekly basis (bananas, eggs, etc.) As you can see in the photo below, I always make sure to pick up a few healthy snack foods for the week as well: greek yogurt, Kind bars, fresh fruit, etc.
4. One more important tip! In case a new recipe turns out to be terrible (yup, it happens!), we always have some backup options in the freezer. Just last week, I went to cook some cod we’d frozen a few weeks ago, only to find it did not smell right after it defrosted. Instead of taking a gamble, I chucked the cod in the trash and immediately went to Plan B: a frozen Udi’s pizza. Delicious, satisfying, and absolutely no stress.
Having healthy backups is also great for when you home exhausted and don’t feel like cooking – it’s faster, cheaper, and healthier than getting take-out. When shopping, just make sure you look at the ingredient lists – if there are chemicals and additives you can’t pronounce, put it back in the freezer case. Additionally, say no to Lean Cuisines and other frozen meals with excessive sodium levels – they’re doing you no favors.
Here are some of my favorite, healthy frozen and “backup” foods:
Frozen Vegetables (great as a side to any meal)
Now that I’ve shared my meal planning process with you guys, I am curious about you! How do you mean plan for the week? Let me know!