Growing up, my mom always had a plan for weekly meals that allowed for a little wiggle room in the schedule and built her grocery list from that plan. She would ask for our (my siblings, me, and my dad) input for meals and snacks for the week and then she would go to the store once a week based on the list she made.
I picked this habit up from my mom and started planning meals, building grocery lists, and stocking my fridge and pantry based on the meals I planned to eat back in college. I’ll be honest in saying I spent many years thinking everyone planned out their meals like this, but as I’ve gotten older and encountered a wider variety of people I realize that not everyone plans meals for the week. (which can be totally fine, you do you!)
That being said, I get a lot of questions regarding meal planning and food prepping for the week so I am sharing Meal Planning Guide to help make things a little easier if meal planning is something new to you.
My approach to meal planning allows for flexibility and creativity. Because I am constantly recipe testing, making food for television, or prepping for cooking classes there are many times when I have a lot of food around the house (specifically produce) that I just toss together in a random meal so that I can prevent food waste and use up the food before it goes bad. This week is one of those weeks where I am using up food in our fridge and freezer, so my list looks small and my meal plan looks pretty loose.
Right now, I am rotating different vegetables, beans and protein but I am loving a salad with a base of greens, topped with roasted vegetables that are leftover from prepping on Sunday, protein (I’ve done tuna, tofu, chicken, and tempeh), chickpeas or lentils, and a dressing similar to this Lemon Dijon Homemade Salad Dressing
Thursday (I usually grocery shop on Thursdays): clean out the fridge/scrounge meal
Friday: Whole Foods (we went to Monumental Yoga downtown starting at 4pm and Whole Foods was walking distance to the yoga)
Saturday: Burst Cherry Tomato Linguini from Run Fast Eat Slow(<–affiliate link) with a homemade Caesar Salad
Sunday: Roasted Chicken, vegetables and sweet potato (I used the leftover vegetables in my lunches throughout the week)
Monday: Greek Yogurt Marinated Chicken with a Tomato Cucumber Salad
Tuesday: Leftovers (I am taking French Lessons from 5:30-7:30pm on Tuesday nights and like to eat before my lesson)
Wednesday: Having friends over for dinner so I am going to be making a vegetarian Antipaso Salad (testing it earlier that day!), roasted vegetables, and a roasted chicken.
You can see my grocery list above!
Meal Planning Guide
If you have never planned meals before, then this may seem a little overwhelming. At first it may feel like it takes a ton of extra time, but I promise you that I spend no more than 30 minutes meal planning and grocery list making unless I want to (sometimes I really enjoy creating more elaborate meal plans with lots of new-to-me-recipes) and I know the same can be true for you. All you need is a little practice and a strategy built around the tips I have listed below.
Here are tips to help you have success while meal planning.
Start with one meal. I focus on mainly dinner. We always have things in the house for breakfast and lunch, but during the work week I find that Brian and I enjoy eating similar things each day so we can “automate the task” and not have to worry about being super creative for breakfast and lunch with lots of change day to day.
Plan for 4 meals for 7 days. This will allow you to use any leftovers you may have or make a larger batch recipe just so you have leftovers to eat another day (cook once eat twice!), clear out the fridge and make a random meal(s) to prevent food items from going bad, and it will allow you to have wiggle room if someone invites you out to eat or if you end up getting home later than planned, etc.
Consider what you have going on in your schedule. In my meal planning .pdf I have a space for notes and I love using that to note when Brian has a dinner meeting, I have a French class, or if we have friends coming over. This allows me to plan a meal that fits our schedule and helps make things easier rather than harder. Example: on Tuesdays I am taking French lessons in the evening, so I typically plan on eating leftovers that night because I need to be out the door by 5:15pm. If I was planning an elaborate/fancy/new recipe for Tuesdays, I would realistically need to start cooking around 3:30, which would cut into my working hours.
Plan only 1 elaborate/fancy/new recipe a week. Cooking takes time to prep, time to clean, and it takes up quite a bit of energy – especially if it is not something you do all the time. This Meal Planning Guide is a tool to make your life easier, and I’m telling you right now that planning more than one elaborate/fancy/new recipe a week will not feel easy.
Now, it’s your turn to meal plan!
Here are some recipes you can use (or use for inspiration) for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner: