Meal Planning 101!

As promised….

Meal Planning 101!

This is how I plan our meals each week, so these are best practices that work for me… hopefully there are some tips in here that will also work for you! 🙂


  • I try to plan our meals around eating for 4, that way we each have a dinner portion as well as next day lunch leftovers.
  • I usually plan for cooking Sunday-Thursday, leaving the weekend up in the air for dinner out or an impromptu recipe since time isn’t as limited!

(1)  Take stock of what is in your fridge, freezer and pantry

This is a critical step to not wasting food and cutting down on your grocery $$$s!

In my trusty notebook you can see here the list of what we currently had on hand… just a few minutes standing in front of your cabinets is all it takes!

I like to organize the list by grouping like-items together ( proteins, grains, sauces) and also note how many meals I can make out of main staples (i.e. we had enough chicken in the freezer for 2 meals)


(2) Think about how your weekly schedule will play out. 

Do you have workouts scheduled certain days that will leave you less time for meal prep?  Do you have any other activities planned?  These will be nights that “easier” meals will be much welcomed!

I denote exercise nights with an “E” so I know that I need to have a meal that’s ready in an hour or less, since workouts don’t finish up until 7pm usually.

So now let’s get to the actual planning!

(3) First, come up with 1 meal that you can make only from “on hand” ingredients – this is a great money saving idea/challenge!

The meal I came up with from ingredients we had on hand was what you saw last night, calzones!

I also list out each of the ingredients I would need to make the meal…

that way I can start to check off what I’m using up from our list of things on-hand!

I think it’s helpful to see check by check what you are using that you already have at home 🙂

Check check check, saving money by the minute 😉

(4) Next step of the plan is to decide what proteins you will use, a great starting point to base your meals around. 

NOTE:  I try to balance between meat based meals and other protein based meals (beans, tofu, heartier veggie meals, etc) during the week.  Also if a meal can be made with meat or without, I like to do his/hers style dining.  Incorporating vegetarian meals a few times a week is both healthy and nice on the wallet!

This week I decided to base the rest of our meals around the chicken and black beans we had on hand.

Then start to get creative!  Check out your local store’s sales flyer for specials, this is a great way to “fill in” the meals with fresh veggies and grains.

If you are a coupon clipper, find your special helper and get to looking through those suckers for some additional money-saving ideas 😛

I keep my coupons organized by food types…

You may even want to think about recipes you’ve seen online, in magazines, cookbooks, etc. that you have been wanting to try and that “mesh” with your plan.  Or you can just think up some ideas in the ol’ noggin 🙂

I also like think about different types of cuisine, for instance, I like to have Mexican one night, Indian the next, etc.  This way no one gets bored and the meals are exciting!

Then start filling in the menu, listing the ingredients you will need for each meal so you know what needs to make it to the grocery list!

Once you have your meal ideas on paper, it’s time to organize into the final grocery list!

If you already have the ingredient on hand, check it off.  If you need to buy it, it makes it over to the grocery list…

I write the weekly menu at the top and then grocery list at the bottom. 

I also note if I have a coupon for the item, or what any special pricing was per the store’s flyer, that way I don’t forget about the deal while I’m in a shopping craze!

And remember all those notes about the weekly schedule, I didn’t forget those!  This week’s plan includes easy meals for the exercise nights, and I made sure that The Man has something he can eat while I’m at our Whole Foods cooking demo!


The little arrow also means that the days are interchangeable, both exercise and the meals.  Yes, I write it all down 😉

Now let’s go grocery shopping, shall we?  Of course the grocery list was the majority of the purchases that I made, however there are always “extras” that somehow make it into the cart (i.e. snacks for week, eh hmmm wine), no?  Hey, I’m only human!


  • romaine
  • mushrooms
  • carrots
  • tomatoes
  • green peppers
  • cucumber
  • plaintains (?!?!)
  • bananas
  • grapes
  • starfruit (anyone else love these too?!?!)

Cold stuff

  • yogurt
  • eggs (no antibiotics, no hormones, so worth it)
  • bacon (all natural)
  • mango salsa
  • sharp white cheddar cheese
  • swiss cheese
  • feta cheese
  • shredded cheese

Frozen Go-To

  • frozen broccoli
  • frozen peppers
  • frozen corn
  • frozen pizza (for The Man, like to get him a “treat”!)

Pantry Items

  • Food Should Taste Good sweet tater chips (lurve)
  • Chex Mix (gotta keep The Man happy 😉 )
  • Dog treats (gotta keep Lucy Dog happy 😛 )
  • whole wheat tortillas
  • peanuts
  • rainbow cookies (best ever!)

  • more salsa
  • Duplin Carolina Red (we passed this winery on our Wilmington trip!)
  • Woodbridge Chard
  • Italian dressing
  • Greek dressing
  • Veg oil

So there you have it friends, a week of meal planning and grocery shopping from start to finish!

Oh wait, what’s that, you are curious as to how much I spent?  Check it out… not too shabby I don’t think?


Remember that this cost included 2 bottles of wine and a few “extras” not on the list but also didn’t include any meat purchases (which can increase the bill).  Plus it didn’t include the weekend meals out or random seafood purchases that may have been incurred 😉

But for 2 individuals (one being 220lbs haha) eating healthfully for close to a full week, all meals of the day, this works perfectly into our budget.

Alright friends, well I hope that gave some insight on how I prepare our meals & do our grocery shopping each week!  It may sound like a process, however I promise that once you go through it just a couple times it will be like second nature to you 😀

1 hour spent up front planning = a whole lotta hours saved during the week stressin’ 😉

And before I go, one last reminder that I will be randomly generating the winner of the ThrivNP giveaway tonight so now’s your last chance to get those entries in!

Guess I don’t have to give you any hints on tonight’s dinner either 😛

See ya after work and some much needed ExerciseTV action!


20 responses to “Meal Planning 101!

  1. Wow – your coupons are SO organized!! I need to start doing that. Anytime I use them, they are just all lumped together. These are awesome tips!

  2. Very nice! I plan VERY similarly. Great job on the coupons- I need to focus a lot more on that!! Can’t wait to see who wins that adorable t!

  3. Great tips, you’re extremely organized I love that. I just recently started clipping coupons so that helps me a lot. Thanks!

  4. You rock, period. I’ve never thought about organizing my coupons by category. That is one of the best ideas, ever!

  5. This is a great strategy. I do most of this in my head, but on days when I don’t feel like cooking or doing anything, I feel like the list would help keep me motivated to follow it. Meat definitely increases the bill, but that is still great!

  6. Holy cow, this is amazing…seriously, you’re so organized!! Thanks for all the great tips, I’ll be cooking a lot for my family this summer and this will definitely come in handy!!

  7. Ummm can I please be as organized as you?? Please?

  8. Excellent tips on meal planning!! I do not meal plan – at all. BUT, I know I need to start practicing b/c once we have kids I know it’ll save me loads of time, money, and stress. I am saving this very helpful post. Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom! 🙂

  9. thehealthyjunky

    I need to do this more often! I am such a bargain shopper but rarely ever use coupons at the grocery store! I love this idea and am going to practice it next time I go to the store!

  10. lowandbhold

    Awesome tips!!! I really need to take all this to heart. Thanks girl!

  11. girl I get proud of myself when I know what i’m eating an hour before dinner time, let alone days in advance. Teach me your organization skills, pleaaaaaaase.

  12. Pingback: Fresh & Fast Fajitas « CookinFanatic

  13. Thanks for sharing your tips, you are so organized!! I love it!

  14. Oh my gosh….you are SO organized! Wow, I need to take some cues from you. 🙂 It’s hard to meal plan for one, and a lot of times I’m lazy and just make savory oats or an avocado wrap or something. But I NEED to be better about coupons – for sure! Hey, it’s the little things….right?

  15. Oh my gosh I love this post! I really wish I was a lot more organized with meal planning and coupons. This inspired me to to do a better job. Thanks!!


    Ok I love this post! I loved when I actually took the time to meal plan. It really made things fun and didn’t cost any more $$$ than normal. Lately I’ve gotten lazy…need to get back to that!

  17. Wow, I wish I was as organized as you! I love the little coupons with their section of the grocery store clipped on there! I think if I had my own kitchen and a job that didn’t mean I was working during the dinner hour I would totally be into that!

  18. you’re so good!
    i’m amazed you can do this everyday…
    even if the man wants frozen pizza! 🙂

  19. Sweet and Fit

    umm, wow – you are so super-organized! I am complete awe of you menu-planning skills. I have tried to meal plan before but I have never really followed through with it. I think I now need to give it another try given how much money you can save and how amazing all your meals always look!

  20. This is a nice way to plan and I am going to share this with my daughter who is a good cook but somewhat disorganized in the kitchen.

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