WFMW – Meal Planning


Many of you have commented on my meal-planning. Mostly on the fact that I plan all three meals for all seven days of the week. How do I do it? Why do I do it? It’s easier than one might think. And it’s what works for me. πŸ™‚

Before I begin I grab a piece of paper, an index card and a pen. I also pull up the weekly sales flyer online for our local grocery store. I scan the flyer to see if there are any really great sales that I’d like to utilize for our meals. Are hot dogs on sale? Or milk? Hey, breakfast sausage is on sale – sweet! I write these things down on my index card, which will be used for compiling my grocery list. Then I sit down to plan the menu.

I prepare my notebook paper like this:



And then I begin. The first thing I do is plan my breakfasts. This takes only a minute. Common breakfast options include: Srambled eggs, turkey bacon or sausage, biscuits, gravy, pancakes, oatmeal, cream of wheat, fruit, yogurt and cereal. Sometimes I’ll make a skillet breakfast casserole which also requires tater tots (and then we’ll have extra tots for another meal) and on occasion we’ll have french toast, cinnamon toast, or cinnamon rolls. I always plan biscuits & gravy because it’s hubby’s fave, sometimes twice. I usually plan a bigger breakfast for Saturday morning and a quick, easy breakfast like cereal or yogurt on Sunday morning. It’s as easy a plugging options in, 1-2-3.

The next step is planning the supper meal because sometimes leftovers can be used for lunch the next day. I take a quick look at the calendar for what we had for supper the last two weeks to make sure we don’t over repeat anything. If there was anything that we didn’t get to use for that week, I plug it in first. I consider weeknight commitments (such as church, dance, etc.) and keep that in mind when selecting what night to prepare what dish. Next I check my deskpad calendar for any ideas I might have jotted down while browsing menus on Monday and I plug those in into the week. At least every other week I plan a breakfast for dinner, I particularly like to do that on Sunday. Then I fill the rest of the nights in with common supper ideas that we haven’t had in a while. My husband doesn’t like to try new things too often, he’s somewhat of a picky eater and we usually work on a tight budget, so we repeat things a lot but I rotate them around enough to keep things from feeling repetetive.

Common supper ideas around here are: Rice & beans & cornbread, chili & cornbread, our family casserole (a ground beef, green bean & potato dish), Tuna Helper’s Fettuccini Alfredo or Creamy Broccoli or Tettrazini with salad & bread, Spaghetti with bread and salad, Frito pie, Taco Soup, Potato Soup, Meatloaf or Porcuppine Meatballs, Tacos, Enchiladas, and hamburgers.

The last thing I do is plan the lunches. I go down the list looking at the supper meal the night before. If it is something that will have leftovers or something I can easily double to make leftovers, I’ll write that down for lunch the next day. Then I go back through and fill in the blanks. I look at what is being served for breakfast and dinner so I can catch any nutritional gaps. I don’t want to plan oatmeal, mac n cheese, and potato soup all on one day. Instead I’d plug in something with more protein like an egg/cheese/bacon wrap or a peanut butter sandwich and some fruit. After just a minute, the lunches are all filled in, too. Lunch is actually the hardest meal for me to plan, believe it or not. I run low on lunch ideas. My kids don’t like corn dogs, fish sticks, grilled cheese (unless served with soup), and a ton of other common kid foods I just can’t think of right now.

Common lunches around here include: PBJ’s, grilled cheese and chicken noodle soup, mac’n’wienes, nachos, fried egg sandwiches, baked potatos and hotdogs. And of course, leftovers. πŸ™‚



After that the meal planning is finished, but I’m not. While I have everything out I make out my grocery list. Adding to the list of sales items (that I should have used while meal planning and should erase if I didn’t) I go through each meal on the menu. I write down what I need to purchase to make that meal. If in doubt, I get up and check the pantry because I hate going back to the store and it’s a waste of gas. When I write something down and then find I need it for a second meal (like ground beef) I go back to that on the list and add a (2) or something appropriate. Once I’ve gone through the whole menu, I double check the grocery list to make sure everything looks okay. I then add beverages and snacks and any other household items I need and now I am ready for the next week. I take my things to my desk where I write the menu on the deskpad calendar and slip the grocery list index card into my coupon organizer.

Then I sit back and enjoy the feeling of organization for a moment before real life kicks in again. πŸ™‚

I find that doing things this way really does work best for me because:

  1. I don’t usually find myself needing to make repeat trips to the store for forgotten items.
  2. I spend less money in the long run because of that.
  3. I feel like we have better meals for the extra planning work – more balanced ones for sure.
  4. Having it written down helps me plan better for the next day (taking meat out to thaw, etc.)
  5. The kids enjoy knowing what is on the menu all week.
  6. I don’t find myself staring into the pantry trying to decide what to fix anymore, I just look at the menu and grab the stuff.
  7. We stick to the menu at least 95% of the time, but enjoy the flexibility of swapping meals according to spur of the moment plans or cravings.
  8. Planning all the meals is helping me with my weight loss plans because I plan on having something extra around for myself when I don’t want to indulge on the family’s fare (Yogurt instead of biscuits and gravy, or having salad available with the fettuccini alfredo.)
  9. It also helps with the meal rotating and spacing to avoid too much repetition like I mentioned earlier. I don’t often hear “We just had that!” anymore. πŸ™‚
  10. If I ever need to because of the budget (I have once or twice) I can redo my shopping list for what I need for the first half of the week and what I need for the second half of the week so that I can break up the shopping trips – and it’ll only take me a minute.

As I said, this really doesn’t take that much work or take that much time, either. The more I do this, the faster it gets, too. In fact, it takes more time for me to blog about it than it does for me to create the menu! πŸ˜‰

So you can see.. I plan all the meals on all the days because… that’s what works for me. πŸ™‚

For more Works For Me Wednesday tips and ideas visit Shannon at Rocks In My Dryer.

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Jessica Snell
Jessica Snell
February 21, 2007 12:25 am

I don’t plan all three meals, but I swear by menu-planning. Like you, I make my grocery list at the same time. And I also write down, step by step, what has to be done meal-prep-wise each day on my calandar. That way I don’t underestimate how long it’ll take me to get dinner on the table (“I have to shred a pound of carrots? Better start now!”) or forget to defrost the meat the night before.

Cool tip!

peace of Christ to you,

laughing mommy
laughing mommy
February 21, 2007 1:01 am

Wow! Thanks for the good info. I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time. And i just have to say… your picture of you and your kids is adorable!

Terrific Teens
Terrific Teens
February 21, 2007 1:34 am

Great idea! I do so much better on the weeks I plan a menu! I love your organized way of doing it and planning suppers so you can have leftovers the next day. I will incorporate it into my planning!

Amy Jane
Amy Jane
February 21, 2007 6:58 am

Thanks for such a detailed description! I find play-by-plays like this so useful!

February 21, 2007 7:18 am

This is wonderful. I’ve been trying to write down what we have for supper so that maybe I will plan my meals. Now you have encouraged me to start with the planning. Thanks!!!!!


February 21, 2007 9:01 am

I am so glad you did this post. I have definitely been curious as to how you get all three meals planned. I really need to do this so I’m not standing in front of the fridge in the mornings searching for something to make or giving the kids waffles everyday! πŸ™‚ I love how organized you make it. It really does sound simple!!! Thanks so much for sharing!

February 21, 2007 11:04 am

Great post. Thanks for laying it all out.

February 21, 2007 3:05 pm

Wow! For a beginning meal-planner like me, your post is a gold mine of info! Thanks so much! =)

February 21, 2007 3:28 pm

I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t menu plan. It has saved us so much money. This is a fabulous post on how you do it- that is great information to share!

February 21, 2007 7:35 pm

I love your organization and the system you have! Thanks so much for sharing how you do things.

February 21, 2007 8:30 pm

That really is a great system. I love meal-planning, but I only truly plan for suppers. I’m still amazed πŸ˜‰

February 21, 2007 9:18 pm

Great post! I don’t plan all three meals now with the kids at school during the day and Stephen at work, but will plan lunches this summer with the girls home. I have tried to plan breakfast, but the girls like to choose from 2 or 3 options, and my husband eats at work (he leaves here at 4am).

February 22, 2007 1:46 am

Great method for menu planning! I’m just now getting started with menu planning, so I will definitely put this to use!

February 23, 2007 2:37 am

I usually only plan dinner ahead because I’m very boring for breakfast and lunch. I usually make a pot of soup and eat it for lunch all week with a salad. I break it up for the kids with PBJ and grilled cheese and leftovers. Breakfast is always porridge (from the crockpot) meusli and yogurt, which I also make ahead one or twice a month or sometimes cereal. Making lists is very easy around here.

February 22, 2007 8:19 am

You don’t have a picky husband eater. Your hubby eats those things you just listed my wouldn’t. Your so lucky. I put my menus on my calander. I print my off the computer so I have plenty of room.

February 25, 2007 8:55 pm

I’m a little late showing up here, but I just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to explain it all step by step. For some of us, it just doesn’t come naturally–even the little steps are a surprise. I think it’s only in the past year, after 40 years of living and 16 years of marriage, that I’ve finally started to plan well in this area. It’s not hard, but it *feels* hard. I’ve never figured out why. It’s a psychological blip in my head. Plus, my mom never modeled it. She modeled the frantic throw-it-together method of… Read more »

February 26, 2007 3:21 pm

Thanks for breaking this down so well – it’s really helpful!

Would you mind sharing your recipe for your family casserole? It sounds like something we’d like? Perhaps you could post it as a comment on my blog – or just email me (kellie at cheerful dot com) Thank you!

Also – do you have any favorites for casseroles/meals that freeze-ahead well?


WFMW - Happy House Cleaning « Bringing Good Home
February 28, 2007 2:01 pm

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