How I Meal Plan for Each Week

Earlier this week I posted a picture on my Instagram account in one of my favorite happy places – the grocery store! I am sure that this is somewhat unexpected for a happy place, but grocery shopping is something that I enjoy so much! When my husband and I first started living together and began grocery shopping, he discovered a habit of mine that he was not very fond of- my need to go up and down every single food aisle.

While some have a very easy time just going to the aisles that have products that they need to purchase, I always find myself needing to go up and down every aisle, regardless of what I have on my shopping list!

Now something that I do pride myself on is my planning, and when it comes to using that ability towards our weekly meals, I like to think I am quite successful.

In the past I struggled on finding a method to document what my meals for the week would be and went through various notebooks and layout ideas until I finally found one that worked best for me and my eating style (typically three meals and two snacking times throughout the day). Lucky for me, this year I found a planner that has a very similar layout to the one I was drawing up on a weekly basis!

The 12 month planner is a weekly/monthly setup that is undated, so you could begin using it whenever you see fit/when you purchase it, without wasting any monthly pages due to those dates having already passed! The planner I am using is by The Happy Planner and can be found at Michael’s Stores (unfortunately I have not been able to find this exact one online) as well as on Amazon!

As far as how I begin planning my meals for the week, what I like to do is sit down around Thursday or Friday to start planning for the following week. I usually start by picking out lunches. My husband and I both work in schools and are unable to leave our campuses to get lunch and in order to avoid ordering out for delivery frequently, I prepare lunches for the both of us on Sunday’s. What I have found to be easiest is to pick 2-3 different lunches. Typically I let my husband pick a lunch first and if it is something that is not my favorite, I pick a lunch that I will have in place of his choice. If his pick is something I enjoy, then I plan to make 5 of that lunch (3 for him and 2 for me). If him and I decide on different meals, then I make 2-3 of each of those meal selections. I like to try to have one lunch choice that we both enjoy and split up for the week (so again, making 5 of that choice). At the end of it all, I need to have prepped 10 lunches, 5 for him and 5 for me. I don’t prep lunches for the weekends because I like to leave those days available for some flexibility in the event we decide to do a date night or we have plans with family or friends.

Before I get too far into this planning process, I want to introduce you to the app that I use for my grocery lists- Flipp. While I don’t use this app for all of the many purposes it has, I love using it for my shopping lists. The app even automatically sorts your items by Pantry, Produce, Meat, etc.! What I like to do is, as we pick out each meal that we are going to have during the week (whether it be lunch or dinner), I write down all of the ingredients that are needed in my shopping list on this app. Oftentimes I will even put down ingredients that I am unsure if we have on hand and will go over the list before leaving for the store and delete any that we already have!

After picking out our lunch choices, I move on to the dinners. I love browsing Skinny TasteΒ for ideas as well as searching Pinterest. There are times when we have a lot of meat in our freezer (my father tends to buy in bulk when it comes to meat and will often give me some when I go over to my parents’ house) so I will search meals based on the meat. I will also ask my husband if there are any favorites that he would like me to make at some point during the week. We are definitely the type of people who like to switch things up instead of eating the same thing multiple times throughout the week so when I make dinners, I don’t plan on too many leftovers or making that meal for multiple nights. Many times we will make sure to include one pasta night (ya girl loves her carbs) and we usually will go over to my parents’ house on Friday’s for pizza, a tradition my family has always had for as long as I can remember.With that in mind, we are typically picking out 5-6 different dinner recipes.

Something that I always try to practice is flexibility. If for some reason one of us is having an intense craving and we just NEED to go get Chipotle one night (I would be lying if I said I wasn’t guilty of this on multiple occasions), I shift around dinners if needed or we simply skip the one we planned to have and move it to the following week (at this point we already have bought the ingredients for it so why not- less we need to buy on our next grocery trip)!

Many times I plan on doing a protein shake in the morning to serve as my breakfast, but I know I need to switch things up sometimes so I try to pick up at least one or two different quick breakfast on-the-go items that I can have just in case I’m not feeling the shake one day. Both my husband and I are up fairly early (I have a one hour commute) and struggle to find time to have a full blown breakfast during the week. We both love our protein shakes for this and we have both found some fairly quick alternatives that we can eat in the car or that can be prepared easily once we get to work.

As far as snacks go, we both prefer to grab on-the-go type things for this as well. I will usually pick up some odds and ends like granola and cottage cheese that I can easily portion out the night before and throw into my lunch bag to have for at work! On occasion I will make a muffin or bread that we can take for snacks or for breakfasts on our busy work days!

When it comes to grocery shopping for the week, we try to go on Saturday’s (yes, one of the busiest days to go, but we’ve adjusted as it is the best day for both of our schedules). This way, I have all of Sunday to prepare our lunches and I don’t have to worry about getting our shopping in on the same day and then feeling crunched for time (we used to go on Sunday’s and I would working on lunch prep until 7/8pm and then felt as though I had used up my whole day)! Typically we will shop at Meijer (right across the street from us) but I like to make the occasional trip to Mariano’s when I want to treat myself to a more “upscale” shopping experience. I always make sure to have my phone charged enough so I can use my trusty Flipp app as my grocery list! Once an item goes into the cart, I delete it from the list (this is both satisfying as well as helpful in that your list is grows shorter and by the time you have gone through all the items, if there is anything still on the list, it’s easy to see what you missed!) I definitely prefer this method to a written list where you may be crossing items off and it becomes messy!

Since we are doing something different for dinners each night of the week, I do not have to do any prep for this prior to the actual day of that meal. What I do love though is our lunch meal prep. After doing this for over a year, I finally feel like I have gotten it down pretty well! When it comes to prep, it’s all about what works best for you and your lifestyle! For us, it’s a lot easier for me to make all of the lunches on Sunday and all we have to do each morning during the week is grab which of the lunch meals we will be having and run out the door.

It definitely took a lot of trial and error to find meals that were good options for lunches as well as what was realistic to prep in a day. We have had some major failures, some meals that took way longer than expected to prepare, and some meals that just didn’t hold up well in the fridge for our final lunch of the week on Friday!