My Approach to Weekly Meal Planning

Meal Planning Kaileen Elise

A year from now you'll wish you'd started today. (Karen Lamb)

A perfect Saturday morning begins on the couch, dressed in cozy clothes, with a hot cup of coffee. Armed with my iPad + MacBook, good tunes or a show on TV for background noise, I'm ready to put together a new meal plan for the coming week. Pinterest is a great place to hunt for new ideas and gather inspiration. I enjoy scrolling through the endless photographs, and I also pin recipes to my Delish Delights board for future use.

Once I have some recipes in mind, I open Evernote on my laptop and start with an outline of the week. Then I check our calendars for any post-work activities that might overlap with dinnertime, and add those in. Next I build out the remainder of the week with tasty dinners. I try to keep a good mix of cuisines, with a balance of new recipes and all-time favorites. Chicken is a default protein in our house, but I prefer to keep our tastebuds guessing. For example, I try to avoid two "noodle nights" in a row. We could eat my modified version of Chipotle's burrito bowls every night, but I'd prefer not to for the sake of my hips!

Here's how a typical week might look -

Monday: Spicy Jambalaya Tuesday: Thai Beef Tacos Wednesday: Apartment Building Happy Hour Thursday: Leftover Spicy Jambalaya Friday: Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala Saturday: Date Night Sunday: Dragon Noodles

Once I'm satisfied with the week's plan, I get busy making a grocery list. I open a new Evernote and add items to the categories which correlate with where we'll find them in the store:

Fresh [X] bunch of cilantro [X] mini carrots [X] 1 lemon [X] 5 limes [X] 3 jalapeños

Pantry [X] 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes [X] 4 oz can tomato sauce [X] 1 lb (2 cups) dry black beans [X] 6 cups chicken broth [X] cereal

Meat & Dairy [X] 12 eggs [X] 3 yogurts [X] large carton of almond milk [X] cottage cheese

Frozen [X] 1 bag rice [X] frozen peas [X] frozen corn

There are some weekly standbys for breakfast and lunch, so I often use the past week's grocery list as a template. Once I get everything down, I do one last check through our freezer, fridge, and pantry to make sure I haven't added something we already have. Then I make sure to sync the list to my iPhone, grab some grocery bags, and head out the door.

Because of our work schedules, my Mister and I are happiest when we grocery shop on Saturday or Sunday mornings. It's quieter and easier to get around, plus I find the weekends are more enjoyable when I have time to prep food and really cook. We're competitive folk, so we sometimes set a timer to see how quickly we can make it through our list. I'm not always in the mood for racing (a girl's gotta examine every basket of strawberries to pick the right one!) but it's a fun to way keep us from wasting time amongst the endless aisles of Whole Foods.

This approach to meal planning has been working for me, but I'd love to hear your thoughts. Are there  holes in my strategy? Do you think you would give this a try? Share in the comments, I'd love to hear from you!

Eating HabitsKaileen Sues