Meal Planning Step 2: Put a Plan in Place

By now, after reading post one and two, I trust your new found nutrition knowledge has boomeranged your meal-planning motivation right back into your kitchen! No? Okay, maybe I’m the only one who gets excited about pairing new recipes together for the week ahead, but even so, I hope you are at least viewing the task as a bit less daunting.

When you have a plan logged for the oft crazy week ahead, you will quickly noticed you feel much happier and far less frazzled as you make the drive back home after a long day at work.

And if you happen to have chosen a slow cooker meal for that day? Mmm, mmm, MMM! You will be greeted with a delicious aroma which always makes for a happy momma!

Getting a plan in place for the week ahead prevents you from fretting the moment the clock strikes six.

Getting a plan in place for the week ahead prevents you from fretting the moment the clock strikes six.


Always Plan Ahead.

“It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.” – Richard C. Cushing

Before you get into a weekly routine of meal-planning, I recommend taking a few extra steps to set the stage for success.

Step 1: Create a recipe book or Pinterest board. Identify your top 10 to 20 tried, true , and family approved recipes. Now write them down, gather them together in a book (magazine pages work great in a binder), or pin them on your meal planning board.

Whatever your method, the goal is to make them accessible so that when you sit down to mealplan, you can quickly scan through your family’s favorites.

Step 2: Make a meal-planning zone. This is my favorite and can quickly become a source of kitchen inspiration! Set aside a space in your kitchen or home office and dedicate it to the sole purpose of meal planning.

What does this look like? For me, it all began with a beautiful vintage cookbook holder I found in an antique shop (similar to this one, here). Every couple of weeks I swap out the cookbook being featured on its frame to offer new mealtime motivation. While the cookbook alone may be enough for you, I am a self-deemed recipe hoarder which means I also need a paper tray to collect the recipes I print out or tear out. The tray is also the perfect place to store your own recipe book that you put together in step one.

Up until recently I have relied on a simple meal planning tear pad, which I use to write down my weekly plan. Just this past month I transitioned over to one housed within my planner which makes my planning (and reminder) that much more accessible when I am on the run. This is the foundation of my success. If it’s not written down, it will never happen. I swear I have the memory of a goldfish these days, a lovely quality I am going to blame on having a toddler and infant underfoot.

Step 3: Determine what day works best for your planning and prepping. When do you have the time and energy available to plan? Before the kids wake up? After they go to bed? Or perhaps during an episode of PBS’s Daniel Tiger (my munchkin’s own obsession)? Anytime works as long as it is time that you actually have to focus, at least for 15 minutes or so.

As an early bird myself, I tend to plan on Saturday morning before shopping on Sunday morning. This way I have a full nap-zone that afternoon to begin prepping.

Okay, looking good! Now that you have the front work taken care of, let’s prepare for the week ahead and start making your first mealplan!

As you get started, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Take a look at your calendar. Does Joey have soccer practice right after school on Wednesday? Is Caden going to a birthday party on Friday night? Does your hubby work late Tuesday? Keep all of this in mind as you schedule meals for the week ahead. If everyone is in and out at different times, plan for a slowcooker meal (chili and cornbread work well!) to allow for each family member to eat when it works best for them.
  • Pick a day to plan and prep. Okay, I realize this is redundant, BUT some weeks are more hectic than others and your usual day of planning may simply not work out. In this case, you will want to ensure you have some time set aside to dedicate to this task regardless of your schedule.
  • Make a grocery list. Go through each recipe you have set aside and write down the ingredients you will need to purchase. This simple step makes a world of difference, especially when it comes to keeping your budget in check! Check out my friend Katie’s top 5 reasons to make a list, here.
  • Think sides. Planning on a chicken meatloaf one night? Be sure to incorporate a side dish or two to help balance out the meal (preferably one with a vegetable or fruit).

Finally, make it fun! While I’ve always (always, meaning since having kids anyway!) been a weekly planner and because I tend to serve up new recipes each week (did I mention I’m a recipe hoarder?), I have recently began dabbling in weekly themes and setting aside at least a couple of days for family favorites.

Here is what this often looks like for me:

  • Meatless Monday. Nothing fancy, because seriously, it’s Monday. Black bean quesadillas, sandwiches,
  • Try It Tuesday. This is when I get creative as I am able to get home a bit earlier for some extra prep.
  • Wacky Wednesday. Breakfast for dinner! Yum! Cheddar Egg Sammies on whole grain toast, Blueberry Flax Pancakes, or Eggy French Toast. Heck, there are some nights a yogurt parfait bar would work swimmingly 🙂
  • Thirsty Thursday. Ha! Not really, but by this late day in the week I’m usually ready for a glass of wine and a long hike. During the summer I love to be able to grill out or dine out. Pre-packed foil pack dinners work great!
  • Pizza Friday. I either pull out a frozen dough to begin thawing the day before or I mix one together that morning before the kids wake up.
  • Sharing on Saturday. I tend to have more time and support on Saturdays, which makes it perfect for hosting guests. Though if we’re on the run I enjoy packing a picnic to share when hunger strikes at a park.
  • Slow Cooking Sunday. Sunday is a day of family and one that I tend to use to plan for the week ahead, therefore the last thing I want to do is prep for the day’s dinner itself. Soup, chili, or a simple roasted chicken in the slow cooker work for us.

And here is what it might look like for you:

  • Mexican Monday
  • Traditional Tuesday
  • Wok Wednesday
  • Turkey Thursday
  • Fishy Friday
  • Soup and Sandwich Saturday
  • Sunday Supper

Feeling accomplished? You should be! When you’re ready, be sure to complete our meal planning series with my tips on prepping for the meals ahead!

Do you stick to themes throughout the week? If so, I’d love to hear them!

Jessica Corwin, MPH, RDN

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