In the Kitchen: Meal Planning

In the past months I’d very much fallen out of meal planning, which created disasters in the grocery budget and in our diet. I’ve been working really hard over the past couple of weeks to use up food I have in the house, plus make sure that we’re eating more nutritiously. I also have a couple of busy schedules to work around, which makes meal planning a must if I want to keep away from fast food.

While I won’t be sharing my week’s meal plan, here are a few things I’ve done to streamline my planning in the future.

  • Slow Cooker Mondays – hubby and I rarely get home from work until 5:30 or later, and have to turn around and leave again by 6:30 or 6:45 to be at rehearsal. This isn’t much time for cooking real food, particularly if we want something warm on nippy fall days. So I’ve officially dubbed Monday to be a “slow cooker” day. I’ve found a few recipes in Joni McCoy’s book Healthy Meals for Less and a few more in an old cookbook I found at a garage sale: Out of the Sugar RutI’ll be exploring this website a lot more in coming weeks:
  • Taco Tuesdays – we love tacos. They’re affordable and delicious. When we make them in sprouted grain tortillas, they feel extra healthy. We mix it up with chicken or beef, sometimes we have beans or guacamole. Planning to always have Taco Tuesdays means one less night to figure out a meal.
  • Leftover Wednesdays – even worse than Mondays, we have church obligations that give us about half an hour for dinner; which isn’t even enough time to get home. We’ll bring some sort of leftover, probably from Monday, to heat up at the office.
  • Soup on Saturday – I’ve started making soup on Saturday to last us for lunches during the week. It means fewer groceries to buy and less hassle in the morning. Once soup is done and we’ve had dinner on Saturday, I package it up in pint sized canning jars, which makes a perfect lunch serving.
  • Sunday dinner out – when we put our Financial Peace budget together, we budgeted enough money to have a frugal meal out after church on Sunday. One less meal to plan and fewer dishes to wash!

These changes give me Thursday and Friday nights to try out new recipes and experiment in the kitchen. I think the dependability of a bit of routine with the flexibility of some more creative times will help with my planning sessions. It may even allow me to plan out a whole month without feeling overwhelmed.

When you’re meal planning, keep your schedule in mind as well as your budget. If you have family favorites, include them frequently, especially if you can mix them up to keep from getting bored. Use online resources to look for specific recipes, and resist the urge to buy too many cookbooks – too many recipes will just stress you out!

Happy Slow Cooker Monday – I’m headed home to homemade beef stew.

What are you cooking today?



9 thoughts on “In the Kitchen: Meal Planning

  1. Beef stew sounds deliscious! Tonight I made a quick and yummy stir fry with brocoli, red and green peppers, carrots, onions, and chicken breasts. On top of rice and flavored with just a little soy sauce. I made up the recipe last week when I was feeling experimental and it has become a favorite around here!

  2. Thanks for the post. I need to get back on the meal planning wagon as well. I think this post gave me the motivation I need. I do save a fortune when I take the time to plan out the meals and make way less trips to the grocery store. I like how you’ve designated certain days for certain meals. Makes the whole planning process seem less overwhelming to me. I’m going to try this as well.

    • I’m glad you were encouraged, Wendy. The process can feel overwhelming – sitting on the couch surrounded by half a dozen cookbooks and the limitless powers of the internet: so many recipes to dig through to find the right ones. I know other ladies who might have a stir-fry night to use up leftover fresh veggies, and some use a cook-once-eat-twice method that I’m a long way from perfecting. Good luck & happy planning!

  3. Great ideas, Amanda. My favorite time saver/penny pincher also happens to be one of my favorite meals – roast chicken. I like to roast a chicken on Saturday evening. I make a substantial meal so that we’re happy to have an appropriate amount of meat, which leaves plenty of leftovers. I then have enough leftover to fix at least two more meals – sometimes a chicken pasta dish, frequently a good salad topped with slices of chicken, occasionally chicken for sandwiches or any number of casserole dishes. Then, I throw my carcass and all the drippings into a pot and let it simmer all through the night and make a nice pot of soup which either becomes another supper or lunches for several days. has a nice article on making the most of your chicken. The happyhomemaker also has some good ideas.

    • I threw a chicken straight in the crockpot not long ago. I made a couple of casseroles and a pot of soup from it, had broth from cooking the chicken and then made stock from the bones. It does make for quicker meals, and its great to stretch that chicken as far as it will go. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Meal planning is such an essential part of budgeting. I hope your plan works well for you. If you can work a vegetarian meal in once in a while, it will help the budget too. Meat is one of our big expenses (that an organic produce). Also, if you don’t already do this, portion your meat to 3-4 oz per person (this is the appropriate portion size, and also helps the meat to go farther)

  5. Pingback: Month in Review « Echoing Footsteps

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