Monday Meal Plan – How To

*This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a small commission if you purchase something through the link (at no cost to you). Thanks for your support!

I’m going to be sharing another meal plan today, but this time, I’m going to explain how I do my meal plans. I don’t use any fancy templates or print-outs…I just grab a scrap piece of paper and a pencil or pen. A pencil is smarter – you may need to change things around – but a pen shows up better in pictures, so I chose a pen this time!

Step 1: Look at Your Calendar.

The first step is take out your calendar or appointment book and write down what you have going on this week. I have a fairly busy week, with a wedding on Saturday and a Superbowl party on Sunday (GO PATRIOTS!). Plus, I am working late on Wednesday. These are all important things to know about before you start planning meals because they affect what meals you are cooking for, and how much time you have to cook them.

Step 2: Accommodate the Weeknights You Don’t Want to Cook.

For me, this is Wednesday – since I’m working late, I’d like to have leftovers that night. That means that on Tuesday, I need to make a large dish that will give me plenty for the next day, and hopefully a little extra for lunch on Thursday as well. In the winter, I usually pick a soup or stew for these days, since soups can be easy, fast, inexpensive, and warm. I haven’t had chicken tortilla soup in awhile, so I wrote that down.

Step 3: Figure out an economical way to get to that meal

Every time I make a chicken-based soup, I try to buy a whole chicken. The carcass gives me the chicken stock that makes my soup taste amazing, and I typically get one or two additional meals out of the meat. This led me to put a chicken dish for dinner on Monday – chicken vesuvio. This meal is a family favorite, and uses white meat. That leaves the dark meat to put in the soup, which is fine with me. After looking at it for a minute, I decided to make a double batch, which will require me to buy two chickens. I’m doing this so I have some extra chicken stock to freeze, and so that I have plenty of meat and soup to handle lunches for most of the week.

Step 4: Look at What You Have on Hand

We buy beef and pork in bulk in the fall, so I have a lot of pork and beef in my freezer. Since we are having chicken for the first half of the week, I’d like to get some red meat in for later in the week. I’m going to pick pork chops and pepper steak, since those are both quick, weeknight dinners that should provide leftovers for lunches.

Step 5: Deal with the Weekend

My weekend meal plan is easy this time, since I am busy both Saturday and Sunday nights. However, I want to make sure I plan on packing a picnic lunch on Saturday, since we will be on the road en route to the wedding around lunchtime, and I want to make sure I eat up any leftovers that we still have kicking around the fridge on Sunday. If I didn’t have such a structured weekend though, I’d be thinking about what I might LIKE to make, and focusing on longer cooking dishes. Since we both work, sometimes we like to use winter weekends to eat things like roasts or hams that we don’t have time to cook on a normal day.

Step 6: Fill in breakfasts

This is the easiest part, since we have eggs or oatmeal most weekdays. My breakfast plans are really flexible too; I tend to change them if I feel like it. The main point of even writing down a breakfast plan is so that I can remember to thaw meat or soak oats if necessary. On weekends, I will often have a more fun breakfast, like pancakes, but since we will probably be eating unhealthy food at the wedding (vegetable oil, ick), I’m going for protein and vitamin packed weekend breakfasts by keeping the eggs and just dressing them up with extra veggies.

Step 7: Make Your Grocery List

This is easy once you have a meal plan. Take a look at your meals, and make a list of everything you might need to buy to make them. Then check your basic stock ingredients (spices, flour, sugar, etc) to see if you are low on anything. Finally, add the things you buy every week, like milk and fruit. I usually write my list on a piece of junk mail or opened envelope so that I can easily take it to the store with me, and then throw it away without feeling bad about wasting paper.

My Meal Plan, Jan 28th, 2019 – Feb 3rd, 2019

A picture of my real-life meal plan.
Here is a photo of my meal plan. See? It’s not fancy, it didn’t require me to print or buy anything, and it’s easily recyclable. Yes, I know my handwriting is terrible.

Monday, January 28th:

Breakfast: Eggs & Stuff (i.e. bacon, fruit, whatever)
Lunch: Leftovers or picnic
Dinner: Chicken Vesuvio w/ salad. Make double batch.

Tuesday, January 29th:

Breakfast: Eggs & stuff
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Chicken Tortilla Soup

Wednesday, January 39th:

Breakfast: Eggs & stuff
Lunch: Leftover chicken OR picnic
Dinner: Leftover chicken tortilla soup
To Do: Thaw pork chops
**Jess working late**

Thursday, January 31st:

Breakfast: Eggs & stuff
Lunch: Leftover soup
Dinner: Pork chops w/ sweet potatoes & veg choice (this means whatever green veggie is on sale)
To Do: Thaw round steak

Friday, February 1st

Breakfast: Eggs & stuff
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Pepper steak (made with round steak) w/ salad

Saturday, February 2nd

Breakfast: Fancy scrambled eggs w/ veggies
Lunch: Picnic (on the road)
Dinner: Wedding!

Sunday, February 3rd

Breakfast: Strata/egg bake
Lunch: Smorgasbord! Whatever leftovers are still around
Dinner: Sunday Dinner/Superbowl Party

I hope you can copy pieces of this plan, or figure out how to make your own plan, with this information!

Some final tips….

  • Keep your meal plans: I actually have a binder with all my meal plans for the last year. If you really don’t have time to meal plan for a given week, it’s easy to grab a meal plan from last year. I save my meal plans for the whole year because I eat fairly seasonally, so if I need a meal plan in January, I’ll pick from the January section. It’s better to have time to meal plan so that you can accommodate what you have going on in your life, but I’ve had a few instances where grabbing last year’s plan is helpful. Alternately, you can use last years plans for inspiration while you meal plan if you can’t think of what to make!
  • Don’t forget your ‘To Do’: If you notice, I have a “to-do” section on some of the days in my plan. This is the key way that I remember to do things like soak beans or thaw meat. If nothing else, check your ‘to do’ after dinner and see if anything needs to be done for the next day!
  • Remember that it’s okay to be flexible: If you suddenly decide to have someone over for dinner, but it’s not on the meal plan, or if you randomly get a craving for turkey when your plan says beef…it’s okay. You can edit your plan mid-week. I’ve found that the more I stick to my plan, the less grocery money I spend, but you CAN change things if you feel like it!
  • Have fun: Meal planning is a great way to stay organized and it can help you stick to a budget, but don’t forget to enjoy cooking. Build in dishes that you know you’ll like to make, and if you have the time, flip through a cookbook or browse the Internet for new recipes to try. Don’t let food prep be 100% work, or else you’ll lose your motivation to do it 3x/day!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *