Oct 15 2015

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Answering What’s for Dinner? Meal Planning

Answering What’s for Dinner? Meal Planning

Every week, I sit down and meal plan for the week. (I use the app Menu Planner to make life easier.) I have a regular meal idea/theme for each day of the week. I plan in leftovers. Both regular meal themes and planned leftovers help make planning that much easier.

Here’s my overall weekly plan:

  • Monday: Something crockpot. I need this to be an easy dinner because I head out the door in the morning and won’t be home until dinner time.
  • Tuesday: Soup. This works well for using chicken broth or leftover veggies.
  • Wednesday: Breakfast for dinner. With this plan, the kids get involved (or completely take over the dinner prep).
  • Thursday: Mr. Real is in charge. He grills when the weather’s nice. When that’s not an option, he finds something he can make or buy.
  • Friday: Pizza night. My oldest became our pizza guy many years ago. Whenever he’s available, we enjoy his culinary gifts. But if he can’t do it, we work together and enjoy our homemade pizza.
  • Saturday: Often a pasta or rice dish. This used to be my “cheat” day to eat more carbs, but it’s stuck as a plan even if I’ve switched to zucchini noodles and cauli-rice.
  • Sunday: Leftovers. ( My family is, for the most part, good with leftovers.)

So that’s my plan. How has it been working?

Not 100% according to my plan. There is no problem with my plan not working. In fact, plans are a framework not a law. “Breaking” the plan isn’t an end, dinner on the table is the end goal.

Here’s a sampling of how it works:

  • Monday: I used the chicken broth and leftover meat from Saturday to make chicken soup. This was a great use of what we had. We didn’t get our shopping trip in until Monday, so I needed to use what we had.
  • Tuesday: Lentil soup. This was super fast using the pressure cooker. Lentil soup is one of my favorite soups.
  • Wednesday: My very capable BunBun made ham wrapped eggs and toast.
  • Thursday: Mr. Real grilled.
  • Friday-Sunday: Pizza on Friday, Sweet and sour chicken for Saturday, and leftovers for Sunday.

Just because I make a plan doesn’t mean I . . .

  • Will be saving lots of money. It’s certainly less expensive than eating out because of poor or no planning.
  • Will be healthier. Planned junk food is still junk. Plus, from some of what I have read, rotating food is a good idea. I tend to stick to the same foods, so that might need to change if I get stuck in a same-food rut.
  • Get the best deals. There are some ladies who are incredible at saving money. I could get better deals, but I don’t always invest in the time to orchestrate the sales to my meal plans.

Planning does . . .

  • Reduce decision fatigue. There is something exhausting about the daily dinner question. Am I the only one who feels this way? Knowing the plan reduces stress.
  • Use time better. I have a better chance at buying up the in-between moments (for food prep) if I know what needs to be done. I can delegate better too.
  • Create the opportunity for saving money. If I plan, I have a choice.
  • Create the opportunity for eating healthier. If I plan, I have a choice.

What do you do to answer the “What’s for dinner?” question?


What helps you the most?

Real Meal Planning



Check out my Real Meal Planning ebook. Learn how I meal plan to help you in developing your own meal plan for your family.





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  1. Andrea W

    I hate this question. For me, I have to have a meal schedule.

    The day before I do my weekly shopping, I make a schedule of meals. Since leftovers are almost never an option (b/c of Paul’s diet, he usually takes all the leftovers for his lunches) I have to have a main meal almost every day. That was stressing me out. BUT taking the few minutes to make a schedule not only helps with the decision making process, but things are defrosted, marinated in time and spread out. (Read: rotation of different foods). Plus I’m able to keep better track of what is in my freezer/fridge.

    Living overseas means I can’t “shop for deals.” But this way I can at least get the best bang for my buck while providing my family a health (and Paleo for my hubbie) diet.

    1. Cheryl

      I agree that making the decision to plan helps so much. We eat leftovers for lunch too, but I usually make a bunch–and we rarely have anything in the freezer.

  2. Beth Buzzell

    Oh, wow! You girls are so organized…well, as much as possible real life. I rarely even think about making a list or schedule for meals. Maybe because I am from another generation, I usually consider what’s in the freezer or fridge everyday, then go from there. Leftovers are my favorite, and I purposely buy big enough meats to use for several meals. I have read that one nite a week it’s a good idea to freeze one whole meal for another day..so make double that day. Have done that with stews, chili, and cooked turkey. Also make salads with leftovers..and of course, soups.

    1. Cheryl

      I don’t know if I am super organized, but I don’t always have a full fridge and wouldn’t be able to pull from the freezer or fridge and make a meal without planning. (Except when I am at the end of the month and need to stretch it.)
      I like your idea of doubling and freezing a meal. I do that sometimes with meat I’ve cooked. I love having one step in the process already done.

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