Meal Planning 101

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites. We participate in other affiliate programs as well. For more details, please see our disclosure policy.

grilled chicken dinner couscous green beans

So, we need to apply good principles to the management of our homes. One of those is to keep everyone well fed. As much as I enjoy a run through McDonald’s (or Chipotle or Taco Bell or Subway), making that a regular habit is not good for my family’s health or our budget. There’s no question that home-cooked meals are better for everyone. There’s plenty of research out there to suggest that eating dinner together at home as a family promotes all sorts of good growth in our kids and in our family dynamics. (Book reviews on this to follow in the coming weeks.)

If you don’t have a meal plan, you are more likely to: A. run through fast food way too often or B. run to the store everyday for ingredients. Both are bad for your time management and finances. You have to have a plan.

I usually do my planning after the Wednesday grocery store sales flyers come out. This give me time to plan and coordinate with my coupons and have us all stocked up before Sunday night hits. Everybody does it different, so I hope you feel freedom to find your way.

So, what are the basics to meal planning? I’ve done it a number of different ways over the past fourteen years of marriage. I love to cook, so I tend to mix it up a bit, just so I’m not bored. And I’ve probably not exhausted all the possibilities. I’ll be posting different approaches to meal planning over the next few weeks. There’s nothing new under the sun….so you may have heard this before. But, a refresher course is always helpful. Here are some basics to planning a week’s worth of dinners:

  • Create a list of meals that your family enjoys and that fit your budget.
  • Look at what’s in the cupboard, frig, and freezer. What meals can you prepare with what you already have? Jot those down or check them off on your list. If you don’t have enough for 7 meals, choose from your list. I try to vary the kinds of meals we have, alternating meals with meat or chicken with vegetarian options. I think the variety is good for the budget, and it sounds healthier to me.
  • Make a weekly grid on your computer.
  • Now, look at what activities you have scheduled this week. What days are busiest? Put the simplest meals on those days. If you have a late doctor’s appointment or soccer practice, then plan a crockpot meal. If there is a day with time to cook a more elaborate meal, plug that meal into that day’s spot on your weekly grid.
  • Double check your menus to see that you have the ingredients necessary for each meal. If not, write them on your grocery list. Go shopping once!
  • Now, you shouldn’t have to ask yourself at 5pm, “What am I going to make?” You have a plan. Check it each morning to make sure you’ve thawed the necessary items. You might even pull out the non-perishable ingredients and place them on the counter so that you’re all ready when prep time arrives.
  • Bon Appetit!
About Jessica Fisher

I believe you can get great meals on the table -- and still keep that pretty smile on your face.

Read Newer Post
Read Older Post


  1. I have been trying to do this but I felt like such a failure last night. Dh came home and was searching through the cabinets for something to eat but there wasn’t anything quick and easy for him to fix. He works late and usually misses dinner two or three times a week. I have to find something for him that is quick and easy. I sometimes make him a plate but last night it was chicken nuggets and macaroni and he won’t eat that stuff.

  2. FishMama says

    Jen, I feel your pain. I’ve had more than my share of flops, I think. But, one thing that helps is when I tailor my shopping and my planning to the likes of my family. That doesn’t mean no one should ever have to eat what they don’t like. (For one child, that is an every night occurrence.)

    But, I try not to exasperate them or me, and make my lists around what I know will be eaten without too much fuss. It is still a healthful, varied menu, thankfully, because they llike lots of different things.

    But, for example, my kids don’t like potato salad. That is something me and my hubby love. It was on our anniversary menu. But, so was pasta salad, so I made both. The kids devoured it. Otherwise, it would have been a battle or they would have been hungry all night after eating their prerequisite portion. I still made everyone eat one bite. 😉

  3. The Things We Say says

    Hi there! Sounds like we have some mutual friends back “home” in S. Cal. I’ve been enjoying your new blog and it sounds like we think a LOT alike. =0) It’s always fun to meet like minded people. Hey, if you are interested I started a new blog recently that is a recipe blog which may or may not be of interest to you. It’s focussed on EASY recipes that are mostly in the healthy catagory. Anyway, thought you might be interested.
    Have a great weekend.

  4. FishMama says

    Hey TTWS,

    Thanks for stopping by. Your recipe blog looks great. What fun! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Org Junkie says

    Please feel free to join us for Menu Plan Monday. The more the merrier!!

    Menu planning has been such a lifesaver for me.

    Laura (orgjunkie)

  6. Katie says

    Okay, I’m developing a bit of a friend crush!!! (don’t worry – I’m not a stalker) I found your blog (somehow, through someone, can’t remember who) and I’ve been peeking around – you are my kinda mom. And I read that you’re from KC? I grew up in OP! Missing the weather right now…

    Anyway, I’ve intended to post about meal planning for a while now…I’d love to link to this post, if it’s alright with you. You captured everything I started doing a couple of months ago. I love fine-tuning and getting new ideas since I’m so new to the process.

    Loving your blog! Thanks so much for sharing your great mom ideas and money saving tips.

  7. FishMama says

    Katie, you are more than welcome to link away. The more the merrier. No stalkers, though!

    Thanks for your sweet compliments. I’m so glad you’re finding it helpful and telling me so! Sometimes I wonder if I’m talking to myself.

    You cracked me up over your pining away for KC weather! My husband and I are from the West, and are trying to get out of debt so we can move home or at least closer. Phx is actually a place we’ve considered. It’s hot, yes, but it’s a “dry heat!” Currently here is 86 degrees with 66% humidity. Ugh. Thanks for coming. Hope you’ll be back.

Thanks so much for participating in this conversation about "a mom's life."

This is a place where moms can be themselves. Remember that each mother's path looks a little different. Please keep your comments respectful and kind. Reasonable minds will disagree in a nice way.

So let's talk about it, using "our big girl words."

Share Your Thoughts