MEAL PLANNING

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It’s all the rage among my circle of twenty-something, recent college grad, budget-concious peers. (That, and saying “YOLO.”) I had heard from a variety of people that it was like, the best thing ever organizationally and financially. David and I decided to try it when we were first married and now we’re hooked. Saturday I plan which meals I will cook and create a grocery list. I dramatically unveil the meal plan on our kitchen chalkboard and Dave kindly acts very interested. Then, Sunday we do all our shopping for the entire week.

Why it rocks:

  1. Saves lots of money. Meal planning-enthusiasts argue most people buy far more than they need because they just grab whatever looks good once they’re at the store and have no overall plan for actual meals to make with what they buy.
  2. Less stress. There’s not “what should we have for dinner tonight?” every night. I spend one hour of set aside time on Saturday deciding for the whole week. It makes it cooking much more enjoyable.
  3. Fewer trips to grocery store. I am totally the person who would otherwise end up going to Kroger everyday to just get two things.
  4. It is healthier. I think I’ve noticed an unintentional side effect that we snack less because I know exactly what I will eat and when.
  5. When questioned what he likes about it, the husband said, “I get really excited reading the chalkboard early in the week. It reminds me of when I was younger and my mom told me what we were having for dinner and I could get excited in anticipation.” Yes, he’s adorable.

(Insert stock photo of David enjoying a food I made).

We budget $100 dollars weekly for the two of us and eat plenty of tasty, high quality food – and we’re usually way under budget, closer to about $75.

I post my “What We Ate” feature every Friday, so y’all can see what we’re cooking and when. Any other meal planners out there? Do you like it or love it?

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Marj Weir August 20, 2014 at 4:18 pm

I came across your blog from the fried honey bananas post in facebook today, then found this meal planning post. Would love to have you look at the product I designed to make meal planning easier, and it works for me to eat more veggies – better meals. I’d love to have you look and give an opinion. If you are so inclined, an opinion on Facebook would be nice.

http://Facebook.com/PrepAndServe

I designed it when my kids were younger and we would not get home from work till after they were home from school. Then they could make something without a lot of mess. Now my kids all work in the restaurant and eat there. I use my prototype daily to eat more veggie filled meals when I’m hungry – takes only a couple minutes!

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Lauren August 10, 2014 at 9:04 pm

Great idea. I can’t wait to try it. I hate deciding that morning what’s for dinner that night.

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David August 6, 2014 at 4:50 pm

Let me retry this again.
Shopping list idea… I have a small dry erase board with magnet on my fridge, I write down what I need to purchase as the need arrives. I then take a photo with my phone of the board before going to the store, I use the photo on my phone while at the store to purchase my groceries

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David August 6, 2014 at 4:46 pm

Shopping list idea… I have a small dry erase board with magnet on my fridge, I write down what I need to purchase as the need arrives. I then take a photo of the board before going to the store, I use the photo while at the store to purchase my groceries.

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Flower July 12, 2014 at 7:04 pm

Excellent recipies.

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bbcfamily4 July 5, 2014 at 12:28 pm

Love the blog – have already tried several recipes.. Interested in your meal plan – how do I find “What We Ate”??

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Rachel Schultz July 5, 2014 at 2:46 pm
ROSE MAZZOTTA June 15, 2014 at 3:35 am

love you blog , recipes I want to learn more about your meal planning for 2 thanks

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tez May 21, 2014 at 9:41 pm

wow, only $75 a week? i have a 10 year old and 18 month old and we spend about triple that! but we do have a few bottles of wine snuck in there, but still, that is great! you have inspired me to meal plan again, thank you!

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Stacie May 14, 2014 at 7:46 pm

Happy I found your site! Its great!

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Laurence April 18, 2014 at 4:41 pm

I am officially a fan of your blog! love everything about it!

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Lindsay April 1, 2014 at 6:45 pm

I adore your blog! I don’t even remember how I got here, but it’s fantastic. I saw you said something about the “what we ate” feature – how do I find that? I think I could use some guidance in the beginning phase of meal planning :)

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Anonymous February 17, 2014 at 3:11 am

I don’t even know how I got to this blog because I tend to roam the internet aimlessly in my ‘relaxing’ time. :) So happy to have found it.
I’m a mom of 5 & now a grandma.. and I love meal planning. Since starting meal planning, I halved our grocery costs. I adore cooking and we rarely eat out! Pinterest is wonderful for ideas when you get into a food rut. One of the ways that I serve my family is through food. I wish you blessings!

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Natalie February 10, 2014 at 10:52 am

Btw, if you are a hunger games fan – have a look at Veronica Roth’s series. The first one is called Divergent, and there are two after that. I finished Divergent yesterday…it was very hard to put down. I can’t wait to start the next one :)

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Natalie February 10, 2014 at 10:47 am

I just found your website, and I love it! I’m not usually a blog reader (i have four young kids and the internet isnt high on my priority list…), but i can see myself returning to yours.
I plan our meals weekly like you. I also plan in baking like biscuits/cookies and museli slices for school lunch boxes. I double some meals that will freeze well for those unexpected days when nothing goes to plan, or to give to friends who might need a hand or have a new baby.
Meal planning has saved us lots of money, and stops the problem of finding liquified and smelly vegetables at the back of the fridge!

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Donna February 8, 2014 at 9:44 pm

hello Rachel.
I am 58 years old and running out of fuel. I have to adopted children, 15 and 8. I also have my mother who has Alzheimer’s disease and my mother in law with dementia. I want to learn how to meal plan and freeze meals complete with grocery list. I have been looking for days and just cannot put it together. Can you help?

Thank you for you time and consideration.
Donna

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EllenElizabeth November 28, 2013 at 9:07 pm

I love you. I want to meet you and come over to your too cute home and cuddle on the couch and listen to you talk and tell me stories while your kitchen’s scents waft through my nose. You’re adorable and inspiring. I just turned 24, I live with my boyfriend’s parents and were trying to save to move out. I can’t wait to meal plan and hopefully use some chalkboard paint on my walls! You are now officially the first blog I follow and you’ve opened my mind and heart to know that other sweet people and girls do exist I just need to get my booty down to nashville. Cheers Rachel Shultz! Have a great Thanksgiving with your hubby Dave. PS: please plan my wedding this affordable ;)

xx Much Love

Ellen Elizabeth

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Nancy Hamling November 15, 2013 at 4:10 pm

I meal plan all the time! I love it. Ever since I graduated and started living on my own I thought it was such a good way to save money and create less waste. My mum has always planned meals so I took the direction from her. She has a fantastic way of making a roast chicken or leg of lamb last for at least 3 meals! Now that’s money saving!
Really enjoying reading your recipes – if you fancy something new check out my blog as I often have recipes (hopefully they won’t be too English!)
http://whatnancydid.blogspot.co.uk/

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Cat September 16, 2013 at 4:01 am

Just came across your blog via the Homestead Survival posting the link for your Brussels Spouts with Cranberry and Pecan recipe. I’m looking forward to trying in out this holiday season when my Beloved Husband returns from deployment!

I grew up on a farm, put myself through college, and had a career before marrying my best friend! I am now a US Navy Spouse living overseas (in Japan) and raising a family while working on my financial counseling certification (my career wasn’t able to move with me, so I’m getting a new one!).

Since I was little, meal-planning has always been part of my life! It saves time, money and sanity!! The most important features of our family’s weekly meal-planning are left-overs nite, date-nite and my Crock Pot!! I use my crock-pot on nights I know will be too busy to cook. And our busiest day becomes “left-overs nite”, which does double duty…I don’t have to worry about cooking and we clean out the fridge of all the leftovers that haven’t been eaten in lunches! Once a week is “date nite”…it’s an “adults only” meal…we eat either after the kids go to bed or while they watch a movie. It’s a chance for us to be romantic and reconnect as a couple. When my Beloved Husband is deployed, I do this for myself…I enjoy some peace and quiet and reflect on my day (week, month, life, etc) and even contemplate the future.

I love your enthusiasm! You have a lot of inspiring and youthful ideas.

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Ginny August 30, 2013 at 9:31 pm

Just found your blog and enjoyed reading about all the tips from meal planners. I am new to meal planning and hope to eliminate the nightly question of “what do you want for dinner?” It is just my husband and I but that question gets so annoying! Many nights I can’t think of anything that sounds good. I think if we had a plan it would be easier to just prepare dinner and we wouldn’t have to decide what sounded good! Also, I spend way too much time shopping for groceries and I want to cut that down!

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Rachel Schultz September 2, 2013 at 9:46 pm

Hey Ginny! Yes I can totally vouch that it was helped a TON. It kind of doesn’t leave room for you to not be in the mood for something because it’s already been decided. We love it!

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Claudia August 2, 2013 at 5:53 pm

Hi! Came across this blog through Pinterest! I think it’s going to be a great match! I’ve been married 2 years, I work at an office and teach lots of hours at a dance studio and hadn’t quite found my rhythm in my new kitchen. On nights when my husband was working, I’d come home exhausted to a pitiful can of soup (and inevitably binge on chips or cookies). On days off work, we would be spending a fortune eating out and we were getting fat! My husband and I had enough! So this past New Year’s my resolution was to cook more from home and be healthier. I bought a slow cooker, to help me on those busy (or lazy) days, and started meal planning! We couldn’t be happier especially now that my husband has lost 20 pounds too! The fact that you mentioned the chalkboard made me laugh because I have one too! Looking forward to following your blog!

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Rachel Schultz August 2, 2013 at 6:23 pm

What a great story, Claudia! I hope you’ll find some of my posts helpful.

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Laura Williams July 19, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Have you tried doing it on a monthly basis? We too have joined the meal planning revolution, but do it monthly. It takes a good afternoon to get it done, but saves doing the plan (which I dread!) every week, and means its all done for 4 weeks! Also means you can keep your eye out for things that are on offer that you know you ‘re having later in the month which helps with budgeting…

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Rachel Schultz July 19, 2013 at 1:13 pm

How neat. Yes, I’ve considered this. The sales is a great incentive. Thanks for sharing!

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Rachel June 28, 2013 at 6:56 pm

I love meal planning too! We’re part of a CSA, so we have to otherwise things will go to waste. It definitely helps to save money grocery shopping and we eat out/order out less because like to said, we know what’s for dinner. I keep it flexible, so if I can have some choice in what we eat each night. I also focus on what is already in my fridge, freezer and pantry… I love your recipes I’m always looking for new ones!

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Rachel Schultz June 28, 2013 at 7:30 pm

Thanks! We sometimes swap things around too :)

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Shayna March 10, 2013 at 11:06 pm

We are big on meal plans over here, too! My new job requires me to be away for about 12 hours/day, so a plan is absolutely essential. I have written our all our meals on index cards color coded by cuisine (Mexican, Italian, American, BBQ…). On the front I have listed all ingredients needed, so creating a shopping list is a breeze. On the back, I have written the recipe so if I am running late, hubby can get things started. We plan a month at a time, and try to just make one big grocery run. We always have to go back for milk, bread, and fruit, but it’s still a huge time saver.

PS, your peach cobbler is in the oven right now, and it smells delish!

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Rachel Schultz March 11, 2013 at 12:30 am

That’s an awesome system, Shayna! I am intrigued to modify it for myself.

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Valerie December 28, 2012 at 3:16 pm

As a professional organizer and busy wife and mother, I’m a huge advocate of meal planning for all the reasons you mentioned. In our house, dinner time is one of the most stressful periods of the day, and knowing exactly what I am going to make for dinner, coupled with the confidence of having all the needed ingredients on hand, enables me to go on auto-pilot and save my real brain power for helping the kids with homework! If I’m using a new recipe, I even write down the cookbook and page number right on my menu, which is posted on a dry-erase board on the fridge, so that I can find it easily when I need it. Another benefit to weekly meal-planning is that I make sure we are eating a balance of foods. I typically do one or two red meat, two poultry, one or two fish, and two vegetarian meals each week.

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Rachel Schultz January 10, 2013 at 11:42 pm

That’s great! I wish we included more fish in our entrees.

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JSi November 11, 2012 at 10:08 pm

I love meal planning, and find it wonderful for all of the reasons you mentioned, but mostly to eliminate the stress of wondering what to make for dinner for my husband and 2 sons. I planned 5 weeks of menus, saved the meals and the ingredients pertaining to each week to a file on my computer, and every week, I print out the list, go through the pantry to cross things off that we don’t need to buy, and then send my sweet husband on his merry way to navigate the grocery store ( I loath the act of grocery shopping). If I look at a week and decide we’re sick of a certain dish, or our garden is in bloom and we have lots of a certain crop to use up, I’ll modify the list, and change up the rotation (which is how I found your blog, the “world’s best chicken” is in the oven right now!), but it is now so simple!

Oh, and btw, Rachel– I’m a Michigan native, from Novi. But I root for “the other team” ;)

Glad to stumble on your blog :)

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Rachel Schultz November 30, 2012 at 12:37 am

Those are some great tips, thanks! And go green :)

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Rachael September 6, 2012 at 12:28 pm

I started meal planning when I got married a year ago, and I can’t imagine doing anything different! It definitely keeps us from snacking, and when you buy just what you need for your recipies, you know that’s there’s nothing else available to munch on,. It’s great, and ABSOLUTELY saves you money. I always have to stop somewhere and grab a bite to eat before I go grocery shopping though, or else I’m doomed to buy the cheese and crackers that always draw my eye…

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Rachel Schultz September 13, 2012 at 10:00 am

Preach it, girl.

xo
rach

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Melissa K August 28, 2012 at 5:04 pm

I am a busy momma of 5 and LOVE to cook…am just searching for a meal planning system that works for us. I came across your honey maple chicken stuff on PInterest and am off to grab some thawed chicken for tonight (too late in day to mess with frozen), sauce is already made. Long story, we had a maple syrup incident last night and this recipe is JUST what we needed. Thanks!

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Anonymous August 28, 2012 at 1:18 pm

I could have written that exact paragraph. I am newly married and just had a baby. My husband and I alloted the $90 a week for groceries, andI have started meal planning (only about 2 weeks in) and we both LOVE it. We too are snacking less and eating more “real food.” There is even enough for left over lunches. Looking forward to seeing what new recipes and meal ideas are on your site. Thanks!

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Rachel Schultz September 4, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Yay for another fellow meal planner. Thanks so much for the support!

xo
rach

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denise August 26, 2012 at 11:09 am

I just celebrated 42 yrs of marriage ! and I am a firm believer of menus, planning and know for a fact that it has saved us time, energy and money–as well as stress. I used to get ideas for a complete menu idea, by reading the schools lunch menus ! That was a good start in knowing how to put what foods together that were considered nutritionally sound.

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Rachel Schultz August 27, 2012 at 12:35 pm

That’s a great idea! I love it! So glad to know this method will hold up over the years :)

xo
rach

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