My 1st Attempt At Meal Planning

by Angela (Oh She Glows) on April 26, 2009


I admit, I have never been a meal planner. I used to idolize others who would write out their entire week’s worth of meals on Sunday nights. Those who know on Sunday what they will be eating on Thursday.

Do people actually do this, I asked myself.

Well, after doing a little more investigative research, I discovered that yes, many people do plan out their meals ahead of time, and *gasp* even use recipes!

I have never done this. At most, I come across a recipe and use it for inspiration because I can’t be bothered to follow all those rules.

However, the downside to all of this spontaneous fun in the kitchen is this:

Monotony and lack of variety

I discovered that since I was not thinking about meals until, ummm I got in the kitchen, I tended to rely on the same, recycled meals over and over again because it was easy.

And let’s be real, that isn’t good for anyone let alone someone who is dedicated to pursuing a healthy lifestyle!

So I decided enough is enough.Today marked the first Sunday that I would plan my meals out for the week.

And this is what I did:

Duration on Sunday afternoon: 50 minutes

I walked into the kitchen with scrap paper and a pen. I decided the best way to attack meal planning (yes, I just said attack. This is war and planning is the enemy!), was to dig out the resources that I have at my fingertips.

1) Dig out the food you already have


I divided up my food into two groups: “Meal Bases” and “Veggies”. Meal bases are things that I rely on. These are things such as lentils, beans, whole grains, etc. If you eat meat, you would probably have some chicken, beef and whatnot included in this too.

Meal Bases

  • Black beans
  • Lima beans
  • Quinoa
  • Red + green lentils
  • Split green peas
  • Whole wheat spaghetti
  • Brown rice

I was quite surprised at how much I had just sitting in my cupboard!


  • Cabbage
  • Red + orange pepper
  • Dill weed
  • No salt added tomatoes
  • organic carrots
  • broccoli
  • green beans
  • sweet onion
  • canned mushrooms


2) Write down what you have



And off I went to the computer!

3) Dig up old bookmarked recipes. Re-evaluate.


Luckily I was 2 for 5 because I already had 2 recipes bookmarked that I have been meaning to try. But that didn’t mean I was going to make them of course. I re-evaluated the recipes to see if I still wanted to make them and if I had the necessary ingredients.

a) Green Bean Casserole

I don’t have soy creamer and I don’t have sherry or french fried onions. But that is ok. I am going to make an inspired version of this casserole without having to run out to the store. I will use what I have and it will be just fine…promise! This is where the free-spirit cook in me gets to come out and play.

b) Bean and mushroom burgers

I love beans and I love mushrooms, why haven’t I ever had these two ingredients meet? It is beyond me. I like the concept of this recipe. It is a good foundation, but I already have plans to modify it. I will be reducing the butter, oil, and I won’t be using mayo. Oh, and I am using canned mushrooms since I have those on hand. Repeat after me: It is ok to change recipes! :)

So there.

I already have two nights out of 5 decided upon.

For the other three, I hit up one of my favourite websites.

4) Visit All Recipes and type in the ingredients you have and the ingredients you don’t have. Click. Poof. Instant meals ideas.



Look over the recipes. Accept nothing less than 4.5 stars. I’m joking, I’m joking. With that being said, I usually don’t click on things without a picture. Obviously, I never took to heart the saying ‘Never judge a book by it’s cover’….errr lack of cover.

After some detective work, I found 2 more suitable recipes for this week. One night is going to be a BBQ with the boys, so that is sort of a ‘free’ night.


5) Plan what nights you will have each meal and record in your to-do list or on a calendar. Whatever works!


Click to enlarge:


I entered all of mine in Todoist. I created a special section called ‘Recipes to Make’. I can plan out meals and also ‘bookmark’ recipes that I want to try. When I make them, I will cross it off.

So there we have the full week of dinner’s planned:

  • Monday: Green Bean Casserole
  • Tuesday: BBQ
  • Wednesday: Bean + Mushroom Burgers
  • Thursday: Pumpkin Curry lentil apple stew (again lots of modifications will happen!)
  • Friday: Cabbage rolls

The only thing I plan on picking up from the grocery store tomorrow is vegetable broth. The rest I should be able to make with slight modifications and not have to buy anything else.

The best part:

It took me under 1 hour to plan all 5 nights! I am really surprised! It was so quick and easy. And I feel more organized already. I also find that I am really looking forward to some new and exciting meals this week!

It will be a miracle from above if I can actually follow this! Here’s hoping! :)

Tonight’s question: Do you plan your meals? If so, how do you do it? What is the method to your madness? Or are you like me- totally plan-a-phobic? Does meal planning help you eat healthier? Share your thoughts!


Happy Birthday to sweetie pie Caitlin!!

See you tomorrow for my thoughts on Running in the blog world!

Let's get social! Follow Angela on Instagram @ohsheglows, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest

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{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Priyanka April 26, 2009 at 8:00 pm

Wow thanks for the fantastic layout of the whole process. I have been wanting to try meal planning but it seem kind of intimidating. But I think it definitely deserves a try!


Melissa April 26, 2009 at 8:02 pm

oh yes I plan my meals! :) When I decided to start a vegetarian lifestyle I knew I had to plan my meals or I would resort to my old habits. Every Saturday I go through my cookbook and google online and plan my meals according to what I haven’t made lately. I then go over my meals with my BF ans see if he would like to add or change anything. I write down a list of all ingredients needed to make the meals and on Sunday I;m off to the local farmers market.

Everyone at work is amazed I can do this but I know that old habits die hard… if I want to continue a healthy lifestyle I must plan accordingly! :)


AGS April 26, 2009 at 8:12 pm

I shop about once a week — absolutely no time for more than that. I think through what I’d probably like to eat that week, but it’s really basic (will I make a stew or rely on fish for a couple meals, etc.). Then I find 1-2 interesting extras at the store that I use to “spice up” whatever I’m making. Some good olives, a new hot sauce. . . this allows for variation on a theme throughout the week. Frankly, with my schedule, if I don’t have something I can eat pronto when I get home, goodness knows what I’d do!!


Bec April 26, 2009 at 8:16 pm

When I’m in classes and busy I plan my meals but right now since I have lots of free time I just go with the flow and make whatever!


Heather April 26, 2009 at 8:20 pm

Now that is an organized way to plan!

As far as my meal planning: Every weekend, I plan out all my meals for the next week in a spiral bound, 3″ x 5″ index card notebook before grocery shopping. (I not a fan of using technology to plan… I have to write everything out). I use a single index card per week and divide the index card with vertical lines to create 7 columns. The top of the column is breakfast, middle is lunch, bottom is dinner. Although the breakfast and lunch meals are tentative, the dinner usually doesn’t change. I find that I end up buying just what I need, and if I change my mind, I usually still have the right ingredients to satisfy my cravings. And, of course, I buy the pretty neon index cards to spice things up!


Heather April 26, 2009 at 8:22 pm

Quick question: I’ve heard of todo list, but haven’t tried it out for myself. What’s your take on the site?


Bethany April 26, 2009 at 8:28 pm

I plan our meals each Sunday after church and then grocery shop that afternoon for the items that I need. I typically plan 3 meals per week and then eat leftovers, Amy’s soups, salads, etc. on the other days. It does make things SO much easier when you plan them out though.


Amy April 26, 2009 at 8:31 pm

Best of luck! I’m not a great planner either, so i”ll be following along and trying to get some inspiration.

I also can’t wait to see what you do with the burger recipe! Your modifications sound great – I actually would make them next time with just some mustard on top instead of the mayo, but I was practicing my mayo making skills from class :). With the cooked mushrooms you should barely need any beutter at all and could just mix them right in with the beans!


Jessica April 26, 2009 at 8:39 pm

Kudos to you for meal planning this week and sharing your system with us all. As you know, from Leah, I love menu planning. I gave more details today over at my blog if you’re interested.


Sally April 26, 2009 at 8:39 pm

I plan my meals the night before, but only one day in advance. It saves time, in my opinion.


Lindsey (Mrs. LC) April 26, 2009 at 8:43 pm

I definitely meal plan. I used to think it would take “all the fun” out of cooking, and that it was boring, and took too much time, but now I find myself floundering for meals/ motivation to make meals if I don’t menu plan! And the more you menu plan the faster it will go.

When I menu plan I usually take stock to see what I have, then go through coupons and sale ads to see what produce is on sale that I incorporate in my week. Then I design a menu either creating my own recipes or using recipes I’ve bookmarked. I also make sure that I have a couple “easy” nights built in for those nights that I may work later/ have a busier day (such nights are like a Caesar salad night, a baked sweet potato with toppings night, or a simple soup/salad/bread night). This way too you can swap nights (I don’t like feeling restricted…if I want Tuesday’s meal on Monday, whatever, just so long as all the meals are used during the week). Anyway! Ah I’m so wordy!


Christina April 26, 2009 at 8:54 pm

Sometimes I plan my meals, but I end up just picking recipes I want to try and buying all the ingredients for them. Then I always have way too many leftover ingredients to use up! Your way looks a lot more practical!


Susan April 26, 2009 at 9:02 pm

When I lived alone (and therefore only cooked for myself), meal planning was a must because all the responsibility fell on me for preparing food! It was a pain to get to the grocery store, so I usually tried to go only once every 1-1.5 weeks. This requires planning! The bonus to eating alone was that I usually always had leftovers so I didn’t cook every night…definitely a good thing for a busy college student! I had my staple meals that I made fairly often, quick recipes for when I knew I was going to be busy, and then I would search the internet for new recipes I wanted to try. I think it was very helpful for grocery shopping purposes.


Jenny April 26, 2009 at 9:09 pm

This is really inspiring to me Angela! I definitely am stuck in a rut dinner-wise, and you’ve provided some really great tips, thanks! :)


Run Sarah April 26, 2009 at 9:39 pm

Great step by step instructions! I plan on occasion — I bookmark recipes as I go and then add ingredients to my list. Lately school has kept me too busy though. An amazing source is — they have so many great healthy, vegan recipes and it’s easily searchable. I’ve made a green bean casserole similar to the one you posted from there and it was a hit!


Kara April 26, 2009 at 9:46 pm

I LOVE allrecipes. I would be lost without it!


Mara @ What's For Dinner? April 26, 2009 at 10:07 pm

way to plan!!!!


Stacey April 26, 2009 at 10:17 pm

Hey Angela, this is my first comment but I’ve been following since November. Thank you for your incredible blog! I wanted to say I do menu plan, and sincerely must or I totally panic when it comes to dinner time. I have a hard time keeping my blood sugar balanced and if I don’t know what I’m making for dinner ahead of time I get out of control. I have a 3 and 4 year old and just simply can’t have them witnessing mama freak out! =) I love for inspiration. I was also wondering if your counter tops were granite and if so whether you knew the color. I’ve been perusing Rate My Space for months looking for a good fit for my oak cabinets and couldn’t believe it when I realized I’ve been looking at it for the last 6 months. Thanks so much!!! ~Stacey~


Stacey April 26, 2009 at 10:18 pm

Nuts, that’s =)


sarah (ghost world) April 26, 2009 at 10:44 pm

wow, we are in sync today! tina just posted a guest post that i wrote on this same topic — our strategies are similar although i am old fashioned and like to plan everything out on paper :)

for me the key is making myself shop for the week, and sticking to my list! i enjoy everything else (the planning and the cooking part, as long as i have what i need.)


amy April 26, 2009 at 11:04 pm

I live 120 miles from the nearest grocery store, so meal planning should be a habit for me. But, it’s not. We end up wasting a lot of food (usually produce that we buy too much of and ends up going bad).

I’m going to spend 45 minutes tonight planning out about a weeks worth of meals and see how it goes.

Thanks for the motivation


Allison April 26, 2009 at 11:14 pm

I’m totally a meal planner, but I never thought of combining it with Todoist! Great idea!


Valerie April 26, 2009 at 11:15 pm

When I was in school, I typically didn’t plan meals. I did still make a good effort to eat healthy and only fell back on less healthy stuff those nights I had class til 5:20 and another starting at 7, or nights I was home after 6-6:30.

Now that summer’s here I’m planning to try out at least one new recipe a week since I’ll have more time to devote to cooking. As for planning, aside from that one night, we’ll see. I’ve tried it in the past and found that sometimes I just feel like something different than what I originally planned out.


IRJessica April 26, 2009 at 11:24 pm

I love meal planning- when I remember to do it. We save so so much money doing it this way. We plan out 5-6 dinners and write them down. Then I make the week’s grocery list off of what those meals will need. Now we shop once a month, with a comprehensive list and save money because of our concise list, and not needing to go out last minute because there isn’t enough in the house.

Seriously- we save SO MUCH MONEY! : )

Now, tell me, how do you get your hubby to go sans meat? I can’t swing it even one meal…


emily April 26, 2009 at 11:38 pm

I plan my meals for the week, but I also make extra and plan on having leftovers several nights.


Victoria April 27, 2009 at 12:09 am

I’m a planaholic. I have way too much stuff going on to have to think about what I’m going to make that night for dinner. I take 30-60 minutes every saturday morning and plan everything. This is especially necessary because my husband and I have kind of opposite schedules right now while I’m in school.


Sarah (lovINmytummy) April 27, 2009 at 12:17 am

I am such a planner. I plan prior to making my shopping list and then go from there. I’ll switch it up the day of, if something sounds better and I have the ingredients, but for the most part, I stick with the plan!

Your plan looks great!


Alisa - Frugal Foodie April 27, 2009 at 12:36 am

This is my very first week of meal planning too. Wishing us both luck!


Jessica April 27, 2009 at 12:57 am

Angela, I love how you come up with original an informative post ideas every single time!!! Wednesday and Thursday nights meals sound so delicious, good luck with the new recipes!


Leah @ Simply Fabulous Now April 27, 2009 at 2:12 am

Looks awesome!! I bet you’ll feel great by the end of the week. Like you said, it’s amazing to see everything that we already have in our cupboards! What a money saver eh??


Ruby April 27, 2009 at 5:57 am

We almost always plan our meals – usually on Thursday evening or on friday, before we go grocery shopping. i flick through some cookery books, assess when DH will be on evening shifts and decide what to eat together. Then we write donw the groceries we need and go shopping. We leave some things open, like which veg we’ll have or which veggie burger.


Susan April 27, 2009 at 6:28 am

Now that I’m done school I’m really looking forward to having more than 15 minutes to make dinner! I’m definitely looking forward to planning a few meals a week and trying out new recipes now that I have the time :)


Katrina (gluten free gidget) April 27, 2009 at 10:51 am

I am super excited about your cabbage rolls! Please post the recipe, if you can!


amy (veganissexy) April 27, 2009 at 11:44 am

Yes! We plan out our entire week on Sunday mornings and then shop for everything that day. Also…I wash & chop up a bunch of raw veggies to keep in a tupperware for the week. It’s so nice to be able to use them for salads, stir fry, snacking, and also for smoothies (carrots & cucumbers) Since hubby and I both work 40+ hour weeks and then go to the gym after work, there isn’t much time for impromptu meal planning since we are always hungry when we get home from our workouts. I love that you are starting to plan it out! That green bean recipe is one of my absolute favorites! BTW….I used white wine and then caramelized onions for the top instead of the fried onions. I can’t wait to see how yours turns out! I think we are making bean burgers this week too…with black eyed peas :) Boom boom pow!


Jill April 27, 2009 at 11:53 am

I plan my meals! It is such a time saver and it also helps with our grocery budget! As a mother of very active 12 year old twins I need all the help I can get.

Here is what I do:
On Sunday, I take inventory of my freezer and pantry. I pull up the sale ad online for my grocery store to see what is on sale. Then I pull out my recipe binder (filled with tried and untried recipes!) and my Palm calendar.

I have an excel spreadsheet that has a column for each day of the week. There is a space at the top for any activities. This helps to know whether the meal needs to be a crockpot meal, leftovers, something fast, or something I have time to cook!

Breakfast is easy because I normally have the same thing. Lunch it typically leftovers from the day before or something I have prepared and frozen plus a salad.

Once I have my menu planned, I make my shopping list. Since I have my freezer/pantry inventory, I know not to add those to the list. I have even gone so far as to categorize my shopping list by items (canned goods, fresh produce, dairy, etc.)


Jo @ Seeking Healthy Balance April 27, 2009 at 3:23 pm

Yep I plan my whole week on a Sunday before I go do my weekly shop. I find it helps me keep healthy and spend less as I plan to use things up. I’m not so good at trying new recipes though so will try and use your idea of adding them to a list so I can go straight there for inspiration!


katecooks April 27, 2009 at 7:35 pm

meal planning is hard sometimes! i usually only plan that day, or maybe the night before. sometimes early in the week i will plan a meal for friday or saturday when i have more time to cook. the black bean burgers look good — i have been making a really awesome version that is simply black beans, kidney beans, diced mushrooms, onion, bell pepper, s&p, red pepper flakes, bbq sauce, bread crumbs, and a bit of egg white. they are crazy healthy and beyond good! the best part about making your own veggie burgers is you can change them up every time!!


Ashley April 28, 2009 at 10:21 am

Oh I had no idea All Recipes had such a function! I’ll have to check that out. I’ve never planned out what I’ll eat on a specific night, but I usually pick about 3 recipes to try for the week. This planning definitely helps me eat healthier. Even if I’m tired, if I know I have a specific meal to make I’ll just do it.


ttfn300 April 28, 2009 at 10:30 am

if i find a fun ingredient at the store or farmers market, I usually use to get some ideas and recipes!


emily August 14, 2009 at 3:39 pm

I am such a planner! I don’t know why that is, but I like it. We use a large calendar dry erase board for our menu plans and running grocery list. I also keep a fat small notebook with me to jot down inspiration that I glean from food bloggers and recipe websites. I think planning helps save money in the grocery store, and creates a little less stress for me, because I already know what I’m cooking when I get home from work, plus I know I have all the ingredients. We make sure to schedule in an “off night” for dates, leftovers, or easy stuff like cereal or omelets once a week. (sorry to ramble)


Tess May 28, 2010 at 8:14 am

I am actually the complete opposite – I love making lists, schedules, plans etc. so planning meals is a crucial part of my day. I generally go one step further though and make my meal plans for entire days, not just dinner. Yup, from breakfast right through to my post-workout snack, to evening dessert. I take into account my schedule for the day, the type of workout I’ll be doing, any special events, etc. Then I make a list of all the fruits and veggies I need to use up (nothing make me more sad than throwing out produce!!) and I go to work. I usually do it at lunch or some time when I’m eating (for the same reasons you shouldn’t go grocery shopping while hungry, I don’t plan when hungry!) It may sound a bit insane and control-freakish, but I actually find the act of writing very relaxing, and it makes preparing my lunch in the morning so much quicker and easier. Cuz there’s also nothing worse than getting to work and realizing you didn’t pack enough food for the day!! lol Plus, it helps me to make sure I’ve gotten all my servings of protein, carbs, fruits and veggies in for the day. Of course, even the best laid plans by mice and men often go astray. The boyfriend will cook something delicious, we’ll run out of an ingredient, friends come over…. but I like having a general idea of where my day is going.


Stacey October 24, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Obviously, most of your followers have moved way past this blog, but I’m catching up.
I just laughed when you asked if people really do plan meals ahead of time. There is no other way for me but to plan. I’m lost when I get in the grocery store if I don’t. You see, the nearest grocery store is 100 miles away and we only go there every two weeks. If I don’t have some kind of plan in mind, then there will not be enough food for everyone to eat. Now my husband hates it because he feels like he can’t make any choices when we get to the store because not only do I have a meal plan with a grocery list to match, but I know about what each item cost to make sure it all fits into my grocery budget. If he picks something up to put it in the cart, I cringe and think in the back of my mind, ok, what item needs to come off the list to accommodate. I am however, flexible in which day we actually eat which meal once we return home.


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