Meal Planning: As Hot as Hansel Right Now

I hate throwing food away. I hate $200 grocery bills. I definitely hate the “what are we going to have for dinner” conversation (so much that I posted about it here).

I hate making bad food decisions. And I hate ordering out (It’s always more expensive than I think it should be, I’m never happy when they say, we’ll have that ready for you in 45 minutes, and I eat too much).

Lets be clear: I hate all of these things.

I used to “meal plan” in my head. I’d get a few dinners in my head and make my grocery list based on those thoughts. I would inevitably come home with a little more than planned (even with my list) and never get through it all by the end of the week.

All of my hates were still happening.

I thought it was meal planning, but it wasn’t. I know, how annoying, everyone’s talking about meal planning, but hear me out (and thanks for letting me indulge in my Zoolander joke).

In January when we went plant-based, I had no idea what I was doing. Mental meal planning no longer worked. I was forced to write it out.

With writing it out, several things happened: my weeknight dinner anxiety decreased, we wasted less food, my grocery bills shrank and the kids eat all of the food on their plates and sit still at the dinner table until everyone finished their meal.  Haha – I wish I could say meal planning was the magic wand for this one too, but I digress.

Meal planning is exactly what it sounds like. Below is how I do it.

Disclaimer: I’m sure everyone has their own way, but this works for our family. “Works for our family” means that I might stray (read: fail) one week and not meal plan. Or it might be a tough week and I might create a meal plan that has “Ch’kn” Nuggets + broccoli, followed by Mac & Cheese + green beans. I just get back on the saddle the following week because, overall, the planning really is one of those: make the investment now – pays dividends later type of thing.

Step 1: Find a Place to Display it

I re-purposed a chalkboard that was a baptism gift for the boys. The top is permanently inscribed with “Prayers for Today.” Unintentionally, this works to remind me on a weekly basis to be grateful for the food to which we have access (sorry to get serious there for a minute, but even though I joked at the top about the things “I hate” I am well aware of the privilege we have to eat our food). It also helps manage my boys’ expectations for the week’s meals.

Step 2: Write Out the Plan

If we have anything left-over in the fridge, I plans meals around that to ensure food does not get wasted. From there, I go with what sounds good and works with our schedules for the week (i.e. if I have a girls night on Wednesday, Tuesday’s dinner will be large enough to provide left-overs for Wednesday).

Thursday nights are ALWAYS Mac & Cheese night for the boys. This probably sounds counter to the last two posts (and here). But I believe in moderation and balance.  Moderation: they’re getting really good food the rest of the week and the mac & cheese is always served with a vegetable that they must also eat. Balance: mommy and daddy (yes, daddy helps with dinner / clean-up) need a night off!MealPlanningMenu

Step 3: Make a Grocery List

After I plan the meals, I make my grocery list based on what the recipes require, what we already have and any staples that need to be replenished. I always re-order the list so it follows the lay-out of the store. That makes it easier for me to get through the store quickly and not forget anything.


The right side is my free-form grocery list. The left side is my re-ordered grocery list to align with the lay-out of the store. And go-on, I know about my hand0writing.

Step 4: Meal Preparation

If you read this post from last summer, you know I chop all of my veggies on Sundays (again, like the meal planning, sometimes I fail at this and then regret it all week). Chopped veggies make me feel like I have my sh%& together no matter what is falling apart around me. Like when I RSVPed to my companies’ baseball outing without realizing that it was the same day as my youngest’s 2nd birthday (shout-out to my super smart 4 year old who helped me figure this out).

Step 5: Have Grace with the List

Sometimes, I get home from work and what’s on the list doesn’t sound good. So I swap with another night. The list won’t hold me down!

Step 6: If your Husband Offers to Help, Let Him

I shouldn’t have to type this, right? With the meal planning board displayed in our kitchen and the vegetables all chopped, my husband can often start dinner if he gets home before me.

It took me months to let go and let him help. Here is this man that I’ve been telling that it was all too much and I need his help. Then I’m denying his help?! What kind of martyr complex, score-keeper am I?

We’re here! The last post of the food series. It’s been so fun, right? I have loved everyone’s feedback, questions and hearing about your own journey. Thank you so much for sharing!!!! If you have any suggestions, add them in the comments below.

Quick house-keeping note: make sure you like the (my) Rabbit Trails Facebook page (just follow that link and you’ll be there!). I’m transitioning content dissemination from my personal page to MRT’s Facebook page (in case you haven’t clicked through yet :)). It’s exciting stuff as this little baby is growing!



As always, for more like this you can follow me here on (my) Rabbit Trails (just enter your email on the right), over on Instagram or on Facebook (I cater to all consumption methods except Snapchat. I should get cooler.) I love comments, feedback and shares if you are so inclined (those little buttons below make it so easy!)


2 thoughts on “Meal Planning: As Hot as Hansel Right Now

  1. Emily Stubbins says:

    We use a board on the kitchen wall as well. I have a suggestion that you might like:

    This site lets you load in your favorite recipes, put them on a calender and then it magically creates your grocery list. It also reformats the recipes to make them easier to read and cook from. One of my designerly pet peeves is poor information design. Lots of great food bloggers are terrible with recipe layout or they “hide” instructions in long paragraphs that you have to fully skim for necessary info. Those hurdles are gone.

    You can pretty quickly combine like items and remove things that you have in the pantry and you’re left with a precise list. Then, if you’re having a crazy week or doing this late at night, you can use the list to order groceries online.

    This summer with all my kids home 100% of the time, this has been a huge help. I don’t online grocery shop all the time, but it’s a nice option and being well organized makes it particularly efficient.

    Also, having all my favorite recipes together in one place to just drag and drop on a calendar is fabulous. It makes meal planning so much less painful.


    • Libby Vish Carl says:

      Emily – this is really great information and exactly how my husband would like to do it! I’m still really old-fashioned and like writing things down, but I know I could be doing it more efficiently! I’ll have to try this!


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