Monday, June 30, 2014

meal planning 101

One thing you probably should know about Mark and I's relationship. He cooks, I don't. The whole time leading up until we were married he always cooked dinner for me, I loved it! I am really terrible at cooking and frankly too lazy to do it. Plus cooking for one person is a joke and I think ramen noodles are actually delicious. Mark being my man servant was all fine until he started working his long shifts. He would come home after working ten hours and be starving, way too starving to cook. I decided I needed to woman up and start feeding him something other than cereal. However, if I was going to do it, I was going to do it the Riley way meaning I was going to plan this sucker out. I looked on Pinterest and multiple other websites trying to find a meal plan that was cheap and didn't require much from me. There really was no resources out there! I was surprised. Either people meal plan and spend a trillion dollars or they make something super complicated. Or on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, they make something stupid like PB&J, Mac and Cheese, whatever. So I was like "Screw you guys, i'm going to do this myself" and I did. And you rocks. 
I wanted to grocery shop once and then never again for at least a few weeks. So planning all the meals is the part that took almost an eternity. I wanted to base my meals on three meats that we keep in the house at all times: chicken, beef (both the stew kind and ground beef) and tilapia. Most of the meal plans that exist for somewhat cheap do not include meat daily. My personal motto is if you aren't eating meat then you are staying hungry. Meat gives us energy, protein and fills us up faster. For my family, it's not an option to go without meat. So yes, we spent $50.00 on meat. I am writing this a month after I originally bought the meat and we still have at least another three weeks left of meat. PROTEIN PAYS PEOPLE!

This next part is really crucial to your meal planning if you want to stay on a budget. You want to use the same ingredients for multiple meals. For example, I was using parmesan to make parmesan crusted chicken but I also used it to make meatballs for spaghetti as well as make a seasoning for our tilapia. Another example, I bought tortilla shells and we used that for enchiladas as well as breakfast burritos and then again for fish tacos. This cuts down on your grocery bill majorly. I also like that then you don't have random ingredients sitting in your pantry. You use everything that you have.
I get most of meals from this $5 meal site or the My Fridge Food website but usually I will alter any recipe I find to make it what I want. For example, the $5 meal site usually doesn't use protein in a lot of her meals so I add protein. I also pick one meal for every two week period that is our special meal, one that you can't really use the ingredients you buy for it to make something else. During this particular two week span it was Chicken Pot Pie. You have to buy pie shells for that meal and I don't need pie shells for anything else, no way this homegirl is making a pie.
So, your first step is to find meals that overlap. Here is a list of meals that I used for two weeks:
So, to review. 99% of your time will be researching meals that your family will eat! My husband happens to be Asian so we eat stir-fry often and we like it! Also, on Saturday I have a leftovers day because I didn't the first time around and we had so many leftovers, a lot of food was thrown away and that is just freaking wasteful.
You can either use my outline and tweak it or start from scratch! You just need to devote about an hour to it, sit down and really focus. After my initial gripes about it, it turned out to be kind of fun.
So this next part is the easy part, it takes about 5-10 minutes to do. I used powerpoint to create my document because I like to be visually pleasing but you can also just take a sheet of lined paper and fold it in half. On one side you right out the days and what you are making and on the oether side you write everything you will need to make that meal. The things I have underlined are things I am buying to use for multiple meals. As you can see, most of my list is underlined, which is how it should be.

And that is pretty much it, folks! It seems really easy and it is! After you do it the first time. 
Mark came home from work every day and was shocked at how delicious the food I had made was. I actually felt useful in the kitchen and weirdly I felt like it was preparing me for when we have kids. Family dinners are really important to Mark and I so this meal planning thing will be routine.

I will be posting my meal plans about once a month so people don't have to do as much of the work.

Happy planning!
 photo riley-sig_zps51d1cb9c.jpg
meal planning 101 originally appeared on


  1. Super smart idea! Meal planning is the worst!

    1. It really is! It all pays off when I have a yummy dinner every night but the meal prep part isn't so fun.