My Method to Meal Planning – and a Sample Menu and Grocery List

Let’s continue this conversation…about grocery shopping and meal planning! I loved your questions and comments! Just to set things straight I need to clarify that I really don’t love the entire process. Some weeks I just dont feel like planning, grocery shopping, and cooking. Some seasons of life are harder than others. But the way I see it is I’m going to either work on the front end when meals are planned in advance, or I’m going to work on the back end when I’m stressed and dragging my kids into 5 o’clock traffic to find food.

I do enjoy the creativity it takes to make a plan come together…. and the fantastic home cooked food.


My first and most important step is to pour a drink. Coffee, cup o’ tea, diet coke, big ice water. Why not make this event festive?

Then I attempt to get into the right mindset. Meal planning is quite a task. You have to have your thinking cap on. I give myself a pep talk every time. I tell myself just do it. Like Nike.

Then I begin. I make mental notes of all the food I have in my pantry and freezer. And with those items in mind I make a list of possible meals I could make with the ingredients and leftovers I already have in the house, especially fresh produce I need to use up.

{sample meal plan and grocery list}


Inevitably, someone doodles on my list.

Next, I get a shiny, new piece of notebook paper and I write down the the dates and days of the week (from Sunday to Sunday) in the top left hand corner. I immediately make a note of any evening plans we might have that week that involve dinner i.e. church, supper club, dinner out, work, Stephen out of town, me working, etc.

Next, I fill in evenings with meals I can make from leftover ingredients or stuff out of my freezer and pantry. Then I schedule the remaining days with “new” meals, the meals that I will have to go to the store for in order to prepare.

After I have listed all of our dinner plans, I write to the side any food or dish I have to prepare to take to a …. party, church function, tail gate, etc. Example: Thursday I took dinner to friends with a new baby. Sunday I was responsible for sending a dessert with Stephen for a church lunch (that I did not attend b/c of work). And Monday was Stephen Small’s turn to take a snack to his preschool class.

Once I have established all my dinners and food responsibilities, I make my grocery list at the bottom of the page. I go through each meal one by one and write down the needed ingredients. Then I add items for breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and replacing kitchen staples. Many true meal planners plan every single breakfast, lunch, and snack. I just plan my dinners. Breakfasts, lunches, and snacks are pretty basic around here. I shop at 2 different stores, so I make a Publix list and a Costco list.

That’s it.

I never execute the plan perfectly. And that’s okay! It is important to me to be flexible. But having a plan at least gets proper ingredients in my house and is better than the alternative (no plan). I still have lots of mishaps in my planning, but more often than not the plan pulls through!

Hope this inspires. Keep your questions coming.

P.S. I always write my plans and lists in pencil. So I can easily make changes 🙂

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