Get Organized // Menu Planning

February 11, 2014

i have a new found love for menu planning, i really really do.  nothing makes me eat healthier than menu planning.  i used to just 'see how i felt' at 5 pm and decide from there what i wanted for dinner.  i'd pretend that i would feel like greek food, so i'd come home, make a greek salad, egg lemon soup, maybe some spinach pies.  this was never the case.  i'd be starving, ready to eat, with zero tolerance or patience left for coming home and cooking a full meal with no prep and probably no ingredients.  so i'd just stop at taco bell.  or chipotle.  or dominoes.  anything but healthy food.  in addition to being bad for the waistline, this system was a boon to my organized mind.  i figured there had to be a better system, something to organize my dinner plans and my grocery shopping.

enter meal planning.  now i make a conscious effort every weekend, usually sunday mornings pre-shopping trip, to meal plan.  i'm picky and a creature of habit so i make it easy on myself and go with the same breakfast every day.  not to mention that i can barely function before coffee let alone cook... anyway, then i plan something for dinner each day and plan to have the leftovers for lunch (extra large dinner/leftovers on the days i know john will be over) and make a corresponding grocery list.  i shop on sundays and spend sunday afternoon prepping whatever i can and usually throwing something in the crockpot.

i started meal planning on paper, which really is a great way.  there's a lot of printables and tips for keeping you organized and thus more likely to stick with it.  but i found that a paper system was a little hard for me, because i'd have to constantly reference pinterest and make a lot of grocery lists on one pad of paper with a vague menu list in my planner.  i got a little overwhelmed with all the different places information was being kept so i decided to go digital.

i'm currently mainly using plan to eat.  there's a ton of eating plans out there, but i'll tell you why i went with this one (because yes, there's a fee - like most online meal plans.  edited to add: the fee is $5 per month or $39 per year, you get a 30 day free trial to test it out first.)  it came down to the facts that (a) i'm a very picky eater, (b) i'm a lazy cook and grocery shopper, and (c) i've pinned so many good things, i can't waste them!  most of the other meal plans give you a set 2 week menu, with recipes and corresponding grocery lists.  they usually have options for vegetarian, low carb, low calorie, etc.  which is great - but you can't swap out a recipe.  some vegetarian menus still have fish items, some have tofu, both of which i hate.  i just have to cross those out on my own and add in my own recipes and adjust the shopping list accordingly.  uh... isn't that what i'm paying them for?  likewise if a recipe is too complicated with lots of ingredients, i just won't do it.  can't swap those out either.  can't swap in all those things on pinterest i want to try.


so i went with plan to eat.  you add your own recipes!  first you install a little bookmark and just click it any time you're on a blog page with a recipe that you got from pinterest and it does all the work - it finds the ingredients and directions and a photo and uploads it all to your recipes.  i've found it worked perfectly on about 85 out of my 95 pins.  the others i just entered manually, but it was simple.  plus i can put in my own recipes that way, like my mom's dumpling soup or dad's pasta sauce.  then you go to your calendar view.  you add your recipes to whichever day, how ever many weeks, and it'll compile your grocery list.  so similar to the other meal planning sites, except i get total control over my entire menu.  have i mentioned how fond i am of total control?  plus i can get my list on my phone and check stuff off as i walk around the store.  everything is in one place, from the shopping trip to the final product, and i love that.

for now at least, that's what's working for me.  obviously it'd be better if it were free, but in the end it's a lot of work that's done for me, so i really like it.  how do you meal plan?

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36 comments

  1. I'm loving this idea. Probably because I'm a picky eater, too... And I get lazy when it comes to trying to figure out what to make... How much is the fee??

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  2. I now do two weeks of dinners at a time, so I can do our grocery shopping and not have to go again for the most part until much later. I do realize that we eat so much better when we have written down what we are having that day. Sometimes we stray off it, and I think that is fine cause we can grab that later or just skip it, but its there and ready for me to know what we are having for the most part.

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  3. WHAT A GREAT IDEA!
    What is the cost, if you don't mind me asking?

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    1. the fee is $5 per month or $39 per year, you get a 30 day free trial to test it out first.

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  4. ah this is a great idea. i've been so lazy with meal planning lately and i really need to get more organized. we've been sick lately so just sorta eating whatever we have around. i need to make a plan for the week and stick to it!
    -- jackie - jade and oak

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  5. i so wish i could do this! i am only home about a total of a week every month so it's impossible to plan meals, but i am in love with your plan though! it's awesome!

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    1. Only 1 week?? That's crazy!! I think if I were gone that much, I'd be 400 lbs from all the fast food I'd be eating!

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  6. i'm the worst meal planner - i just eat a lot of the same stuff over and over again! haha!

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  7. I am a big fan of meal planning and always try and prepare the meal plan before we go shopping, the boyfriend doesn't quite understand this yet so at times its difficult to actually do the kind of meal planning I want to, were working on it!

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    1. Haha! Once he really sees the benefits of how much money you save and how no food goes to waste, he'll be better about it! Hopefully.

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  8. Oh my gosh, I may need to invest in this! I did my own version of meal planning, and while it worked well for Steve and I (OK, ME, because I'm the one who fucking cooks), I only lasted a week. $39 a year truly isn't that bad! Thanks for the info, lovely gal!

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  9. i'm a pen and paper kinda gal. i'm actually trying to convince my husband to turn a portion of our cabinet or kitchen wall into a chalkboard but so far, it's a no-go so pen and paper it is :(

    we all sit down friday evening and plan our meals for the week - everyone picks a theme night so it's not all on me. i make the grocery list during planning, take that with me shopping saturday morning and then we meal prep on sunday for the week. that menu gets posted in the kitchen for quick reference in case i need to take any meat out to thaw/prep stuff the night before.

    meal prep is ESSENTIAL for making sure that 1) you shop for what you need 2) you stick to a healthy eating plan and 3) you save $$ ! and saving $$ gives me a big boner so i'm all over meal planning.

    love that you're doing this!

    -kathy | Vodka and Soda

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    1. I (follow your blog) but only just glanced over your response before landing on "saving $$ gives me a big boner" and thought wow that's something Kathy...would...say. Touche. You are all over it :P

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    2. Hahaha if that ain't the truth!

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  10. That's actually really cool. My husband and I sit down at some point and blurt out meal ideas until we can't think of anymore or we have enough, then type the list and email it to ourselves. We are so sick of our same old stuff, though. He is picky and also the one who cooks. I have to remind him that it's "just" dinner and doesn't have to be amazing every night. It's hard!

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  11. This is pretty cool...when I meal plan I eat so much better and save money too. I really need to get back on it!

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  12. We pretty much eat the same things over and over... so our meal planning is pretty effortless already! Otherwise, I'd definitely need something like this because there's no way I could organize my shit that well!

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  13. For $39 a month I might be sold. I never go to the store with a list - I just buy what looks good. Then I can never figure out what to cook with what I have! I waste a lot of food and eat more junk because of this :( The program sounds awesome!

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  14. I meal plan around what's in my freezer and pantry and what's on sale at the stores. I cook using recipes but don't rely on them to meal plan...not sure if that makes total sense.

    I'm glad you found something great that works for you!

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  15. have you heard of emeals? im obsessed. ive been using it for about a year now and it is pretty awesome. it's like $7 a month and gives you recipes that go with your grocery store sales!

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  16. I really need to get better at meal planning for the week. I grocery shop and prep all the fruits and veggies I bring home, but I don't map out what we're going to eat for that week. Thankfully nights I am uninspired or too lazy to cook, the hubs jumps in and cooks. But without pre-planning, I do find myself having to stop by the store on my way home from work to grab one or two items needed for dinner. I need to stop saying I'm going to pre-plan meals for the week and actually just flippin do it.

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  17. This is a really great idea!! I need you to come to Texas and organize my life. I used to use emeals (but quit because I found it wasn't saving me much $) and I loved the grocery list feature because it would tell me how much of one ingredient I needed for all the recipes for the week. It was a lot easier than doing the math in my head. Now I'm just meal planning on paper and it works for me, it's just so time consuming!

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  18. What a grea tidea! I am a pen and paper gal but I tend to eat the same thing a lot. I add to my list any items I need for a new recipe I am going to try but otherwise it is mostly the same stuff. I like that you can remove certain foods since i am a picky eater too.

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  19. I have been so interested to try this. I print off a Microsoft calender and then fill in the days week by week with meals. Before I grocery shop I make a list off that, but you know how many times I forget stuff?!

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  20. i need to get on the meal planning wagon immediately! i never do good with apps, i'm better with paper (does this mean i'm old? lol) so i'll def be getting those printables!!

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  21. I've been using Evernote - I just make a list in Evernote while I'm going through my Pinterest recipes on my computer, then when I get to the store - there the list is!

    Plus, I like to leave out a lot of ingredients and some I already have, so it's easier for me this way.

    But, meal planning is definitely the best way to go!

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  22. That is such a genius idea, I wish I'd thought it up! I meal plan on my own, if I didn't I'd be running to the grocery store every other day I think.

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  23. I meal plan on Sunday mornings and then grocery shop too! I am a pen and paper girl though. I sit down with my iPad and pull up some of what I wanted on Pinterest or my go to recipes then write out of list of ingredients I need. I grocery shop at Target, so after I make my list...I whip out the Cartwheel app and remove and add the deals that I need for the week. I also look at the Publix ad because sometimes they have better deals on salad mix or fruit or something.

    On the off chance that we are out and about on Saturday and decide to knock out the shopping, I have some recipes saved on Evernote that I can use to guide myself through the store.

    I find that if I don't have a plan....we fail BIG TIME.

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  24. Interesting I have never heard of that before. I have to plan to even the next level since Mark and I have our own places..."okay so the defrosted chicken is at my house but we are staying at his tonight...wait I thought we had lettuce oh shoot it's at my house"......ahhhhh soooo annoying!

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  25. I really need to start meal planning!

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  26. can you come live with me and be my lifesyle guru? please? haah

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  27. I have been trying to at least meal plan during the week so that we don't end up spending so much money picking up fast food. It's been harder for me to use other people's meal plan ideas though, because my husband is super picky. I do a ton of crock pot meals. Not really sure what I do without my beloved crock pot!
    Eva Marie

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  28. my family goes grocery shopping on Sundays too. and likewise do some pre-shopping meal planning. it works well, and I think we spend less cause we stick to our list more so.

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  29. love this! I've never heard of Plan to Eat but I'm like you, I've been trying to meal plan consistently. I'm going to have to check this out!

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  30. Greg has always been a grab whatever on the way home kind of person. I can't wait to be out and be able to plan again.

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  31. Jesus... this is the answer to the problem I didn't even realize I had. Every time I come home, I'm (1) tired (2) cold (3) starving soOOo if I left my meal up to the way I felt I'd always have ramen noodles or fried chicken or something. Basically something fatty and hot. I can't believe how easy those meal planning apps are!! Unfortunately a monthly fee for an app is kind of steep to me... I wish it was just a one-time price like most are. I'll look around :)

    Seriously great post.

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