My NEW Meal Planning Method

posted by Andrea | 09/6/2011

Today is the first day of school for Dave and for our two international students! Seriously, where did the summer go???

They all left the house at 6:50am this morning so Dave could make sure the girls knew exactly where their classes were, find their lockers, and so he could finish up a few last minute things in his classroom.

The house is silent for the first time in over a week… I’m definitely NOT complaining!

And with the start of yet another school year, the addition of 2 international students, a few more house projects to complete, and a baby on the way; I am absolutely adamant about planning ahead this year! 

Last night we packed all their lunches, picked out clothes, decided what they would eat for breakfast, took showers, and got all their bags ready to go. We were prepared, and things went very smoothly this morning.

{you can find all the links to these recipes here}

I’m also planning ahead with a new way of meal planning this year!

Basically, instead of planning a specific meal for each night of the week {which sometimes felt overwhelming for me}, I’ve created “themes” for each weeknight. 

MONDAYS: Mexican or Italian

TUESDAYS: Casserole, stew, {made with leftover meat and veggies from Sunday}

WEDNESDAYS: Breakfast {stuffed French toast, pancakes, waffles, omelets, quiche}

THURSDAYS:  Meat {pork chops, chicken, ribs, burgers, brats, steak, meatloaf}

FRIDAYS: Mexican or Italian* {whatever we didn’t have on Monday}

*Fridays could also be going out to eat, leftovers, or mics. 

So even though I still have TONS of different recipes to choose from each night, I now have a “guide” to go by.

I’ve been planning our meals this way for a few weeks now and it has been much easier to mix up my recipes. I’m hoping it will prevent me from sliding into a “rut” of making pasta or a casserole every night!

Here’s a Sample Menu Plan for the Week:


B: Cinnamon rolls, fruit, yogurt, granola

L: Some type of meat, potatoes, veggies, fruit, rolls {or dinner with family/friends}

D: Pizza or leftovers



B: Oatmeal, cold cereals, toast, English muffin bread, fruit, yogurt, granola, eggs

L: leftovers, sandwiches, salads, wraps, hot lunch, or whatever they want to pack

 This is just an example meal plan based on my weeknight “themes”

MONDAY: Enchiladas with avocado salad, and chips/salsa

TUESDAY: Chicken or Beef Pot Pie — made with left over meat and veggies from Sunday

WEDNESDAY: Blueberry Stuffed French Toast with sausage, fruit and yogurt

THURSDAY:  Meatloaf with mashed potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, and fresh bread

FRIDAY: Pasta with meat saucecheesy garlic bread, salad, and fruit salad.



B: Big breakfast of pancakes, eggs, bacon, etc.

L: Leftovers, sandwiches, salads, etc.

D: Misc or a free night for the girls to cook {they have already shown lots of interest in making food from their countries like the delicious Vietnamese Spring Rolls we had this weekend!}

How I Choose My Recipes Each Week:

My normal routine is to set aside a couple hours every Sunday afternoon to cut coupons, plan our meals, and make our shopping lists {you can read the full 10-step process here!}

Step #7 is to plan our meals — so when I get to that step, I follow my “themes” for each night and choose recipes based on what we already have in the house and what’s on sale at the store that week. I choose recipes from my physical recipe box, from my virtual recipe box, different blogs I follow, and from a variety of meal-planning website. I try my best to mix things up each week {which you all know is easier said than done!}

Obviously, there are times when I just want to make something so I’ll specifically buy the ingredients just for that meal {yes, even if they are not on sale!} However, most of the time, I try to plan our meals around family-friendly recipes that are quick and easy to make with simple ingredients.

Once I have my recipes picked out, I write them down using my One Week Vertical Menu Planner {you can see all my menu planners here} and then I use that menu planner to add any additional items to my shopping list for the week.

My goal is to only go to the store one time each week — and usually I’m pretty successful with that!


So that is what we’re doing this year — and I hope it continues to work well. I’ll keep you updated on any tweaks or changes I make, and I would love to know…

How do you plan your weekly meals?

Filed under: FoodMeal Planning

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  3. shelly


    Going to try this menu plan and see if it helps simplify things. Can you post a update on how this is going for you? Maybe you have and I just don’t see it. 🙂


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  6. Mis


    I go simpler
    Soup or Salad Sunday

    Meatless Monday- (cheese ok)

    Test Kitchen Tuesday -( new food, new recipe or new way of serving it)

    Wacky Wednesday-
    (mixed up meals, breakfast for dinner etc. Occasionally will also change to Warrior Wednesday what would a soldier or etc be eating?)

    Traveling Thursday -( match up with kids geography or culture classes etc)

    Frugal Fridays -$5 meal challenge! (leftovers acceptable too)

    Snack Bar Saturday – (one splurge day of pizzas or burgers etc)


  7. Heidi Helman


    You have so helped me out so much with this simplified way of meal planning!!!

    I have a 3 month old baby boy and a TENACIOUS little 2.5 year old daughter, so getting a meal on the table by 7:00 is exciting. I would have the intension of planning specific meals but it was too narrow a target to try to hit. I set this up new way of looking at it as themes and it has been SOOOO much easier!



  8. Stephanie


    I found your site threw Pinterest. I have been trying to implement meal planning into our lives, but for some reason the concept just did not click for me. I would end up planning on like 4 nights of pizza and then get bored of it after 2-3 days. Which led to waste. Or I varied it too much and ended up with a large grocery bill from so many varied ingredients. Themes make so much sense! I am off to revolutionize my life! Thank you!


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  10. Amy Talsma


    thanks for all the ways you help us simplify our lives… your busy and yet so-very-organized life continues to amaze and inspire me 🙂


    Andrea Reply:

    Awww, thanks Amy! I have to be organized BECAUSE we have so much going on. Our lives and our house would be chaos if I wasn’t!!


  11. JoDi


    The girls are adorable, and the spring rolls look delish! I like the idea of having a theme for each night for menu planning. It definitely sounds easier and more flexible than the standard way!


    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks JoDi — and the themes have made meal planning MUCH less overwhelming!


  12. cassie


    I have seen a few people do this in blog land. (have certain nights for certain things) I normally just plan our meals around what’s on sale at the grocery store. But i’m really considering making “nights” for us too. It just seems like it would make things easier! I hope your Hubby has a great first day back at teaching and the girls have a great first day at school!