Simple Living Tip: Plan Your Evening Meals

What Is Meal Planning?

Meal planning is simply deciding what you will eat before the time to prepare it.

Why Plan Meals?

Too many families these days don’t eat together. With our hectic schedules, we don’t take the time to sit down and reconnect with each other. As a consequence, children get less attention from their parents, and often times don’t have the models for appropriate table manners.

And if you don’t have a family, you might not take the time to eat healthily. After all, a bowl of cereal is much more convenient! (Ask me, I know!)

How To Plan Meals

  1. Decide how long you want to plan for. Most people do a week, I do 14 days. However, even a few days can get you started!
  2. Look at your calendar to find out if there are any meals you will be out for during this period. Note down the number.
  3. Subtract the number of meals you have plans for for the number of meals in the planning period to figure out how many you will need to plan for.
  4. Lay out that number of stickies. Note on them schedule items that might affect dinner plans (see sample file here)
  5. Pick recipes to eat for each meal. Include your veggies!
  6. Make a shopping list from the recipes.
  7. Go shopping, and freeze appropriately upon return.
  8. Every morning, check what is on the schedule for that night.

That’s it! Here is a real example of my planning:

A Real Life Example

  1. I plan for 14 meals.
  2. I see that for the planning period, my husband and I will be out of town for two dinners. I make a note to get kid-friendly food for my mother-in-law to prepare for my daughter during this time.
  3. I must plan for (14-2) 12 dinners. Since I cook once for two meals, this means I need (14-2)/2 = 6 meals.
  4. I lay out my stickies on my planning sheet. I see that on both Mondays I have to take my daughter to piano, so that means the meal has to be something my husband can prepare. Plus he has a board meeting on that first Thursday, so dinner will have to be ready early.
  5. To make things easy, I pull out my Saving Dinner the Low-Carb Way: Healthy Menus, Recipes, and the Shopping Lists That Will Keep the Whole Family at the Dinner Table (aff). Each week has 6 recipes that can be adjusted. I write out each of the meals, along with the recommended side dishes, on stickies and put them on my form.
  6. sample menu plan
  7. I pull a copy of the shopping list from the Saving Dinner website, and add my lunch and breakfast items.
  8. I send the list to my shopper, and she delivers the groceries. I put the chicken and beef in the freezer, keeping out the pork and fake crab, which will be used right away.


  1. Jeff says

    I use to do this years ago when my girls still lived at home. We would make a 14 or 30 day dinner menu (Lunches on the weekends) and have it posted on the refrigerator. As we cooked the meals, we would cross them off. Our shopping lists were built around this list and shopping with a grocery list is always a money saver. One of my Daughters still implements this. Glad to see people use this tool and see the importance of families dining together. Thanks for the great blog!

  2. LJ says

    Thanks for the kind words. I have to admit that the articles I see in the media about “making time to have dinner together” always puzzle me. It never occurred to me to *not* do this. I was raised this way, as was my partner, and we continue the tradition.