Meal Planning 101

This post may contain affiliate links. Affiliate links come at no extra cost to you. These links allow me to share the products I authentically recommend (and use) and support Live Simply by receiving a small commission.

I have a confession. I have a love/hate relationship with making my family’s meal plan. It is not a task that gives me warm fuzzy feelings, but it is ministry to my family. I know without a plan in place, I have a greater chance of caving in to a quick run to the store for that frozen pizza. So twice a month I suck it up. With my big cup of hot green tea, comfy pants, and my arsenal of Google, cookbooks, and the family calendar, I plan.

I prefer to meal plan when the house is quiet and the kids are in bed, allowing me to focus. I have a food budget, desire to provide my family with the most nourishing foods possible, and not waste any food I bring in the house. All this means… I need concentration!

When I first started planning real food meals, I felt overwhelmed. I was clueless as to what I would offer for snacks or dinner without pulling out a box.  The longer I have been at this real food thing, the easier planning has become. In the beginning, it could take an hour to meal plan.  Today, it takes about 20-30 minutes.

Before I share my meal plan strategy, here are some things you need to know about how I shop for our food.

  • I have a grocery budget for a family of 4 humans (plus two dogs and 8 laying chickens) of $600. Update: as of  December 2013- $800. We’ve cut our budget in many ways to afford good food– going out to eat, cable, and other “luxuries.”
  • I shop bi-monthly at a local co-op, where I get fresh, raw dairy and fruits and veggies, along with eggs, raw honey, and a few other goodies.

  • I visit our local health food store on a weekly basis where I restock items such as bananas, a local brand of fresh OJ, and other staples.
  • I purchase our meat twice a year through a farmer. Recently we bought 60 pounds of beef, soup bones, whole chickens, and 15lbs of pork.
  • I purchase grains through a local co-op which specializes in grains, oats, and a few other products, twice a year.

How I Effectively Meal Plan

I thrive on routine! I’m a former 1st grade teacher who lived 7 hours a day on a precise, calculated schedule. I decided early on, if I was going to be successful with planning real food for my family, I needed to have a food routine! This is what I came up with– I do have impulse days, where I change something up, but this is what I strive for when planning.





Friday Saturday Sunday

Scrambled Eggs with homemade baked good 


Oatmeal/Fruit   Omelet Day:Omelet with filling and toast and fruit Homemade Granola with milk and fruit Smoothies with breakfast burritos or egg sandwich Easy Breakfast Day:A baked good with hard-boiled eggs and fruit

Special Day:

Pancakes, waffles, or French toast with fruit

Meat Day:Whole chicken, steak, meatloaf, hamburgers, fish
Salad and Sandwich Night:Grilled cheese, leftover meat sandwiches-with  salad (beans, greens, fruit) or quiche Mexican Night: Tostadas, fajitas, quesadillas, stuffed peppers, tacos

Italian Night:

Spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, pasta dish

Homemade Pizza Night 
Soup Night: Soup,  homemade bread, and salad Easy Night:Leftovers or an easy meal, such as a casserole

Meals include veggies and/or fruit as well.

I usually don’t plan lunches. I use lots of leftovers from dinner or the boring ol’ homemade pb&j (hey, I have two kids) or some type of more adult sandwich for the husband and I. You can find over fifty real food lunch ideas for kid here. When I do plan lunches, I always plan lunch meals after breakfast and dinner so I can plan to reuse leftovers.

Planning Snack Options

  • Ak Mak Crackers (where to buy) or Mary’s Gone Crackers with cheese, peanut butter, cream cheese, or homemade jam.
  • Yogurt with fruit and homemade granola or crushed nuts
  • Whole wheat sprouted or sourdough toast with peanut butter, cream cheese, coconut oil (where to buy), or grass fed butter.
  • Hard-boiled pastured eggs
  • Cheese slices from grass-fed milk.

If you make this recipe, be sure to snap a photo and hashtag it #LIVESIMPLYBLOG. I'd love to see what you make!


My Free Crash Courses


Subscribe to download the Courses