Meal Planning 101: How to plan for healthy, real food! Tips and tricks to make meal planning easy!

Want to Save This Article?

Enter your email & I’ll send it straight to your inbox. And you’ll get new recipes & tips each week.

Save Article

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.

Meal Planning 101: How to plan for healthy, real food! Tips and tricks to make meal planning easy!

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.

Meal Planning 101: How to plan for healthy, real food! Tips and tricks to make meal planning easy!

  • 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

Meal Planning 101: How to plan healthy, real food meals!

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.

Meal Planning 101: How to plan for healthy, real food! Tips and tricks to make meal planning easy!

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.

Meal Planning 101: How to plan for healthy, real food! Tips and tricks to make meal planning easy!

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. OMG.

    I am so grateful that I accidentally found your site. I literally think you may have prevented me from a complete breakdown.

    We eat real food and yes, too many days I am lost and I don’t microwave so last minute is hard.

    However, I manage somehow. I have a lot on my plate but not in the way most do.

    My husband has a rare brain cancer so medicine, eating junk isn’t an option. We have two little girls. Last week I suddenly learned that I need to have major surgery very soon. That means almost a week in the hospital.

    Yes, they could survive a week on just about anything. If that was all, would be fine but recovery is weeks, neurosurgeon said months but I am human so for now we’ll say weeks.

    My biggest fear is not only my family being forced to eat boxes of cereal and frozen food products but I have to heal. I can’t heal without food.

    I can’t begin to thank you for posting this bc now I truly believe that this is possible. I am disabled so only can do so much at a time but you explained that is fine. I can stop to rest with ice.

    Your plan is going to ensure my family eats food the weeks that I can’t cook. I have faith that real food will allow me to heal faster.

    Thank you so much for doing this.

    God Bless

  2. Hi Kristin! You mentioned your budget of $800 – is that a monthly budget? Right now my weekly food budget is about $150 and I’m trying to wrap my head around the financial breakdown as I plan to make changes. Thanks!

    1. Hey Alex, That was monthly for food, so about $200 a week was the goal. Right now, it’s much higher, since we now have a lot more recipe testing rolled into regular meals, too.

  3. Where did you find your weekly meal planning book? Do you happen to sell them? I think it would be solo helpful, I own and run a full service cafe and am a first time mom to be and I think that would help me soooo much! I just came across your sight and I’m in LOVE!!! I’ve been looking for ways to do things myself and simply! You are an inspiration!!! Thank you!

  4. thanks for posting this. I hate making decisions about what to eat so planning in advance will be great if I can ever stick to it!

    I am just curious about how you purchase. You mentioned that you have a budget of $800 for food but for how long? Do you pay for your meats and grains out of that or is the bulk shopping a separate budget? I have been considering buying a side or 1/4 for a while but haven’t done it yet. Not sure exactly why!

    1. Hey Nancy, The $800 doesn’t include the beef, but does include bulk grain. I think my grocery bill would be much higher if I purchased beef from a health food store. We also live in a very expensive area for food.

  5. Thank you Kristin, we are working right now at meal planning and making the switch to real food. It is hard work, mostly mentally. It take effort to change my way of thinking. Thankfully, I was never really good at planning weekly meals anyways so your book has taught me from scratch haha! Eventually I would like to plan monthly but I think starting weekly is a great goal. Here’s to keeping it real 😉

    1. Sarah,

      Thank you so much for sharing! I agree, meal planning and switching to real food is hard work. In fact, there are weeks I still have to push myself to sit down and create my family’s meal plan. It certainly gets easier, but eating real and planning are true disciplines that pay off. Monthly meal planning is amazing…I love that you can make a plan once and not worry about creating another plan for four weeks. I can’t wait to hear more about your real food and meal planning journey!! You’re doing an amazing job.