How We Meal Plan

7:00 AM

It's been on my mind to document how we meal-plan in the #TheNenowNest for a while and it just so happens to be Saturday evening. I'm sitting on the couch actually getting ready to transition into the mindset of planning our meals for next week and I figured I would go ahead and document the process for you guys while I'm at it!

Our Meal Planning History
If you know us, you know that we love food. I absolutely hate eating processed / frozen / pre-packaged meals. (But I'm not perfect! I will go for that ramen and the frozen fries when I am absolutely craving it!) I'll go so far as to buy garlic each week and sit and unpeel each clove so that I can have fresh garlic for the week while also saving money by not going for the peeled garlic. Call me crazy but this is what works for me! Maybe it's the way I was raised, but I'm a big fan of eating fresh (while being financially smart about it!) We will eat frozen vegetables/fruit when it absolutely comes down to it but I still go for fresh produce and meats as much as I can.

Our philosophy in #TheNenowsNest is that there isn't really a budget when it comes to buying for our meals, our compromise is just choosing not to eat out as much! I also have been grocery shopping for what seems like a very long time and know the deals when I see them, so I allow for flexibility (I'll touch more on this later!) When we eat out, we can easily spend anywhere from $40-$70 for a single meal. When you take that into account, the amount of money we spend for a single week of groceries is actually amazing considering the quality of the meals that we eat!

I've tried many different methods with meal-planning and the one I am about to share with you guys is the one that has stuck and worked for us. I tried the whole meal prepping on Sunday and eating the same dinner 5 days in a row and absolutely HATED it! Not for us. If that works for you GREAT it'll save you a lot of money and hassle. But coming from a place where I absolutely need variety and want to cook every day, this is what works for me!

I love to cook, it's my way of relaxing (people gasp when I tell them that but it really is the truth!) and I love being able to create delicious meals that I know I will enjoy!

My Meal Planning Foundation
I have had times when I've run into a rut when it comes to meal planning. (Have you guys been there?)
To allow myself to be inspired when it comes to planning meals, I've made a system of sorts for us.

The first thing I do is to try to go with a theme for each day of the week. For example:
Monday - Vegetarian Meal
Tuesday - Mexican Inspired / Tacos
Wednesday: Cultural Meal (Korean / Indian/ Thai / etc)
Thursday: Meal Based off the meat that was on sale that week!
Friday: *Eat out*
Saturday: Seafood inspired
Sunday: Whole 30 / Paleo / etc or Slow Cooker!

If I'm really running dry on the inspiration, I'll pull up some menus from restaurants that I love and go off of the meals that are served there! I also keep a running list of recipes on my phone that I want to try when I see them pop up on Instagram or Facebook!

We don't really eat red meat but we will have steak on special occasions!  I mentioned earlier in the post that I like to be *flexible*. What I mean by this is, I'll keep a meal empty when meal planning to see what meat is discounted that week and I'll plan around that! 
And then, we try to keep the following proteins in rotation:
Chicken Breasts / Thighs / Chicken Legs
Salmon / Tilapia / Cod / Shrimp
Pork Loins / Pork Chops

And then I have a list of vegetables/herbs/aromatics that we always make sure to have in stocked in the fridge
- Bellpeppers
- Tomatoes
- Onions / Jalapenos / Green onions / Garlic / Ginger
- Cilantro / Parsley

Other items we make sure to always have in stock:
- Tomato sauce / paste
- A large variety of condiments / sauces (Soysauce, sesame oil, balsamic vinegar, Fish Sauce, this list can go on and on! - You will be able to build a solid inventory of sauces once you start cooking different meals and figuring out what meals work for your tastebuds!)
- Avocados
- Oatmeal
- Peanut Butter / Almond Butter
- Chicken Stock
- Beans (Black / Kidney / Chickpeas / etc)
- Coconut Milk
- Eggs
- Almond Milk
- Sweet Potatoes

In addition to keeping all of these items in stock, I have an extremely large collection of spices. When you put all of these together, it really is extremely easy to make a meal!

How I Meal Plan
Okay, now that you have an idea of how #TheNenowsNest kitchen operates, I can introduce you to how I meal plan for each week!

I plan our meals for each day of the week but that doesn't necessarily mean that we always eat what's on the schedule. Sometimes, I'm inspired to eat something else or am craving something that I never even planned to eat that week. Sometimes we make a spontaneous decision to eat out or eat at a friend's house. Taking all of this into account, we usually have left over groceries for the previous week. So I always plan our meals around those leftover groceries FIRST!

I also only plan our dinners for the week.
For Breakfast: Breakfasts, sometimes are planned and pre-made or I have staple items that are easy to eat such as oatmeal, Greek yogurt, Granola, toast, avocados, and eggs!
For Lunch: Lunches are usually our leftovers or whatever I can scrounge up. Most of our staples allow for me to eat a really delicious salad for lunches which is perfect for me! I like to always have extra chicken breast to grill up if I need a protein to go with my salad!
Snacks: We also keep a bunch of snacks in rotation (i.e, hummus with bellpeppers, homemade salsa, celery with PB, apples with almond butter, cheese, etc)

Take into account the groceries left over from last week. (i.e, this week we have shrimp that we never ate so that is automatically put into rotation) and open up my calendar.

Here's a quick look at my calendar. I have my Apple Calendar synced to my Google Calendar. As you can see, I have my calendar split into 6 different calendars. The one we will be focusing on today is #5 - MEALS. (Where the big red star is!)

Look up meals and put into calendar.

Right now, we are trying to keep our meals as Paleo as possible! So I have a number of sources that I go to for inspiration (Pinterest, Once Upon A Chef, Nom Nom Paleo, Be Well by Kelly, etc).

I try to make sure each dinner has a healthy amount of protein, vegetables, carbs, and fats. So, I've found a shrimp recipe that will work but I need some sides that will help balance the meal out. In this case, I'll go with  zoodles (my favorite base for any kind of protein but especially shrimp!)

Here is how I put in each meal
Title: The Recipe Name
Notes: The link to the recipe so it's easy to reference once it's time to cook it!

Use the recipes you pull, to compile your grocery list!

Now that I have my recipe, I put it in and then go straight to my "Notes" where I have a running grocery list that I'll add to as I keep putting in meals! By keeping it in my "Notes" I can directly access this list on my phone when I go grocery shopping. I like to split it up by the aisles at ALDI / Walmart (where we shop!) 

This can be done with any software that is compatible on both your computer and your phone (Some great examples are One Note, Evernote, Google Docs, etc)

So there you have it! My completed meal plan for the week looks like this. As you can see on Thursday, I have *Discount Meat* This lets me look at the specials when I get to the store and decide which kind of meat I'll buy. Through this method we've had ribs, steak, etc in our meals because they were discounted that week! If I have ample time, I like to do is visit the ALDI website and see what specials they're running so that I can add those items to my grocery list for that week! For example, peaches are on sale this week so I'll be making a lot of peach inspired recipes!!

The BEST part about meal planning this way is that I can drag a meal to another date if I don't feel like having it that day. It's really flexible and it allows me to not have to deal with crossing things out on paper (I'm just a bit anal like that).

Depending on the meals our groceries will range anywhere from $70-$100/week! Keeping into account that we try not to eat anything frozen or processed this is actually GREAT! Budget shopping is really easy to do at ALDI and I highly recommend it! I hope that this post helped give you some insight into meal planning and hopefully it inspired or helped you.

It is also very easy for me to prep for fast cooking times during the week. By knowing what each recipe calls for I can go ahead and chop up veggies or marinate any meats on Sunday so that when it comes to the day of that meal, all I have to do is throw it on a pan or in the oven! I don't spend more than a max of 30 minutes in the kitchen on weekdays! I do spend a couple of hours in the kitchen on Sundays ;)

If you have any thoughts, I'd love to hear them in the comments section below!

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  1. I've never really gotten the hang of this, but this is helpful!


  2. Oh my gosh girl this is the SMARTEST blog post ever. I love love love to cook but struggle with planning for the whole week when I grocery shop. I'm pinning this!

    xoxo A

  3. Meal planning seems so tough! I really have been thinking of it for a long time now - thanks for all the tips!

  4. What a great post! I'll be moving into my first college apartment next year (without a meal plan haha!) so I definitely want to get into meal planning!


  5. I love this! I love cooking too but I always feel like I don't have time or I'm too tired. I really need to get better with meal planning!

    xo Deborah
    Coffee, Prose, and Pretty Clothes

  6. i never thought to put this in my calendar or add the recipe site to the notes - SO easy!!

  7. Adding the recipe to the notes is so smart! Thanks for sharing.

  8. Focusing on meal planning has been the best thing that I have ever done. I love how you add the recipes!!

  9. Meal planning can be so tasking but so satisfying when it’s done. Thanks for sharing these great tips!

    Ash |

  10. Meal planning is easy for me. I get most of my meals from food in a box subscription services. -shay

  11. This is so helpful! You're so organized haha! I love meal planning but really need to get into it more!

  12. Wow! You are a pro. I use a dashboard I bought for my Erin Condren to meal plan, but I haven't been especially dutiful about it lately. It's just so easy to eat out! Lately my preference is to dump everything in a crockpot or instant pot and call it a night. We are also very picky about our protein and either go vegetarian or only chicken, which makes it tough!

  13. I have never thought about adding meals to my calendar! That's such a great idea :)

    -xo, Azanique |


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