Meal Planning 101

I’m so guilty of just being exhausted at the end of each day. As a full-time, work-outside-the-home mom, wife, and everything-to-everyone type of person, I seem to lose steam around 6 pm. And, wouldn’t you know it, that’s right when it’s time for everyone to eat. So often – REALLY often – I’m so guilty of just ordering pizza or running through the drive-thru for dinner. Many times, I can tell when it’s getting out of hand because our bank account drains with the next payday nowhere in sight!

For me, the key to keeping this from happening is meal planning. I’ve tried every software, pay-per-menu, and Pinterest option out there, but for me – I just need it to be simple. Easy meal planning works and doesn’t take much time. That’s the ticket for me to get on board and stay afloat.  I try to do a month at a time when I meal plan. It may seem daunting, but it’s actually a good way to just get it done and out of the way.

Meal Planning 101 | Houston Moms Blog

Getting Started

To get started, write down 20-25 meals that you like. If you have a few favorites, you can double up. This basically plans every meal for the month and allows for leftover nights and a few occasions for eating out. Since we eat very differently depending on the season, I have a fall/winter rotation and a spring/summer rotation, and these are some of our favorites…

  • Chili
  • Tacos
  • Spaghetti
  • Salad {with tuna or baked chicken}
  • Pork Loin
  • Roast
  • Red Beans and Rice
  • Chicken Breast
  • Meatball Subs
  • Salmon Patties
  • Chicken Parmesan
  • Pizza
  • Sloppy Joes
  • Homemade Veggie Soup
  • Try-Something-From-Pinterest
  • Taco Soup
  • Chicken Pot Pie
  • Cheesy Chicken and Rice
  • Ranch Crockpot Chicken
  • Greek Pasta Salad
  • Beef Fried Rice
  • Salisbury Steak

Meal Planning Your Month

Once you’ve narrowed down your 25 foods, pull out a monthly calendar. Take a look at what you have going on and plan when you are going to eat out. Then, plan nights that you don’t want to cook – those are your leftover nights. We have leftover nights when the kids have early activities, as these are nights that I won’t have time to cook, and popping something in the microwave to warm it up would be ideal.

Easy Meal Planning | Houston Moms Blog

When you have filled in your calendar, your work is nearly done.

Shop ’til You Drop

I like to grocery shop on Sunday afternoons. When I’m using this meal plan system, I make a list of all the ingredients I will need for that week’s meals. {Don’t forget to throw in your side dishes.} List in hand, I look over my coupons and then head to the store. Of course, I might need to hit the grocery again during the week for more produce or bread, but most of the time – I’m pretty set for the week.

Prep Work

I will honestly say that I often don’t prep these meals like I should on Sunday night, but on the weeks that I do – oh my! It’s the best feeling because I don’t lose time on the weeknights with chopping, washing, and peeling items. So, do as I say, not as I do, and prep the foods when you return home from the grocery!

After that, you are done. It really is that simple. You can use this same system to also plan for breakfast and lunch. Once you make the list of breakfast items you like {I’d do a list of 10-15} and lunch favorites {another list of 10-15}, fill them in on the calendar, and you’re finished.

One more secret, add and subtract from your meal list as you wish, but you can really just repeat the calendar over and over … don’t recreate the wheel every month. Give yourself a break! You deserve it!

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Stephanie loves life and living it to the fullest. She always has something new going on, and it is probably the most random thing you’ve ever imagined! A native of Beaver Dam, KY, Stephanie stays busy with her family. She is wife to her hilarious husband Don and is the mother of two tweens – drummer son Avery and dancer daughter Piper. As a family, they enjoy anything fun-in-the-sun and annual trips to Disney World. She lives the good life in the suburbs of Houston and works full-time in the travel industry. A complete social media fanatic, Stephanie is always up on the latest technology. She is a living “Six Degrees of Separation” and seems to have some sort of obscure tie to most anyone you might ask about! Stephanie has been blogging since 2004 at You can also find her @stephanieclick on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook.


  1. Hi Stephanie,

    What an awesome and very useful post! I too have been struggling to find a meal plan system that works for me and this post just hits the spot.

    Thank you for sharing and have a great day!

    Su M.

  2. Meal planning is so hard for me!! I’ve tried but always revert back to the old, “What do we have in the fridge today” method of dinner-making. Maybe I’ll give this a go.

  3. This is exactly the “epiphany” I came up with recently. I do not need to come up with a new list of meals every month. I’m just gonna write them down on the calendar and rinse and repeat. Thanks!!!!


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