We had such a relaxing weekend! The weather realized it was spring and peaked at an incredible 70 degrees. David’s mom and dad came to spend a day with us and we spent the entire time hanging out in the backyard.
We burned as many gumballs that had fallen from the trees as we could, which made the perfect set up for marshmallow roasting.
We chatted and had a really rejuvenating time, with burgers and Greek Pasta Salad to boot.
It was my first time using the organic grass-fed ground beef from Aldi ($6.99 a pound I believe?) and it was really good.
I just grocery shopped for our last week of March on Friday. I accidentally came in $30 over budget due to a computation error on my part and I won’t pretend that didn’t have me considering returning some products (and I still might). I’m quite competitive with myself.
Since I’ve been playing around with meal plans this month, I wanted to share an example of what it looks like when I go off plan. Though I often stick to my plan as written because I’m a crazy meal planning fanatic like that, I try to be open to being flexible with it because life happens and adjustments need to be made. For example, this is what last week looked like:
If you can’t read that chicken scratch, I don’t blame you. I was in a hurry, but it said this:
Friday: Pizza night
Saturday: Burgers with Homemade Buns and Roasted Potatoes
Sunday: Cod Fish Tacos with Chips and Guacamole
Monday: Southwestern Sausage and Vegetable Brown Rice Casserole
Tuesday: Maple Glazed Pork Chops with Brussels and Brown Rice
Wednesday: Chicken Fajita Bowls
Thursday: Vegetable Stir Fry with Noodles
Some parts of it went as planned. I made the Magic Green Sauce and grilled chicken for lunches in my Sunday food prep.
But that’s about where the plan part ends. First, I had no milk for the buns, so I used almond milk, which caused them not to rise as well, so we made sliders instead.
Not that crazy of a detour.
Then I realized I forgot to buy pork chops (how does that even happen?), so I switched the veggie stir fry to Tuesday so I’d have time to snag some.
However, on Wednesday I figured I could stretch our remaining chicken into two meals if I opted for nachos instead of making fajita bowls.
It worked, and on Thursday we officially used up all the remaining fresh produce in the house for a dinner of grilled chicken (I used a variation of this marinade), roasted sweet potatoes, and Brussels sprouts.
I literally high-fived myself (looks like a really awkward clap if you’re wondering) for working with what we had so I could avoid a trip back to the grocery store. I’m trying to get better at shopping my pantry and freezer to use up items before they expire too.
Too much meal planning talk? Then I probably shouldn’t tell you that I sometimes fantasize about starting a meal planning company where I meal plan for families each week based on their dietary restrictions and scheduling needs. Yes, this is seriously something that makes me that happy. Now I am off to go find a life.
Talk to me about meal planning…
Love it? Hate it? Biggest challenge or tip?
You should absolutely start a meal planning company, I would use it! Your meal plans always look so delicious and so full of variety. I’ll pretty much only go to the grocery store a second time in a week if I’m out of coffee…that constitutes an emergency 🙂
John J. says
Love those outside family pics – and burgers! Welcome Spring.
I have always thought of starting a side business next to my in home daycare business of preparing dinner for families with small children.
They could pick up their children along with dinner and be good to go for the night. Return the casserole dishes in the morning with your children for the next day.
Nothing drives me crazier than hearing that it was Mc Donald’s four nights out of five during the week when I myself can prepare dinner every night and watch all my daycare children every day all day. If I can do it so can they since they often only pick up one child and I have all of them.
It’s so nice that you care about those kids so much! But remember that sometimes its hard to cook dinner when you are away from your kitchen for 10-12 hours a day 🙂
I agree with you Amanda. and some people have different strengths, so cooking might be a strength for one and not another and most people do not have the energy to cook after being away from home for so long. Maybe starting a side business might be a good idea for Karen!
I dont do McDonalds but there are many nights when my plan goes out the window and I have to make something quick. I work at a preschool until 5pm, go grab my little guy from down the hall, drive home and before we get home its 545pm. I need to make dinner and have him bathed and in bed by 715ish. That doesnt leave much room for cooking.
Love meal planning, keeps me sane!! But it really does make for a smoother week ahead knowing what your making for dinner. I usually check the kids schedules ahead for the week and plan accordingly. Would love to hear how you budget your weekly food bill? I feel like I’m always over budget with our family of 5!
Brittany Dixon says
Oh man, I’m with you! March is our first month of our new budget reboot and I’m still figuring out how to switch things up to keep us in budget. Overall I think keeping meals more simple would help me, but it’s just tough because I enjoy cooking and trying different recipes. Luckily we don’t really eat out, so I try to remember we are saving money with that. I’ll report back as I discover what helps us!
I love having a meal plan, don’t always love planning it. I think that is mostly due to time and not startling to make my list until right before I need to leave. One thing i have a hard time with too is organizing recipes/meal ideas. So often we make the same things for a few week before switching it up. Then a few months down the line we think, oh I forgot we use to make this meal and loved it. Any tip on better organizing meal options?
Brittany Dixon says
I do all my meal planning in a notebook so I can look back and reference meals we’ve had in the weeks/months prior. I usually keep a handful or staples each month (spaghetti, bourbon and brown sugar salmon, etc) then fill in with 1 new meal each week. I also comb through my blog meal planning archives and often find meals that I forgot I loved! My mom prints out her favorite recipes and keeps them in a 3 ring binder, categorized. I hope to do that one day too. So easy to reference!
Thanks for the ideas! We use to keep a binder, but with so many recipes on-line we tend to bookmark thing, with no clear organization. I like the notebook idea; you’re so organized!!
Kelli H (Made in Sonoma) says
I used to love meal planning and didn’t know how people don’t do it. Since becoming pregnant I don’t feel the same way about it. I sorta dread it each week. I went yesterday with my meal plan/list and I’m super mad at myself because I forgot 2 ingredients; kale & cabbage which I need for 2 meals. So, I’m going to have to go back which I dread!! Good job stretching your food out so you didn’t have to go back.
Brittany Dixon says
It will come back, I promise! While pregnant I totally lost my mojo for food too. The worst is when you’re hungry but nothing sounds good. About a month or so after baby arrived I started getting the itch for cooking and obviously you can tell now a few years in, I’m back to loving it 🙂
Lindsay @ Hot Mess, Cool Day says
HATE IT. I feel like I repeat the same handful of recipes over and over because my poor brain no longer functions to be creative in the cooking department.
Jessie @ The Acquired Sass says
I love meal planning, though I admit, it’s harder to do for my husband and I than it was to just do for me when I was single. But, I guess that’s kind of a DUH statement.
Requires more prep on my part since one recipe used to be enough for feed me lunch every day for a week, but now it lasts us 2 lunches.
And I’m still working on building an arsenal of recipes we both enjoy. Many things I love he seems to think are MEH, probably because meat is not the superstar, and I married myself Mr. Meat & Potatoes.
I absolutely do not do 2 store runs. I shop at Aldi and occasionally bip into another store for something I can’t buy at Aldi, but I get it all done together & that’s it. We have enough things in the pantry that we can whip up. It may not be exciting, but we’ll be fed.
I love meal planning but more often than not (ok if I’m being honest, nowadays its always) I either run out of food, requiring takeout, or end up not being able to prepare everything I’ve planned when life happens. The amount of fresh food we throw away is embarrassing and astonishing. And hurts my wallet. Having healthy food for my husband, my toddler and baby and myself is important to me, so I need to get better at it. However my husband and I both work full time, and sometimes I think this is just something that I won’t be great at for a while. That being said, I’m so impressed with the meals you get on the table with both girls home because even on the weekends, it takes all hands on deck from my husband and I to get dinner on the table.
If you had a meal planning service, I would definitely use it!
Brittany Dixon says
I always try to keep my big mouth shut when talking meal planning with moms that work full time. I am sure it can be done well (I have had some working moms reach out to me about how they completely rock it), but I certainly don’t have first hand experience or tips. I do know on busy weeks for me, I keep it as simple as possible with quick dinners (spaghetti, soup and grilled cheese, salad, etc) and that helps. But being that you are in the baby and toddler phase, whew- it is certainly crazier than most! So some some weeks it’s just about getting by 🙂
I envy your love of meal planning! We are desperately trying to budget and cut expenses with food being one of our biggest. It’s hard to stick to what you have but always rewarding!
I think you would have an awesome business as a meal planner for others!! You make it look so simple but many of us struggle. I am like another reader. I plan (by struggle at it), but sometimes the plan doesn’t always work and you have to juggle things around, or I don’t need as much as I planned for due to leftovers.
Brittany Dixon says
Try having a wiggle night (terrible name, good concept) each week. I usually plan one and it’s a dinner made mostly out of pantry or freezer staples (spaghetti and marinara for example). If you need it, you eat it, but if you have a lot of leftovers or aren’t home for dinner, it can be saved until another week without much (or any) waste. It totally saves me some weeks!
I love meal planning and grocery shopping and trying to reduce the grocery budget!! However I’m now entering a phase that I have no clue how to plan for! 🙁 My husband and I work full time and I have a side business too so time is not abundant. And now we are busy Mon thru Fri with spring activities and I’m just not sure what to do with planning meals cus eating out is NOT an option. Plus I need to make sure our grocery budget doesn’t increase!! This is the first week of chaos and I’ve planning sandwiches and like easy breakfast meals for dinner… we will see how it goes…wish me luck!
I love meal planning too … thinking about meals and how to adapt them to our busy weeks is my jam! I see my week as a mosaic, and I love figuring out which weeknight meals need to be easy versus hard, which ones I can cook versus my husband (we both work and so take turns based on how busy our work days are), and which ones yield leftovers, which we try to front load in our week so we have lunches to take to work. It’s a skill we’ve developed over many years of living together, and not something that many people can do easily. So … you should definitely start a service! There are a few out there, like Prep Dish, but I think custom, adaptable, plans based on a family’s weekly schedule would be really helpful. I think it’s a rare skill to be able to meal plan in general, and on top of that plan the right types of meals around a busy schedule is tough – most families resort to take out and pizza!
Umm I would TOTALLY be your customer if you started a meal planning company!! I have been reading your blog for years and following your tips and I STILL could never be as good as you are at meal planning, planning out grocery shopping, etc. Even your budgeting of grocery items is impressive! If you ever start up this company, I would be your first customer!!!! 🙂
I love seeing your meal plans! Thank you for all the great ideas and inspiration!
A question about your plan: I notice there is one thing listed for lunch – the quinoa + chicken bowls. Does that mean you guys eat that for lunch each day for the week? (No judgment, we cook a big batch of food on Sundays and I eat it for lunch for the whole week!) Or do you usually have other plans for lunch (leftovers, on the go, food provided at pre-school, etc.)?
Brittany Dixon says
Great question! The lunch listed is what I eat everyday for that week (usually it lasts me 4 days) and the other day I eat leftovers or a random compilation. The girls eat a mini version of what I have and yogurt and fruit or something simple like a pb&j if I’m running low on food. David doesn’t eat lunch so it’s just the girls and me!
Heck yes – my husband and I work full time, we have a toddler, and meal planning keeps me sane. We subscribe to a CSA and get an email list of the box contents a week in advance, so we plan around that.
Ingredients aside, we also have a fairly regular “rhythm”: Sunday night is usually something a bit more time-intensive (like a roast), and we do prep for Monday – chop veggies for a stir fry or something, so Monday becomes pretty easy. Tuesdays nights are bonkers at our house (just the way our schedules are), so it’s slow cooker night – we walk in the door and dinner is READY. We usually make a double batch and freeze half, so Wednesday night is the previous week’s slow cooker meal. Thursday is usually a hearty salad or bowl or some kind, and Friday night is pizza or pasta – both of which are very easy to tinker to the contents of our CSA. That general plan really helps meal planning.
Brittany Dixon says
Sounds like a great rhythm! What are some of your favorite slow cooker meals? As a fellow slow cooker fan, I’m always on he hunt for something new 🙂
Pulled pork or chicken, seasoned black beans (perfect in burritos or with rice), pureed soups (walk in the door, blend, and voila), beef stew, mushroom barley soup, chili, tagine (this one is a winner: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/slow_cooker_chickpea_12414), and lentil sloppy joes. I’d love to see your list, too!
Brittany Dixon says
That tagine looks so good, but I’ll be honest I had to google a couple of the ingredients to see what they were! 😉 Thank you for sharing!
Britt B says
I LOVE meal planning… I s em to fall off the wagon when it comes to execution, lol. But lists and trying new recipes make my heart flutter 😍 I use emeals to help boost my meal plans and you can specify diet, stores, etc.
I’ve been hesitant to try Aldi meats but I’m glad to see your stamp of approval!
Do you visit the same store or stores each week? Do you shop the circulars or go on seasonal flavors? I find myself going to two, three, sometimes even four places to get the products I need at prices that won’t crush the budget.
Brittany Dixon says
Quick note- I only bought their grass-fed beef (which was good!), but generally I like to know where my meat comes from so I mostly stick to local or Whole Foods for that. I just didn’t want you to think I’d tried it all 🙂
I want to start going with more seasonal flavors and am excited to be joining a CSA to help with that. Otherwise I check out coupons/sales on my grocery store apps and do the best I can.
It sounds like we could talk together about this topic for a long time. #kindredspirits 🙂
I would love some major help with easy quick meals! Baseball season has started and we are at the park 4 nights a week. So I pick my kinder up from school at 4 we have to eat and keave by 545. I try tacos or crockpot chicken ptacos but the kids dont eat the meat so I have to make beans and rice too. Spaghetti is every week, they like lasagna, but Im just going crazy! Lol. And I like to have the kitchen cleaned before we leave and with 4 kids 6 and under its a mess! So I would love love love a blogpost on quick, easy, preferably one pot meals for the picky family, ha!
My comment has nothing to do with meal planning, but I literally laughed out loud when you described what high-fiving yourself looks like. I do this ALL THE TIME at work with kids who refuse to give me high fives and leave me hanging. Glad I’m not the only one (:
Jodi Price says
Love seeing your notebook and meal plans! Definitely not chicken scratch, mine is a scrawled mess on a scrap of paper 😀We burn our gumballs too!
I love meal planning too and also secretly (not so secretly?) dream of starting a meal planning service. I try to create a flexible meal plan and usually also plan a night where we either eat leftovers or throw together something from pantry/freezer staples. I have also been trying to focus on our grocery budget and have started using an excel spreadsheet to organize prices/sales/coupons in one place. I always find inspiration in your meal planning posts, so keep them coming! (This is my first time commenting, but I have been reading your blog for several years!)
I have talked about meal planning/grocery planning/cooking tutorials for years. I’m by no means an expert, but it is something I love to do…when I have the time to do it right.
That quote “progress over perfection” was made for me 😉
My tips are: Plan meals, but not down to the day; plan something very easy for at least one night; always have something in the freezer or pantry you know is there for a a backup, like a frozen bag of chili you can thaw in minutes or some homemade or store bought dino nuggets you can pair with a quinoa/rice pouch or mac and cheese, a frozen veg and a quick salad (if you have the energy); The freezer is your friend, freeze meat in portions you cook, make a batch of muffins or extra pancakes or waffles and freeze some to have over the next weeks and always keep some frozen veggies on hand to add to a quick meal or throw in a soup or chili. My son is 3.5 and still loves frozen peas straight from the freezer.
Ummmm… you should totally do a meal plan company! You’re great at it and super passionate about it & food. It could be a weekly subscription type of thing. I know there are services like this already lingering around… but you would be the best! 🙂 Or, you could do a local thing & give friends/acquaintances/whoever more personalized meal plans. I know lots of people that would love that – & then they can just order all the food on-line (instacart/walmart pickup) and follow your plan.