Food + Recipes

Meal Planning Wins + Fails

Meal planning wins + fails via Meal planning wins + fails via Meal planning wins + fails via Meal planning wins + fails via Meal planning wins + fails via

These photos sure do make meal planning look sexy, don’t they?

Okay, well maybe they don’t to you… but to me they do.  Hmm… I wonder what that says about me…?

Anywho… I last month I shared with you 10 weeks worth of meal plans and promised to share a little more about my meal planning process in general at a later date.  I thought it might be more beneficial (and simple) to share with you in a wins vs. fails type way.  Perhaps more eloquently translated into a “dos and don’ts” list.


Write it down. If it didn’t make it from your head to paper it certainly isn’t going to make it from the grocery store to the table.  I used to use an app so I had everything online and on my phone (recipes, meal plans, grocery lists), but through some trial and error I discovered I prefer good ‘ol pen to paper for this sort of thing.  I found this awesome meal planning notepad and decided to just recreate it on my own because I didn’t want the perforated shopping list feature.  As you can see I’ve accumulated quite the stack of meal plans. My goal is to sift through all of these and extract our favorite meals and create sort of a ‘meal planning food bank’ if you will. Speaking of favorite meals…

Have a few favorite meals on rotation every week. As adventurous as I like to get in the kitchen, my family (and wallet) don’t always appreciate it. I have about 5 meals that are on heavy rotation through out a month’s time.  Each week they fill the slots of (usually) 3 days worth. And then I’m only left 2-3 days to get creative with trying out new recipes or maybe giving other less favorite but still delicious meals a turn. We always have at least one meal out with family over the weekend and I always schedule one night of leftovers in there. When I was growing up my mom called it “Mustgo” night. As in “everything MUST GO!” It might not be the most satisfying night of the week but it helps contribute to overall less waste which we are all completely on board with.

Only one challenging meal a week. There are plenty of weeks where I don’t get creative in the kitchen at all. But I’ve found that on weeks when I do want to, I’m most successfully in tackling only one newbie at a time. Buying new spices and other pantry items can get expensive quick and cooking up new recipes (especially if ethnic) can often throw one for a loop. Try and keep it simple.

NEVER shop with out a meal plan. You will have everything you don’t need and only have of what you do when it comes time to actually cook. Produce will eventually get thrown out because it goes bad.  And you are 99.9% certain to go over your budget — or at the very least not get the biggest bang for your buck. I promise you.

Using past week’s meal plans as inspiration instead of Pinterest. Um, doy? This one took me WAY too long to figure out.  Pinterest is endless. My previous (insert relevant number here) weeks worth of meal plans is not. AND they generally come with some sort of family review. ;) #bonus


Trying out too much weird stuff on my family at once. So much complaining. So little time.

Waiting until the last second to meal plan. I’m so horribly guilty of this one.  We do our grocery run on Tuesdays. So that means that, technically, I could whip up a meal plan for the following week the very next day… on Wednesday. But do I do that? Heavens no. I’m usually scrambling the morning of grocery day the following week when I had a whole gosh darn week to do it.  Not sure if this is ever going to change but, #mealplanninggoals.

Straying from my shopping list. The super awesome part about having a shopping list attached right to your meal plan is that as you add meals to your plan you can add ingredients you need to you shopping list at the same time.  Sometimes I pick something up at the store that I’ve genuinely forgotten to add to my list and would otherwise be on it.  BUT sometimes I pick up some other produce that I’ve been wanting to work into our diets and think that ‘I’ll incorporate is somehow’.  But usually this doesn’t work for me, and those are the buys that end up going to waste.


I’m working on putting something together regarding our specific favorite meals and meal plans — since I know we’re all always on the lookout for easy to put together nutritious meals for active families — but that one is still in the works!

 Do share, what are some of your meal planning fails and wins?

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  • Reply
    Valerie @ The Style Files
    March 16, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    I love the meal planning list you made– and agree, I would keep the list and the menu on one sheet like you did. Do you have a file of the one you made that you’d be willing to share? This would be so helpful!


    • Reply
      March 17, 2016 at 9:50 pm

      Thanks Valerie! Unfortunately since I copy-catted someone else’s design for my own personal use I can’t share the file I made with you. But when I get around to fine tuning it and making it my own I will be thrilled to share!

  • Reply
    March 16, 2016 at 1:48 pm

    Wow, the idea of incorporating one challenging meal a week is revolutionary to me. What a stellar thought! Too often I feel guilty about my cooking rut. I have one of those mothers who really never makes the same exact thing twice, so often I feel like this is the “right” way to cook — always trying new things. And when my husband and I were dating, cooking together was “our thing.” We used to photograph our meals, which were impressive even when we lived in a five story walk-up in Berlin with a tiny mini-fridge! But now…life gets in the way, ugh. I cook most nights now, since he works. We have pizza night (Tuesday) and leftover night (double ugh), and sometimes I get it together to try something new, but often I make: meat, roasted sweet potatoes, roasted broccoli. Or: chili with sweet potatoes. I make a lot of soups. My husband never complains, but…I can see the disappointment in his eyes, haha.

    I’m going to try your one challenging meal a week thing! I know I used to be able to cook!

    • Reply
      March 17, 2016 at 9:51 pm

      Thanks Julia! So glad you had some good takeaways. I love all of the meal ideas you mentioned and have to admit they sound extremely similar to mine!

  • Reply
    March 16, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    Each week I plan on cooking 4 dinners, plus one Breakfast Dinner. Then that leaves one leftover (love Mustgo) dinner and one takeout or out to dinner! In my 4 meals I do: 1 chicken, 1 pork, 1 ground beef, 1 sausage or fish. And I keep a running list of tried and true recipes (along with my meal plan) on a google doc that i can access from anywhere!

    • Reply
      March 17, 2016 at 9:53 pm

      I LOVE Google Docs!!! I use it to organize literally every facet of my life! And find myself doing the same thing too when it comes to varying the ‘meat’ by day. Even if there is nothing inherently unique about any of the meals I find it satisfies our need for variety.

  • Reply
    Lauren @ Lauren, Etc.
    March 17, 2016 at 8:46 am

    LOL I am totally the person who meal plans last minute. We go grocery shopping on Friday mornings so I’m normally scrambling to put together my shopping list and check for online coupons as the babies eat breakfast. My meal planning fail was making 8 freezer meals at once without trying any of them beforehand. Only 1 of the 6 recipes ended up being good. One was so bad we abandoned it and found something in the fridge. My biggest win is everytime I actually do full meal prep for the upcoming week. Breakfast and lunches are normally fully prepped while dinner ingredients are just sorted out and ready for each meal. And my mini-win comes from just sticking to a similar menu. Meatless every Monday, something with a Southwest spin on Tuesdays, homemade pizza on Fridays, something heavy/a little decadent on Saturdays, and something that packs well for lunch on Sundays.

    • Reply
      March 17, 2016 at 9:56 pm

      The morning scene you’ve described here is *literally* my every grocery shopping day morning. Lol! I’ve had many a freezer meal flops too. Ugh!

  • Reply
    August 11, 2017 at 7:06 pm

    I love meal planning! Everything is so easier with a plan :) And I also prefer paper-pen planning… but I am just afraid that it took too mach time. Can you tell me which apps did you used for planning your meal? :)

    • Reply
      August 11, 2017 at 9:00 pm

      I used to use Pepperplate (and Google Drive)! Pepperplate let you save recipes (even from other sites) and then add recipes to shopping lists — where it would just auto-pull all of the ingredients into a shopping list. I loved it. But eventually found that I didn’t’ like relying on having all my recipes electronically… :/ Hope this is of some use!

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