I can’t believe he went to the grocery store everyday.
Can you imagine? I don’t mind going grocery shopping, but not every single day.
To each their own, though. My dad was more into feeling out dinner that day vs. planning out dinner for the week. He also was a meat snob and wanted it fresh, never thawed from frozen.
As a planner and mom of littles, having to decide on dinner day-of makes me panic inside. Thoughtful thinking is a luxury these days, and it ain’t happening at 4pm after a day with kids.
For me, meal planning is comforting because it’s already been decided and I don’t have to panic-think of ideas, nor frantically search the pantry if I have the ingredients.
Oh, I should mention that my dad lived 2 minutes away from a grocery store, making those daily trips much easier.
I will admit, meal planning takes its own mental toll sometimes. Planning out a week of meals takes time, strategy, and awareness. Though the benefits are worth the effort:
The more you do it, the easier it becomes. You come up with a system that works for you and your family.
I’m always an advocate of creating systems that work for you instead of trying to shove yourself into someone else’s routine/habits, only to fail after a while because it doesn’t match your natural rhythms and season of life.
With that said, here’s how I meal plan on a weekly basis. Take what will work for you and leave the rest.
Complete a quick inventory of what you have in the fridge that needs to be used. Let those ingredients be the catalyst for your plan. Use your planner to write down this list.
Your pantry items are less at risk of going bad within the week, but it’s still good to have a general inventory of what’s in there. Same with your freezer.
If you prefer to have a more official list, I created a food inventory tracker. You can find the link to the printable at the bottom of this blog.
Looking ahead, determine what nights need meals. Then decide the capacity you have to make those meals.
You may need a meal on Tuesday night, but you don’t get home until 5:30. You’ll have very little mental or time capacity to whip one up. Therefore, your dinner needs to be done in the crockpot (or InstaPot or Air Fryer), or it can be a leftover or takeout night.
For us, dinners are always the thing that changes most often, depending on our season (both weather-wise, and available ingredients). Breakfast and lunches tend to stay very similar from week to week.
This is the point you’re most likely to get stuck. I love cooking, planning food, thinking about food, and trying out new recipes. Some weeks of meal planning come flowing out of me with zest and enthusiasm. Other weeks, it feels like an impossible and uninspired task.
Here’s some tips and anchors we use to help us with dinner planning.
Looking at your list of fridge items that need to be used up, let one of the ingredients be the catalyst for a meal idea. Even if it’s a simple vegetable, you can reverse engineer your way into a meal.
For example, cauliflower. You have a head that needs to be used this week. I can think of 2 things:
1) Creamy cauliflower soup. Which would go really well with a pork tenderloin. Add a nice green salad for color and crunch. Boom. Meal planned.
2) Cauli-rice. Make “fried rice” out of it. Fried rice goes well with sesame chicken. Boom. Meal.
You could do this for every ingredient that needs to be used up in your fridge, and probably have a full week of meals.
Assign each night of the week with a theme. This could be by cuisine (Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Vegan, etc.) or like sections of a menu (Salads, Sandwiches, Pizza, Burgers, etc.). Or a combination of both.
These are our theme nights:
This theme menu is not law of the land. It’s simply a tool to help your brain limit, sort, and categorize so you’re not overwhelmed.
A sub-category is to have rotating meals within the themes. I’d guess the majority of us have our typical go- to meals. We know we like them. We know our kids like them. We know how to make them. Simple.
Have a list of 3-4 meals within each theme to rotate through on a weekly basis.
For us, our traditional Sunday dinner rotation is this:
Mexican Tuesday usually rotates around basic or street tacos, enchiladas, and fajitas.
This themed menu also has wiggle room for leftovers and for creativity/new recipes/tiredness.
Since I grocery shop on Fridays, we always do leftovers on Thursdays. It’s a great way to use up leftovers and clean out the fridge for the incoming haul. If we don’t have leftovers, then we scrounge. It usually turns into this weird charcuterie counter of randomness but it gets the job done. The kids will get chicken nuggets and random cut-up veggies and fruit, or even just cereal.
We are all exhausted by Friday, so I like it to be easy. Pizza and salad. Meatloaf and roasted little potatoes with steamed green beans (that sounds more extensive than it really is). Whatever is a quick prep, this is the night for it.
We also include a night for take out or letting our moods dictate what we eat.
Plan to eat is an online recipe organizer and planner. It holds all your recipes and allows you to plan your meals by dragging them into a calendar. It will then provide you with a shopping list for those meals. It also comes with a browser extension so you can “clip” recipes online with ease. Of course there is an app for your phone too.
It’s a subscription you pay by month or year. As of 2022, I paid $39.00 for the year. They usually offer a killer Black Friday deal too, at least they have in previous years.
It takes some labor and time to get your recipes loaded, but it’s well worth it. It has been revolutionary to have a list (and pictures) of all my recipes so I can drag them into the calendar. Then it gives you the shopping list!
Plan to Eat has given me a lot of time back. Much more than it took to get my recipes in there.
As I was searching for the subscription price, I stumbled about a referral link too. This was not the intent of my plugging this company, honestly. I truly do love it and the heart behind it.
If you’re a first time user, use this link to sign-up for the Plan to Eat to save 20%. In return, I earn 20% too. I’d say that’s a win-win. If you want to try it out, here’s the link (Oh, and there’s a 14-day free trial): https://app.plantoeat.com/ref/119013e71e
Once you have your dinners planned, fill in the blanks of your meals. Breakfasts, lunches, and snacks.
Our household tends to eat the same type of things for breakfast and lunch. A lot of oatmeal for breakfast. A lot of eggs or leftovers for lunch. Same with my kids. We don’t need to plan out every lunch or breakfast, is what I’m saying. But if you need or want to, now’s the time.
Once you have your meals down, you write out your shopping list. I use an app on my phone for this called ShopShop. It’s really old and I’m sure there are better ones but it works and I’m used to it. I have a ShopShop shopping list page for groceries and Target.
I start adding to my shopping list in this order:
Somewhere between now and actual grocery shopping, I will arrange the list by layout of the store I’m going to.
Lastly, write your dinner plans into your Sprouted Planner. I like to highlight my meals in green to set them apart from everything else.
This meal planning business is certainly a labor of love. It’s easy to underestimate how much time goes into planning, shopping, storing, and cooking our food. Anytime you can streamline the process, do it.
The more you meal plan, the faster it will become. You’ll also learn what works for you and what doesn’t. The best way to meal plan is one that works for you.
Now for that tracker. Click here for instant access to the free inventory tracker. Download, print, and let the food waste disappear!
I used to have a job.
That job used Outlook for our email and calendar system. The first thing I did upon arrival in the morning was look at my calendar for the day.
Boom. Visual representation of my day. When and where meetings were. Lunch with that co-worker. Open times to gloriously catch up on email. When it was time to go home.
Image courtesy of Microsoft
That daily calendar at a glance helped set the stage for the day.
Then I quit. For no dramatic reason other than I had a 2nd baby and I felt it deep within me to stay home for this season of life.
Long story short, I miss opening up a calendar and seeing my day laid out.
I’m simply not in a place of life where it makes sense (for my brain) to have a daily planner. My days largely look similar in structure and make-up, so filling out the day hour-by-hour seems redundant.
However, there are times when I crave a daily structure, when my days are especially full. It’s appealing to have the hourly layout to plan the day and see where the gaps are.
Are you in a season of life and/or have a brain where a daily planner works best for you?
Or how do you even know? Let’s keep going and see if any of this resonates with you.
Confession: I had to do research to write this because I’m not a daily planner. I turned to my best teachers: YouTube, Facebook groups, and Podcasts.
Here’s what I learned about daily planning: the good, the downfalls, the how.
There are many benefits to planning your day…everyday. This includes:
As with any system, there are drawbacks. From the daily planner users I learned from, there were only 2 repeating downsides:
Like a Jeff Foxworthy list (did I just date myself?!), a daily planner might be right for you…
…If you have a brain that likes to focus one day at a time
…You use both a digital calendar and paper planner
…You think of your to-do list by the day and not by the week
…You like having a blank slate to work with everyday
…You have a busier schedule that tends to change or fluctuate everyday
As I did in my blog post about weekly planning, here are the steps to plan your day. Everybody is different and plans their own way, but this seems to be the consensus with a little Sprouted Planner twist.
Choose the time that works best to plan your day. Most people do this the evening before or the morning of. Figure out what feels best and try to stick with it by making it part of your routine.
While weekly planning takes longer, writing out your daily plan will take less time. Start with 15 minutes, and adjust accordingly.
This can take a matter of minutes. Jot down a sentence or two of how the day went yesterday. What stood out as memorable? What was challenging? What was a win? What was a failure? These are just some questions to use as a filter when reflecting on the day before.
In the Sprouted Planner, there is a box at the bottom of each day of the daily planner to write these reflections.
Intention is simply a determination, or an attitude towards your actions for the day. Ask yourself any of these questions as you determine what you want your intention for the day to be:
Just like the space for reflection at the end of day, daily Sprouted Planners have a box at the beginning of each day to write down your intention.
It’s also left blank to be used for whatever you want. Maybe it’s someone’s birthday you want to note. Or an encouraging quote, bible verse, or song lyric. Or a goal you are focusing on for that day. That’s the beauty of unlabeled boxes…you get to be in charge of what goes into them.
Just below the top intentions rectangle is a square with 3 checkboxes. You can decide how to utilize this spot. Here’s some typical uses:
If none of that appeals to you, put a sticker over it (or leave it blank).
Using the hourly time slots, reference your monthly spread and fill in any appointments, meetings, and/or events you have for the day.
As mentioned before, some daily planner users have a corresponding weekly planner, and/or use a digital calendar. In both these cases, they’d reference these places to know what’s on the docket for the day.
Beyond this, it’s completely personal preference. Some people like to leave it at that. Others like to plan or write down something for every hour of the day.
Others like to utilize their hourly calendars to time block for the day.
Whichever type you are, getting your schedule written down will help lead to the next step as you plan your day.
Similar to weekly planning, writing your daily to-dos will probably take the largest amount of time.
Like my weekly planning, you can do a condensed mini-checklist to identify your to-dos:
Be realistic of what you can and SHOULD accomplish in a day. You don’t want to burn yourself out. Know yourself and your season. If you’re in a season of productivity, then load that sucker up if it’s making you feel good. If you’re in a hard season or one you’re trying to do less in, then make sure your list is short and essential.
It’s personal preference if you want to map-out the time in your hourly schedule of when you will do those to-dos.
The time management and productivity experts say you should do this. But you are your own boss. Some prefer to leave flexibility in the day, or simply block out general “work” times.
If it feels good to you, then whip out those markers, highlighters, stickers, washi tape, and go wild.
To recap how to plan your day, here are the steps:
Those seem (and are) a lot of steps to cover everyday. But as you do this on a regular basis, you’re going to become a well oiled machine.
Try out these steps when you’re planning your day tomorrow. If you don’t have a planner, or are in the market for a different one, you can find Sprouted Planners here.
If you are a weekly planner user like me, but have days you could plan out hard…then you would love the daily sticky notes.
First of all, it’s a 3M Post-it brand, so you KNOW it’s a quality post-it. If I couldn’t do 3M, I wasn’t going to do it.
Secondly, it will fit and stick perfectly in or on your Sprouted Planner. It’s just shy of measuring 6×8 inches.
Third, it’s almost the same layout as the Daily Planner. This layout is so dreamy. It encompasses a lot of options while staying minimal and simple. It also has the box at the top – split in two – to write your intention for the day, and reflection at the end of the day. Or for whatever you want to put there.
You also have space for:
Whether you have a Sprouted Planner or not, have these on hand for the next time you have a busy day coming up and want to map it out.
The fun continues in our 2023 Sprouted Planner setup! If you’ve followed along in order, then we’ve determined our values and intentions, our home team, and worked through our reminders.
We once again turn the page to the bucket list of 2023.
More than pie in the sky dreams for the year, the year list is actually a practice of intentionality.
As you sit down with your blank list in front of you, say out loud: by this time next year…
Here’s some ideas to get those juices flowing:
There’s also a trend to create a year list with the same number of things as the year. That’s 23 to be exact for this year.
Once again, on the monthly spread, “Year List” is the final reminder on the checklist.
My personal planning practice around this is to pick what Year List thing(s) I want to work on that month. Then, it goes onto the checklist for that month.
Opposite of the Year List is a blank, lined page with the prompt, “what are your hopes for the year ahead?”
Judging by the number of people who declare, “this is going to be the best year ever!” I’d say most people have hopes and expectations of a new year. Write those down! Don’t edit yourself as you do.
It’s good to know what your hopes & expectations are for the year. It can help you assess if they are realistic or what actions or mindset changes you need to take to either fulfill these hopes (if possible), or shift your expectations in a life where things happen.
There’s the fine line of planning for our outcomes, and accepting that things don’t always go to plan. But hey, planners gonna plan.
Still need a planner or other goodies? Grab yours here!
If you missed the other setup blogs, here’s the links:
Part I: Values & Intentions
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Yep, time to setup your 2023 planner.
Setting up your planner each year is more than preparation. It’s a reassessment.
It’s a time to reflect on what’s working, what’s not, and how you want to move forward.
As the year winds down, join me on looking towards 2023 by setting up your Sprouted Planner. Maybe this is something you do in one sitting, or maybe it will take you several days. For this reason, I am taking the week to cover each section of setup day by day.
Starting with Values and Intentions. This is under the header “Intentions vs Goals” in your Sprouted Planner.
While most planner companies focus on goals and goal-setting, Sprouted Planner focuses on intention. It’s of my deep belief that your goals should flow from your intentions, which flow from your values.
As you sit down to complete this section, you’ll do this in 2-3 steps.
Identify your 5-6 core values and list them on the opposite, blank page in your planner. Leave a few lines inbetween each value. You’ll write your intentions under each value.
Earlier this year, I wrote an in-depth blog on setting your values and intentions. It also includes a link to the free workbook to help you walk through this process step-by-step. You can jump to that blog post here.
Under each value, write your intentions – or what you intend to do to live out those values. This doesn’t have to be paragraphs. It can simply be little phrases.
For example, if a core value is Health, then your intentions may be listed as “exercise regularly, 80/20 eating, prioritize sleep, meditate, and laugh.”
Goal setting isn’t something I tend to do, but if it’s your jam, then now is the time to create those. As a natural flow from your intentions.
To use another example, if one of your core values is Relationships, and your intention is to prioritize your marriage, then a goal could be a weekly date night.
Setting up this section is crucial for determining your daily and/or weekly intentions. It’s the foundation for how you will plan in your Sprouted Planner.
It doesn’t have to be the first thing you setup (understanding this is a lofty task). I’d encourage you do it prior to your daily or weekly planning.