Food

A Genius Way to Cook Dinner

Audrey Hepburn Easy Dinner Recipes

What do you usually make for dinner? Some weeks we have it more-or-less together, and other weeks we’re all over the place (frozen waffles, anyone?). But then I read a brilliant idea…

Len Penzo always creates a two-week menu for his family — he maps out their dinners for the next fourteen days. The plan saves money, time and (most of all) brain space. “Whenever my kids ask me what’s for dinner,” writes Penzo, “I’ve always got an answer because I sit down twice per month and create a 14-day daily dinner menu. I then post the menu on the refrigerator.”

Here’s one of his most recent menus:

Sunday: Spaghetti
Monday: Chicken & stuffing
Tuesday: Meat loaf
Wednesday: White lightning chili
Thursday: Beef Stroganoff
Friday: (Dine out)
Saturday: (Leftovers)
Sunday: Shrimp Scampi & linguini
Monday: Sesame chicken
Tuesday: Tacos
Wednesday: Pork chops
Thursday: Beef stew
Friday: Macaroni and cheese
Saturday: (Leftovers)

Inspired, I made our own two-week list. It was quick to put together, since we repeat recipes so often anyway; and all the recipes are very, very easy. Here’s what we came up with (thinking of Sundays as pasta nights, Mondays a little lighter and Fridays as a date night):

Sunday: Eggplant Parmesan Rollatini
Monday: Zucchini Soup (THE BEST)
Tuesday: Monte Cristo Sandwiches
Wednesday: Vegetable Chili
Thursday: Shop-the-Fridge Night (leftovers, scrambled eggs, baked potatoes, pasta with Rao’s sauce, etc.)
Friday: Dine out
Saturday: Pesto Salmon (with Near East Pine Nut Couscous)
Sunday: Orecchiette with Peas and Ham
Monday: Big salads
Tuesday: Chicken Quesadillas
Wednesday: Tofu Tacos
Thursday: Shop-the-Fridge Night
Friday: Dine out
Saturday: Chicken Parm Meatballs (we usually make a double recipe for the week ahead)

Leftover ingredients, like the other half of the goat cheese or leftover chicken, are used for breakfasts and lunches.

Thoughts? Isn’t it a great approach? Honestly, I’d enjoy these dinners over and over, so we could have the same two-week plan a few months in a row. Would you do something like this? Any recipe recommendations? I’d love to hear…

P.S. More quick dinners we make at home, and our favorite things at Trader Joe’s.

(Photo of Audrey Hepburn grocery shopping with her pet fawn in Beverly Hills, 1958, by Bob Willoughby. Time article found via Chasing Saturdays.)

  1. Nina says...

    We do the same, plus double up on weeknights and have yum take-to-work lunch leftovers :) Huge money, time & headspace saver.

  2. Rob Pooley says...

    My meals have really gone up a notch since I started planning meals and what to do with leftovers on the weekend, even if just for the next 5 days.

  3. I have been doing this for about a year now. It is such a money and time saver!

  4. Tami Forman says...

    To quote the amazing Ruth Reichl, if you are sitting at your desk at 4pm and you don’t know what is for dinner that night, the battle has already been lost.

    • Rob Pooley says...

      One of my all time favorite quotes

  5. Saira says...

    I think one also needs to look at budget and what’s seasonal. Ideally I would love to plan according to what I want – but I have to see what’s on sale, seasonal and like to group certain foods to utilize in various dishes over a couple of couple of days. When I am super organized, I do a meal prep and make a few staples on Sunday (I have a lot of food allergies and vegetarian so do have to cook in a lot). I make hummus, a salad dressing, pesto, sometimes guac and salsa I can use in various ways, grill a bunch of veggies I get on sale at the farmer’s market, some type of sauce, quinoa, a soup if I can, and one bigger dish I can eat for a couple of days. I tend to eat a lot of salads and rice/quinoa bowls so this way I have a bunch of things I can dump in a bowl. When it gets colder I try to make some casseroles and soup. I need to be better with planning as I do many times end up throwing out bad veggies. I am considering one of those delivery organic boxes – that way I use the little I have but you need to improvise if you don’t normally use say turnips in everyday cuisine. I think having a family you need to be organized, as when you are own you can get away with tortilla chips and guac! :(

  6. Jennifer says...

    A short comment to note that the zucchini soup is truly excellent. I added fresh spinach leaves at the end to make it bright green and pureed using a hand blender. It’s perfect!

  7. I plan my menu on a weekly basis and increasingly felt like it’s a chore on top of trying to be creative, full time work and trying to wash up after. Maybe I should have a 2-3 week’s menu planned and do it once and for all and really make use of leftovers!

  8. I do this weekly. Every Saturday morning I sit down and write the 4-5 dinners I want to make that week and fill in the two or three that will be pantry nights or going out. From that meal list I then make my quick and easy grocery list and then add in the other grocery staples we need (yogurt, paper towels, etc.). Done! After shopping (Sunday morning) I tape my meal list on the tile near the stove. I can make the meals in any order I choose. It’s awesome and there are no stressful nights stopping at the store after a long day or figuring out what I have to make a decent meal with. I highly recommend it!

  9. pilar says...

    I never made a list, but this year the organisation of my family have changed timetablea, more people at home… and I start make a lot of lists, one of them to dinner.
    It’s very useful! I like read the list of other family and learn good ideas.
    Thanks!

  10. Kathryn says...

    My husband I don’t have kids, but still find meal planning to be one of the most stressful chores–mainly because we don’t do it! The result is a painful, daily call at 6 pm, when we’re both wrapping up work, “so, umm, what do you want to do for dinner….?” It’s the worst, makes us both cranky, and results in us eating too much take out, to-go, packaged food, especially since moving to New York City where it seems impossible to get home before 8 pm! For a while, I instituted a policy where we would alternate nights of who was responsible for bringing home/going shopping/cooking, whatever means necessary preparing dinner, and the other person not responsible for the night had to keep their opinions to themselves! This seems relatively painless though, espeically only twice a month and not every week, I’ll have to give it a try!

  11. Shannon says...

    I really need to do this. By the time I get home at night I’m throwing something together quickly before my 2 year old melts down. I need to tackle the grocery shopping. That’s where I have trouble. Not sure what to buy, the cost, etc. My son is also in a rejecting everything except rice and m&m’s phase. I’m feeling inspired and perhaps I will give this a go!

  12. How would you tackle the grocery shopping aspect of this approach? I love the idea of taking two weeks at a time – I usually do one week and feel a little foolish for never considering two!

  13. Kate says...

    This is great! We do a one week plan sat to sat and I order the food online the week before for delivery on the Fri, so I have everything ready. Saves so much time with 2 small kids. We also have ‘meat-free Mondays’ in an effort to reduce reliance on meat. Better for the environment and us! Sometimes I deviate from the plan if I feel inspired for something else, and sometimes the kids have pesto pasta and we eat just the 2 of us later, mostly on a Friday night, at home date night, normally steak frites!
    The planning saves time and energy and as long as you keep on top of it it’s a lifesaver. Thanks for some new recipe ideas to add to the list!!

  14. i do weekly menus, but bi-weekly makes so much more sense! meal planning only twice a month sounds dreamy. and that zucchini soup is one of our favs, too. i posted a version with spinach to make it extra green because why not? :)

  15. Amanda says...

    I meal plan weekly. And since I am a huge nerd, I have a spread sheet with costs so I can see how much I am spending. I also put hyperlinks for the recipes. It may sound overkill but I save so much money and use the leftovers for tasty lunches each day.

    • Meggles says...

      What a great idea. We make almost all of our meals with very little prepackaged foods, so we definitely save money that way, but I feel like I’m always guessing what a budget meal is. Obviously, lentil stew is cheaper than steak, but I’d like to have a better handle on the costs. Your approach reminds me of Amy Dacyczyn, aka “the Frugal Zealot” (The Tightwad Gazette) from the 90’s.

  16. I’ve done something very similar before, and it absolutely saves a tremendous amount of money! Thanks for posting this as a reminder!

  17. May says...

    Recipe night where each person decides on a food to look for a recipe to make, and then all together make it.

  18. Carrie says...

    Meal planning is so much fun! My husband and I sit down every Sunday and create the weeks menu and then write out our shopping list. It’s definitely helping us save money and of course time- plus It’s been really helpful for trying new meals- I have time to study a new recipe and so I have a game plan for when it comes time to make it! Very important when cooking in a tiny kitchen!

  19. Vivian says...

    My husband & I have been retired for 5 years. Every 2 weeks I make a menu-vegetarian & buy groceries. So much easier for me & saves money.

    • Roha_n says...

      Hey Vivian – I see you have a vegetarian menu. My wife and I are vegetarian too. We are looking for a new recipes. Do you mind sharing your veg-menu ideas?
      Thanks in advance.

  20. I meal-plan weekly. I figure it all out on Sunday and then order groceries on Monday evenings for delivery on Tuesday. A few meals are in my plan most weeks, but I try to do at least one new recipe every week. Some of our favourite go-tos are black bean and sweet potato burritos, veggie burgers and vegetarian Swedish meatballs for family meals. And my husband always wants to have lemons spaghetti when it’s just the two of us.

    http://www.minipiccolini.com (for some good easy vegetarian family meal ideas)

    • Nikki says...

      REALLY intrigued by the vegetarian Swedish meatballs! Can you share a recipe?

  21. Great ideas! I love to plan ahead and make lists anyway so it’s almost relaxing to me to sit down and plan a menu. haha The meals sound delicious by the way! And I love that picture of Audrey Hepburn–so adorable.

  22. Betsie says...

    My husband and I have been making weekly meal plans for about a year now, and it is a game changer! No more leaving work and worrying about what we’ll make for dinner, no more having to consult each other each night about what sounds good, no more buying stuff at the grocery store with no plan for how to use it… I know sitting down, planning, writing the shopping list, and then doing the shopping sounds like a big time suck, but it truly is a time-saver. And a money saver. And a waste reducer.

    • Carrie says...

      I love sitting down with my husband and planning our menu for the week! It really does save a lot of money though…less trips to the grocery store=less hungry impulse purchases. It’s great for my wallet and my waist :)

  23. There is a wonderful free app called Pepperplate where you can do your meal planning. The big bonus for me is how connected it is. You can go from recipe, to meal plan, to grocery list all in the same app. I wrote about my family’s experience it with it here: http://www.designsonthesweetlife.com/pepperplate/

  24. Ali says...

    I like that your menu doesn’t focus on meat!

  25. kristina says...

    I’m wary… Don’t you get overwhelmed when it’s time to make the grocery list?

  26. ooooh i may try this! i suck at dinner!

  27. I just wrote a book on this very topic! It’s aimed at entrepreneurs and freelancers, but it’s good for anyone who is pressed for time and/or money. It presents a strategy for meal planning with recipes and cooking tips.

    http://www.amazon.com/Eat-Well-Bootstrapped-Budget-entrepreneur/dp/0692539913/

    One of my favorite ways to cook for the week(s) ahead is to make a huge pot or two of soup on the weekend and freeze individual containers. I also love to roast veggies while the soups are cooking so that it’s really easy to have a vegetable side for any meal (they’re often good cold or you can reheat them!) with very minimal effort.

  28. KKRvF says...

    I have been doing this for years but I do it in reverse. I shop on Sundays and come home with whatever is on: sale; looks good; and is seasonal. I then sit down and design a week’s menu at a time. It is a life saver and means my husband can jump right into the fray and pitch hit.

  29. Jenna says...

    How much do you take into account what season it is? As an American living in France, I have found that what I eat is much more dictated by the seasons (at least for produce–but I don’t see much produce specified in the list) because of what is available at the market or grocery store.

    I also realize that the freed headspace/lack of nagging from kids may trump the seasonal foods thing.

  30. Lisa says...

    A tips for everyone with a big family – get the kids to pick a dinner each! Mom used to pick monday, Dad tuesday, sister wednesday, me thursday och then dad prepared a fancy dinner of his own choosing on Thursday. Saturdays and Sundays were leftover and/or eating out days. Usually my mom used to make a big soup and/or casserole that would work as an alternative during the week. My dad usually eat lunch at home and sometimes it was fish day at school (free food at school, yey for Sweden) AND at home so then me and sister would choose to eat soup instead.

    A friend of mine had one Soup day, one Taco day, one, pasta day, one fish day, one chicken day etc.. Then they all decided together how they would prepare it. Salmon and mash? Fish fingers? Chicken skewers? Much easier when you at least know what food group you are working with!

  31. Mia says...

    I’m definitely going to try this. I love his idea of letting the kids pick two of the meals in the two-week period. Thank you for sharing it!

  32. Lana says...

    We do themed days. Monday (eggs) T (soup) W (ethnic) Th (sandwiches) Fri (leftovers and salad) Sat (eat out) Sun (pasta). It lets us know what’s for dinner without falling into a rut if eating the same thing week after week.

  33. Megan says...

    I’ve been trying to meal plan each week and the difference between what we eat when we do plan or when we don’t is night and day. We always try to make something fairly large (chili, beef stew, etc) on Sundays so I know we can have that for leftovers at least once during the week. We’re also big fans of brinner once a week – always easy and always hits the spot!

  34. I love this idea! My fiancé and I had a problem with lunches- we were all over the map and would always end up spending too much money eating out. A few months ago I started setting aside time on Sunday to prep food we could make lunches with all week- we make about 8 turkey cutlets with blackened seasoning, a sautéed green vegetable (spinach, kale, sometimes broccoli) and a big pot of pearled barley, sometimes we use even use spaghetti squash- then all week we supplement these ingredients with pantry staples that we always have on hand, like black beans, salsa, sliced avocado and sliced tomato, hard boiled eggs- we have saved so much money and we enjoy mixing these ingredients into lunch ‘bowls’ each day!

  35. Alyssa Leister says...

    This is awesome! I tend to do a week at a time (as a single person, it’s hard to shoot beyond that because things will go bad and I will have a TON of leftovers.) But I really do shoot to make one new-er/lesser made recipe a week! This week was Chicken Parm Meatballs too. I am in love with them!

  36. JC says...

    I do this as well, and post the plans on my blog every Sunday for other people to use as well. It’s been a life saver, especially during the busy times.

  37. I’ve been doing that exact thing for a couple of years now! Every week I write down what I’m going to eat for the next 7 days. All my friends think I’m a food-planner-geek now, but okay :D

    xx B
    http://www.thisisb.be

  38. We have just started meal planning and it’s a game changer! Especially after a long frustrating day. I find myself making huge batches of chilli and bolognese sauces and freezing them up. I’ve even started labelling the freezer things! Definitely helps cut down on the urge to just order takeaway…

  39. Kathryn says...

    My partner and I have done this for years (around 8 or so), but every 7-10 days. I find that if we go much further than a week and a half, the fresh produce goes off. We originally started doing it to reduce waste and to save money. More recently, we have tried to pick 2 or so recipes every week that are meant to feed 6 people. As a 2 person household, this gives us three nights of meals with only one night of cooking (it’s also even cheaper). We’re not perfect and still have some waste and a few impulse buys now and then, but it has really helped over the years. The only place it loses us money… when we decide to make our list over coffee at a café before shopping. Oh well, we all need a treat once in a while.

  40. Allison says...

    My favourite night is Friday because we always do homemade pizza and I love knowing what’s for dinner. The toppings tend to be based on whatever we have leftover from the week with the addition of some “pantry staples” like olives, artichoke hearts, or sundried tomatoes as necessary.

    Though I love the idea, I think life would probably disrupt a 2 week menu plan for us as we have 2 little ones. The new routine I’m trying is cooking 2 big dinners on Sunday, so we eat the first portion of Dish A on Sunday, eat the first portion of Dish B on Monday, leftovers of Dish A on Tuesday, and leftovers of Dish B on Wednesday. Sometimes I have to top up a soup with noodles or something on the second night to stretch it for all of us, but the giant kitchen mess on Sunday is worth the next 3 days of meals sorted.

  41. Natasha says...

    This is such a great post, so many helpful tips and recipes! Thank you.

    Joanna, one recipe that is ridiculously easy (it takes literally 5 minutes to put together!) and so delicious is Jamie Oliver’s Tender and Crispy Chicken Legs with Sweet Tomatoes:

    http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/chicken-recipes/tender-and-crisp-chicken-legs-with-sweet-tomatoes/#80L9XJkLD3rHBgAO.97

    You just need the hour and a half for the roasting (not ideal if you’re starving). But it’s honestly a perfect dish. We make it once a week and I can never get over how yummy the chicken is. Plus the next day, the leftovers in a salad are amazing.

    Bon Appetit!

  42. This is such a great idea!
    Both my husband and I work from home. He usually takes care of cooking, and I do the dishes (we shop together). But we easily run out of inspiration. Cooking breakfast + lunch + dinner is so much work! I sometimes miss working at an office and having lunch at the cafeteria.
    Anyways, meal planning has been on my list for a while, and you just reminded me to tackle this project!
    We shop at our coop on the 10th, so it gives us some time to plan. Now I’m gonna go through all the recipes you posted.
    I’m hungry already!
    http://consciousbychloe.com

  43. Jenn says...

    Meal planning always sounded like so much work to me but I can attest that it is LIFE CHANGING! I can’t imagine going back to the stress of trying to figure meals out every day and constantly be worrying if my kids are getting a balanced diet. I plan a week at a time, lunch and dinner and do all my grocery shopping at the beginning of the week. It’s so much easier than it seems. Do it!! :)

  44. Dee says...

    This would work so well if not for the fact that my people don’t consider salad or soup as DINNER. Ohmygoodness, this is dinner?! – is what I would hear. I need to have a main course each and everytime. Boohoo.

  45. I like to plan our weekly menu on Thursdays, and go grocery shopping Friday afternoons so we have the whole weekend to have fun. I have a Weekly Menu Pinterest board and I move pins or pin new dinners for the week only. So if I forget to add anything to the list I can always pull up the pin/recipe while at the grocery for any missing ingredients. http://www.twoplusluna.com/2015/08/tuesday-tip-menu-planning.html I label the pins by day of the week. I also like to cook a new recipe or a more fancy meal on Sundays, and make sure I cook enough for leftovers because I hate cooking on Mondays! This Sunday I made Chicken Pozole which is the best Mexican soup ever and tastes even better the next day!

    Lendy
    http://www.twoplusluna.com

  46. Sara says...

    Great idea maybe I will try one week for starters. I’m not a planner but I am vegan! I care about not eating meat or animal products and that’s tricky when I eat out and order in all the time.

  47. Wow! I’m amazed by the comments on this post, and to see that so many people actually Meal Plan. That’s totally the opposite of me, which is funny because I am a crazy organizer in many other aspects of life! I grocery shop every 2 days or so (disclaimer: I have one of the best grocery stores in SF just one block away), and both my husband and I work from home and love to cook, so we basically think about dinner a few hours beforehand and use the trip to the grocery store as a great way to break up the work day- it’s usually about 20 minutes start to finish. Additionally, we go out a few nights a week (often for work-networking) and it’s pretty unpredictable so buying groceries for more than a few days at a time leads to spoilage.

    Anyway, a recipe that I’ve been making for years is David Lebovitz’s Roast Chicken with Shallots. So easy, so good, and lovely enough to serve to guests. Delicious over polenta too! http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2010/03/roast-chicken-recipe-caramelized-s/

    I also generally have luck cooking anything from http://smittenkitchen.com/

    Happy cooking!

  48. cg says...

    I have an excel spreadsheet with categories for meats, sides (veg, carb), and pasta. With each category are the different types of cuts of meats and a sub category for type of dish. For example: Chicken-
    breast – roasted, grilled
    thigh/stix: roasted, sauteed

    Under sauteed for thighs: adobo, garlic lemon, cream of mushroom, BBQ, etc.

    I comb through the sheet to see what to make for the next few days, go to the store if I need to pick up ingredients and I’m set for a bit. After the few days I go back to the sheet, mentally cross off what we just had and see what’s left to choose from.

    • cg says...

      I forgot to add that I only do about three days out. When I meal planned for a week out I realized we actually wasted food. Sometimes plans change and then I have perishables in the fridge that don’t make it to the end of the week or we have leftovers from going out and it throws me and my ingredients off. I know it sounds silly, but I’d end up throwing out a flat of raw chicken or something because it didn’t last in the fridge while waiting to cook. I would forget to put it in the freezer or I’d not take it out in time to defrost. So going three days to the store ensures that the fresh meat I buy (and some delicate veg too) stays just that -fresh.

  49. Kristy says...

    What I learned from my boss(es)
    mini turkey burger patties (buns not necessary)–simply ground turkey meat doused with worchestershire sauce and maybe a little tomato paste if you have on hand and molded into little balls (flattened by the bottom of a skillet/pan to create the patty shape while sizzling away) are surprisingly delicious. Top with a simple guacamole of avocado, lime juice, and salt–optional, of course.

    avocado halves–still in skin with the middles filled with canned tuna–tossed in garlic oil/sesame oil/dressing of your choice.

    What I learned from my mom: a pot of chicken broth with noodles, rough chopped tomatoes, bok choy and a poached egg stewed together makes for a great lazy/late night dinner.

  50. LaurenB says...

    We’re on week 3 of a new system, and it seems to be working so far…
    Instead of “taco tuesdays”, we assigned each day a protein (or non-protien) and it works SO Much Better for us!
    We keep an Excel spreadsheet of our favorite recipes in each category, and every weekend we just pick from that list. I know the recipes by heart, but it still give us a full month without repeats if we so choose.
    We do:
    Meatless Monday, Chicken Tuesday, Salad Wednesday (can have a meat or not), Beef/Pork Thursday, Fish Friday, Breakfast-for-dinner Saturday, “Wild Card” Sunday (leftovers, eat out, dinner with the grandparents…)

    • rita says...

      I’ll copy this!

  51. Charli says...

    I have been doing weekly meal plans since last January and it has been a huge budget and time saver for me! We also cut out a ton of food waste this way! I’m very proud of our empty fridge by Saturday night. :)

    We love leftovers, so we usually only plan 2-3 dinners but make them in large quantities. We also do a batch of something for lunch, like a soup or a hearty grain-based salad that we can eat on all week.

    We are a household of two, so I always plan around one or two key ingredients you can use different ways. Saves time, food, and money. Also, frozen veggies are very healthy and great additions to things like curries, soups, etc and can really help with stretching a 2 week meal plan if you’re concerned about fresh veggies going bad before you use them.

  52. Tori says...

    I make a meal plan for one week.

    From that I make my grocery list, which I write “in order of appearance” at the grocery store (I always go to the same store so I have the layout memorized) and grocery shop over the weekend. (Grocery shopping during the Steeler games on Sunday is the best time to go here in Pittsburgh!!). That way I have everything I need to make my dinner each night. This helps so much because if I have to run to the store on my way home from work sometimes it’ll make me change my mind and just pick up something quick instead.

    • Charli says...

      I also write my list “in order of appearance” – it saves SO much time. High five!

    • I have a grocery list app on my phone, and I rotated the sections to be in order of how I’d encounter them at the store too. Such a great time saver!

    • erin says...

      then the grocery store decides to change things up! and rearrange their produce section. I hate when they do that.

    • Tori says...

      I hate when they rearrange, too, haha. It always throws me for a loop!

  53. Allison says...

    We meal plan a week at a time. I’ve tried 2 weeks, but it ends up being wasteful (for us!) because by the end of the first week we are craving different things or have found new recipes we want to try (damn you, Pinterest!). We keep a running list during the week of things that sounds good, add in what we have/need to use up, and go from there.

    • Allison, I’ve been running into meal planning being wasteful for us too (!!!) — even for a week at a time (maybe because there are so many good recipes, so I find it hard to plan shop-the-fridge nights. Also there are only two of us so leftovers seem to last a lot longer than I remember from growing up). I too change my mind (a lot) based on what we’re in the mood for, so by the middle of the week the meal plan gets thrown out the window!!! I marvel at people who can stick to the plan for a whole week, let alone two! So, thank you for your idea of two running lists — I especially like the idea of a “what we have/need to use up list, ” because it seems like a really great way to avoid being wasteful while still having the flexibility to try a new recipe or two every week!

  54. Theresa says...

    Meal planning is something I have always aspired to finally do. Sigh. Haven’t yet. We recently signed up for Blue Apron and I love it. I have yet to figure out balance with working full time, being a mom, wife, friend and daughter. Blue Apron has helped with a few weeknight meals and good variety!

  55. great post! i love the idea of meal planning but i somehow hate committing to them too. so i make a mental meal plan and shop accordingly, this way i know what my options are for the week but have some leeway to change it up too! next week i’m thinking:

    monday: spanish rice wraps,
    tuesday: baked spaghetti,
    wednesday: homemade black bean and brown rice burger patties,
    thursday: quinoa veggie chilli with avocado and grilled cheese sandwiches on the side, and
    friday eat out!

    http://www.footnotesandfinds.com

  56. Jess T says...

    I just sat down a couple of weeks ago and planned out a week-long seasonal menu that I’ll use for the fall. That way, I can sit down four times throughout the year and plan a thoughtful and seasonal menu for the coming three months. So far it’s worked really well as we don’t have a varied schedule and I love knowing that I already have dinner thought out when I wake up in the morning. With two little kids to take care of it’s so nice to not have to be thinking of what to make for dinner all day. Here’s what we’re doing for fall: Sunday – spaghetti and meatballs; Monday – fish, fries, roasted veg; Tuesday – tortellini/raviolli and sauteed veg; Wednesday – street tacos; Thursday – chicken and pea risotto with roasted veg; Friday – pizza, salad, and sometimes wings; Saturday – roasted chicken, sweet potato wedges, corn, coleslaw. I’m not tired of it yet – but honestly, I could eat spaghetti and meatballs every Sunday through the year!

    • Allison says...

      Love this idea. I think the ease of it would balance out my potential boredom!

  57. Tracy says...

    I highly recommend Plan to Eat, an app/website where you can drag meals you have saved onto a calendar, then it automatically creates a shopping list using your plan (and whatever else you add). You have to invest some time upfront saving your recipes (with a quick button to save the links like Pinterest), but I have found it to be such a lifesaver. They have a free month trial. I also like that it’s run by a husband and wife team. I have no relationship with them – just a happy meal plan convert!

  58. suzanne morris says...

    I use a website called Fresh 20. Each week they send me an email with meal plans for 5 days, complete with shopping list and nutritional info. The meals are healthy and easily prepared. I’ve been married 30 years and raised 5 kids. I’m happy not to have to think about shopping & meal prep anymore. The folks at Fresh 20 do all that for me.

  59. K says...

    Omg! So glad it is not my OCD :). I have been doing this since last one year. As you go on doing it, you will see what a pro grocery shopper you will become. Bye bye fridge burnt meats and vegetables. Though the key is not to give up. Esp when you do it second or third time one starts to feel confident thinking they can dish out anything and soon you will be back to square one. Force yourself and hang in their 3 months and then it will be piece of cake.

  60. Mette says...

    What impresses (and inspires) me most is that you have date night every Friday. Wish I did!

  61. Sarah says...

    I plan in weekly increments, usually 5-6 dinners, as one night can usually be a left overs night and we then make it back to the grocery store before we run out of dinners. I don’t plan much farther out than that as I find food can go bad especially when life changes plans. At the end of each week I sit down, look at what we possibly didn’t eat and plan a menu for the next week out and create my grocery list for the weekend. The meals aren’t meant to be eaten on any specific night of the week – we just pick one each morning and take out any meat that may need to be thawed. I do try to plan crock pot meals for nights that I know we will be busy and not have time to make even quick dinners.

  62. laeti says...

    I also plan weekly meals, but I often switch, depending on what I feel like eating that day or what the kids had at preschool for lunch, so they don’t end up eating Spaghetti at every meal that day).
    Some of my go to’s:
    – Linguini with broccoli florets, peas and a Gorgonzola cream sauce (gorgonzola + heavy whipping cream)
    – Lamb chops and green beans
    – Leeks and mushrooms quiche
    – Boeuf aux carottes (http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Beef-with-Carrots)
    -A simple version of the Lentils’ Petit Sale (Chopped onion + carrots + bacon sauteed in olive oil, add a box of the trader joe’s pre-cooked lentils and a glass of water, let simmer for 10 min)
    (haha, I guess I just realized we’ve lived in the US for 10 years but still eat very French ;)

  63. Alicia says...

    This is close to what my husband and I do!

    We have a shared Google calendar with 8 weeks (!) of dinner. Each event is set to repeat every 8 weeks. It sounds daunting, but we end up having the same meals every other Monday, etc. This also means we have risotto, but we only have to cook it once every two months.

    If something comes up, or if something delicious catches our eye at the store, we’ll just delete the single event for the week. It’s a solid base for when we’re uninspired, yet flexible for when we are inspired.

    We’re typically ready for Chipotle by Thursday nights, so our meals get progressively easier to cook as the week goes on (e.g. Big Salads, Quesadillas).

    Happy planning everybody!

  64. Jo Chan Smith says...

    A family we know plan their meals in a similar manner, ie in 2-week blocks, except they cycle through them for months! Week 1 menu, Week 2 menu, repeat ad infinitum. I guess it’s a no-brainer way to shop for groceries and some people like the routine-ness of it.
    I’ve been planning fortnightly menus for a while now – it started when we were struggling financially. I’d plan the menu to fit our grocery budget. I don’t have to do that anymore, but still plan the menu (we love having variety in our meals too) and still have a budget. I don’t always stick to it, ie might swap over what days we cook/eat stuff, but it helps to have all the ingredients ready for a particular dish.
    Great post, Joanna!

  65. Hi there,

    I’ve been doing this for quite some time. It started as a money saving thing, stopping me from going to the shop all the time, you do save a fortune planning things out. Not only do you not run to the shop all the time, I find if the fridge is full, I am less likely to be tempted to eat out, because I don’t want the food to go off… I do it slightly different as my partner and I are very busy (as many of us) and there are no kids. I shop for 10 days. I find things stay fresh just long enough to get 9 meals and 1 or 2 leftover meals out of it. So I go shopping only 3 times a month. I go shopping on a Tuesday or Wednesday morning if possible as the shelves are full and there are very few people in the shop, so I run through it in no time. As I am self-employed, I work my schedule around it; It’s a real time saver. In my 10 days menu plan, I include 2 veggie meals, 1 or 2 fish meals, 1 or 2 poultry meals, the rest meat and 1 or 2 days of empty-the-fridge meals (which I always find exciting as you can be so creative – the artist in me…). Keeping a good balance, check! Though to save even more time, I will often cook meals fully or partly for 2 days i.e a roast chicken one day will be made into a stew the next day. Macaroni and cheese I’ll happily eat two days in a row but I shake it up with a different side salad… so there are always 2 meals in my 10 day plan that are time savers as I don’t have to start from scratch. Friday I make a comfort food dish ie home made burgers, hot dogs, spaghetti bolognaise… Another tip: when I make spaghetti or lasagne or stew or any other dish you can make in a batch, I make a big pot, it’s not a lot of extra time to do that… and I freeze some portions, handy when you’re stuck to always have a freezer with a few ready meals. So here are my time and money saving tricks.

    Cheerio,

    Els

  66. M says...

    “But you had to have the big salad!” – George Costanza

    Anyone else hear the phrase ‘big salad’ and think of this??

    • Angela says...

      Always!!

    • Yes!!

  67. Michelle says...

    I always do this! On a 7-day plan though. Once a week I sit down with the weather report and our family calendar and plan our menu. My friends say I’m crazy, but then on a busy rainy Tuesday I can whip up a quick pot of chili and life is good!
    I used to go to the grocery store on Sunday afternoons but then we’d end up eating out all weekend since I didn’t feel like scavenging the fridge for food. Now I go Friday mornings and we save a LOT on our restaurant budget.

    • Gabriela says...

      That’s a great idea!! I shop Sundays and we end up eating out all weekend. I’m going to start shopping on Fridays!

  68. Love, love, love this post. I love hearing about what people eat! To such a point that I just started blogging about it (mommiesandmeals.com). I am always looking for inspiration when it comes to cooking but you are right Joanna. I literally spend so much time planning my meals than there is not much space left for anything else. This is where planning ahead is great. I did try it, based on a two weeks plan, but this is not really for me. I get bored after a while and miss the process of trying new food and recipes. So now I basically do both. I have a set of trusted recipes and once or twice a week, I try something new.

  69. Planning meals is one of my favorite activities. For me, I come up with a list of meals that we’re going to buy groceries for and post the list of those meals in the kitchen. I can’t assign it to specific days because I’m too swayed by my mood when it comes to what I want to eat. And there are only two of us right now, we have so many leftovers.
    I put astricks next to the meals that have fresh-er ingredients and need to be eaten first but for the most part, my partner says “what’s for dinner?” And I say, “Go pick something off the board!”

  70. We used to have a running joke in my family growing up about “What’s for dinner?” and the answer was always “Chicken, rice and veggies”…it was my mom’s go-to meal.

    For my family of four, there is just no way I could cook each night. The last thing I want to do after work is come home and cook! We make one large meal at the beginning of the week that is good for 3-4 nights (chili, soups, casseroles, baked ziti). Then for the other 3 nights we usually eat out or throw together scraps from the fridge.

  71. My mom has always, and still does, this each Saturday morning. She looks through the kitchen to see what she has, then sits down and makes a menu for the week (just weekly, not for two weeks). Then she makes her shopping list based off of the menu and hits the store. We always knew what was for dinner and she always had everything she needed to make it, without wasting brain energy after a full work day on deciding what’s for dinner. I’ve been trying to do the same, but my boyfriend has such an unpredictable schedule, that I can’t ever keep track of when I’m eating alone or if he’ll be home.

  72. Sarah M. says...

    I love this concept! It gets tough to stick to, as I find that sometimes I have to stay at the office late, or get invited to dinner dates with friends, that it stresses me out to spend money on going out AND have produce going bad in the fridge! I’ve gone between 1-week meal plans, 2-week plans, no plan, and I’ve found that it’s best for me when each week, I:
    – audition one new-to-me meal (this week: donburi beef from Bon Appetit)
    – make one tried-and-true meal– often a double batch, for lunches (this week: salmon with dill and butter, side of wild rice)
    – make something thrown together (no recipe) and seasonal, inspired by the farmer’s market (this week: orzo with eggplant and roasted tomatoes)
    This makes it feel less rigid day-to-day, but also strikes a great balance for me between comfort, creativity, and challenges in the kitchen.

  73. Caz says...

    I like to plan my lunch and dinner each week (I live in Spain so I have lunch at home every day as well). I only have to cook for one, but as I share a flat I have limited fridge and pantry space. So if I’m going to buy a whole bag of baby spinach or a head of broccoli, for example, I want to know that I’ll use it up before it goes bad. (Plus it saves me buying a tonne of random things at the supermarket, wandering around hungry and confused!)

    Flexibility is important, though. Some nights I get home and all I have the energy for is eggs on toast, or maybe I’ll make a last minute weekend lunch date with a friend. But having the plan is nice and I can only imagine it will be even more convenient when kids are involved!

  74. Jess. says...

    I’m excited to try your linked recommendations. This is almost my exact approach, but I make the list while I examine my store’s weekly ad, and I use recipes we love based on what’s on sale.

  75. Lindsay says...

    Since I live alone, every night is shop the fridge night! I buy mostly stock items and at least a few different things that pique my interest at the grocery story. And every night I play a lovely game of “What amazing thing can I throw together for dinner?” I love it.

  76. jessica says...

    It took awhile to figure out what worked for our family, but here is what we do: we plan for each week and involve our 2 boys (ages 5 & 7, though we started this a few years ago). We plan for Sunday- Thurs. We typically decide what to eat for Sunday night together (and my husband often does the cooking Sunday as I cook Mon-Thurs), then each family member picks a dinner for Mon-Thurs. On Fridays we make pizza and on Saturdays we go out or take out. The other thing that helps is we shop as a family, usually on Sundays. We divide the list to save on time and let the boys pick out lunch from the hot bar so we don’t have to worry about making a meal as soon as we get home. It also helps that we have adventurous eaters, but that also makes the grocery bills higher :).

  77. Amy says...

    I make a weekly meal plan and can’t imagine doing it any other way. I crave huge variety in our meals so it takes me a while to come up with a good plan. I generally do one meat dish, one fish, and try to do the rest vegetarian. I don’t assign certain meals to certain days tho.. Like other commenters mentioned some days you come up and want to make the quickest meal in your plan or need to use up a certain veggie that’s not doing so well, or as often is the case around here need to wait another day for that avocado to ripen on the counter before we can have say, black bean tacos. Like the idea of creating a Google doc to keep track of what I’ve made rather than starting from scratch each week. I will try that!

  78. Christie says...

    I am a big meal planning convert, ever since I read Dinner A Love Story: The Playbook. My big takeaway from that book was the virtues of meal planning.

    I sit down each weekend and plan for the week ahead, and it means at the end of the day when I’m tired I don’t have to be creative about dinner on the spot – it’s always planned ahead. I also save money because I’m not buying ingredients I don’t end up using.

    One thing I realised about meal planning, too: You don’t HAVE to eat the meals you planned on that specific day. If you don’t feel like soup on Monday, trade it for your Wednesday meal and have the soup on Wed instead.

    • colleen says...

      I also do the one week menu and try hard to shop without kids, but when they do go, one is the coupon holder and we try to make it into a scavenger hunt. We only eat out about once a month – either with the whole family or a date night. I love cooking so much, most relaxing part of the day!!

  79. Frustrated by this very challenge, and nights on end of expensive, gross takeout, I made a resolution to cook for an entire year. This blog is a diary of that endeavor….successes and failures!

  80. Seems so simple to just sit down and hash this all out, rather than scrambling for something an hour before you’d like to eat! Before we to married my husband and I said we’d do it how they do in The Big Bang Theory — every night of the week would be a different food night (pasta nights, Chinese food, etc.) but so far that hasn’t happened. And this option seems like it’d bring more variety!

    Leanne
    https://somebodysdove.wordpress.com/2015/11/03/what-im-reading-why-not-me-by-mindy-kaling/

  81. Aura says...

    2 weeks out is really smart– i’m inspired.
    i always have one night of breakfast for dinner– scrambles, sausages, beans, toast, etc. and one night of what my step-dad has termed “pick and no complain”. basically your shop the fridge concept. i’m always amazed at what you can come up with from random leftovers and bits!

  82. Courtenay says...

    If I don’t have a meal plan for the week I feel so out of sorts! I grocery shop on Sunday and do some meal prep that day as well. I usually make a big pot of soup for lunches for the week. We don’t mind having the same thing two nights in a row (and I hate cooking every night) so I’ll make enough one night to have the next night as well. I’m going to give a two week plan a try! One of our fav recipes these days is the Quinoa Enchilada Casserole by Damn Delicous http://damndelicious.net/2014/07/07/quinoa-enchilada-casserole/ It’s so good and so easy! I usually add diced chicken or ground beef to give it a bit more staying power.

  83. ashley b says...

    caveat: i live alone and love to cook. but this is definitely the way to go about it. i don’t get as detailed as a list since it’s in my head. however, i always have a few items i rotate in and out.

    saturday: shop basics (vegetables, fruit, cheese, milk, eggs) + cook something small
    sunday: cook something that will last me through the week for lunch, save one day buying lunch.
    monday: roast vegetables
    tuesday: pasta or grain with leftover roast vegetables
    wednesday: spinach quesadillas
    thursday: something else with leftover roast vegetables
    friday: go out!

    to me shopping it’s the same concept as packing. everything you buy has to be able to go together with everything else. it’s hard but it’s doable!

  84. Sue R. says...

    Real Simple magazine recently had a great write up on a month of dinners with theme nights such as meatless Mondays, taco Tuesdays etc…4 weeks of dinners which look to easy to prepare, nice variety and mouthwatering photos. Bonus, shopping lists are included. This is in the September 2015 issue.

  85. Caitlin says...

    Hi Joanna- I’ve been meaning to comment on one of your dinner posts. I recently moved to SF from Carroll Gardens and wanted to recommend Paisanos Meat Market on Smith St., specifically for their Berkshire pork sausage with parsley and aged provolone. We used it frequently to make one pot meals of sausage, white beans, and kale which taste even better the next day. The first time we had this sausage at a stoop bbq everyone was talking about it, so much flavor, so yummy with the melted cheese! We even walked down the street to get more to bbq because it is THAT good.

  86. After 2 years of parenting solo I finally figured out that meal planning might help me out a little! I do it by the week and every week is pretty much the same (with small variations).

    Monday: steam tamales, broccoli and a slab of fish
    Tuesday: stir-fry meat and veggies with rice
    Wednesday: http://www.insockmonkeyslippers.com/brown-sugar-mustard-chicken-and-sweet-potatoes
    Thursday: pasta with a sauce of sardines, garlic and kale
    Friday: pizza
    Saturday: burritos
    Sunday: soup/stew

  87. My husband and I just decided to alternate being in charge of dinner. For two weeks he’s in charge of planning, shopping and preparing the meals. For the next two weeks I am. He is more of a ‘wing it’ kind of guy, but I’ve gotten in the habit of planning the meals for two weeks but shopping once a week on Sundays. Makes life so much easier! And we love that we’re one of us isn’t always feeling responsible for planning and executing the meals.

  88. We plan one week at a time, and like someone above said, we don’t necessarily assign a meal to a specific night, because we definitely need the flexibility of working around an especially traffic-y commute home from work, days we’re just too tired to do something elaborate, etc. So, we have a list of five or six things per week, and we just take whatever we feel like off the list that night. I try to make sure two or three meals will yield leftovers so we have lunches throughout the week as well. There are a few exceptions: We always plan at least one non-perishable meal – either something that can be pulled totally out of the pantry or something that’s being kept in the freezer (or both), so that if a night with friends pops up or something else happens, we don’t waste the food – it can just wait until next week. That’s usually a meal we save until the end of the week, obviously because the food isn’t going to go bad in the fridge or on the counter. The other is when something needs a bit more prep time – my husband gets home at noon on Fridays, so if I need something to be in the crockpot for ONLY four hours, or if we’re planning on making pizza dough in the bread machine, we’ll plan that for Friday so we don’t have to eat at 9 pm! I like planning one week at a time, because at the end of the week you can see which ingredients you still have left and try to incorporate them into the next week’s plan. I feel like, at least for us, we end up wasting less (food AND money!) that way.

  89. LOVE Rao’s sauce – so yummy! If you ever find yourself in a Christmas Tree Shop they often have it there for up to $3 less than they have it at Whole Food for, crazy good deal! :)

  90. Aimee says...

    My husband and I just started doing this because we were stressing out trying to pull together a decent family meal in the evenings with our kids. In our case, we set up a shared google calendar and operate a month at a time. We were doing week to week, but we found that we would get through a week successfully and then get lazy and not draw up a plan for the next week or would end up repeating a dish which I found to be boring. I find the month provides a nice big picture and in that way we can get more variety in and make sure we are spreading our protein around and allocating nights for meat-free dishes. So far, so good. Glad to see this kind of thing is catching on!

  91. Lisa says...

    Oh I would rather cook loads of food one day and freeze whats possible to re-heat during the week! Takes almost no time and while heating I chop up a fresh salad or boil som fresh pasta or rice or whatever. Dinner in 10-15 minutes. Done. And leftovers are eaten for lunch or dinner the next day. Easy peasy.

  92. Katie says...

    Love this idea! We just started something similar this week. At daycare, they have a 4-week lunch menu that they rotate for a full season. We are trying the same with dinner! I have 4 weekly meal plans which I feel is enough to not get burnt out, but is still manageable. So far, so good! I love that I won’t have to put much thought into grocery lists…it was always the bane of my weekend!

  93. Meredith says...

    While I admit I am not always good about it, meal planning does save money, time and makes my family eat healthier! I prefer planning a week at a time and I love hearing about other meal rotations for ideas, so thank you! Tonight we are having a creamy chicken and mushroom soup that cooks up in 30 min. I like to plan with the seasons, and assign nights an overall theme, like “meatless Monday.” I allow myself to try something new once or twice a month, on a night when I have time to do so.

  94. Caroline says...

    We do a weekly plan and it saves so much money. We just buy what we need from our small local shop (we think of the shop as our larder!) and then about once a month we head to Aldi and stock up on tins of chopped tomatoes etc and meat for the freezer. It also takes away the stress of being late home from work and then having to think what to make.

  95. I recently blogged about this for Babyccino and have just started a new blog that is dedicated to my weekly meal plans! I sit down every weekend and make a plan for the week and then order everything I will need via a grocery app so I have no excuses come dinnertime! http://www.hungermama.com

  96. Jessica says...

    I just moved from Atlanta to the middle of nowhere (Zuni, New Mexico) and am trying to learn to meal plan. I find it SO difficult. I made a 2 month plan with a rotation of 15 meals + leftover nights + nights out at the one (yes, one!) restaurant in town. I had to abandon the plan 3 weeks in because I was already not into some of the ideas on the list. I’m trying new ways to do it and with a second baby on the way I know we have to figure something out. Maybe 2 weeks is more doable. We’ll see!

  97. S says...

    I don’t like to assign meals to specific days of the week- our schedules are always changing and it’s great to make room for going out when we need a mid-week date or pick me up, saving the easiest meal for the real tired day, etc., but I like to have a list of meal ideas to draw from during the week that includes standbys and something new I’d like to try. Some of our standbys:
    omelets full of veggies and cheese
    tacos – tofu or fish
    pasta with everything (seriously. my husband puts beans in it).
    stir fry
    coconut milk curry over rice
    roasted veggie and grain bowls
    grilled salmon with a side of polenta

  98. I used to subscribe to http://savingdinner.com/ There are menus for paleo and gluten free, etc. But they provide you with a menu for the week, the list of ingredients, and the recipes. Along with the variations you need to do to make it fit your food requirements/allergies, etc. I loved it! They also have books from the library you can borrow to see if you like it.

    I have gotten out of the menu habit but now thanks to you, I’m going to try it again!!

  99. lindsay says...

    we meal plan, but just for a week at a time. since we don’t have a car, groceries have to be carried home on the subway and more than a week’s worth is just too much. my husband and i work collaboratively on each week’s list (using a google docs template laid out according to the store’s layout!) during our lunch breaks. we also have a list of go-to recipes as a google doc.

  100. KM says...

    I am a die-hard planner when it comes to family dinners! And with a 3 y/o and 2 y/o, I have learned prepping (even at 5:30am before heading off to work) is crucial – for tonight’s dinner, the veggies are chopped and ready to throw into marinara, and the meatballs are browned and ready to finish cooking in the sauce too. Also, I use a slow cooker at least once/week, and I have a no-cook policy on Fridays (pizza! mexican!).

    My sister and I share a Google doc of meal ideas (and links to meals), and we are both always updating it. It’s organized by type of meal, i.e., sandwiches, soups/stews, slow cooker, etc. Very helpful and I review it every week when it’s time to make my list.

    Oh, and in the spirit of keeping my hubby fed and happy, I always as him if he has any meal requests.

  101. Janna says...

    Personally, I was blown away by the variety – a new dinner almost every single night of the week? We are planners, but this would never work for us two working parents who get home just in time to spend two hours with the kids, eat dinner and get to bed at a reasonable hour. Here is what we do: we plan the dinners one week at a time. We then cook the majority on Sunday – usually a quick soup (or bone broth that we love on its own!) and some sort of protein. For the protein, we love our slow cooker – it’s near-effortless, and makes a ton of ribs, shredded pork butt, etc. to last for three to five days! Some weeks, we pre-cook entire meals – stuffed peppers, stew, fried chicken. On each work night, we quickly heat up a small cup/bowl of soup and protein/meal – whatever we happened to cook on Sunday. While the heating is in progress, we will throw together a quick side – steamed broccoli, sautéed kale or chard or spinach, or make a quick salad. Dinner prep during the week never takes more than 15 minutes, and we mix up the sides, but not the mail dish.

  102. I’m jealous that this works for people! The idea sounds like a great time and money-saver, and I’ve tried to do it on many occasions.

    But it never fails, come week 2 I have a taste for something totalllly different than what I planned for. If I know all week that Thursday I’m having, say, salmon, by the time Thursday rolls around I’m over the idea of it…almost like I already mentally ate it and I’m bored by the thought of more (…is that weird…)

    I guess it offers convenience for sure, but with a side of discipline ;) when for me, food should be spontaneous and fun!

    http://oprahismyreligion.wordpress.com

  103. HJM says...

    We have scheduled nights each week… where I can make different things with the same type of ingredients. For example, we always have breakfast for dinner one night each week, but it can vary from pancakes and eggs, to waffles to omelettes. The other scheduled night is Taco/Mexican night… which could be tacos, quesadillas, tostadas, enchiladas. (Different meal, same ingredients.) Throw in a pasta night and a “wild card” night which is either leftovers or trying a new recipe and the week is set!

  104. this is a great idea! and so much can be made ahead. let us know how it goes!

  105. Emma says...

    A great idea for busy families. Puy Lentils, carrots, parsnips, a chopped onion and some smoked lardons with a sprig of thyme, a clove of garlic and a spoon of dijon mustard is delicious and simple to throw together. It’s hearty and warming. ☺

  106. Liz says...

    Great idea! I’m inspired to do it.

  107. Tessa says...

    My husband I started doing this several years ago and we swear by it! It saves so much money, time and effort. It’s even helped out our marriage! The trickiest part is sitting down and coming up with the meal plan. I like how it has encouraged my husband to cook. Before the weekly meal plans, I’d come home late from work and get “what do you want for supper?” while he lazed on the couch. With the meal plan it’s become automatic. Whoever gets home first starts supper. No questions asked!

  108. Kim says...

    I keep a folder with all of the recipes that I’ve torn out of magazines or printed from the internet. I sit down on Sunday morning and flip through it until I have my week’s worth of dinners, then I go shopping. I cook Sunday night through Wednesday night with Thursdays as leftover night. We always eat out Friday and Saturday nights to give this full-time working mama a break! I can’t tell you how relieved I am when Thursday rolls around…no cooking for the next three nights!

  109. Loren says...

    I love meal planning! It makes our weeks so much easier! I usually go to Costco about once a month and stock up on frozen fish, chicken breasts, and boxes of salad. Here’s our two week meal plan:

    Sunday: Leftover pizza and fresh spinach salad
    Monday: Pan-seared halibut with steamed broccoli
    Tuesday: Husband away on business – Chinese food out with my mom!
    Wednesday: Chicken and lentil stew
    Thursday: Chicken sausage with brussels sprouts
    Friday: Chili with cornbread
    Saturday: Dinner out to celebrate husband’s birthday

    Sunday: BBQ pulled pork sandwiches
    Monday: Tuna steaks with salad
    Tuesday: Yellow chicken curry over rice
    Wednesday: Leftovers
    Thursday: Pan-seared salmon and spinach
    Friday: Pesto pork chops with smittenkitchen’s crispy potato roast
    Saturday: Roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie (going out of town for Thanksgiving and it’s one of my favorite meals to cook!)

  110. Clare says...

    We swear by the weekly menu plan. Every Sunday I put together a menu and either do my grocery trip that afternoon or on Monday. It saves so much time, money, and random mid-week grocery runs. Not to mention it alleviates the stress of a 5pm “what should I make?” freak-out!

  111. Asia says...

    Thank you for this! It reminded me I am making stuffed baked potatoes for dinner.

  112. Anne says...

    I plan all my meals every week! It’s a game changer. I used to go to the grocery store and just wander and grab stuff – maybe I’ll make chicken this week, why not get some mushrooms – and then I got lazy and made pasta and sauce every night and all my food went bad. Literally every week. Now I just buy exactly what I need and eat a much healthier and more satisfying diet. It’s especially helpful because I live in a small apartment with three roommates, and there just isn’t space for extraneous groceries. I’m never going back! #mealplanning4lyfe

  113. Andrea says...

    Yup, I do a two-week plan as well. It completely changed our life. We spend less at the grocery store, waste waaaayyy less, enjoy cooking more, and eat around the table together almost every night. It also creates mindfulness and intention around food, which has been pretty life-altering for us. Seriously good stuff. Love your blog so, so much, Joanna. Thank you.

  114. Amanda says...

    Oh my-this feels so inspiring to me (and so much less overwhelming). I’m going to give it a try. I’m wondering–how often do people shop for groceries for a 2 week menu? I’m not the biggest fan of going often, and yet, doing a big grocery run with a little one isn’t that much fun either.

    • Anne says...

      I actually prefer weekly menus, mostly so I don’t have to worry about produce going bad. So I shop once at the beginning of the week, either Sunday or Monday.