May 16, 2014

How to Create a Meal Plan || Part Two

Welcome Back! 
This is part two of a three part series on how to create a 
{weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly} meal plan. Today I'll be sharing how I create my meal plan and shopping list. I'm so excited to share all of this with you, I have a million things running around in my head right now! 

Steps on how to create a Monthly Meal Plan! Part Two. The Graffitied Gardenia

>> Three Part Series >>

Meal Planning Basics ~ Part One Here 
Creating Your Meal Plan and Shopping List ~ this post
Grocery Shopping, including my real list, budget, and timed shopping trips ~ Part Three Here

>> The Basics Review >>

1. Do what works for your family - details in part one
  • I meal plan for a month at a time; I used to do a week at a time, then realized it really didn't take me much longer to plan a whole month. 
  • At the beginning of the month I buy all my staples and non-perishables for the whole month and fresh ingredients for that week. 
  • Once a month I go to (if needed) Costco (bulk items), Aldi's (majority), Walmart (anything that Aldi's doesn't carry), Penzey's (spices, seasonings, vanilla), and sometimes PickNSave (sale or double coupon items). I'll have more details about this in my next post Grocery Store. (See what stores are close to you, we live in the perfect location for me to go to these stores. I drive on three streets, within 8 minutes of my house and pass all of my stores (except Costco) oh it's amazing! 
  • The remaining weeks I shop at one store (usually) for fresh ingredients for that week, most of the time the trip is under 10 items and under 15 minutes (including checkout). In my Grocery Store post I'll have my actual list, store, budget, and timed results.  

2. Set a food budget - details in part one  
  • $300 for the month - minus Friday Date Night

3. Organize - details in part one  
  • Check - I love this part! Cupboards, closets, and fridges are my favorite. Sorry if you don't like this part, but you'll be happy when it's done. It will save you time and money. 

4. Make a staple shopping list - details in part one 

  • Check

5. Make a skeleton meal plan - details in part one 

  • Check

6. Fill in your skeleton plan with recipes

7. Make a shopping list

8. Grocery Store - part three

9. Put away food, organize - part three

10. Post your weekly plan - 
details in part one 

  • Check


>> Part Two >>

I hope you're excited! Here we go!!!
I'll be sharing with you my steps for filling in my skeleton plan and making my shopping list. I'll also share why it works for me and the estimated time it takes. Of course, the first couple times you are figuring out your system it will take longer, don't give up! I promise it will all come together. 

You've already created a basic plan that will work for your family, set your food budget, organized your fridge, freezer, pantry, and cupboards, created your staple list, and created a skeleton plan. Super shaka for you!

>> Fill in your Meal Plan >>

6. Fill in your skeleton plan

You'll make the most of your meal plan, budget, and shopping list by purchasing what you need and using what you already have.

  • Part one is to take inventory of what you already have on hand. Have you ever bought something because it was on sale and then never use it and then a year later it's still sitting in your cupboard. Or buy a specific item for a recipe, then never use or remember you had those breadcrumbs in your pantry; only to throw then away two years later when you realize they expired a year ago. Well that's annoying and ends now.
    • Purpose: This keeps all your food in your house fresh and in good rotation. 
      • Are you serious Jolleen, I'm not a business - Au contraire, mon frère, you are, your household is your most important business. You are the CEO of a restaurant, cleaning company, finance department, home decorating magazine, movie critic, daycare center, counselor, nurse, home repair, landscape architect...
  • Take a blank piece of paper. Look through your pantry, cupboards, fridge, and freezer. (Remember you've already organize these places, so this will be quick!) Mark things that you have on hand that you need/want to use this month. I don't mean write down everything you have, but look to see what you have on hand to use. 
    • Purpose: Cuts back on waste and budget. 
    • Example: Freezer / Green beans, corn, hash brown patties, Canadian bacon. Fridge /  Cilantro. Pantry / Cake mix, pineapple, breadcrumbs. 
  • Time: 5 Minutes - remember you're just scanning

  • Part two with your inventory list of "food to use" start plugging items into your skeleton plan. Add recipes you want to try. Don't forget about sides. I'll also check my coupons and see if there are any that are going to expire before next month and see if I need that item. I'll look at the store ads and see if anything is a great buy. (I'm not a couponer, but love a good coupon for items I already use, add on a double coupon and a sale item - now we're really saving!)
    • Make sure to use all the items on your inventory list, cross them off. 
      • Example: I had Canadian bacon and pineapple on my list, I planned Hawaiian Calzones one night. Cross that off. 
      • I added green beans, corn, and hash brown patties as sides during the month. Cross that off. I also added make salsa this week to use up the cilantro, cross that off.
      • Added cupcakes. Cross cake mix off. 
      • Bread crumbs, added Breaded Chicken. Cross that off. 
  • Also check your personal calendar for any vacations, birthday dinners, planned events. 
  • Time: 30-45 Minutes, this might seem like a lot, but remember this is the only time the WHOLE month that I think "What should we have for dinner tonight?" I also like new recipes, so sometimes I get caught up looking for new ones to try....hehehe. 
    • If you happen to try Plan to Eat it's super easy all my recipes are stored online. I have my monthly calendar then just drag and drop my recipe on to the specific day. 


>> Alternate Ideas >>

  • Just plan a week at a time, then two weeks, then a month. I only started doing a month at a time in January, baby steps. (But have been doing weekly plans for about two years)
  • Just plan a month, then reuse the same plan three months in a row. Jan, Feb, March same plan. April, May, June same plan.....
  • Just add main course first, then go back through and add sides. 
  • Write the sides you like on your recipes, then when you add the main dish just copy the sides you like with it. 
    • Example: On my Breaded Chicken recipe, I like to have mash potatoes and biscuit, so I have that written on my recipe. 
  • Look for ways to combine nights or cooking. 
    • Example: If we have pancakes and bacon one night, I'll cook the whole pound then plan BLTs the next night, or the night after that. 
  • Make a big meal to lasts a few night 
    • Eat it all over a few nights or eat half and freeze half. 


>> Shopping List >>

7. Make your shopping list.
My shopping schedule - The first of the month I go to Costco, Aldi, Walmart, Penzey's (if needed) and PicknSave (if needed) for the entire months non-perishables, frozen, and fresh ingredients for the upcoming week. The next three weeks, I usually only go to one store for the fresh ingredients I need for that week.
  • Part one make your shopping list from your meal plan. 
    • Purpose: You need a list, saves time and money. 
    • Time: 0 if you use Plan to Eat, maybe 15 Minutes if you don't.
    • Another reason Plan to Eat is awesome - since you've already added your recipes it knows what you need to make it. So with one click of a button, my shopping list is made! Rad right! I also have the app on my iPad and iPhone, all I need at the grocery store is my phone to check stuff off. But you can print it out if you prefer. 
  • Part two look at your shopping list and staple list go to the kitchen and look again through the cupboards, panty, fridge, and freezer and check off stuff you already have and don't need to buy. At the same time using your staple list mark stuff you need, don't forget to check the bathroom, laundry room, and cleaning supplies. 
    • Example: I have salt, pepper, a can of refried beans, ect....I don't need to buy them.
    • I don't have enough shampoo for the month, add that. Toothpaste has a pretty big dent in the middle, add that. 
    • Purpose: This will have a HUGE payout planning like this. My first of the month trips are usually an hour and a half. But the follow up trips are under 15 minutes. 
  • Time: 15 Minutes 

Are you still there? 
Having a plan and organizing eliminates waste, which saves you money. So I spend an hour a MONTH to do my meal plan, let's say an hour and half for a little bit of wiggle room to search for new recipes. This also frees my mind to think of more important stuff, like how will 24 end. 
Totally worth it!

I'd love to hear from you! 
What are some money or time saving things you do to meal plan? 

Next Tuesday will be my grocery shopping post!! 
See this system in action; I'll have my shopping list, budget, and timed shopping trips. 

You are creative, talented, inspiring, and beautiful.
{you truly are wonderfully made}


  1. Thanks so much for linking to my post! You're right, meal planning definitely takes effort but it's well worth it.

  2. How exciting to be included here Jolleen! (and what a pretty name too!). I also get a big kick out of planning my meals.. I get really into it and make spreadsheets and documents. Ha! I think my husband thinks I'm nuts! I never had time to do it while working so now that I'm home I love to share my lists for other busy moms. The internet is great for this!

    1. Agree! Thank you for putting together such a great detailed list! and I love your blog name, so cute!

  3. Great tips! Thanks for linking up my kid friendly freezer meals!


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