Meal Planning 101 | For the everyday wife

As I mentioned in the first "from the Miller's Kitchen" post, my love for recipes grew once I became a wife. It increased even more in the 6 months that I couldn't cook due to my shoulder injury. I would sit and pin meals and dream of the day that I could simply cook meat and stir sauce without feeling as though my arm were falling off. 

Not long after that was possible, Joel and I began Financial Peace at our church. We started budgeting, stopped eating out as much, and needed a plan for dinners. On Pinterest I saw SO many meal plans... Freezer Meal Plans, Gluten Free Meal Plans, Clean Eating Meal Plans... 
You name it, it's there. But none of them really suited our family.

So my journey to meal planning began.... finding recipes, making schedules, writing lists... come on, you know that thrilled the planner in me!

Our meals are nothing elaborate but they fit our needs and tastes and as we started sharing recipes with others, I kept hearing the same comments over and over.
"I need to meal plan." 
"We waste so much money in food every month." 
"We never know what we're having for dinner." 

This was the same boat I was in before I started this little system I have. Not only has meal planning saved us money, but it's also made for a less stressful day, week, and grocery trip! Who couldn't use less stress and more money? So today I'm sharing my simple steps for meal planning. I hope you'll find them helpful!

1. Stash up Recipes!
These can be from your grandma, a cookbook, or the Internet! Get a good mix of things your family likes and meals you want to try. The obvious and most efficient solution for this is Pinterest! You can check out my "Meal Planning Recipes" Board HERE. 
 Don't forget... the Crock Pot is your FRIEND!

While I used to keep a list of favorites in my catch-all notebook, I recently found these sheets and LOVE them! This is a free printable from Emily Ley. {Link HERE}

2. Check the Calendar.
Decide how long you want to grocery shop for. (We do every 2 weeks.) Pull out your calendar and look through all of the days. See how many evenings you plan on eating at home and get that as a total number. 
Then decide your cook:leftover ratio. For every 4 meals I cook we do 1 leftover night. This puts us doing leftovers about 3 times during our plan. Subtract how many leftover meals you will have from your previous total and now you know how many recipes you need.

3. Choose a variety of meals.
Select your meals keeping in mind quantity of leftovers, cost, and style of food. We love leftovers for lunch so we try to make mostly meals that have left overs. Occasionally we will make tacos or fish knowing that there won't be any but I make sure to balance those with larger meals. As far as cost, sometimes it's in the budget for us to splurge a little more on meal cost and get steak or shrimp for a meal. With style, for example, I would eat Mexican food every day (no lie) but Joel is not THAT crazy about it. So we will only have one each week or two. I also try to add in at least 1, if not 2, new recipes a week so we can have a constant rotation.

4. Schedule, schedule, schedule!
I look at my meals and try to balance all of those varieties I just discussed. See it as making a puzzle.   
I usually make a large meal 2 days before a leftover night so we're not doubling up back to back. On nights that I have to be somewhere quickly, I use up that Crock Pot. 
Make the plan and then be SOMEWHAT flexible.
Say you come home and your stomach feels upset, you probably don't want Chili Pasta Bake. But swap it out with Chicken Noodle. Always do swaps with something comparable in size or taste so you keep your variety going! 

Maybe you have some questions.... 
How long does this take? To pick my meals, get my list made, and make my plan it usually takes 45min-1hr every 2 weeks. When you think about the time it saves in deciding what's for dinner and wandering aimlessly in the grocery, I don't see that as too much time.
How does this save me money? You are ONLY buying what's on your list. You are planning to NOT eat out unless pre-budgeted. You are planning for leftover nights. 

I would love to answer any other questions you have below! 
I hope this helps you have a better routine in meals for your family!

Happy Meal Planning!



  1. I love your idea of having a list of go-to meal ideas! I've got some in my head, but I should write them down. I'm looking forward to moving later this year and being able to have enough space to grocery shop for the week. It saves so much money to do that, instead of going every time you cook.

  2. Girl I'm telling ae my new best friend!! I'm so trying to get on the meal planning train! I'm slowly getting the hang of it and I absolutely LOVE that I don't go to the store 20 times in a week!! I just need good crockpot recipes! Can you suggest some that you like?? :)

  3. We do meal planning, but not extremely...we plan the week's dinners. And, we also go grocery shopping every two weeks.

  4. Joni Keichline' ArnaoJanuary 31, 2015 at 2:47 AM

    Love this

  5. YES! That printable from Emily Ley is the bomb!

  6. Every little bit helps me keep it together! :) I like going every 2 weeks. It makes the planning not quite so overwhelming ha.

  7. You GO girl! :) Get on the train! It's a good one to ride!

    I have TONS of slow cooker recipes on my board... my favs are Stuffed Pepper Soup, Holy Good Moly Chicken, Skinny Chicken Fajitas, and Tortellini Sausage. Husband makes a mean crock pot chill that I'm hoping he'll let me share very soon! :)

  8. I have started doing this, too, but your tips are so very helpful to add to the way I do it! Scheduling helps out SO much, and I had no idea there were free printables from Emily Ley! I love them! Thank you so much!

  9. YAY! So glad you found it helpful! :) Those printables rock so make sure you get them :) They inspire me to find new ones to add as well ha.


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