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 Five Tips for Meal Planning

It’s no secret, I’m a hardcore plotter when it comes to my writing. I’m also a serious planner girl who reaches for her Erin Condren planner constantly throughout the day. So it’s no surprise that I’ve embraced meal planning. And today I’m going to share with you why I have and give you a few of my tips.


This month I’m sharing a tool that I’ve been using since the
beginning of 2021 to help keep me on schedule with my writing and feed my
family. It’s meal planning. I’ve dabbled in it over the years, but it never
really stuck, even though I love to plan. Guess it was all about the timing.
Ready to learn why I’ve embraced meal planning and learn a few tips I have to enjoy
it as much as I do?

What is meal planning:

Meal planning is the simple act of planning what you’ll be
eating over the following X number of days. It can feel unattainable or
overwhelming because it involves planning which recipes to make, what groceries
to buy, and a week’s worth of dinners to make. It’s a lot, but I’m finding
success in meal planning, and now I’m dipping my toes into meal prepping (that’s for another day).

I started off simple. I grabbed a journal from my stash, and
I’ve been using it since then. It is a place where I can plan next week’s meals.
I can also look back and see what I’ve made in the past when I need a
little inspiration or when I need to get out of a rut.

Meal planning doesn’t have to be a big, fat binder filled
with a month’s worth of detailed menus or a freezer full of prepped food
waiting to be tossed into a slow cooker or pressure cooker. Meal planning can be
as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. What it is, for me, is a tool
that has helped me be more productive, save money and enjoy cooking again.

Why have I embraced this?

Until 2021, I hadn’t created official meal plans. I always had
an idea of what meals I’d cook during the week, but I never had a “plan”.
Then again, before 2020, I really didn’t cook many dinners. My husband works
nights, and he was often out of the house at lunchtime, so I only cooked
dinners for us twice a week. Then 2020 rolled around, and we know what happened
that year, and my routine went out the window. Suddenly I was preparing three
meals a day. Hence, meal planning has become a real thing in my life. Which
now, I’m grateful for. Because for me, 2021 was the sequel to 2020, and 2022 is
looking like it’s going to be another heck of a year.

Last year, I had to continue making dinners because my
husband returned to work, and because restaurants weren’t staying open late, he
needed to take meals with him. Then as the restaurants started to extend their
hours, their prices began to increase. These two things made it imperative that he
take meals to work.

The other reason why I’ve come to love meal planning is that
it makes grocery shopping so much easier and quicker. We divide our shopping
between Costco and our local grocery store. Meal planning also takes the
constant stress question of “what’s for dinner” off me. I know what’s for
dinner; it’s in my planner. This, hands down has been the most significant
benefit of meal planning. It’s one less thing to have to worry about. Besides
the major shift in my routine, I’ve also been dealing with elderly parents and
crushing deadlines for books. So not having to think about what I’ll cook when
I close up my office at the end of the day is a relief.

Ready for five tips that have helped me succeed in meal
planning? Great! I’ve also included a bonus tip.

Five steps to meal planning:

Make a list – Once you have your meals planned, it’s the
perfect time to write up your shopping list. Review your meals and write up a
list of ingredients. Shop your pantry first, and then add what you don’t have
to your shopping list.

Stock your kitchen – Having a well-stocked pantry is one of
the keys to success in meal planning and meal prepping. We buy in bulk as much
as possible to fill our freezers and pantry shelves.

Keep it simple – The meals in your plan don’t need to be
complicated or fancy. And you don’t need to do hours of prep work, either. The
whole point of meal planning is to take some of your stress away.

Have a theme night – It’ll be fun and saves you time after a
hectic day. How about Slow Cooker Sundays? Or pizza Fridays? Get your family
involved in the meal planning process.

Create a planning routine – I like to settle in my kitchen
with my journal to plan out the following week’s meals. Then, I make a cup of
tea, grab my steno pad (I use it for my grocery list), and start planning.

Bonus tip – Even though you have a plan, you can still be
flexible because life loves to throw curveballs. Of course, not every day is
going to go as planned. But it’s so much easier to get back on track when you
have a plan.


This is how I’m keeping my sanity these days. Meal planning
has become a regular part of my week. So, I’m curious, do you meal plan? If so,
what does it look like for you?



Debra Sennefelder is the
author of the Food Blogger Mystery series, the Resale Boutique Mystery series and the upcoming Cookie Shop Mystery series.
She lives and writes in Connecticut. When she’s not writing, she enjoys baking,
exercising and taking long walks with her Shih-Tzu, Connie. You can keep in touch
with Debra through her website, on Facebook and Instagram.





















9 replies
  1. Debra H. Goldstein
    Debra H. Goldstein says:

    Great tips. I'm as much a pantser in the kitchen as in my writing, but when I think it through in advance (like using home chef a couple of days a week), it makes a big difference. I like the idea of thinking, planning, and making the grocery list.

    • Debra Sennefelder
      Debra Sennefelder says:

      Thank you! A food delivery service is a great way to help ease the burden of preparing meals even if it's just a couple nights a week.

    • Donnell Ann Bell
      Donnell Ann Bell says:

      I'm much happier when I know what I'm making for dinner. This would alleviate stress for me 😉

  2. Donnell Ann Bell
    Donnell Ann Bell says:

    Debra, I'm in awe and I need this so badly. Where can I find the Erin Condren meal plan?

    • Debra Sennefelder
      Debra Sennefelder says:

      Hi Donnell, I'm sorry that I wasn't more clear. I use an EC Life Planner but for meal planning I just use a journal I bought at Rite Aid.

  3. Kathryn Lane
    Kathryn Lane says:

    Debra, I loved this blog. I cook a lot and I'm more of a pantser, like Debra Goldstein, but I intuitively make a grocery list based on what I think I'll be cooking. And of course, a well-stocked pantry and freezer are the secret to keeping me on course – as long as I remember to defrost the item I intend to cook that night!

  4. Lois Winston
    Lois Winston says:

    Debra, I envy your planning skills. I usually decide what to cook for dinner sometime after 5pm and only then due to prodding from my husband's stomach clock having begun the evening countdown to 6pm. Luckily, I always have plenty of fresh veggies and pasta in the house as well as items that can go into the oven in a frozen state.

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