This is your typical Sunday morning- coffee in hand, pen and paper, and a stack of Bon Appétit magazines. It’s meal planning time! As I was sitting down to do it this week, I thought you guys might be curious to see my process. It’s nothing too complicated, but it makes getting dinner on the table  and not letting the food in our fridge go bad during the week much easier.

I generally let my farmer’s market purchases guide our weekly menu. I like to pick what looks best that week and go from there. I get all our produce at our Saturday market so that come Sunday I know what I’ve got to work with and what I need to buy at the grocery store to round out the week. This week I picked up bell peppers, tons of broccoli, heirloom tomatoes, lettuce, and a bunch of apples. I’ve got two dinners out this week and Brandon is headed out of town so I didn’t want to overdo it.

I start by outlining all the items I’ve got to work with- from veggies to pantry and freezer, and any other little tid bits that will help me figure out what I need to get from the store. Like breakfast and snacks- I want to make sure we have enough to last us through the week.

After reviewing what I’ve got, I start crafting meals. Seeing all the ingredients I have on hand listed side by side helps me create meals that minimize the additional items I need to buy, and plan enough meals for the week. This makes life so much easier! The chicken and broccoli dish was for Sunday. I knew we’d have a few leftovers, but we’d need something else to round out lunches. A quinoa black bean salad was a no brainer, given what I had on hand. I have a ton of peanut butter in my cupboard since I accidentally bought a jar when I already had a full jar, so I decided a big batch of peanut noodles for dinner one night would be perfect. Plus, it’d use up any remaining veggies, and give us enough for leftovers. And the roasted apples are kind of just for fun- a riff on a recipe shown in the first photo!

I’v always got a pile of lettuce or dark greens on hand which become side salads pretty much every night of the week, and help round out a lunch that isn’t too veggie heavy. Three meals (with leftovers built in) seem to be our magic number, leaving us with enough food to get us to the weekend. Weekends we do most of our eating out, hence the Saturday/Sunday planning schedule.

That’s pretty much it! I’d love to know, how do you guys meal plan? Anyone else highlight the ingredients they need to buy? Control freak, right this way!

  1. I’m also a meal planner- it keeps me on a budget and also sane during a busy week!

    • Clara

      Totally with you on the budget component, Anne. That’s largely why I do it.

  2. Gosh, this is genius–I wish I was this organized! Typically I shop for pretty much the same thing every week, and end up rotating through a few go-to dinners. I wish I was more creative though!

    • Clara

      I totally know what you mean… I used to just try and remember what was in my fridge, go to the store, and subsequently reach for the same things. This actually forces me to be more creative- largely why I do it!

  3. I plan in a similar way, with my main objective being to have 5 lunches to get me through the week since I can’t imagine purchasing school cafeteria lunches (and I’ve worn out turkey sandwiches and frozen meals long ago). I also try to build around what I already have first. I feel so accomplished if nothing goes to waste. It’s fun almost trying to find a way to use up every last bit of something, even if it’s celery (a common waste item at my house).

    • La Torontoise

      Can not agree more; I know this feeling that comes with the zero waste game: -)

      I also plan 3-4 work-week lunches, and have at least one day when I work from home and cook my lunch from scratch. My planning is not always that systematic as I would like it to be, but if I have time I do it in a similar way. I use cookbooks for inspiration mostly, plus the French edition of ELLE Table, the online BA, and recipes from blogs that I happened to read the previous weeks. Having a market plays a big role in this.

    • Clara

      Yes- I love using up every last bit! Makes me feel like I’m putting everything to good use, and eating better food in the process :)

  4. This is an awesome way to plan! I wish we lived near a good farmers market!!!

  5. This is great! In the past few weeks, I’ve tried to be much more diligent about menu planning myself. It helps make sure we get a real meal on the table, and also encourages me to make recipes from my many beautiful (yet admittedly often underutilized) cookbooks! Thanks for great thoughts, as always.

  6. That is so organized! Great planning. I need to start doing the same, because often I buy a bunch of groceries and the extras go to waste. A better system would definitely save me money, so thanks for the inspiration!

    • Clara

      You’re so welcome! xx

  7. This post is great. I’ve really been meaning to start planning out meals on Sundays, but I seem to always be on the move! Besides that, I feel like most meal planning tutorials are based around a grocery and not a farmers market — but I do most of my weekly shopping around my local market on Saturdays based on what’s looking good and in season. Thanks for the post!

  8. tara

    i do something similar. i cannot eat gluten so i pretty much have to make every meal i eat save for the one or 2 times here and there a month i eat out. so that means breakfast, lunch, and dinner for me as well as making my own bread, etc. so….i do something similar to what you do. i come up with meals that will produce leftovers for lunch, particularly early in the week. i never go to the store without a list or else i will spend $200 and not be able to make one meal out of what i got ! i try to save easier meals for later in the week or eat up my leftovers so things dont go to waste. i think its a great idea to plan a meal later in the week that can use up extra veggies like you suggest. what a good idea. cuz it seems i always have a little of this or a little of that left over veggie wise and i also hate to throw things out ! great tips !!!

    • Clara

      Thanks, Tara! So glad I could help. Your method sounds pretty perfect too. I totally know what you mean about going to the store without a list- worst plan ever!

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  10. Gina Guthrie

    I love to plan out my weekly meals. I take lots of inspiration from all of my favorite bloggers, I save the recipes that I want to make soon into a file and then every two weeks plan out about 10-12 dinners, lunches, and breakfasts from them.

  11. Fellow control freak raising her hand right there with you. :) I’m pathetic.
    LOVE this post though - always looking for new ideas on how to better organize my trips to the grocery store (and not waste the food I buy, which always drives me crazy!) Thx for sharing!

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  13. I just recently moved to an apartment that’s SO close to a Saturday farmers’ market and I can’t wait to adopt this approach to meal planning — I usually tend to just pick a few faves I saw on Pinterest over the past week and try to think about overlap ingredients, but there’s something really wonderful about planning around the best produce available that week and kind of just going with it!

  14. I’m so thrilled I found this article! I tried to plan food for the week yesterday, but it was harder than I expected. This little guide has given me some great ideas. Thanks!

  15. I loved this! I actually really enjoy menu planning for the week. Although, I can’t believe I have gone this long without making a list of things we already have FIRST. That will save so much on waste and prevent from buying doubles of items already in the pantry. Thank you!

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