How to Win at Meal Planning

How to Win at Meal Planning


If meal planning were an Olympic sport, I think I just might win a gold. Maybe then I would have something in common with Simone 🙂

Meal planning and list making is something that I have grown into. Maybe it’s genetic? My mom is a list making, organized freak who either has something on a list or it’s labeled. If it’s not labeled or listed, it just doesn’t exist (or at least that’s what I’m convinced of). Making lists is how I get through my work day and how I stay on top of things at home. I literally have to write down that I need to vacuum in order to do it. It also feels great to cross things off lists!

Meal planning completes my list and money saving obsessed self. Planning out each of your meals for the day is a huge time saver and will save you money throughout the week! Our one (maybe two) trips to the store each week are nothing compared to what we used to do. Meal planning and checking our lists twice has helped us save hundreds over the course of the four years we have been married. Sure, there are lots of other ways you can slice saving money on groceries, but meal planning is my number one.

How to Win at Meal Planning


First things first…

Go through your pantry. Inventory what you have, what you need, and what has spoiled. Throw out the bad stuff and do not contemplate “it doesn’t smell THAT bad, does it?”. Because your significant other will shrug and you’ll put it back up there. Don’t do that. This is a time when you should look at what you use the most of and write down what needs filling (like all purpose flour, sugar, olive oil, salt, pepper, etc). This way when a recipe calls for a cup of sugar you don’t have to run to the store again (or your neighbor’s house).

Make a list of the meals your family loves. We have all of our favorite recipes printed and organized into our recipe binder for easy access. If we try something we don’t like, we don’t even place it in there! You may have a go-to cook book that has everything you cook in it: write down your absolute favorites.

List ingredients. On that list of your most favorite recipes, list what the recipe calls for that aren’t your normal pantry staples. An example would be “Sweet potato and kale hash > kale, sweet potatoes, navy beans”. This recipe also calls for salt, pepper, oil, spices and many other things that we have constantly stocked in our pantry. This will help you to quickly identify what you need to add to your grocery list.

Check your schedule. Since my husband works varied hours, I find it super helpful if I know what days he will be home earlier and what days he works late. If you have classes, clubs, and sports that your family goes to, it is helpful to have those written down before you start to plan your dinners.

Check the ads. Checking the sales ads will also save you money – that dish that is normally expensive to make because it calls for asparagus and sirloin steak is no longer a problem because it’s on sale at your store! Score for an indulgent meal! This also allows you to stock up on pantry staples for a lower cost and make your overall cost per meal lower as well.

Plan for snacks, breakfasts, and lunches too! When we first starting seriously meal planning, this is one thing I forgot. We had nothing for snacks and only one option for breakfast. This is important to keep everyone happy and not hangry. Most of our meals now make enough for desirable leftovers for lunch.

Stick to it. It sounds hard at first but it is so rewarding when you don’t have to struggle to find something for dinner or stress about what to pack for lunch the next day. It’s already there for you! Even with a limited budget like we have done in the past, it’s possible and it can be healthy, whole foods.


Good Luck!

Vegan One Pot Mushroom Rice

Vegan One Pot Mushroom Rice

This easy mushroom recipe is quick and delicious. And it only takes one pot! Which you know is my favorite!

Our $25 grocery week went well. There was one night where we bought veggie burger patties and buns to take to a cook out but other than that we did great! It was challenging to get through a whole ten days without diverting from our original meal plan.  This very limited budget is something we will definitely attempt again in the future.

This recipe can be eaten as a side or as your main dish. For my husband and I, it fills us both up with a little less than a serving of food left over. We love to eat this with a salad and some crunchy toast (because my husband says everything is better with crunchy toast!).

Even though this is a rice recipe, you can sub out any type of grain that you like. We have had it with quinoa and it was equally (if not more) delicious! This is also a great recipe if you are trying to cut back on your oil and salt intake. We never use oil to cook down the onions and never add any additional salt other than what is in the soy sauce that we use.

If you haven’t used homemade vegetable stock before, now is a great time to try it out! It’s also a great recipe to try out some new spices you may not have in your cabinet. Check out my post on how to save money on spices here.

Vegan One Pot Mushroom Rice


Vegan One Pot Mushroom Rice

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

This creamy but hearty mushroom recipe will stick to your ribs and provide an amazing dose of protein to make you feel great.


– 1 Tbs vegetable stock
– 1 small onion diced
– 3 cloves garlic minced
– 1 lb baby bella mushrooms thinly sliced
– 3 medium size carrots chopped
– 1 Tbs low sodium soy sauce
– 1/2 tsp brown sugar
– 1/4 tsp dried mustard
– 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
– 1/2 tsp dried thyme
– 3/4 C brown rice*
– 1 1/2 C vegetable stock
– 2 Tbs unsalted vegan butter


1. In a medium size stock pot over medium high heat, add onion, garlic and first tablespoon of vegetable stock. Cook until aromatic – about 3 minutes. Stir frequently.
2. Add in mushrooms, carrots, soy sauce and spices. Cook until mushrooms are tender – about 6 minutes.  Stir frequently. If the food is sticking to the pot, add additional vegetable stock a tablespoon at a time.
3. Add brown rice and the remainder of the vegetable broth. Stir to combine. Bring pot to a boil. Once at boiling, reduce to a simmer and cover until rice is cooked through – about 45 minutes.
4. Once rice is cooked, remove lid and turn off heat. Stir in butter until incorporated. Let set for one minute.
5. Serve immediately.

*To make this a gluten free recipe, substitute rice for quinoa or other gluten free grain.