Meal Plan vs Meal Actual

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Despite what I said in my last post, of course I do meal planning. It works for me for a lot of reasons:

  • My schedule is 75% regular and I can work around the other 25%
  • It’s easy to coordinate with just 2 adults in the house
  • I love eating and I hate wasting food
  • I like cooking and have time to cook meals after work
  • I like trying new recipes
  • It saves time and money to go to the grocery store with a list
  • When I’m at work I think about what the meal will be that night and I look forward to it
  • Making decisions in advance makes me feel they’ve been made for me; therefore I don’t have to think too much late in the day!
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I had good reasons to start meal planning two years ago: our household was switching to a Real Food diet and I was also motivated to teach my 18-year-old how to plan and cook meals before leaving home!

Now Rom and I have settled into our own “for two” routine and our goals changed: we have been vegetarian now for 8 months, and Rom has stepped up the number of meals he makes each month. We have also decided that we have a high tolerance for leftovers. Lately we have been making a large pot of soup, stew or a casserole early in the week and having it three nights (or freezing some for another week). For a few months we were making new recipes every day, but we missed our old favourites!

Our current process is:

  • On a Sunday afternoon at the end of the month, sit in the kitchen with our favourite cookbooks and choose 5 meals each, most of which will serve for 2-3 evening meals
  • Get out the calendar and note any evenings that both of us won’t be at home (we fend for ourselves those nights)
  • Plot the meals on the calendar – I spread them out so Rom and I alternate cooking, and our back-to-back meals are not too much alike
  • Fill in any gaps with additional one-day meals or frozen leftovers
  • Leave a couple of blank days at the end of the month for “eating out of the cupboards” (using up food that is already purchased and unused)
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You will be interested to know that we have used this system for two years and Rom has just now started experimenting and adjusting recipes instead of making them as specified. And I thought I was exacting 🙂

Even our calm little lives do not go as expected and we make A LOT of changes to our meal plans. When we can’t make that day’s meal (maybe because it takes too long after we’ve been stuck in traffic), we choose another one from the same month that uses up ingredients we have on hand. Then we might have to swap again because the next day’s meal is too similar. By the end of the month, we usually have a couple of meals we didn’t make because our leftovers lasted longer than expected, or we went out. We make sure to choose meals that use up the perishables, and carry over meals that can wait.

Here is an example of what a month might have looked like, and how it turned out. I don’t consider this a failure because we eat well and cook most of our own meals and avoid waste.

We don’t normally eat out anywhere near this much, but life happens!

Real meal plan for Nov. (Cdn Thanksgiving was Oct. 8)

Real meal plan for Nov. (Cdn Thanksgiving was Oct. 8)

What is your “success rate” at sticking to a meal plan?


  1. I can’t even make it through one week. of course I have a little one that is now eating “big people food” and i am the only one that can cook >.> but even when i was home and pregnant I change my mind too much XD maybe I can start small and jsut plan out mandatory ingrediants…you have inspired me to try again

  2. Which meals are your favorite? How nice to have an adult help with meal planning and preparation. I don’t write down a meal plan, but like most people I have my favorites I go to often, I buy things that could go well together and then just make it up based on what I feel like having. For instance, I planned to eat more fresh apples this month, and I am, but now I want baked apple for dessert, with some cinnamon and nutmeg in the cabinet I can make this when I want.

  3. EcoCatLady

    Eee Gads! I’m impressed! I think a system like this might very well make me crazy. I tend to cook things in big batches and then eat lots of leftovers and frozen leftovers. If I had to cook every day I think it would become pretty un-fun pretty quickly! I also don’t generally shop for specific recipes – I just buy what’s fresh and in season or on sale and create from there.

    My one exception is CatMan’s beloved lasagna. Once a week we have movie night (which is really more like movie day & night). It generally includes a lasagna dinner, a bottle of wine and a lot of snuggling on the couch watching Netflix. But since it’s just the two of us, and since making lasagna can be a bit time consuming, I went out and got about half a dozen small casserole dishes that are just the right size for a 2 person lasagna. Then every 6 weeks or so I have “lasagna day” where I make up a batch of them and freeze them. This way he gets his lasagna dinners and I don’t have to spend our special day together stuck in the kitchen! So I do have to make sure to buy specific ingredients for lasagna day – though I make the marinara sauce from garden tomatoes and freeze it to use throughout the year.

    Anyhow, I’m VERY impressed with your organized system!

  4. You’re very organised!

    We stick to plan about 6 days out of 7 so not too bad 🙂

    • Hi Laura, That’s really good – you can see from all the cross-outs in my meal plan that I don’t usually do that well! Also it helps that we go to dinner at Mom & Dad’s on Sundays 🙂

  5. I suck at meal planning. I can be organized in every other aspect of our lives but meal planning I just can’t do…….actually I can do a meal plan I just never stick to it!!


  6. Oh this post snuck by me! I mentioned ‘meal plan’ to the BF when our grocery dash turned into him thinking he’d have a sushi snack to which I said, for me it’s either cook or have sushi (I’m not passing on sushi to cook a meal which he won’t eat as much of). So I sushi’d. Actually meals and their planning are part of why I feel ‘unstable’ this week – I’ve not really been in control…

  7. Pingback: 2013 Goals in Review | An Exacting Life

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