My Meal Planning Routine

Meal Planning: My Weekly Routine

Planning out meals at the beginning of the week not only helps my family eat more meals at home, but it also helps keep meals affordable and timely.

Meal Planning: My Weekly Routine

If you’ve been following along, you know I’m a big fan of meal planning. Not the kind of meal planning where you get stuck on the details, but the sort of planning where you get your basics covered, yet leave a little room for flexibility and fun.

Taking the time to plan prevents some of those “oh shoot, we have to eat” moments – ensuring that your cupboards have some nourishing foods at the ready no matter what life throws your way. For me, having dinner ideas at the ready really does help reduce in-the-moment stress and never lets my family get overly hungry while I try to mull over what miscellaneous ingredients I could throw together for a meal.

My meal planning routine is rather simple, but effective. Curious how I make it work? Here are a few of my favorite meal planning techniques to get you started.

Start with one meal.  I’ll let you in on a little secret… I never plan out an entire weeks worth of meals. Nope. Never. Instead, I focus my attention on the meal that needs the most work – dinner. By having a plan in place for this meal, our family doesn’t stress out about what to eat or waste time trying to figure out what ingredients might go together. Instead, we’ve already done the leg work – allowing us to get out the door quicker if we have to or spend more time around the table when our schedule allows.

To start meal planning successfully, it’s helpful to identify which meal might benefit the most. Depending on your schedule, you may even have just one or two nightly meals that really need some work. Focus your attention there. The small amount of time you spend planning for those meals ahead of time will be worth the investment, trust me.

Don’t forget your food groups. Once you’ve decided which meals to plan, it’s time to start identifying which foods will make up that meal. Since I’m trying to feed my family of four with nutrition in mind, I often plan meals around the basic food groups. If I can get three different food groups in, I consider that a meal time success. This week, I planned out the following meals:

Grilled BBQ Chicken + grilled Balsamic glazed Eggplant and Brussels sprouts  with feta cheese = lean protein + vegetables + dairy

Spaghetti sauce + lean ground beef + spinach + grain pasta + leafy green mixed salad = protein + vegetables + whole grain

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Curry = whole grain + vegetables + protein

Scrambled egg + spinach + onion + Bell pepper + cheddar cheese = protein + vegetables + dairy

And my husband planned out one… Hobo dinners. If you’re not familiar, a hobo dinner is a tin foil wrapped meal you cook out on the grill or over a campfire. Our hobo dinner typically includes lean ground beef + onions + Bell peppers + potatoes + cheese = protein + vegetables + grain + dairy

This planning style ensures we have a strong meal structure in place, but still allows for flexibility. If we have extra ingredients on hand, flavorful herbs or spices, or need take the flavor profile up a notch by making a few tweaks, we can do that. But no matter what, we’ve got a pretty solid start.

Check your phone. Over the past few months, Aaron and I have been taking our finances pretty seriously. God has blessed us both with jobs and opportunity, and we both felt pretty convicted a few months ago to stop wasting the financial resources we’ve been blessed with. That means I’m always on the hunt for a good deal. Thanks to apps like Ibotta and Checkout51, its easy to save a few extra dollars here and there. Of course, this means planning discounted items into your weekly meal rotation. And be careful – sometimes you’ll still save more money by buying the generic brand at the store or skipping the deal all together. Only use discounts on foods you’ll actually utilize.

If you shop at Kroger, you’ll want to download their app for extra savings. I use it all the time to clip digital coupons. And if you shop at Walmart, try there Savings Catcher app.

Keep your plan visible. After I’ve planned out my meals, bought the ingredients I need, and submitted my receipts for rebates, it’s time to put those meals into action! I find it helpful to keep the list on my fridge so that in case I forget what I planned (which I often do), I can quickly refer to the list.

Meal planning can serve as a great tool to help you eat more nutritious, affordable meals at home. I hope you’ll enjoy the process. And of course, if you have any meal planning secrets, I’d love to know all about them!

Disclaimer/Disclosure: A referral link to the rebate app, Ibotta, was utilized in this post. For more information on Ibotta’s referral program, visit the Ibotta website

Want to Eat Your Best This Year? Start Doing this One Thing!

Family at a Table Eating Your Best in 2016

What are you doing to eat your best? Are you tackling a new years resolution or possibly trying to make sense of the new dietary guidelines?

Family at a Table Eating Your Best in 2016

I’ve been monitoring the chatter and it seems like many people, like each new year before this one, are putting their best foot forward in an attempt to change the way they eat. Unfortunately, a lot of what I’ve seen isn’t going to result in positive, long-lasting change. In fact, at this point, you may already be struggling with the goals you have set or may have given up entirely.

So I’m going to keep things super simple and help guide you with one simple tip. Make meals at home and eat them together. 

Earth-shattering right!?! No, it doesn’t really get any more basic than that. But if you aren’t doing this one essential step, it’s probably going to be difficult to eat well for an extended period of time.

You see, none of the other food rules matter if you aren’t actively living out wellness. To do this, you have to make time for those nourishing foods that will equip your body to do amazing things. You also have to get familiar with their flavors and their uses, and the only way to truly do that is to start figuring out how to utilize them in the kitchen.

But I get it… this seems pretty vague. Not to mention, it’s hard to make the time or know where to start. Luckily, you have me here to help you. And guess what? This is a principle I live by. BUT please don’t read this as “Kati eats every meal at home. I do work full-time, commute an hour and 10 minutes one-way to my office, have two boys in school, a husband who is often off on trips for work, and we just recently became foster parents. I don’t want to give you a false representation of my life after all! Yet for us, we are able to get meals on the table most nights because it’s a priority for us. We’re also okay with the occasional failed meal and the exploratory nature learning to cook requires.

So here are my real-life, practical tips for eating meals at home together.

First, commit to it. Make the decision that this matters. By doing so, you will already be more intentional about making time for meals.

Make a plan. Take an honest look at your week ahead. What days can you make a meal at home? Even if its just one day this week, that’s a step in the right direction.

Kick those excuses to the curb. If you aren’t making meals at home, there are probably obstacles, both big and small, preventing you from doing so. Don’t let those obstacles make your decisions for you. Do what you can to make time for meals at home. For my family, we took ownership of our dinners and are intentional about keeping that space open. Between 6-7 pm we eat. We make this known to our friends and family so that no one is offended if we say no to something occurring during that time frame.

Start with the basics. Once you’ve committed yourself and found the time for making a meal at home, you’ll probably want a few recipes to start out with. Although you can easily search online for a variety of recipes, another great way to get started is to identify a few of your families favorite meals. Can you recreate them at home if they are meals you typically order out? Or perhaps they are at-home family favorites that you can modify by adding in fresh ingredients. To truly discover how foods work together, simple is typically best. Whole fruits and vegetables, grains, dairy, beans, legumes, seafood, meat, herbs, spices, and oils – and if you ever thought eating “healthy” was limiting, well, you might just be surprised with just how many basic foods are out there.

Have fun. Enjoy your time trying new food combinations and spending time together. Keep in mind that eating well isn’t just about eating the “right” foods. Its about what foods rich in nutrients equip you to do. Hopefully, its more than counting calories – hopefully its about living a very full and active life.

Never stop learning. You’d think with as long as I’ve been a dietitian I would have learned all there is to learn about food and nutrition. Nope. Not. even. close. And that’s part of what I love about this field. It’s important to always be learning and to always have an open mind. It’s a journey and it’s definitely one worth having.

As you begin enjoying more meals at home, I hope you’ll share your successes (and failures!) with me. I’ll be sure to do the same as I continue to learn and grow along with you.