Why My Whole Foods Menu Plan Might Be Overwhelming

menuplanner1webI love planning a menu for my family. Without a menu plan, it takes me way too long to figure out what we’re eating each day. I also like sharing my menu plan with all of you each week. Many of you have mentioned how helpful you find my plan and have told me that you often “steal” many of my meal ideas. I love that!

But, I also really appreciate the perspective shared in a comment last week – the perspective that my menu plan may be overwhelming to some of you. The fact that I plan all three meals for each day of the week, and the fact that all three meals tend to be big meals – yep, I can definitely see how that could be overwhelming!

I decided to take the time to explain my menu plans just a little bit. I certainly don’t want to overwhelm anyone, nor do I think that planning all three meals for every day of the week is a necessity for everyone. It’s what works for me, but I know it doesn’t work that way for everyone. In fact, menu planning doesn’t work at all for some people. If you’re good at winging it at meal time – go for it! :)

I have found that planning all three meals each day for our family works well for me for the following reasons:

1. My family eats a boat load of food, for every meal.   Having a plan for which boat load of food is going on the table really helps me keep my head above water. (Get it? Boat load? Head above water? Ha.)

2. Having a plan in place for each meal of the day helps me focus on other things so that I’m not constantly distracted by what I’m supposed to feed us next. Trust me, the boys ask all the time – “What are we eating for breakfast/lunch/dinner?”

3. Most of my boys wake up ready to eat my leg if I don’t have breakfast ready to offer them when they wake up. I need to know what I’m making for breakfast before I get out of bed. I like having two legs. It’s very handy.

So the question could still be then:  Why don’t I just feed my family cereal for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch each day, and then focus on our evening meal plan?

Well…I do feed them cereal and sandwiches every once in a while. But wow, the cost of feeding us this type of meal really adds up for us. I did the math one time on how much it costs to feed my family sandwiches. You can read about that here, but add even more to that dollar amount because we now eat probably double what I added up for a meal since my boys are older. (Did I mention that my oldest son has jumped several shoe sizes during the last year?)  Therefore, I find that it really saves our family a lot of money if I cook heartier, more nutrition packed meals if possible.

Some tricks I use to make putting three big meals on the table each day just a little bit easier:

~ Just about every meal I make for my family is simple – especially our breakfast and lunchtime meals. I really don’t find that making a “bigger” lunch for the family takes a whole lot more time than making a bunch of sandwiches.

~ Sometimes we have leftovers to eat, so I don’t have to cook something new. But I don’t always know when we’ll have them, so it’s hard for me to plan those into my menus.

~ I try to have food made and in the freezer to pull out for quick lunches.

~ I have a list of “back up meals” and all ingredients on hand to throw them together if needed.

~ While I do have a detailed menu plan, I switch it up all over the place throughout the week depending on what’s going on and what sounds good. The plan is there, but it is flexible.

~ I give myself grace. If I really just can’t get a good meal on the table, the cereal is in the background waiting to be pulled out.

For a little bit more information on this subject, sure to read my Cooking Healthy Meals When the Menu Plan Fails post. Also, you’ll find a free downloadable page full of healthy, easy lunch ideas here.

Okay everyone. Jump in here with your ideas and thoughts about making menu planning simpler. What do you do about planning breakfast and lunchtime meals?

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  1. Jamie says

    I find that since we’re already home usually (I’m a SAHM, homeschooling three boys), that it doesn’t take a lot of extra work to have a hot meal (which we all prefer) rather than a cold sandwich. We made pizza pockets the other day but I already had whole wheat pizza dough in the freezer and I previously frozen pizza sauce in ice cube trays, so most of the work was already done. It didnt take anymore work than popping in some Tyson chicken nuggets would for another family…and so much tastier (and cheaper).


  2. says

    It’s just me, the husband, and the 2.5yo right now. We always have the same thing for breakfast (toast with peanut butter/ butter/ cheese), mostly because neither my husband or I are morning people. We don’t want to have to *think* about breakfast — at all. Lunch is leftovers/sandwiches/conglomeration of whatever we find available in the fridge. But I can *totally* see how it could be important to have a detailed plan for every meal with 4 hungry boys in the house! God willing, I will get to transition into that kind of life slowly over time!


  3. Robin Lebo says

    My four are now teens. I have a subscription to healthy cooking magazine. Everyone cooks one day a week. My kids make their lunches the night before. No luncheon meat full of nitrates. We use left over meat from our meals. They do their own breakfast except weekends. I make extra whole grain waffles and freeze them. We make our own fruit syrup. I cook hard boiled eggs for the week. I take the fooducate app on my phone to use in the store when the kids pick out their menu items. At this age they will be leaving soon and having them be prepared is important to me. Hopefully they will make important choices later on. My son plays baseball and I was so upset they would stop at McDonalds. My son got teased for packing his meal instead. Water is the number one beverage. Pop is only for new years and the Super Bowl. I won’t drink it. I have to compromise with hubby. My biggest thing is to teach them that our food supply is being poisoned with drugs and chemicals. Making choices is important for your health.


  4. says

    For us I often work work upwards of 60 hours a week which leaves my husband home. Much like our homeschool lesson plans meal plans help him. By nature he is not a multitasker and having a plan that alleviates as much thinking as possible really helps him out. Plus, we have recently made a move to a nearly vegetarian diet so now he really doesn’t know what to cook. Meal plans just plain alleviate stress and save us money. If I don’t do my meal plan i almost always go overboard at the grocery store.


  5. Marianne says

    My children do not like cereal or sandwhiches and wake at 5:30-6am asking what’s for breakfast mom? so I am in the same boat as you- haha!

    I do cook 3 hot meals a day, and it’s just become part of our life. I dont menu plan but really should it would probably make my life easier! I have a standard 4 or 5 breakfast rotations, lunch is often leftovers from dinner the night before.

    thanks for posting this, just last week I made a breakfast menu rotation and I need to implement it. I actually have a 4 months dinner rotation all typed out just havent used them in a while. thanks for the inspiration Laura :)


    Anitra Reply:

    Marianne, how do you deal with that in the morning?

    I am definitely not a morning person and have been trying to get up earlier – but no matter how much earlier I get up, my 3 year old is up first. And by the time I am half-dressed, she is already begging for breakfast!

    (Of course, she likes cereal and shuns anything that can be made the night before…)


    Marianne Reply:


    it’s hard, I know my daughter shuns pancakes or waffles that I reheat for her from the day before,but she’s old enough (10) I feel to undersand when I roll out of bed I need a few minutes to be functional and if she needs more than what I am offering she’ll need to wait or get it herself..I hope I dont sound mean.

    Sometimes she will have a small bagel with cream cheese until I am ready to cook pancakes or waffles.
    A big thing that helps me is cooking a bunch of nitrate free bacon at the beginning of week and just popping a slice or two in a pan for a minute to heat up.


  6. Lisa H. says

    Wow! I thought I was the only one with children so interested in what was on for the next meal!
    Planning meals has been a sanity-saver for me for years. I used to stand in front of my fridge around 4 pm wondering, “Hmmmm, now what shall I make for dinner?” In the meantime, what goes on in the rest of the house around 4 pm (aka: Arsenic hour!…. lot’s of “poisonous” attitudes and words being thrown around while Mommy’s not around to keep young attitudes and tongues in check.)
    Breakfast and lunch are just a natural extension of the dinner plan. And the money I save is tremendous. I can make a delicious lunch stew with 1 pound of ground beef (grass-fed, mind you), carrots, turnips, potatoes and peas, and have it fill my family of 10 (yes, 1 pound of beef for 10 people) and it costs way less than trying to fill them up with sandwiches…. and just think of all those veggies they’re getting…. and loving it!
    Thank you Laura. Your posts are always a great encouragement to keep on keeping on!


  7. says

    I just have to plan for the two of us right now, although being pregnant means I have to plan differently than I’m used to. I think of our meal plan more as a grocery list helper, than a schedule. I rarely end up cooking everything on our meal plan but at least I have the ingredients for all the meals I plan for. If it’s a more hectic day than planned, I switch to an easy day’s menu or raid the freezer for leftovers. I actually feel like having more on the meal plan frees me up to be more creative, because I have all the ingredients for any 7 days worth of meals I feel like making.


  8. tara says

    My 3 year old boy yells down the stairs every morning “What we having, Mom?” I can’t imagine him at 13!

    I don’t even know how to grocery shop without a meal plan anymore. So much time, money and energy saved by meal planning!


    Meghan V. Reply:

    My three year old is the same way! I usually set out his breakfast when I make his hubby’s (very early riser) so that I can catch a few zzz’s until his younger brother wakes up. :)


  9. Jai says

    I’ve been an off and on follower for a year or so now and you have brought a lot of fun ideas to my family even if I haven’t implemented many of them yet! My friend was just asking me yesterday how I save money with food and I told her menu planning so I at least have certain foods in the house even though I may not fix the meal planned. I got up this morning to find your homemade poptarts recipe & this popped up. I immediately emailed this to my friend. I hope it can help her as she is pregnant with her 3rd and losing her mind! :)


  10. Kate says

    I typically plan about 5 meals for the week, plus homemade pizza on Fridays(or I will have a mutiny on my hands!). What has made life easier is planning for the end of the cycle to be all freezer or pantry items – salmon cakes, pasta and sauce, Laura’s homemade mac & cheese, etc. That way if, or more likely, when something changes up the menu or I have twice the leftovers that I expected, no fresh food goes to waste. The last day of the cycle is almost always leftovers, then the fridge is empty and ready for a trip to the store! :)


    Anonymous Reply:

    That’s exactly the way I plan … the meals early in the week use up the fresh ingredients (tossed salad, fresh fruit, etc.) and as the week winds down I end up making meals out of leftovers, use pantry items, and fruit/vegs. that I have canned or frozen.


  11. Jenny says

    Very well put. It took me some time to realize that a hot meal usually takes less time than sandwiches! It was foreign concept to me at first b/c I was raised on sandwiches. I made your mini quiche yesterday and we had leftovers for breakfast today….so much faster and cheaper than catering to everyone’s different breakfast request. You are an inspiration…keep it coming!


  12. says

    I only cook for breakfast and lunch every two to three days. I double/triple/quadruple a recipe one day and we eat it for the next two or three days. That recipe won’t reappear on the table for at least two weeks lest we get sick of it. Dinner is the only part of the menu that changes daily. I cook components for meals ahead to freeze, but rarely freeze the entire meal. I love your tip for having a couple of easy recipes for an emergency that you know you have ingredients to prepare.


  13. Dacia says

    Wow! With 4 kids, ages 11,9,7,and 5, I am totally finding the need for 3 cooked meals because cereal and sandwiches are really just SO expensive! My husband is home for lunch so a loaf of bread a meal for sandwiches is typical! I got a really good deal on cereals with sales and coupons(30 cents a box!), but when they eat cereal for breakfast, by 8AM they are begging for something to eat, and then again at 10AM! It’s just not worth it. I’d much rather scramble a dozen eggs(we have 50 chickens) and have the cleanup and be done! No complaining before lunch! Ahh…much better and less expensive than cheap cereal with all morning long snacks or hungry bellys!


  14. Christine says

    Echo the Wow! I plan all 3 meals as well, and it makes life much simpler. My son plans and packs his own lunches for school, and when he’s home with me, I do the planning and preparing. I make hot breakfast meals (muffins, baked oatmeal, hard-boiled eggs, pancakes, sausages) on the weekends, and we reheat during the week. Lunches are usually leftover dinners (some recipes, I’ve just learned to make bigger so we’ll have leftovers), and dinners are planned based on what is left at home, what is on sale at the store, what we’re craving, and what we’re missing in our diets. Takes just a little time over the week, but I spread it out and do the planning in down times (like while waiting for cookies to bake, or in car line, or in the sauna at the gym). Not completely foolproof, but works most of the time!


  15. Amanda says

    I’ve tried meal planning several times, but it never works that well for me. I am not a very detail-oriented person, so I think I need to find a “big picture” way to meal plan. It helps to have a grocery list with the “basics” that I can use to pull together multiple types of meals. I’ve definitely found that when I have some type of plan, I waste a lot less food and save money! Thanks for sharing why your meal planning strategy works for you – helps me to remember that we’re all in different stages of life and need to do what works for us.


  16. says

    Like you, I am at home and responsible for 3 meals a day everyday. Hubby works from home and we have 2 kids still at home, one being a 12 yr old boy whose first words every morning are “What’s for breakfast?” Followed very shortly by “What’s for lunch/dinner?”. I love your meal plans and I am one of those that ‘steal’ your ideas quite often. I grocery shop once a month so I need to have a general idea of what we will be eating so I don’t have to make any last minute dashes to the nearest store which is over 15 miles away but I don’t have a formal menu. I usually get an idea for the next days meals then, if I need to do any prep the night before (soaking grains, thawing meat) I can get that done before bed and be ready to hit the ground running come the morning. Please don’t stop posting your menu plans, they are so helpful!!!


  17. Missy says

    I’ve been doing a full menu plan for about 4 months now and I don’t know how I got along without it. I used to only plan dinners, but having breakfast and lunch on the plan makes life so much easier. I look at my plan before bed so that when I wake up, I know exactly what I need to do for breakfast. I have muffins, pancakes, waffles, etc stored in my freezer for quick breakfasts and I’ll add fruit or homemade yogurt to that. We almost always have a hot breakfast and have hot lunches at least 4 days a week. My kids like PB&J so I don’t want to keep that from them. :). I do use whole wheat bread and natural peanut butter, so I don’t feel so bad. Cereal is a special treat for my kids. It just doesn’t seem to keep them full long enough. Then they’re asking for snacks soon after breakfast! Meal planning has definitely been a God send for me!


  18. KJean says

    I’m a planner, myself. Not only does it make it easier to know what’s planned for the day, by having a menu made up, with corresponding grocery list, I end up spending a lot less at the stores getting the ingredients I need to feed my family healthy meals. I also do not use a lot of processed foods. I prefer to make things from scratch as much as possible so that I know what it is I’m feeding my family. If anyone hasn’t tried using a menu/grocery list, why not give it a try? You might find that you have a few extra minutes to spend with those precious blessings or your hubby (or be able to actually finish that chapter in the book your reading)! :-)


  19. Holly says

    It was very overwhelming for me when I started cooking traditionally. And I still can’t seem to get a “traditional” meal on the table each day, but what has helped me is cooking a whole chicken each week. I throw in carrots, beets, potatoes, onion, celery and pick the meat off the bone that night while it is warm. I freeze the leftovers in “lunch size” portions in those Ball plastic freezer jars (a great investment!). Freezing leftovers in these portions allows me to grab one for my husband’s lunch in the morning and one to defrost on the counter for lunch that day. That is how I serve a “meal” for lunch! I also cook a beef cut and use that in simple crock pot meals. The broth from the beef and chicken is very easy to cook overnight, and then in the morning I pour some into another pot with some rice or barley to soak all day, then turn it on in the afternoon to simmer for dinner. Stir fry some veggies and there’s a meal for dinner! It has gotten easier since I figured out these little tricks. I encourage you all to keep at it!


  20. Linda says

    About 15 years ago a friend explained how to do a menu plan for an entire month. I tried that for a while. It is a lot of money up front, and by the end of the month we hadn’t eaten fresh food for a while. Since then I’ve tweeked her original ideas to work for our family, making a weekly menu plan for lunches and dinner. Our teens have lead the way in healthy eating! I find if I don’t buy things to make desserts, I can buy a lot of fresh fruits and veggies and without overspending my budget. It’s fun to see them creating things in the kitchen. Sushi, homemade french breads( a several day process), stir-frys, etc. It’s a fruitful endeavor ladies- your children are being discipled by your example.


  21. says

    Our lunch is usually leftovers plus some sort of fruit. I do love sandwiches so we have those sometimes and occasionally I’ll make mac and cheese or scrambled eggs if we don’t have leftovers. It’s usually just me and my 2-year-old eating lunch though so it’s not a big deal.
    As far as meal planning, I used to try to schedule meals on specific days and then if my schedule got messed up I’d have a hard time getting back on track. Now I just make a list of suppers and make sure I have all the ingredients for them. I keep the list on the fridge and cross off the meal once I’ve made it.


  22. Barbara says

    I’m a planner and I plan all three meals (and sometimes snacks) for at least 2 weeks at a time. I usually start by planning dinner, because I like to stretch the protein and plan something different for each night. Then I work backwards and do lunches and breakfasts depending on our daily schedule (piano, karate, etc). If we happen to have leftovers, then I use them for lunch the next day and just move the planned meal to another day. I created a ‘calendar style’ menu in Word – in each date box I have B: L: D: and above each date box I have a prep line where I make notes to myself, i.e., thaw roast, make rice, etc. I don’t usually plan side dishes, I just make a list of fruits & veggies on a sticky note and stick it to the menu so that we know what we have. When we’ve eaten all the green beans (for example), we cross them off, etc. I save SO MUCH time and money planning meals! And my children don’t have to ask “what’s for the next meal” because it’s posted on the refrigerator!

    Thanks for your inspiration Laura – you are the one who got me started on meal planning and I am definitely one who ‘steals’ some of your ideas and awesome recipes!


  23. says

    I agree wholeheartedly! I plan the weeks menu, but then it changes around a lot during the week. At least all my ideas are written down and I KNOW what food is in the house. Having a menu plan and perishable foods in the house help keep us from eating out too. I plan breakfasts and dinners for now. My husband and I eat leftovers for lunches. My two young kids either eat leftovers or have a lunch of this and that – whatever I pull together – like nuts, cheese and crackers, carrots, and apples.


  24. says

    I do find your menu plans a little overwhelming! I started planning meals years ago before we had kids because it’s the only way I could ever figure out what to buy. But as much as I like to cook, I get bored with it very quickly if I do it for 3 meals every single day. And I don’t get much else done when I spend most of my day cooking. So I take my evening meal and cook twice as much as we will eat, and then we eat the leftovers for lunch the next day. We still get a good meal, but I only have to cook it once! We don’t usually eat a lot of cereal for breakfast (though we have been lately); we eat a lot of toast and yogurt. But my new plan is to pre-make breakfast mixes (pancakes, muffins, etc.) for the week in my extra jars so that they become much quicker and easier to make. When I have to make it all from scratch before Daddy leaves for work in the morning (he’s a minister), sometimes it just doesn’t get done. I’m very excited to get started on this tactic very soon! :)


  25. Lisa says

    We eat all 3 meals at home as well, as I homeschool our 2 kids. (ages 12 & 15) Something that I’ve been implementing is having them learn to cook the breakfasts and lunches. I feel that they should be learning these life skills and be able to take care of themselves in this way. I keep the basic lunch items on hand so they’re able to chose what sounds good each day to cook. (stuff for pancakes, waffles, scrambled eggs, french toast, homemade mac, soups, tacos, salads, grilled chicken strips etc) I feel good about them learning how to cook for themselves and others at these ages – they are both very proficient in the kitchen and love to help me and be an active part of our family in this way.


  26. Elaine says

    I’ve been following Laura’s blog for a few months now and have to say that meal planning and many of her other ideas have saved me and my husband a ton of money right now when finances are tight – so thank you for all the posts! I cut our weekly grocery bill from about $100/week for just groceries (I know, I know and it’s just the two of us!) to less than $50/week (averaging about $35/week) for groceries and household items by planning ahead and cooking from scratch. I’ve also learned to L-O-V-E the vaccum saver we received as a Christmas gift. I can double or triple a recipe and freeze the extras in meal-sized portions to pull out of the freezer when things are crazy – it’s just as easy to cook in bulk and we’re accumulating a nice little stockpile of easy meals to use or give away to someone in need! And you’ve inspired me to plant a garden this year and can to cut down on our produce costs and eat healthier throughout the year – yay!


  27. Samantha says

    My husband doesn’t eat breakfast on the week days, unless he gets up on time =] He is normally running late so I hand him toast or something quick on his way out the door. My daughter and I eat oatmeal with honey, dried fruit, or cinnamon or fruit and yogurt for breakfast almost every day. Lunch planned, and dinners are always planned out.. It’s easier that way and hubby knows what we are having. =]


  28. Nicola says

    I really have to start meal planning. I know it’s so much easier but I just can’t seem to get into the habit of it. I was raised on box cereal & sandwiches & it has taken me a long time (almost 2 years now) to get my head around eating anything else for breakfast. New house, new year so it’s the perfect time for new habits.

    Laura, can I download a copy of your menu planner at the top of this post? I don’t seem to be able to click on it. I


    Laura Reply:

    Yes! I meant to link to the planner in my post. You can get it here: http://heavenlyhomemakers.com/new-free-downloadable-menu-planners-for-summertime


    Nicola Reply:

    Thank you :)


  29. Karen says

    Hi Laura,
    I am a new subscriber to your newsletter and am already being tremendously blessed by your posts. I just wanted to comment on today’s post by telling you that your menu planning/execution style is basically exactly what I do. We have seven sons and one daughter (in that order), and I KNOW what you mean about the volume of food that can be eaten! Our oldest two at home are 17 and 16 and wear shoe sizes to nearly match their ages! I’ve had several people encourage me to just give them a set portion and that’s it. That just does not work for large-framed, quickly-growing boys.
    Thanks for sharing your wisdom with wit and charm. With hungry boys to feed, I think you are right on track!


  30. Kelly Albertson says

    Husband takes huge slices of cheese to work every Monday for breakfast through the week, so making it at home for me and son is easy.
    Husband comes home for lunch, which is leftovers containing protein, and if there are none, we have cheeseburgers (frozen, always in the freezer).
    But for dinners, I love, love, love this (http://www.vertex42.com/ExcelTemplates/meal-planner.html) planner. All you have to do is plug in your side dishes and dinner meals on the appropriate tabs (and you can add more sections, delete some, whatever you want) and then on the front page, voila…. just hit the drop down arrow and choose your meals! Then print out!

    I love this!!!! I love excel, too, lol. I’ve tried menu planning before and it’s just clunky. But after I found this menu planner, I sat down with son watching a short movie and had January (yes, the whole month!) planned in no time.

    I really really like that it has several side items to add, too.

    There are THREE planners on this page (scroll till you see the green download buttons). The one I use is the 2nd one, but the third one also incorporates a grocery menu according to your recipes! Takes more time to set up, but could be totally worth the time.

    Oh, and they’re FREE! So, if your planning is not automated and is a bit cluttery… you may well love this as much as I do.


  31. Heather says

    I do a monthly dinner menu plan. Things get bumped and switched around on occasion, but having a plan is a real stress and money saver. I try to buy the bulk of my groceries at the beginning of the month, but return to the store weekly for fresh produce. I often double or triple some meals (especially soups), to freeze for future meals. For breakfast I make it a bit easier since I have to get the kids off to school. Every day the kids can expect the same. For example, every Monday is eggs, hashbrowns and sausage, every Tuesday is your Giant Breakfast Cookies (I triple the recipe and freeze – just pull them out the night before and they are great), Weds is oatmeal, Thurs is waffles and Friday is choice day – they can have whatever they can pull together including cereal. Occasionally after we tire of something we switch the meals on the breakfast menu (breakfast burritos, whole wheat pumpkin bread, etc). Lunch for the school kids is sandwiches (hard to get around that one if the kiddos aren’t at home), and for the two at home it is generally homemade yogurt or pb&j. We do fly through the bread. I want to make my own whole wheat bread, but I just can’t seem to get it right – especially for sandwich bread. I do buy my whole wheat bread from the outlet store – usually when I can get it for $1 a loaf. I stock up and freeze it and keep checking back for that low price. Thanks for all of your insight Laura, there are still so many different things I want to try


  32. Bethany says

    I have three breakfasts that I make in rotation every weekday. Oatmeal, eggs, and fruit smoothies. Weekends I will make pancakes or something that takes more time. I don’t specifically plan the day we are having what, but I always have the stuff on hand for any of those. Maybe someday I will try to be more creative in the mornings, but I haven’t had any complaints yet, so I’m going to stick with it until I do!


  33. says

    Great post! Just one question — the free downloadable lunch ideas links to a podcast page. I’m not sure how to find the lunch ideas. Can you help? Thanks!


    Laura Reply:

    If you scroll down to the very bottom of that podcast page, you’ll see a link to the downloadable lunch ideas. It’s just hiding at the bottom! :)


  34. Tituslady says

    I have to menu plan or we waste so much money!! Now I tend to flex on what days we actually eat what, but it helps me a lot to have meals already written down, and ingredients in the house! We have meals we eat almost every week, but I’ve been trying to spice it up a bit, and get new recipes to try! We eat EVERY meal at home made by me, so I really just like to have my plan so I don’t have to worry about it. Now we only have one little one so sandwiches for us really isn’t that bad. We don’t actually make sandwiches though unless I want one. Our little one gets hers in a tortilla wrap baked in the oven with veggies, applesauce, banana stuff like that. I think some people don’t like menu planning, because they feel like they have to stick to a schedule, which isn’t true at all! Oh and I don’t think your menu schedule is to complicated. I like to look at it for ideas!


  35. Cindy says

    LOVE the post! I am not consistent with meal planning, but it does help so much. I constantly hear the question “What are we going to eat????” And it isn’t just boys, if I don’t have breakfast ready when my 3 year old daughter gets up, it is an ugly start to the day. She can keep up with her 13 year old brother in eating and as he says “that is quite impressive” :)


    Nicola Reply:

    I hear you on the girls! My 7 year old is constantly hungry & asking what are we having for breakfast/lunch/dinner/snack. She does eat quite small portions though so I suppose that’s where she differs from the boys.


  36. Susan F. says

    I plan for six main meals a week. When we shop I buy only what is on my list which takes care of these meals plus lunches and breakfast. My husband works nights so I have the main meal for his breakfast. Leftovers go for his lunch at work in the next day or two. With these hours it’s much easier to know what I have to cook before I pull my head from the pillow. :)


  37. Gabby says

    I have been meal planning faithfully since I started reading your site about a year ago. I echo so many of the comments already posted! Planning my menu at the beginning of each week takes away so much stress from my life! I do only “plan” suppers on the written plan for now. But I do bake a lot of muffins/waffles/rolls on Saturdays to freeze for breakfasts in the week ahead. These “plan ahead” methods are such a life saver for me. I know I can feed my family healthy meals because I took a little extra time to plan ahead.
    It also saves so much money! I plan my meals around what we already have, and then only need a few items from the grocery store. Meal planning is something I truly enjoy doing each weekend for the week ahead. I guess you could say that it is a small “something” that I have control over, even when my day may not go as planned. Keep up the good work, Laura….you are an inspiration!


  38. Katie says

    Great post! I plan 3 meals a day plus snacks, but I am also flexible depending on what is going on. I love the ease of knowing what is for each meal and how much money it saves me each week at the store – just buying what we need!


  39. Espie says

    After I began reading your website, I did some research and found a wonderful CSA. Our subscription arrives on our doorstep every two weeks. It is a great mix of fruits and vegetables grown about 35 miles from our home.

    The CSA has a website where I can see what will be in our box on the Friday before my Wednesday delivery. This is great as I can create a loose plan of what we will be having over the next two weeks. I work out of my home two days a week and in the office three days a week. I do my other grocery shopping on my way home from the office to save on extraneous trips.

    When we first joined the CSA, I was not menu planning and we wasted about 1/3 of the box! This has not happened since that first box since I was so annoyed to have thrown out perfectly good food–not to mention wasting the money!

    My sons (6yo & 8yo) love the box so much that we have had to increase our subscription to a larger box so we have enough. They both help plan how we will use new vegetables that we would not have voluntarily purchased at the store such as parsnips and fennel. They have also gotten a huge kick out of learning how to eat pomegranates and persimmons. (My sons are going through a growth spurt at the moment, so they are eating anything not nailed down!) I consider it good practice for their teen years.


  40. Amber S says

    I plan my menu for an entire month- three meals a day. I always keep all the staples in the freezer,so I don’t rely on weekly sales. The only thing I fill in weekly is fruits/vegetables and some sides, depending on what we have fresh. I have a 4-week rotation of breakfast meals that goes on menu plan- we eat oatmeal the second and fourth Tuesday, etc. It takes less than half an hour each month to plan our entire menu, and keeps me sane- 4 hungry kids up by 6 a.m. here also! Of course, it’s always subject to change when other things come up- not a big deal. I only grocery shop once every 3 weeks or so (aiming for once a month!), and there’s no fast food out here, so being organized and eating healthy are important to us.


    joyce Reply:

    amber, i would love to see some of your breakfast rotations….


    Amber S Reply:

    Here it is: week 1/ 2/ 3/ 4:

    Sunday- pancakes/waffles/pancakes/french toast
    Monday- egg burritos/breakfast pockets/egg sandwiches/bread pudding
    Tuesday-oatmeal/baked oatmeal/oatmeal/spiced oatmeal
    Wednesday-muffins/egg & sausauge biscuits/breakfast cookies/toast
    Thursday-omelet/quiche/breakfast casserole/egg-hash brown skillet
    Friday- cold cereal :)
    Saturday- biscuits & gravy/coffeecake/cinnamon rolls/ donuts or quick bread

    I add fruit to almost every breakfast, and add scrambled eggs or omelets to any that are just bread products. Everything is homemade with freshly ground 100% whole wheat, and I use a lot of applesauce and fresh goats milk in my baking; sometimes raw honey instead of sugar to sweeten. We try to keep it pretty healthy.


    joyce Reply:

    thanks, very helpful. it seems like it would be so easy to put together schedules like this, yet for me it isn’t. thanks for your help.

  41. says

    I’ve got it easy so far because mine are only 4, 2, and 5 months. I know I’ll have to start planning breakfasts and lunches as they get older, but for now I just do the cereal and sandwiches thing. Occassionally I’ll switch it up and give them a cheese quesadilla, but it’s usually PB&J with fruit. I try to save enough leftovers from dinner for my own lunch since I’m not fond of peanut butter. I’m excited about your healthy lunch ideas download because I really need to start working on some different ideas.


  42. sa'ada says

    i think what’s frustrating or daunting about your meal plans is that i look at it and assume that that is what happens. i see my meal plans at the beginning of the week, very nice looking just like yours. but i also see them at the end of the week, with items scratched out, others penciled in, and arrows rearranging many of the rest. then i feel like it didn’t work and i don’t want to spend time doing it again. but you say in this post that you don’t always stick to your plan. could you show us what your meal plan looks like at the end of a week? i think that may help redefine what success in meal planning is. thanks


  43. Bev says

    I started just having a snack like muffins or fruit when the kids get up and then making a hot brunch around ten. I love that kind of schedule!! And I have recently made a menu sheet and have my children fill out the meals for a week. It’s good practice for them, they get their favorite foods and I don’t have to do the planning. :) Sometimes I do feel like trying a new recipe (I tend to be spur of the moment cook)so I don’t know how long I will keep up the kids planning menus.


  44. charlotte goode says

    I was so excited to see you on FB then in the Heritage now on your site! YES I am totally behind the times! You have an awesome site and it has been a blessing to me and some of my friends. We are wondering if you would come to Sioux Falls, SD to speak at our Ladies Day Sat. April 15?????? Mileage,and hotel taken care of if you choose come. Our theme is “Treasures of the Heart” from Matthew. I am not on the computer often so if you could call me asap I would greatly appreciate it.
    Charlotte Goode (605)413-2283


  45. Tricia says

    We are at the point now that my husband complains when I don’t have a meal plan :) We both work FT outside the home so I only plan dinner for each night and lunch on the weekends. Breakfast is one area that I am trying really hard to improve. I want the boys to have a hearty, warm breakfast but they have grown up on cereal and it has been such a hard habit to break! I love using your meal plans, Laura, for inspiration.


  46. Joann says

    Meal planning is essential for our hungry, whole foods-loving, family. The kids like knowing what’s on the menu and it makes their day go so much smoother. You know, kids like some structure and stability and meal planning provides that.

    How do I start meal planning? First, I look at what Laura has planned for her week :) Then, I look at what we have on hand. I keep it simple, balanced and nutritious. I do it quickly. I try to fix one new thing at least every 2 weeks.

    Thank you, Laura, for your inspiration.


  47. Maria says

    One thing that has helped me is to do seasonal menus (not my idea originally). Plan at least two weeks worth of dinner & dessert menus for a season and rotate them for a six-eight week time. There are a lot of simple benefits for doing this, especially for busy times (holidays, new baby, etc.) This way you can double up and freeze soups or casseroles, cook big batches of meat and freeze, grate a bunch of cheese and freeze while you are already at it. You can buy all of one ingredient you may know you’ll need for the next 6 weeks when it is on sale. And you can perfect a recipe by trying it a few times. You can always add an impromptu meal or something to go along with the current grocery sales, but you do so much less menu planning that way. And you may get tired of something, so just don’t follow the menu plan that night!

    It has helped me to not collect endless copies of recipes, also. I tell my self a new recipe needs to fit into some seasonal plan or an every day breakfast or lunch.

    Also, we keep our breakfast and lunch menus pretty much the same each week. Just make sure you pick your favorites. You can go back over a couple of month’s worth of breakfast and lunch menus and you will usually see a repeating theme. You’ll also notice those things that you planned, but never cooked cause you really don’t like it all that much. This really cuts down the planning for these 14 meals each week. And, of course, if you don’t feel like having pancakes on Thursday, just don’t! It is a lot easier to adapt something already planned than to start from scratch.

    You might not want to do this all year round, but it is really helpful during busy seasons!


  48. KimH says

    When I was much younger, I always had a meal plan, but I had to. I usually had $20-$40 a week to feed a family of 4. I had to make it work, no matter what. I did a great job of it too.

    As I’ve gotten older, I got out of the habit of making a meal plan though I’ve been going back to it recently.
    I got to where I hated cooking, and I always enjoyed cooking. What I hated was coming home from work & try to figure out what to make the minute I walked in the door. That stressed me out to no end and having a menu to guide me for the week relieves that stress tremendously.

    We dont eat a whole lot of processed foods and I rarely buy deli meats and the other “quick” stuff, instead choosing to eat a meat, a starch, and a veggie.

    I usually have 2 eggs for breakfast on weekdays or occasionally an egg & sausage patty, and about once or twice a month I’ll have oatmeal. Maybe once a month I’ll have a fruit & veggie smoothie. No one else in my house eats breakfast, and I take leftovers usually for lunch.

    I have a huge pantry and freezer in addition to the freezer on our frig and they’re all stocked pretty full. I think my problem is that there are too many choices and I have a hard time choosing one, so the meal plan works for me.

    Its nice because I can rearrange the weeks menu to suit the day if needed. Tonight we were supposed to have an Italian Chicken & spaghetti dinner, but I worked late, then went to Target, and it was getting later than I like to start a meal like that, so m’honey had (organic, grass fed) Meatloaf sandwiches, and I had a meatloaf in a bowl. We’ll have the chicken tomorrow.

    Another thing I do to make my life much easier is that I’ll make a huge pot of soup and freeze or can it in single serving size bowls & jars. Its so nice to just go grab a a bowl of soup, especially for my lunches. Today I had a pint jar of turkey, rice, & vegetable soup I canned right after Thanksgiving to use up some of the turkey. Its yummy, its healthy, its fast, & it doesnt have all the chemicals and preservatives commercially made foodlike stuff does.


  49. Ami says

    I homeschool w/ 3 kids 8 and under, so we don’t need a ton of food. I can make really big batches of stuff one or two days a week, and then we just cycle through the food. That means I’m really only cooking about 1/3 of the meals each week, and reheating food at all other meals. I plan our meals loosely, but there are lots of repeats over the course of the week – each food item is eaten or made into something else 2 – 4 times each week. And then the next week I base the menu on completely different food!

    I think homemade soup is totally underrated. We eat soup every day, and I think it’s awesome because it gets us eating more veggies & beans, keeps well, freezes well, has that great healing (cheap) bone broth as a base, and is usually economical.

    Plus, don’t you think food is too tasty to waste two meals a day on monotonous cereal and the same old sandwich?


  50. says

    Your site is the only one I go to on a regular basis because for one thing… I have to plan all my meals too! I have 7 kids and since that includes 4 boys (3 of whom are always asking “what can I have to eat”?) if I don’t have my meals (snacks included) planned out then my whole day is spent preparing food and I run out of food much more quickly. (not sure why-but it it true) Since I homeschool, my kids are always home (again, always wanting to eat!) and my husband works from home so he too needs to eat frequently. Also, one box of cereal or cheeze-its or godlfish etc is never enough for one meal or snack and my kids are hungrier earlier than if they have something that is homemade and more nutritious.

    I feel like you’re my good friend and don’t know what I’d do without you! :)


  51. Bree says

    My littles are only 2 and 4, and they eat like birds…however, your menu plans have inspired me to plan out all three meals. I have been a dinner-planner for quite some time, but most of my leftovers are sent to work with my husband who works 10+ hour shifts. He often eats both lunch and dinner at work, so I rarely see any of the leftovers. The problem I continually ran into was that I had great plans for dinner, but found myself at a total loss on lunch and snacks. I have also found that when I cook a better meal for breakfast, we are less hungry at lunchtime (and less cranky). So, I’m giving it a shot. Thanks for the inspiration!


  52. says

    If I don’t give my kids a hearty breakfast, they will wear me out asking for more food all the way up to lunch.

    My plan is to make-ahead a variety of breakfast foods that are wholesome and filling. I keep on hand oatmeal pancakes and banana waffles {I’ll make a double/triple batch one morning and save the rest in the freezer}. I also do this with muffins and quick breads. I keep oatmeal and cereal on hand too but man, can my family plow through the cereal! It’s so expensive and they are usually starving afterwards, lol. We have eggs every once in awhile too…but we’re big carbs-for-breakfast people {with a side of fruit and milk}. :)


  53. Suzanne says

    I have wondered how much your kids eat – I have 3 boys and they eat so much food – do you supplement your meal plan with other things? For example,if we had only one simple fruit and muffins for breakfast – they would eat several batches of muffins and several of the fruit. We make a huge smoothie with loads of fruit and veggies, whole milk yogurt, green food, avacado etc – it is loaded – and in addition to that, they eat several muffins (or waffles, toast, etc), maybe a bowl of cereal/granola…
    I love your meal planning though (inspiring to say they least!)and while I do not do full meals for lunch (have to pack for everyone and no one but me can heat anything up) – my guys are not big sandwich eaters so we are creative with quesadillas, cheese and whole grain crackers, fruits and veggies (and if they are lucky – a home baked cookie or treat!)
    So what do your kids do when they are ‘starving’ b/w meals?!


    LindseyforLaura@HHM Reply:

    Yes, the kids do eat snacks! I will give you the link to a post Laura wrote about this. :)


  54. Melissa Wheeler says

    It’s just my husband, 1-yr old, and me at home, but I do plan my breakfasts. I actually have a different breakfast each day of the week and rotate through them. Mon- muffins, Tue- homemade granola, yogurt, & berries, Wed- eggs & toast, Thu- smoothies & cereal, Fri- 10 grain hot cereal, Sat- our big breakfast so we rotate through waffles, pancakes, french toast, etc, and Sun- oatmeal. We’ve been doing it long enough that I’ve got it memorized and always have the ingredients on hand. It’s nice not having to decide what’s for breakfast each day.


    Theresa Reply:

    I would love your homemade granola recipe.


    Melissa Wheeler Reply:

    I love the granola! I got the recipe from the website
    100daysofrealfood.com. I just omit the things I don’t like and add things I do. I like to add ground flaxseed. I hope you like it!


  55. liz says

    I’m a planner but only for supper … I like to know just what I’m cooking when and what my sides are … I also have quick snap together meals on days life changes my plans … I also cook twice the amount other people if possible because I homeschool two teenage girls and let me tell you they like to eat (not that there fat there extreemly active I swear they move in there sleep) and I like left overs that they can heat when they are hungry … also there taste in food is completly diffrent so I cook what I want if you don’t like it heat something up … when I first started doing this I worried about waste but the only thing that gets thrown out of my fridge is an empty milk carton … it works for us


  56. Kate says

    A girl I worked with one time had the best plan I’ve heard yet about leftovers. She said their leftover night coincides with garbage day. I think their garbage day was Friday so every Thursday night she took all the leftovers out of the refrigerator and what wasn’t eaten, went in the garbage. Also, she was assured that there was never anything left in the back of the ‘frig to spoil.


  57. Karen W. says

    I subscribe to your updates and am inspired by you daily, so THANK YOU! I am not so good at drawing up a meal plan, but our family is in transition and now it’s just me and my two boys (age 12 and 9) and I’m trying to adjust to our new family meal dynamic. My sons eat A LOT (I know, I’m preachin’ to the choir here!) and it’s hard to keep them fed! I really try hard to cook totally from scratch not only to keep costs low, but also to give them healthier intake. So, please keep up the good work. At a time in my life when I need positive inspiration, your blog keeps me going. Love so many of your recipes. Thanks for sharing them!


  58. N says

    Thanks for the link for more info about meal planning. It makes sense for me to give it one more try. Hey, if it doesn’t work, at least I can say that I tried.


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