Meal Planning in Real Life

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In real life, dinnertimes don’t always go according to plan. But, that’s okay. The plan is there to serve YOU.

So last week I made a 3×7 meal plan and slapped it on the fridge. As you can tell, I referred to it frequently.

And made quite a few changes!

Hut one, hut two, hike! It looks like a football play, doesn’t it?

It might bother some people if they didn’t follow the plan, but this just makes me laugh. The plan is there to serve me, after all. And it did, even though I changed the plays often.

If you really don’t want to commit each meal to a certain day, you are totally fine with just making a list of possible meals. In fact, that’s a method I often use. But, since I want to make sure I’m making plans for every meal of the day during the pantry challenge, this 3×7, day-specific plan is working.

Even if it doesn’t look like it.

This week, we’re getting close to the end of the line. While there are still lots of bits in the freezer, the freezer that I desperately need to thaw out, I may or may not continue the challenge into next month. Our variety is dwindling. One can only eat pulled pork so many nights in a row.

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ll probably do some freezer cooking with the meat that’s left. I think it’s gone fairly well so far.

I put the produce box on vacation this week, so we’re going to have a very clean refrigerator by the end of the week. That will be good for the massive freezer cooking I’ll do next week.

Here’s the meal plan for the week:


oatmeal with toppings
BLT sandwiches, fruit
enchiladas, beans, rice, salad


smoothies and muffins
cheese and crackers, veggie tray
pasta with vegetable sauce


pancakes and fruit
pasta salad, fruit, veg
sandwich night, potato salad, veggies


waffles, fruit
salad bar with eggs and beans for extra protein
burgers and hot dogs,


eggs and bacon, english muffins, fruit
pizza night


petit dejeuner
chef’s choice
Sloppy Joes

What are you having this week?

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  1. Ha! Mine often looks that way too. That’s why we call it a ‘plan’! 🙂 Here’s what we’re eating:

  2. In my opinion menu planning is a little like planning your route for a trip. It gives you an idea of where you need to go but also shows you alternative routes if you need to take a detour.

    This week is a little weak, we’re coming off of a working vacation with a busy week ahead of us. All I could manage is a suggestion list this week.

  3. We often do just a list of possible meals too. But if not, our meals inevitably get all changed around.

  4. SmoresYum says:

    I’m curious as to what flexible (non-dated) formats and templates others use for planning “Recipes to Make This Week(or Month)” ….(indicating where each recipe is located, ingredients we have on hand, need to use up, shop for, defrost, etc.) Any suggestions or formats to share?
    (I have searched online (incl. MS Office Templates), Googled, to little or no avail.) Thank you in advance sharing. Have a groovy day!

    • Jessica says:

      I use the meal planning pages that are in my ebook here: But, I’m not sure I totally understand what you’re wanting. A recipe search or a way to store your own recipes and meal ideas.

    • @SmoresYum,
      I don’t know if this will help or not, but when I have a new recipe that I’ve included in my monthly meal plan, I print the recipe out and keep it in my kitchen (I have a simple 3-ring binder with sheet protectors that someone gifted me last Christmas). At the start of each week, I review what I’m making, any new recipes and double check my kitchen for ingredients before shopping for the week. If I end up making the recipe again, or have to post-pone the original making, I already have it on hand!

  5. I did the same thing this month. I usually follow it pretty closely but sometimes we’re just not in the mood for something or our schedule interferes. The key to my success with meal planning is the ability to be flexible. I like your football analogy. Sometimes you do have to punt.

  6. Hmmmm… I write out my 3x7x4 meal plan in pencil. I have a couple of kids who wouldn’t be able to read the playbook if I used markers to make changes LOL.

  7. I always plan 7 meals and 2 extra meals for each week and then I can switch it up if I don’t have much time or don’t want the planned meal for that night. Thank you for the prize.I will be using the coupons for trying a new recipe.

  8. Kirsten says:

    You have written down “pasta with vegetable sauce” a couple of times. I am assuming since you have written vegetable sauce that it is not straight tomato sauce. Do you have a recipe for that? I would like to make my own pasta sauce, but all the times I have made it in the past it is highly acidic and watery, when I use straight tomatoes. Do you have a recipe you could recommend or pass the roasted vegetable sauce one along?

    • Jessica says:

      @Kirsten, it’s a pasta sauce recipe that I’m developing that includes all kinds of garden veg, like zucchini, peppers, and eggplant. It’s blended — and no one knows it’s full of vegetables. Bwahaha.

  9. When I first started meal planning I tried to plan each day and stick to it with Military percision. I soon got burned out! It took me a while to learn that flexablity is just as important as the plan. Now I do a possible meals plan for the week and rotate things in and out as needed. If we have a good deal of left overs at some point I will deam the night Fend for Yourslef Night. My Kids love “Fend” night they often ask can we just “Fend” which cracks me up.

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