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Plan It- Don’t Panic: Last Week of the Meal Planning Challenge

Plan It- Don't Panic: Last Week of the Meal Planning Challenge

We’re on week 6 of the meal planning challenge (well, 7 for some of us). So many of you have participated so faithfully and consistently, and I have loved doing this alongside of you! It has challenged and spurred me on to get back on track with my planning.

This may be the last week of the challenge, but I truly hope and pray that it has become a habitual effort. That’s the whole point. As we keep doing this, week after week, and reap the benefits (saved time, money, sanity, better meals), we become more motivated to keep up with what we’re doing.

How This Meal Planning Challenge Has Helped Me Personally

I thought that I would share some of the benenfits I’ve noticed and the things that I have learned or been reminded as I’ve gotten back on track with my meal planning this past month and a half:

1. I have stayed on target with my grocery budget. Just as I have experienced in the past, this careful planning enables me to watch what I buy (and what I spend), reduce our food waste, and prepare meals that are more frugal. Sticking to my frugal budget feels really good.

2. I was reminded that I have to look at my menu plan frequently if I want it to actually happen. I can’t just make the plan and then glance at it briefly at 4:30pm. Keeping it on my fridge, taking a look at it in the morning or early afernoon, and then again the evening before bed, helps me to make sure that I do the things that make my healthy meals come together as planned.

3. It doesn’t have to be fancy to be effective. Even this week, upon coming home from being out of town for a week and not even knowing exactly what was in the fridge/pantry already, a simple, bare bones meal plan has allowed me to prepare meals and grocery shop with little extra stress. Which in turn frees me to tackle the suitcases, and the mounds of laundry, and the overflowing email inbox and the dirty tooilets.

4. Planning doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Sometimes I make meal planning more complicated than it needs ot be, and I will spend a couple of hours, pouring over cookbbooks, looking at new recipes online, trying to make the “perfect” meal plan.

Then there are other weeks, like this one, where I mixed and matched and grabbed meals from 3 wweeks worth of previous plans. It wasn’t fancy or gourmet, but they were meals I knoow how to make, and know that my family enjoys, and guess what? Meals have happened smoothly and we are satisfied and nourished. And it was easy.

5. The more I do it, the easier it becomes. When I start to incorporate meal planning as a regular hour during my weekends (or on Friday afternoon or Monday morning, or whenever you like to do your planning), it doesn’t feel daunting or difficult. It just happens and becomes another part of my weekly routine.

Our Menu Plan This Week:




  • Breakfast: Fruit smoothie and toast
  • Dinner: Beef stewPrep: Thaw ground beef



  • Breakfast: Eggs and toast.
  • Dinner: Taco salad (made with 1/2 ground beef from Thursday, added to beans from Monday)


  • Breakfast: Breakfast sandwiches
  • Dinner: Chicken meatloaf, brown rice, baked squashPrep: Thaw chicken broth


  • Breakfast: Homemade granola with yogurt and fruit
  • Dinner: Chicken noodle soup

Your turn to share this week’s meal plan…

I know I’m not the only one who has made observations about myself or about how meal planning benefits our family over the course of this challenge.

Maybe you have learned tips or tricks that work well for you, or simply become more committed to keeping this practice a habit in your life. Maybe you really struggled through these weeks, hoping it would get easier, but you still have kinks that need to be worked out and you have more questions than answers.

Whatever you have to share, we’d love to hear it! Seriously, I want to hear your own words of wisdom and helpful suggestions and thoughtful contributions to this conversation!

So let’s talk… what did you learn? What makes meal planning work for you? What benefits have you seen? What struggles or challenges still exist?

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  1. I’m on my 3rd month of menu planning for the entire month, and I find that it’s working pretty well. I like having the menu in place at the beginning of the month with some flexibility for tweaking. For example, last month, we were $200 higher thanks to a family party and buying meat. Once I saw the numbers, I reworked this month’s plan to use only what we have and save up money for next month’s stock up trip.

    I still want to do some batch cooking or a freezer day which I haven’t been able to do. I am trying to prep stuff earlier in the day, and make sure I double recipes when I can.

    BTW, I wish I had seen the ear infection post before taking my daughter to the nurse practitioner this morning for a possible ear infection. I’m saving the tips for next time to see if we can forego the $15 visit, plus the cost of the prescription.

  2. I have learned that there are really good healthy recipes that don’t have to be expensive. My family is trying to eat as unprocessed as possible in general, but there are six of us and it is pricy! Your menus have been a wonderful help! Would you consider still posting menus even after this is done? (hint hint 🙂

  3. I create meals based on the numerous food allergies in my home. I have found meal planning to be an essential and helpful component to our needs (I’ve been doing it for about 2 months now). I wrote a “Case for Meal Planning” a few weeks ago on my blog. In a nutshell, here are some of the points:

    1. Organization
    2. Accountability to my readers
    3. Grocery shopping efficiency (or pantry stock)
    4. “On the fly” meals don’t fit into our schedule.
    5. “On the fly” drive-thrus don’t fit into our food allergies or budget.
    6. Choose cost effective dinners from grocery ads & stock.
    7. Able to incorporate 1 fish & 1 vegetarian meal in each week.
    8. Guarantees healthy meals
    9. I do a new recipe challenge every week, the Wiling Cook-A-Long.
    10. Variety
    11. “Loose” meal planning where I can switch things up.

    Were you looking for that much feedback? 🙂 If you want to read the post in its entirety with further explanation, here is the link.

    Thanks, Stephanie, for hosting this great challenge!

  4. I really enjoyed this challenge! I can totally relate to needing to check the plan often! I also need to keep myself in check and keep planning even though the challenge is over! Thanks!!

  5. Wow, I am totally bummed I just found this blog. I would of loved to be apart of this challenge… can’t wait till I have some time and can sit down and go through the archives. I actually just sat down today and wrote a post (http://dockris.blogspot.com/2011/11/menu-planning.html) about my menu planning process. I didn’t think it was complicated (its second nature and a part of my weekly routine now) until I actually sat down to write about it. Reading the post I feel like it is more complicated than it really is…. Maybe other people have had this same problem with their blogs… something in their life is super easy to them until they sit down to blog about it. Again I can’t wait to go through the archives and check the other blogs too.

    1. @Kristina, Oh, I’m sad that you missed out on doing the challenge with us! Just FYI… I am currently putting together a menu planning ebook that will be launched in January. I will probably reinstate some form of a challenge for the purpose of accountability around the time of the launch. It may not be as formal and blog-wide as this one was, but it will probably be more like Facebook groups where you check in with your plan and your progress.

      But, do check out the Facebook page for this particular challenge- http://www.facebook.com/groups/149057478518903/

      Women are definitely still using it to post their meal plans, be accountable, share recipes, ask questions, etc.

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