Meal Planning

Jordo and I have been budgeting the Dave Ramsey way since August of 2011. Aside from loving Jesus, it has been the single greatest thing we have done for our marriage.

We’ve kept a semi-tight reign on our grocery budget and people often ask me how we cook and eat the way we do with a limited budget. Now, don’t get me wrong, we aren’t scraping by with rice and beans. We have more than enough but want to be good stewards of what God has given us through the support of so many generous people.

In the past I’ve tried meal planning but fell on my face time and again. I’d write things down, get to the store and not know what ingredients to get. Which led to picking up many random things, maxing out our budget and still not having what I needed to make meals. Sound familiar?

I’d dread the moment of coming home from work, both of us starving and exhausted and then have to think of something for dinner. Ugh. My hubs is so gracious and always offers to cook when I’m not in the mood. He’s. A. Dream. He could eat the same thing every day, while I prefer trying new meals. Often.

When we moved to Slovenia, it was like all of a sudden our brains froze and we couldn’t for the life of us remember what the heck we used to eat. Pasta became a staple, lazy, go-to meal. And then I decided it was time to step back up to the plate and take another swing at meal planning.

Meal Planning

My informal process goes as follows:

  • Sit down with a hot cup of coffee, my laptop and meal planning sheets (I made my own version in Slovene to help me practice the language).
  • At the bottom I have two columns: one for meal ideas and another for ingredients to buy.
  • I write in any days I know we’ll be traveling or are going out to eat/having date night.
  • I browse through my Pinterest board and other blogs to come up with ideas.
  • Pink index cards = entrée ideas. Blue index cards = breakfast ideas. I add new ideas to a card and then pick one when I’m feeling indecisive.
  • Once I have the meals I plan to make, I typically write in the dinners first. Depending on how much a recipe makes, I can then write in “leftovers” for the next day’s lunch.
  • OYO = On Your Own. I’ve had to implement this, as I’d totally stress myself out in the mornings when we were rushed or on nights we had something going on. This means we find something in the fridge or cupboards to make on our own.

There are staple items like eggs, bread, milk, flour, sugar, yogurt, muesli, and these delicious granola cookies we love, which are readily available. I have a demanding sweet-tooth so I always have ingredients on hand to whip up a baked good of some sort.

My dream is to have a chalkboard wall in my personally designed kitchen where I’d write the meals of the week in a fancy font. But until we’re not moving 3x a year and switching continents, the worksheet will do for now.

chalkboard wall

photo via Pinterest

It’s made my grocery shopping easier, more efficient and cheaper. We budget 66 euros per week, roughly 84 dollars. And typically spend less. It takes some time and getting used to, but it’s SO worth it! I schedule an hour on Saturdays to come up with my meal plan. Who doesn’t love browsing around Pinterest and thinking about food for an hour?

How do you meal plan? Any ideas for how I can creatively write down my meals for the week in lieu of the chalkboard?


9 thoughts on “Meal Planning

  1. You give such wonderful suggestions! Thanks Niki! I’m curious what Dave Ramsey books are helpful for a person about to graduate, and control my own finances? My hope is to live debt-free, just like you and Jordan.

    • Thanks, Sarah! We love Dave. His book “Total Money Makeover” gives the basics of what he teaches; haven’t personally read it yet but have read a lot about what he teaches in the book. If you ever get a chance to do his class “Financial Peace University”, do it! Great stuff.

  2. Hey lady! I can’t for the life of me get your meal plan sheet to download :( Any chance you could email it to me?… Love this by the way, been meal planning since we got married but LOVE the idea of your planning sheet. My notes get scribbled everywhere!


    • Hey Kirstin! Sorry it wouldn’t work for you =( I just emailed over a copy, let me know if there’s any problems with it. Hope the sheet works well for you! Enjoy =)

  3. Sometimes, I pick one new ingredient that I would like to explore and try that week (which is usually a vegetable). I typically see it at the store while browsing (for much more time than I need to be in a grocery store), go home, and look up a recipe. Next time I am at the store I buy the appropriate amount. Get creative! This is good when you are making similar meals but want to add a twist to something (for example: substitute parsnips for carrots in stews or roast. It brings a whole new array of flavors to the dish)


    • Danielle, such a great idea! Sometimes I get stumped when I’m trying to be creative and can’t think of new ideas. And I too spend far too much time in the store. It’s like Saks 5th Avenue for food lovers.

      Glad I have a smart friend who studies nutrition and can help me out with awesome ideas like this =) Thanks for sharing girl!

  4. Pingback: Grocery iQ | frame of reference

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