Weekly Meal Planning 101 (Hint: it’s really not that complicated!)

I’ve been on a blog post hiatus for quite some time now, between figuring out my new career path, working on home renovations, and making up for a year’s worth of missed-out-on social plans. I’m thrilled to finally have a second to catch my breath and sit down to write this post.

I get asked CONSTANTLY how I meal plan for the week. It can be incredibly overwhelming and I used to spend hours doing it, but not anymore. My good friend (and soon to be roommate in literally 5 days) introduced me to her method a while ago and I’ve never looked back- it’s that foolproof.

The outline is simple. Plan for Monday-Friday of meals, with leftovers being eaten the next day for lunch. We keep breakfast simple at my house with smoothies every weekday and some kind of egg situation on the weekends, but you could also build that in to your plan if you so choose. As far as the content of the meals, the method is to choose plant-forward recipes daily, alternating between meat-based and vegetarian recipes, as well as keeping in mind carb sources day-to-day. For example, if Monday night’s dinner was chicken, rice, and vegetables, that means you’re eating rice (a high-starch carb) and chicken (a meat-based protein) for lunch Tuesday, so the subsequent dinner should be vegetarian and include little-to-no high-starch carbs. Then, Wednesday’s lunch becomes vegetarian/low-starch carb, followed by a heartier meat and carb dinner the following night. Does this cycle make sense? You can interchange these components however you wish, just keeping in mind the overall cycle.

The purpose for reducing high-starch carbs is NOT because we’re following any specific fad diet or counting macros, etc. It’s partly to make sure that the bulk of our nutrients are coming from whole plants, and it (indirectly) helps with weight management; the more veggie sources on my plate, the less room there is for calorie-dense high-starch carbs, and therefore the less calories in the overall meal. Again, just to reiterate, I’m NOT concerned with calories at all, but it’s a nice added benefit to this way of eating. The main takeaway: the purpose of this style of meal planning is to focus on the quality, not the quantity, of food on my plate daily. Hope that’s helpful! For more info on this, I highly recommend Dr. Mark Hyman for all things regenerative, plant-forward eating and functional-medicine-based nutrition. He’s got a great podcast, as well as a plethora of books on the topic.

There’s one caveat, and that is that my boyfriend, Jeff, prefers a more meat-heavy diet overall. I don’t have an opinion either way, so usually we have 1 (max 2) vegetarian meals per week, and the majority do contain a sustainably-sourced meat or seafood from our Butcher Box subscription. We do try to stick to the high-starch carb alternating, mentioned above, as much as possible though!

Now that you’ve read my word vomit and completely opinion-based view on nutrition as a whole (I’m not a doctor!), are you ready to see a sample meal plan? Let’s go!

Doing the Research

I always start my meal planning by visiting my favorite chef and food blogger’s pages to see what new recipes they’ve come out with in the last week. It’s a great way to try new foods, incorporate veggies you’ve never cooked before, and support creators! I love Pinch of Yum, The Modern Proper, Half Baked Harvest, Molly Baz, Carolina Gelen, and What’s Gaby Cooking, to name a few. I also like to incorporate my own recipes into the week, especially if I’m developing a new recipe and need to test it.

Next, I search the websites of the aforementioned bloggers and chefs and enter keywords based on what I’m looking for that week. This is a great way to find recipes based on what you ALREADY have in your fridge, like that lone head of cabbage you impulse bought at the farmer’s market and need to use up. Once I’ve found 1-2 vegetarian recipes and 2-3 meat-based recipes, I arrange them into the weekly schedule based on the cycle I discussed above.

Making the Meal Plan

Want a pro tip? Write down your meal plan either in a note on your phone or a spreadsheet on your computer, then copy and paste the recipe links (or note the page number from a cookbook) directly into the document. That way, when you’re ready to make dinner, you aren’t scrambling trying to find the recipe you intended to make. Here’s what that might look like:

Monday: The Modern Proper Lemongrass Chicken Thighs, Brown Rice, Spicy Thai Cucumber Salad, Steamed Broccoli (meat-based, high-starch carb source from rice)

Tuesday: Cast-iron steaks with crispy roasted asparagus and simple green salad (meat-based, no high-starch carb source)

Wednesday: Pinch of Yum Chipotle Tahini Bowls (vegetarian, high-starch carb sources from quinoa and sweet potato)

Thursday: The Ardent Cook Honeydew and Feta Summer Salad with Grilled Pork Tenderloin (meat-based, no high-starch carb source)

Friday: The Ardent Cook Hidden Veggie Sloppy Joe’s with simple green salad (meat-based, high-starch carb source from the buns)

The above meal plan contains a huge array of vegetables, sustainably-sourced meat-based proteins, a variety of high-starch complex carbs, and an array of flavor profiles so you never feel bored and genuinely look forward to dinner and lunch leftovers each day. I’d also like to point out that YES, as a food blogger, I am constantly making other food blogger’s recipes! Support creators, people.

To Conclude

In conclusion, a simple formula, 20 minutes spent looking up yummy recipes on the internet and in cookbooks, and a little copying and pasting of recipe links gets you a delicious and FOOLPROOF plan for your weekly meals. Once I’ve written everything out, I’ll make a list based on what I need for each recipe. It makes my grocery shopping so much more streamlined because I’m never guessing as to whether or not I’ll use an ingredient. This method limits spending, reduces food waste, contributes to my health and the health of my partner, and makes me feel accomplished knowing that I’m feeding myself and Jeff a delicious and nutrient-dense meal every night. I hope this helps you take control of your own meal planning, discover new recipes, and lower your stress when it comes to figuring out what’s for dinner each night!