Meal Planning

One of the most popular emails I receive is from busy mamas asking me how I meal plan.  So, today, I thought I’d share how I do it…and then maybe you could share your tips and suggestions too?  Sound like a plan?

#truth 😉

Every Monday, I post this here on my blog…

Meal Planning Monday

…my Meal Planning Monday (this was yesterday’s post).  I always list out five simple (and seasonal) suppers along with one sweet treat and typically a breakfast too.

But typically, when someone emails me, they want to know more than just what to make…they want to know when I meal plan, when I grocery shop, how I prep for my kids’ lunches and how often I stock up.  So, today, I thought I’d share my methods.

And…don’t forget, I actually wrote a book on Meal Planning that you can buy HERE.  #becausethatshowmuchilovetomealplan

First up, where do I get my dinner ideas for the week?

I keep two lists of possible ideas.

Instead of deciding what to make (and coming up with ideas), I keep a list of ideas on my phone and another list of ideas in a notebook on my desk.  If I eat something out and it was delish and I want to recreate it at home, I’ll jot it down.  If I think of a recipe in my head, I jot it down.  If I remember something I made awhile back that I haven’t made recently, I jot it down.  If I see something on Pinterest that sounds good, I jot it down.  I just keep two big lists of of recipes that sound good (either original recipes that I could also blog or other recipes that my family would just enjoy).  I write them down (or type them into the list on my phone) for two reasons: first, so I don’t forget them (because sometimes they’re seasonal things and I know that I don’t want to make it now (in April), but it sounds like something that would be really good in the fall or vice versa) and second, because when it’s time to write out my grocery list, I don’t want to also have to come up with ideas.  This way, the ideas are already there and I can just look over my lists and select what sounds good for that week.

I do not like to have to come up with ideas on the spot when I’m meal planning, so I always pull out my trusty little lists and then it’s easy to decide what to make.

This is a notebook that I keep on my desk and inside, I have my running lists of meal ideas.  This way, when I’m making out my grocery list, I can just open it, skim through and pick out what sounds good.

When do I actually sit down and write out my grocery list?

On Fridays.

I started making my grocery lists on Fridays, but I don’t shop until Tuesdays.  This gives me a few days to add things to my list if I forget them (because I ALWAYS forget something).  On Friday afternoons, I pull out my calendar for the next week and check it against my grocery list and then start jotting down what we’ll have each night of next week (beginning on Tuesday night through the following Monday night).  I keep a list of “favorite” items on a Word document in my computer and always print that off and write my grocery list right on there.  The favorited items include weekly staples at our house like berries, apples, yogurt, paper towels, milk, eggs, etc.  I print that list and then hand write at the bottom Tuesday through Monday and then fill in which days we’re not eating at home and then add what we’ll eat on the other nights.  I refer to my lists if I’m looking for ideas.

And a picture of my planner just because that’s what I always pull out when writing my meal plan 🙂 .  Both my notebook and my planner are from Erin Condren.

Walmart Grocery Pick up verses the actual grocery store.

Now, here’s the kicker…back in the fall, I started using Walmart’s Grocery Pickup as part of my shopping routine…

…and it has revolutionized my little world.  You go online, you place your order (I “favorite” many things to make it really easy to find what I need), you select a pickup date and time and then you show up, call the number and they bring your groceries to your car and load them.  This means…I do not have to get out and shop with my little kids.  I can pull up and pull out all within five minutes.  IT IS AMAZING.  That being said, I personally, want to select my fresh ingredients (meat, dairy, veggies, fruit, bread), so I do not use Walmart for my complete shopping.  Instead, I order only packaged items from Walmart and then swing by about twice a month to pick that stuff up (like cereal, detergent, paper towels, garbage bags, diapers, flour, baking soda, canned tomatoes, frozen veggies, yogurt, etc).

This was me waiting for my Walmart groceries just this past Saturday morning.  I read my book in the car while I waited. #winning

I always jot down things that I will order from Walmart’s grocery pick up and then I try to bulk order that stuff so that I only need to run by about twice a month.  Everything else, I get from my local market fresh.  I do the main shopping on Tuesdays and then Andrew goes on Saturday mornings to grab a few things (because some things just don’t keep all week, so you have to swing by mid-week to grab something to use Saturday through Tuesday).  We do not like to freeze and then thaw our meat, so it helps to go twice a week and get that stuff as fresh as possible.

Why do I shop on Tuesdays?

I get asked this question a lot, so here’s the answer: at our store, by Sunday night, everything is picked over from the weekend and then on Mondays, they’re restocking…so on Tuesday, everything is stocked, fresh and in place.  Plus, I find that it’s just not that crowded on a Tuesday.  I go either that morning or I go in-between picking up Ashby from preschool and getting the big kids at their school (there is a 45 minute window of time there).

How do I make my kids’ lunches?

Okay…this was one of the very best mom decisions I’ve ever made.  Right before my kids’ Christmas break, I decided one Sunday to go ahead and make all of my kids’ school lunches for the week in advance instead of making them every afternoon for the following day and it CHANGED MY LIFE.  For us, after school time is kind of nuts.  Everyone wants a snack, they want to talk about their day, they want to do homework and then run off and play, some days, they have after school activities and then I need to get dinner started and it’s just fast and furious…and stopping to make lunches was just annoying.  So…I started making them in advance and it’s been MAGICAL.  I take about 30 to 40 minutes each Sunday afternoon and make all of their lunches for the week and then stock up our garage fridge with their lunches, their school snacks and their drinks for the week.  This way, after day after school, they grab tomorrow’s lunch, snack and drink, we add it to their lunch boxes and within 2 minutes, everyone is set for the next day.

We started off with one Yumbox each but that was too complicated for us because I would have to wash and then dry it each day before filling it for the next day (making it hard to prepare lunches in advance for the entire week).  So, we invested in one Yumbox per school day for each kid (so Kensington and Smith each have five and Ashby has two).  Yes, it was a BIG investment but one that has been paying off!  No more baggies, no more disposable containers…I just pull out all 12 boxes and fill them with their food for the week.  This week, I had pasta, carrots, blueberries, yogurt, Trolls gummies, trail mix and tortilla chips in the boxes.  I fill them, then stack them all up and put them in the garage fridge for the week.

Andrew was making his lunches for the week at the same time this last Sunday.  He was grilling chicken in a pesto marinade and then roasting some frozen veggies.  He packs them away and then takes it to work each day.

And at the end…12 lunches ready to be stored in the garage fridge for the week.  As my bigger kids outgrow the size of the boxes, I’ll pass them on to Ashby and Madeley.

So, that’s a bit about how we meal plan around the Shull house.  I hear this from women all the time…the hard part is not cooking, it’s coming up with the ideas and then making sure you have the ingredients on hand when you’re actually ready to cook.  I hear that all the time and couldn’t agree more!

Don’t forget, you can check out all of my recipes HERE.  I have so many simple and seasonal recipes for busy ladies 🙂 .

Share your meal planning tips below please!!

xo

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  • Peyton April 4, 2017 at 4:47 am

    Great tips! Does the yumbox have some type of cool pack built in? I’m just curious about keeping the yogurt, etc properly cooled in their lunch box all day. Thanks!

    • Mix and Match Mama April 4, 2017 at 5:10 am

      They’re insulated and so is there lunchbox. It seems to stay cold!

      • Michelle Nobbe April 4, 2017 at 1:38 pm

        You may have posted this before, but what lunchbox do your kids have? I have a fourteen month old, but never to early to plan ahead. By the way, I LOVE your tips and am determined to get this area organized!

        • Mix and Match Mama April 4, 2017 at 1:41 pm

          The rectangle ones from PB Kids!

  • Erika Slaughter April 4, 2017 at 4:51 am

    Great tips and super cute graphic at the beginning!! That feeling of walking around the grocery store aimlessly without a list is the worst! Meal planning saves so much time and money!

  • Beth April 4, 2017 at 5:07 am

    I just love meal planning ahead of time, but I agree thinking of practical ideas is the hardest!

  • Nicole April 4, 2017 at 5:19 am

    Great tips! I love meal planning and your site has made it so much easier! I get my ideas through you, meal plan and make my grocery list on Saturdays (with a cup of coffee, Pandora on, and candle lit). I look forward to that little time! I grocery shop Monday mornings, and then if we have weekend plans or just need to replenish produce, etc – we make a quick stop Thursday mornings.

  • Kfran April 4, 2017 at 5:20 am

    I use the Plan to Eat website. You search for recipes, select and then it auto generates a shopping list. I love it as it has really streamlined my meal planning and saved me a ton of time.

    • Heather April 4, 2017 at 6:59 am

      Me too! And I save the month and use it to help my plan for the same time the following year.

      • Kfran April 4, 2017 at 7:58 am

        Great idea!

  • Jennie April 4, 2017 at 5:21 am

    Walmart online ordering had changed my grocery shopping life too! No more impulse purchases for this girl! Our favorite Walmart employee said they choose produce and meat from the stockroom for the customers, so it’s stuff that hasn’t even gone out on the floor yet. I’ve been very happy with my produce and meat purchases there. What a timesaver!

  • Laurie April 4, 2017 at 5:23 am

    I love it when I have a meal plan but coming up with the meal plan? Not so much. I’m looking forward to trying some of these ideas!
    One thing that works better for me is not being too rigid with my plan. Just figuring out about 5 menus, main dish and sides but then playing “mix and match” 🙂 with them. Just knowing I have all the ingredients makes it so much simpler!!
    Right now my husband is gluten free and with me being lactose intolerant and also breastfeeding a baby with a sensitive tummy it feels like our options are so so limited and we end up eating the same thing all the time!!
    My biggest challenges are lunches I think. I don’t enjoy cooking for just me and my little boy and there’s never enough leftovers from supper for both my husbands lunch and ours. I’m not sure he’d want to eat the same thing every day all week though so I might need to do some brainstorming on that one.
    Thanks for sharing your ideas on this subject. It’s so interesting to me how others do meal planning!

    • Emily April 4, 2017 at 12:25 pm

      I have the same issue-I don’t want to eat the same thing 5 days in a row for lunch. I’ve found some good ideas on Pinterest (Isn’t that where all good ideas come from?!) that involve making a big batch of shredded chicken on Sunday and mixing that into different meals for lunch. For instance, chicken caesar salad, chicken burrito bowl, chicken club wrap, etc. I’m sure you could get creative with your bases and meal mixes too. It’s kind of a win-win because you can still prep ahead of time and have a little more variety!

  • Aja April 4, 2017 at 5:40 am

    I feel like I’m alone on this, but I find packing lunches in advance way more difficult. My kids won’t eat gummies or chips or goldfish that are refrigerated and I’ve found lots of other foods get gross packed away that long. It just doesn’t work for us, and I actually enjoy packing lunches daily.

    My biggest tip is to try and be realistic. I know if I have a day where I’m running around all day, I’m not going to want to cook a new meal from scratch, so I’ll use my crockpot or make something that comes together easily (i.e. spaghetti). Taking out that calendar is key! I also make kids’ breakfasts in bulk- so when I cook pancakes I make extra to heat up another day that week.

    • Canadian Cathy April 4, 2017 at 8:00 pm

      1. I agree. We don’t buy or eat packaged things really. Our lunches are yogurt, fruit, veggies, air popped popcorn etc. so It really wouldn’t work to pack them a week in advance. But you gotta find what works for your family! I make my kids and husbands every day right after school, while the kids are having snack and filling me in on their day.
      2. I buy whole organic meat from a farmer every 6 weeks and portion it out in our deep freeze. It is very high quality meat and I have never noticed a different taste after it has been frozen. The longest it is ever frozen is 6 weeks.
      3. As for meal planning – I have been doing it for 15 years. I sit down on Wednesdays and look at our calendar to see what activities/sports we have each night (does it need to be a “quick dinner” , will we all be able to sit down together or does it need to be something we can all re-heat and eat at different times). Then I make my meal plan and enter it right into our family i-calendar so everyone knows what we are eating every day. I also do online grocery shopping and I LOVE It. I pick up each Thursday and find I get better produce!
      4. As for cooking it, my rule of thumb is to also be one day ahead. Yesterday I cooked the pasta and pasta sauce (while baking our last night’s dinner). Today while the pasta bakes (so much better when you bake it) I fry up the ground turkey for tomorrow’s taco night.

  • Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog April 4, 2017 at 5:42 am

    I loved this post! I used to meal prep and plan but I’ve fallen off the bandwagon lately. I’ve been eating unhealthier and spending more as a result. I need to get back on track.

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
    http://charmainenyw.com

  • Sarah April 4, 2017 at 5:49 am

    LOVE this post!! Yes, my struggle is also deciding what to make. If I had recipes and ingredients handed to me, I’d love to cook haha!

    I really like the idea of having an ongoing list. Usually I end up purchasing a few “staple meals” over the weekend (usually one new recipe I want to try, a pasta dish for the kids that always makes leftovers, salads, soup, fresh bread, and then items on hand like eggs and tortillas for breakfast burritos, a frozen pizza, etc) and then finding one other unique recipe I want to try during the week and heading back to the store for that.

    Question – what is your typical weekly budget for food as a family of six?! A friend of mine has four boys (ranging from 4-10) and spends about $500/week. Another friend purchases only organic food and spends about $400/week for her family of four. I always find it fascinating what others allow for food!!

    Thanks!! Happy Tuesday 🙂

    -Sarah http://www.thefrugalmillionaireblog.com

    • Mix and Match Mama April 4, 2017 at 6:12 am

      My budget is inflated because I buy so much extra stuff for my blog/cookbook recipes (that go to church).

      • Sarah April 4, 2017 at 6:25 am

        Oh that’s awesome!! I wondered what you did with the food you made for the blog and your cookbooks! Very sweet!! 🙂

    • jamie April 5, 2017 at 6:10 am

      i spend about $250-300/week on groceries. i try to budget $200 but with fresh fruits/veggies, nuts, and healthy foods it really adds up. that is for 5 people {my husband, myself, my son {13}, my daughter {27} and granddaughter {5}. i also spend about $75/week on my daughter who lives on campus {at uofm go blue} every friday we have a grocery shopping date!

  • Eileen April 4, 2017 at 5:54 am

    I love to meal plan too and sit down every Sunday morning to plan and make the weekly shopping list. I love the idea of making the kids’ lunches for the week on Sunday. Question – how do you heat up the pasta if the yum box is already made, or do they eat it cold? My kids are always looking/asking for hot lunches s owe always end up making lunches in the morning and it’s hectic. Do you give them choices of what they want on Sundays or do they just get what they get? I would love to make some changes in the lunch department. Buying that many yum boxes would be big investment, but I love the idea of not using so many baggies!

    • Mix and Match Mama April 4, 2017 at 6:11 am

      They eat it cold like a pasta salad! I put turkey pepperoni in there with it too (chopped up in the pasta salad). They get choices! They pretty much pick the same things but sometimes, they’ll say they want a wrap instead of pasta or they want strawberries or grapes instead of something else. They give input. We also add hummus and/or salsa in there too sometimes.

      • Brook W. April 5, 2017 at 11:07 am

        Common Shay–there is no way a wrap made on a Sunday can be good on Friday???? They get soggy! Or even strawberries by the end of the week? Do you ever check the lunches on Friday to see if anything is mealy?

        • Mix and Match Mama April 5, 2017 at 1:00 pm

          They’re totally good! My kids would also be the first to say if they weren’t. I didn’t make this idea up! A lot of people make their kiddos’ lunches in advance ;).

    • jamie April 5, 2017 at 6:15 am

      i will send leftovers for my son {chicken, potatoes, mini meat loaves} and sometimes he’ll eat them cold but he also has a microwave in his {middle school} lunchroom if he feels like doing that. cold leftover are good and i’m glad he likes them too!

  • Sheaffer Sims April 4, 2017 at 5:54 am

    Lots of good tips! I would DREAD packing all of them up on Sunday nights…but man would I would high fiving myself the rest of the week!

  • Courtney April 4, 2017 at 5:57 am

    Great tips, Shay! And I love those Erin Condren planners!
    XO
    Courtney
    http://www.greywoodmama.com

    P.S. I just received your cookbooks in the mail – absolutely love them (and the cute pictures)!

  • Nicole April 4, 2017 at 6:01 am

    Do the chips get soft being in the refrigerator for the week for kids lunches? What about sandwiches does the bread get soft too?

    • Mix and Match Mama April 4, 2017 at 6:10 am

      My kids say no! Wraps work really well too! We make a lot of wraps instead of sandwiches.

    • Shawnee April 4, 2017 at 8:51 am

      Once a bag of chips is opened at our house it goes in the refrigerator. They do not get soft at all. Cold chips right out of the fridge is one of my favorite things.

  • Hanna April 4, 2017 at 6:03 am

    The AnyList app has been a life saver for me! You can add all of your recipes (manually or copy and paste from the internet) and then when you want to add a recipe to your grocery list it’s super easy instead of having to write down every ingredient you just click the recipe (or can choose some of the ingredients if you don’t need them all). Definitely a life saver! Bonus, it’s a running list of recipes for me to choose from, like you use your notebook for.

    • Renn April 4, 2017 at 7:38 am

      my favorite thing about the AnyList app is that it syncs between my husband and my phones so if he can add something to it when he thinks about it and its on my list when i need it or visa versa

  • Tamara R. April 4, 2017 at 6:14 am

    Great post! My husband created a document that is a rough layout of the aisles of our store and we list our items in the “aisles” so we don’t miss something as we are walking through the store. We also have a dry erase board on the side of our refrigerator (it is tucked out of sight) so we can write down anything we run out of and need to restock in one central place. As for school lunches, my kids pack their own each night, including their snack. They are 6 and 9 and it is part of our nighttime routine so they are quick about it (takes them less than 5 mins) and they don’t complain.

  • Jenny April 4, 2017 at 6:17 am

    Hey Shay! Thanks for walking us through your routine – so helpful! My question is regarding freshness. I fear that if I make all lunches for the week on a Sunday that, by the time Friday folks around, things (like turkey and cheese sandwiches and roasted veggies) will be soggy/less than fresh. Even a 5 day old peanut butter sandwich seems a bit gross to me. What has been your experience?

    • Mix and Match Mama April 4, 2017 at 6:53 am

      My kids are nothing if not honest…and they think this works great for them! I wouldn’t put roasted veggies in there, but baby carrots, sugar snap peas and such stay crisp in their boxes.

  • Stephanie April 4, 2017 at 6:17 am

    Even as an adult prepping all of my lunches on Sunday makes my life so much easier. I don’t have kids yet, but I either don’t have the time or the energy to make lunch for the next day after work or in the morning before leaving for work.

    http://aneducationindomestication.com

  • Patricia @Sweet and Strong April 4, 2017 at 6:21 am

    I’m with you on always jotting down recipe ideas, I have lists everywhere of things I want to make!

  • Narci Dreffs April 4, 2017 at 6:21 am

    These are great tips. Your meal planning posts are so helpful! And Walmart is a life changer!! 🙂

  • Tara G. April 4, 2017 at 6:26 am

    I created my own menu chart & keep a supply of blank ones so I can grab one when I’m ready to plan. I jot down activities we have on the calendar in the margin so I can choose meals that won’t take as much prep or time cooking. I have a column for a shopping list which i can either cut off to take to the store or transfer.

    I have a friend who has a rotating menu for a 30 day period – so every 30 days the same dish comes around. She changes it up when ready.

  • Kelly April 4, 2017 at 6:32 am

    I also try and make things with the same ingredients (shepherds pie one night and burgers and potato wedges another). This saves some some fridge space as well as time spent running around the grocery store!

  • Jeanie April 4, 2017 at 6:38 am

    I am so curious about why you don’t freeze meat?

    • Mix and Match Mama April 4, 2017 at 6:52 am

      I just really like my meat as fresh as possible from the butcher’s counter (I don’t buy it packaged). I would rather shop more and enjoy it fresh than freeze and thaw it. Maybe I’m weird?! Ha!

      • Barbara parnell April 4, 2017 at 10:04 am

        Not weird! I do the same!

      • jamie April 5, 2017 at 6:19 am

        i don’t think it’s weird! we have frozen fish from costco {ps it is so yummy} and that’s about it. i prefer meat from the butcher as opposed to pre-packaged. absolutely.

  • Lizzie @ This Happy Life April 4, 2017 at 6:40 am

    When is our Walmart going to get on board with preordering your groceries!? If I never had to step foot in there again I would be so ok with that 🙂 Great tips!

  • Andrea April 4, 2017 at 6:41 am

    I have moved on from Walmart pickup to Tom Thumb delivery and it is amazing. It also keeps me organized as I have to plan in advance and don’t buy a bunch of stuff I don’t need. Some things I still go to the store to get though.

  • Jenny April 4, 2017 at 6:44 am

    I meant to say rolls around…not folks around. Yikes!

  • KimW April 4, 2017 at 6:44 am

    yikes – thank you for the tips but I have to say that most of us are not able to spend $30 on a lunch box… let alone 12 of them!

  • Molly Smith April 4, 2017 at 6:54 am

    What types of things to you put in your kids lunches? I know you briefly mentioned it, but does that change every week? Or what is your process for that?

    Also I love the idea of the hubs cooking and packing all of his lunches for the week on Sunday too. 🙂

    • Mix and Match Mama April 4, 2017 at 7:29 am

      It changes up! We do wraps, sandwiches, pepperoni, pasta salads, fruit, veggies, yogurt, hummus, salsa, pretzels, gold fish, chips…a random assortment :)!

  • Nicole J April 4, 2017 at 6:58 am

    Hi Shay!
    I’m a busy SAHM to 5 boys!
    I do all my meal planning on Sunday morning while having coffee and reading the paper that way the ads are in front of me, (I shop Meijer and/or Kroger usually on Tuesday) I look over the ads and see what meat/protein is on sale and base our meals around that
    I write the days down and each person picks one dinner idea based on what I tell them is on sale ( that way I’m not coming up with all of them and the kiddos get excited for dinner!) I have a list of family favorites we refer to as well as a Pinterest board of new ones to try….lunches pretty much stay the same here sandwich, fruit/veg, drink and treat … I do prep all the fruit/veg and “treat” items on Sunday , the kids pack their lunches after dinner each night which entails making a sandwich and then grabbing their( already prepped) fruit /veg , treat and drink and adding it to their bag/box
    I also prep( on Sunday) grab and go snacks for sports/afterschool activities
    All my bulk items are once a month at Costco!

  • Tyler April 4, 2017 at 7:05 am

    Love this post! Do the yum boxes leak? Like if they are put on their side in a backpack?

    • Mix and Match Mama April 4, 2017 at 7:28 am

      Nope! Not one bit!!

      • Amanda April 4, 2017 at 8:40 am

        I second this – no leaks! I loved our YumBox so much I ordered another set. They make packing lunches so much fun!

  • Whitney Pegram April 4, 2017 at 7:08 am

    I LOVE Walmart pickup! And those yum boxes are perfect!

  • Hannah April 4, 2017 at 7:18 am

    I usually check the weekly sales before I meal plan, so I know what is on sale (meat and veggies) and find recipes with those items. I’ll also look through my fridge to see what I have in there I can use for a recipe (like fig or apricot jam). I bought a cheap $1 calendar from Target, large enough to write in the squares. I fill out the upcoming week each Saturday as to what I plan to make that week. That way, I can see what meals are coming up, and also look back to see what I made. Sometimes I make a lot of arrows and decide to switch meals around that week, but i’ll always stick to the meals i’ve written down. It’s definitely helped me!

  • Corinne Wright April 4, 2017 at 7:19 am

    If I’m totally honest, feeding my kids is the most difficult part of my day. I am amazed that they need to eat ALL. the. time. We make a big breakfast on the weekends. Then, I swear, just 2 hours later I have to feed them lunch. Aren’t they still full? How can they really be ready to eat again? And again for a snack? And again for dinner? It’s like a never ending game of Hungry Hungry Hippos.

    • Melissa April 4, 2017 at 10:48 pm

      So true! Never ending game or they only eat crackers.

    • jamie April 5, 2017 at 6:23 am

      neverending game of hungry hungry hippos. that is hysterically funny!

  • Alis April 4, 2017 at 7:47 am

    How long do you keep lunch (or leftovers!) in the fridge? Is it 5 days (Sunday-Friday)?

  • Britney April 4, 2017 at 7:50 am

    Can you give the recipe for Andrew’s pesto marinade please?

  • Ashley Stewart April 4, 2017 at 7:52 am

    Hi! Awesome tips here. Do you find that there are items you tend to stay away from that don’t keep as well? I’m thinking sandwiches or some types of fresh fruit that may not be good by the end of the week.

  • Jenna April 4, 2017 at 7:54 am

    I love reading how other people organize their lives. I love to meal plan. I usually meal plan on Friday night/Saturday mornings and then do my shopping on Saturday afternoon or Sundays (unless I am on summer break, then I like to go grocery shopping during the week in the morning when the stores are empty!). I keep a running list in a separate notebook of all of our meals so that way we don’t get in a rut of the same meals. I like to hand write my lists as well. I keep a running list on my counter all week that we can add to and then I rewrite my list in the order I shop the store. Type A much? Have a great day!

  • Emily Burke April 4, 2017 at 7:56 am

    My soon to be 4 year old starts full day pre-school next year, just two days a week. This post is awesome. I most definitely will be ordering two of these boxes and then I will feel like super mom when I don’t have to pack her lunch during the week, haha! Such an awesome idea! Thank You!

  • Emily Burke April 4, 2017 at 7:57 am

    hysterical! I feel ya girl!!!!!

  • Ashley April 4, 2017 at 8:08 am

    I have a super simple tip that makes my meal planning go much faster. I, too, do my planning on Fridays. I have noticed that if I sit down to work on my plan when I am hungry (usually mid-afternoon), it takes me significantly less time to plan than if I do it shortly after I have eaten.

  • Allie Zusan April 4, 2017 at 8:12 am

    My kids aren’t school aged yet, but my husband and I come from a household of two parents working. At the beginning of the new year I decided I could no longer spend every single morning preparing my lunches and breakfasts, so I decided to also make them on Sundays. I place everything in a mason jar so it keeps well. I even premake my shakes so in the morning I just have to throw a banana, ice and the liquids in the blender and two minutes later it’s done. The Sunday prep is seriously a life changing moment. I’m much much nicer in the mornings now!

  • Laci April 4, 2017 at 8:14 am

    Wonderful tips!!! We love our yumbox and I know what you mean about washing and drying them. My son has moved on to eating at school because I just can not seem to fill him up so he wants a hot meal at school (gag)….my daughter still packs her lunch but I do it every morning. NO FUN! Need to pack in advance. We are weird about fresh meat too. Haha!!

  • Natalie April 4, 2017 at 8:20 am

    I subscribe to the Plan to Eat website and it is a total game changer!!! It stores all of my recipes, I can easily add new recipes from any website/blog by copying/pasting the link in, and it creates my grocery list for me (which is the best part). It also has a mobile site, so I can use my phone to easily check off ingredients while I’m at the store. I usually start by thinking of 2-3 meals, entering them, seeing the ingredients, and then thinking of the remaining meals with the ingredients that I’ll have extra of 🙂 Makes everything SO much easier. Of course, for now it’s just my husband, myself, and our infant daughter, I’m sure it will get more difficult as she gets older! 🙂

  • Susan V. April 4, 2017 at 8:33 am

    Sunday meal prep is the key!! I try to make all of my lunches (I take my lunch to work each day) and my 3 kids lunches on Sundays and it is a game changer. My problem is figuring out when to grocery shop since I work full-time and my kids have a ton of activities on the weekend. I have been using Kroger Clicklist (which is also a pick-up service) and ideally, I like to pick-up on Saturday so I can meal-prep on Sunday, but that requires me to plan ahead enough to order my food by Friday. For dinner, realistically, I only cook about twice during the week due to activities and other commitments. (My kids are always happy to eat a sandwich for dinner and my hubby and I eat lots of leftovers.) I have loved meal-delivery services like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh because I can get all the ingredients to make two family meals at home without ever having to think about a thing. It ends us being about $8-9 per serving, but the portions are huge and all of the ingredients are fresh and organic/farm-to-table. And it is always cheaper and healthier than going out or picking up take-out.

    • Sara Wolf April 4, 2017 at 10:51 pm

      We just started using Blue Apron in Jan & we have loved it. I love that I don’t have to shop or plan for 2 of our weekly meals, and our family has enjoyed every dish we’ve received so far.

  • Sarah April 4, 2017 at 8:38 am

    Hi Shay!

    I would LOVE to read a post all about what you pack for lunches (for the kids)! I love the idea of the Yumboxes, but I am worried we would run out of ideas for them 🙂

  • MelanieL April 4, 2017 at 8:46 am

    Your stacks of lunches for the week gets all the heart eyes from me!! I love seeing that! We lunch prep for the week but use more baggies and small reusable glass/plastic containers. My kids have been requesting turkey/ham/cheese Hawaiian roll sandwiches lately that I make in advance and store on the bag they came in (no condiments/dressing). They are easy to throw into lunches all week and offer a quick bite on the way out to practice or church!

  • Ruth April 4, 2017 at 8:59 am

    Hi Shay, I ordered a copy of Kids in the Kitchen and I’m sure I will be looking through it for some recipe ideas, but it is really for my friend who has three kids. Personally, I’m excited for my Meal Planner book that I selected through the special offer. I have such a love/hate relationship with meal planning, prepping, etc. and I’m always looking for new ideas and recipes to change things up.

  • Patty Richey April 4, 2017 at 9:05 am

    I have been ordering my groceries online for many years. About a year ago I switched from Peapod to Harris Teeter Express Lane. It is life-changing and my time is worth the $5 fee they charge. This was one of the ideas I also included in my Workin’ It Wednesday in March.

    Patty
    GoodBetterBestFood.blogspot.com

  • Amanda April 4, 2017 at 9:05 am

    I have an spreadsheet with favorite items that I print out and circle while meal planning. I also write what we’re having each day on my grocery list then transfer to a white board in my kitchen so we all know the plan for the week. I do make my work snacks for the week ahead of time and do some basic prep on Sunday for the kids. Boiled eggs, Jello in small tupperware, seafood salad, pasta salad etc.

  • Emily King April 4, 2017 at 9:13 am

    I love to hear how other people meal plan! I do it a lot like you but with some differences. Our good grocery store (Harris Teeter) does pickup and my particular store picks items very well (with a well notated list), so I don’t often go into the store. I work M-Th, so I pick up on Thurs and usually one of us swings by a different store on Sunday for anything particular to that store (Trader Joe’s) or for things that we need for the week or things that would go bad if I picked up on Thursday. Because it is so rushed after work, I try to do 2 for 1 protein as much as possible. For example, we’ll have grilled chicken salads one night and chicken quesadillas the next. Last week we had maple glazed pork chops one night and pork fried rice the next. I also use frozen salmon from Costco because I’ve read that the quality is better than what you get at the grocery store. Sometimes I’m on my game and sometimes I feel stuck and burdened by meal planning. On those weeks I start with a formula: Sunday grill, Monday salads, Tuesday tacos (or other Mexican), Wednesday pasta or burgers (typically turkey burgers), Thursday breakfast. Friday and Saturday we either eat a meal we didn’t eat earlier in the week because something came up or have plans out of the house.

    The key difference in my meal planning and yours is that we use an App called Anylist to store the meal plan and the grocery list (and for that matter, the Target list, the To Do list, the House Punch List, etc.). I have mornings and my husband has afternoon pick up duty. I am more of the cook, but cooking is a joint effort and he looks at the Meal Plan on Anylist and gets things going. He’ll start water boiling if we’re having corn on the cob, will start the oven for roasted veggies and cut off the bottoms of the asparagus, etc. This is huge.

    I make lunches on Sundays as well (yeah for that!!), but I use baggies and disposable condiment cups instead of portioned lunch boxes. I buy seasonal baggies from the dollar store and they love that. I have one basket for dry goods for each kid in the pantry and one for cold things in the fridge. On Sundays we put in five of each item and they can easily make their lunches themselves each day. My kids like chicken salad, yogurt, hummus and pepperonis & cheese sticks for their protein, so that makes it easier.

    Now, what I’d really like to know is how you stay organized and tidy. I have such a hard time staying on top of stuff and I’m feeling very trapped by my stuff. For example. In the kitchen I keep a drawer with coloring books and work books. It’s full. Another one came into the house for my daughter’s birthday. How do you decide what to keep and what to pitch? What about the big erasers that come home from the book fair? Or the booklet of care instructions that comes with a fancy jacket? The authenticity cards that come with handbags? Or the nice buttons that come with a Tory Burch cardigan? Thanks in advance!!

  • Lauren Bullock April 4, 2017 at 9:21 am

    Hi, Great tips! How does Andrew make the pesto marinade? That looked super yummy!

  • Whitney April 4, 2017 at 9:41 am

    I use Emeals.com, it sends me 7 recipes on Wednesday and I select what we will eat the following week, it includes an app that has a grocery list that you can check off as you grocery shop or look in your pantry. Very affordable and easy to pick family favorites and still try new recipes that I don’t have to think about. Emeals has options for specific diets/grocery stores that follow specials/allergies and lunches. We swear by it.

  • Brooke April 4, 2017 at 9:56 am

    I would have LOVED yumboxes for my kids when they were young. Now, I have two teens and one pre teen who are as fickle as can be. I still prep for lunches, but now have several smaller containers that I put veggies, fruits, cheese, meat, pasta salad and such in for the week. They are responsible for grabbing whatever they want and putting it in the actual lunchbox. Since I have it all prepped it makes it easier and encourages them to make better choices since they are easier!

  • Jenny April 4, 2017 at 9:57 am

    I love reading everybody’s organizational tips. School lunches have gotten a little easier now that my kids are getting a bit bigger. I make them help out more, so I’m more of an assistant, and they are the ones putting their lunches together. I think mine are too big for those boxes, but if they weren’t, I would totally be buying them in bulk. 😉

  • Lauren April 4, 2017 at 9:59 am

    Do you need a “special” lunch box for the yumbox to fit as well as a drink?

    • Mix and Match Mama April 4, 2017 at 12:25 pm

      They fit in my kids’ pottery barn lunchboxes!

  • Angela Ellingson April 4, 2017 at 10:03 am

    Gosh I love all of these tips! I love how you print a list of things you usually buy. Brilliant!

  • Barbara parnell April 4, 2017 at 10:03 am

    I agree about the meats & veggies. I only got o the butcher for fresh meat/cold cuts, and the farmer’s market for fresh produce. I have yet to try it, but many of my friends are using Amazon Fresh, which delivers right to your door, but it is $14.00 per month. Being organized always feels good..love your lunch prep. My kids don’t pack anymore, but I used to prep ahead too…such a timesaver in the mornings. I try to shop for bulk items and staples twice a month(I go heavy on the baking ingredients because I have a cookie business) , then fill in with produce,meat,breads etc when needed.Great post! Another tip, way before the rush of the holidays, I stock up on spices,vanilla, sugars,etc…usually in September. Then I have a few less things to concern myself with once the holidays approach.

  • Barbara parnell April 4, 2017 at 10:08 am

    I also put together mason jars with oatmeal,milk,peanut butter,honey & chia seeds, or instead of peanut butter,I add yogurt and berries. Great for a grab and go breakfast!

  • Sarah April 4, 2017 at 10:09 am

    LOVED this post! I’m a big meal planner too, but always struggle when figuring out what to make for the week. So your tip for keeping lists was such a great idea!! And when my Charlie is big enough to start taking a lunch, we will FOR SURE be investing in some Yumboxes 🙂

  • Julie April 4, 2017 at 10:22 am

    Is there a reason your older kids don’t pack their own lunches? My girls are 8 and 9 and have been making their own lunches for a couple years. They know what our expectations are regarding grains, fruits, veggies, etc but have the power to pack what they’re in the mood for, plus it gets them more involved in the kitchen.

    We pack them the night before and even on busy nights, they can find 5 minutes to do it. Just a suggestion!

    • Mix and Match Mama April 4, 2017 at 12:25 pm

      They help me pack them on Sundays a lot of the time! During the week, I would rather have them focusing on homework or playing outside. The Sunday thing has been better for all of us.

  • Angie Tilberg April 4, 2017 at 10:36 am

    I love this post! I struggle with meal planning / making meals and lunches. I have started prepping dry goods for my kids lunches on Sunday and that has seemed to help. I will definitely look into the Yumboxes! I just requested your Meal Planning cookbook from your publisher, I can’t wait for it to get here!!!

  • Olivia Snyder at Joyfully Prudent April 4, 2017 at 10:37 am

    Love the lunch ideas for your kids (prepping them in the lunchboxes for the week). I have a Bentgo but it’s too small for my 5 year old now…I’ll have to check out a Yumbox…could always ask for them for birthdays to cut down on cost of buying them yourself #imcheap 🙂 We go Walmart Grocery pick up too and it’s amazing. I find the Virginia one to pick out really good produce…it’s like they have this nice stash for grocery pickup peeps 🙂 But prefer Sprouts for affordable produce. I need to do more prepping on Sundays in general. I typically shop my pantry/freezer over the weekend, look at my calendar, and then plan my meals (use pinterest for ideas). Then I make my list. I keep a running list on my fridge as I run out of things or think of things I want to get throughout the week. It helps tremendously.

  • Allison April 4, 2017 at 10:42 am

    My very favorite meal planning tool is my May Book with the “meal planner” pages. It has the days of the week on the left and the grocery list on the right. It keeps it all in one place and I can go back to see what I’ve made over the past few weeks. It’s a lifesaver!

  • Erin April 4, 2017 at 10:46 am

    So I monthly meal plan and this has worked so well for me for about 3 years. I print out a calendar and write down any activities we have for the coming month, so I can plan around them. Then I look through new meals I pinned, my cookbooks and my past meals to see what I want to make and I make a list of meals. I then put the meals on different days (i do this to make sure we eat red meat once a week, or a pasta every other week, etc.). Once I have planned my meals, I make a grocery list for the month. So I have a grocery list for each week a month ahead of time, and I add to it each week when I see the sale ads. I have a strict weekly budget and this helps me stay in it. I also try to buy whatever veggies are In season and cheaper. I havent nailed down a lunch plan yet, but my daughter isn’t in kindergarten either. We also just had a baby Friday so I’m sure my meal plan will be way off this month until I’ve figured out how to juggle our new Addition!

  • Lori April 4, 2017 at 10:50 am

    Could you share the pesto marinade recipe? Sounds delicious!

  • Stacy April 4, 2017 at 11:13 am

    I meal plan each week and cross check it with our after school activities. One question my husband hates me asking is “what do you want for dinner so I can meal plan”. Therefore, I created a word document with some of our favorite dinners and I have been adding to it each month. I have a weekly menu dry erase board in my kitchen with our dinners for the week so my kids know what we are eating and don’t bug me 🙂
    My kids could eat pasta every night for dinner so trying new things around here is a must. I hate being unprepared and while it is a chore to meal plan for me, it is also a must. Lunches are made for my kids the morning of. I have tried to make them in advance but the kids say the bread gets too soggy. They typically like the deli rolls but I will try another method cause lunch prep can be a pain. I have used the easy lunchbox divided containers for a few years but now I am back to just baggies or saran wrap.

  • Kelly Henderson April 4, 2017 at 11:16 am

    I totally meal plan .. we find if we have a plan, we will eat at home but if we don’t have a plan, we end up “just picking something up” which is far less healthy than cooking! On Sundays, hubs and I discuss what nights we are going to be home and come up with meal ideas. We don’t necessarily plan Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, etc … we plan to eat at home 5 nights, so we know we need 5 meals or whatever the number that week is. Once we have the “plan,” I make the grocery list and go to the store on Sunday. Yes, it’s crowded and often out of stock but going during the week just doesn’t fit in our lives. We always have to go back mid-week anyway for fresh meat and anything the grocery was out of. I totally agree that some things won’t keep for days and it’s better to buy your meat for 1-3 days at a time. 🙂
    As for kids lunches, ours are 10 and 13. Hubs in the self described “lunch lady.” He makes their lunches while we get ready, then he gets ready after we’ve gone off to school and work. It seems to work for us and keeps the kitchen clear for him.

  • Kara B April 4, 2017 at 11:41 am

    I love that you got on the Yumbox bandwagon 🙂 When you told me you were just using PB containers, I was kind of shocked that you weren’t using Yumboxes already. You’ve definitely made a big commitment buying 12! But they are perfect! My son uses his everyday. They are just so ideal.

  • Jess A April 4, 2017 at 11:52 am

    Thanks for the helpful info. Couple questions:
    – What kind of lunch box does your hubby use ( or do you use) ? Or is he more of a brown paper bag person?
    – What do you do for your own lunches? I just “retired” and am finding I have the time to make lunches for myself now but need some tips. I find myself eating cereal on the daily.

    • Mix and Match Mama April 4, 2017 at 12:22 pm

      I’m talking about my lunches tomorrow! And Andrew, uses those big Tupperware containers for his lunch.

  • Amanda April 4, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    This is helpful, thanks! Any cute meal plan templates? My husband and I are newlyweds, and enjoy meal planning each friday, before the farmer’s market/ costco run on saturdays. We like to post the menu plan on the fridge for the week. Just wondering if anyone had any ideas for cute templates. Thanks!

  • Lindsey April 4, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    I have gone through my cook books, blog posts, etc. and have a master list of all the meals that my family likes that I make. That way, whenever I sit down to meal plan, I look at that list and see my “options.” Otherwise I forget about certain meals for months/years and get stuck in a rut. Then, I just write what we are having on each day, and add those ingredients to the grocery list.

    My mom packed our lunches for the week all through school and it was SO easy!

  • Lindsay @ Lindsay's Sweet World April 4, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    I just did the same thing at our house… I invested in enough containers for me to make my entire week’s worth of salads for lunch. That way I can just make all five at the same time and pull them out each day when it’s time to go! It is totally GENIUS to do this with your kids’ lunches, too! The only thing I would worry about is the sandwiches getting soggy. Our son loves turkey and cheese sandwiches I probably need to continue making those fresh each day.

  • Amanda @ That Inspired Chick April 4, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    You’re so organized…I suck at mommin’ sometimes! If I could get Matthew passed his picky, stubborn, food issues my life would be so much easier!! When I say he’s had the exact same lunch in his lunchbox every single day for the past 7 years, I’m not being sarcastic. This basically goes for dinner and breakfast too. I seriously want to beat my head against a wall when I think about it.

    That Inspired Chick

  • Emily April 4, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    What great tips and tricks. We just ordered our first YumBoxes a few days ago. I can’t wait to try them out! I felt like I was going to the store A LOT for the fresh items until I found these:

    http://www.tupperware.com/fridgesmart-4-pc-set-4771.html

    They were a total game changer!

  • Laurel April 4, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    Loved this! I don’t have kids yet, but I set aside time on Sundays to bulk cook and make 10 lunches for my husband and I, and then 10 snack boxes. I do groan a bit on Sundays, but I’m so glad it’s done the rest of the week! We use normal Tupperware for lunches, and Easy Lunchbox for snacks. Love them but the lids aren’t leakproof.

  • Stephanie April 4, 2017 at 2:14 pm

    I’ve meal planned, monthly, since my husband and I were six months into our marriage 15.5 years ago. I started planning because we lived in a small apartment, on a tight budget. Planning kept me from buying more than we could store and kept me on budget. Now, meal planning is just part of my end of the month routine. We shop twice a month, usually on Friday night or Saturday afternoon for each two week period. We look at the calendar every night to see what is on the menu for the next day, if we don’t feel like having that meal, we move things around within that two period of food I have on hand.

    Another poster asked what people were spending on groceries, so I thought I would answer that as well. We spend about $500.00 a month on all groceries (food, paper products, cleaning supplies). That total doesn’t include beef and pork, which I get from family who farm and raise cows and pigs. I get both in bulk (200ish pounds), directly from the butcher they use, and store them in our freezer until needed. If I had to add that meat to my shopping, I’d probably spend closer to $650 a month.

  • Cara April 4, 2017 at 3:02 pm

    Just checked the price of the boxes and $360 +tax for lunch boxes??! That’s outrageous.

    Also, does that lentil soup not have broth, then? It looks more like a casserole.

    • Mix and Match Mama April 5, 2017 at 5:03 am

      It has one 32 oz box of stock in it per the directions. And yes, it was a big investment…but one that we found totally worth it for our family!

  • Sarah April 4, 2017 at 4:27 pm

    Just curious why your family doesnt eat the meals you cook for the blog? Do you cook for.the blog and take that to church and then cook a separate meal for your family to eat that night?

    • Mix and Match Mama April 5, 2017 at 5:02 am

      They do! Every single night! The only things I take to church are the extra stuff (when I make a dessert recipe, appetizer or such that we don’t need around the house…like we’re not entertaining or anything).

  • Jenn April 4, 2017 at 4:37 pm

    How do you feel about organic foods? Do you prefer to use them?

    • Mix and Match Mama April 5, 2017 at 5:01 am

      Depends on what it is! If they eat the skin (apples, grapes, strawberries), then I really try and buy organic.

  • Melissa April 4, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    I couldn’t imagine asking my kids to eat a sandwich that was made 5 days prior. But hey, to each his own! You’re lucky to have such easy kids!

  • Katy April 4, 2017 at 7:26 pm

    You make the Walmart pick up sound very appealing for the non-perishable items! Now, tell me, why did you decide to switch Smith from the Planetbox to the Yumbox? Would the Planetbox system work as well for weekly storage? Thanks!

    • Mix and Match Mama April 5, 2017 at 5:00 am

      I don’t think he ever used Planetbox??? Are those the ones that you buy at Pottery Barn Kids? We used those for a bit but they’re big, so I couldn’t fit as much in his box.

  • Christina D. April 5, 2017 at 2:48 am

    Ladies God Bless all of you for giving your perspective:) I read each comment and have some solutions to try. My hubs and I have been working from home for many years but are shortly starting new jobs and will have days in the office. We dedicated hard work in 2016 to cook at home most of the week-sometimes 100%. Our tight budget thanked us, and now we have made cooking on the regular our family rule. It sure is nice that economically we are in a better place in 2017 and now allow ourselves a meal or two out a week. But we have become used to our healthier daily menu choices so once suits us just fine:) But meal planning is key for lunches now…thank goodness for you Shay, your tip on cooking chicken breasts in the slow cooker and shredding them has saved me on MANY a busy day leading up to a short prep time for dinner. Now I plan to use this for some lunches during the week. Chicken wraps and chicken burrito bowls are on my lunch list. Also sidenote-on my healthier menu kick I have discovered how good salsa is for you! Don’t forget to give yourselves a generous salsa topping to your meals!

  • Lynn April 5, 2017 at 4:08 am

    I HATE making packed lunches!!!! I prepare them in the morning before I waken my kids for school (I prefer them fresh) can I ask you a question… most of your recipes you use “cups” as your measurement. Could you tell me roughly what this is (I’m from Northern Ireland and we don’t use this as a measurement!!??) I made you shredded chicken and pineapple tacos last week and they were a massive hit!!! Have passed the recipe on, will be making again. So many of your recipes I would love to try but just don’t understand the measurements 🙁
    Thank you!!

    • Mix and Match Mama April 5, 2017 at 4:59 am

      We use customary units here in the US, so cups are a standard unit of measuring. One cup is 340 grams.

      • Lynn April 5, 2017 at 5:54 am

        Thank you Shay that helps ALOT!!! Now I can really start to enjoy your recipes!!!! x

  • Bethany April 5, 2017 at 9:00 pm

    Love these tips! I really like to meal plan too. My fault is I normally run out my Wednesday or Thursday then we have to wing it the next two days……

  • Amy Johnson April 7, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    Meal planning has seriously revolutionized our lives in the evenings. It’s great to know what we’re having every night, always know I have every ingredient, and to know exactly at what time I need to start the meal that night.

    For grocery lists, I use the gtasks app, which for Android users, integrates right into Google. If you go online, it’s a sidebar on the calendar.google.com website, making it SO easy to add ingredients (and keep lists of everything else) right there. I have a calendar specifically for meal planning (as well as one for each member of our family and another for birthdays, one for anniversaries, etc.), and I can add to it throughout the week at any point. It’s fantastic!

    Another huge help is that I have a board for each month for meal planning. If I want to try a new recipe, I’ll pin it, and many times I’ll copy and paste the link into my Google calendar app so that it’s easy to get to without having to dig through my pinterest boards. It gives me some great new options when I’m having a slump. If I’m stuck for that week, I’ll check out that month’s board and find a recipe to fill the void. If I don’t see anything on that month’s board, I’ll go check out my “Favorite Recipes” board and grab one from there that I haven’t already used.

    Between Pinterest, Google calendar and Gtasks, it’s easy for me. If I really am having a hard time coming up with a meal idea, I’ll tap into my family and ask for recommendations, and they never fail to give me good ideas.

    I think anyone who has started meal planning can get a little passionate about it haha 🙂