Welcome to Menu Planning 101! To catch you up, I am a Type 1 Diabetic, managing my blood sugar through a Paleo diet and healthy lifestyle. A Paleo diet requires time in the kitchen to prepare meals. In this five part series, I am sharing my process for menu planning that makes cooking consistent Paleo meals possible. Today’s topic is for those (like me!) who need a very detailed menu plan, i.e. an EveryMeal menu plan. Want to know how to do it? Read on!
Click over to read Part 1 – The Dinners-Only Menu Plan method and Part 2 – The Grocery List.
After making the decision to go gluten-free and subsequent grain-free and dairy-free, I knew my menu planning had to change. First of all, both of my go-to breakfasts were out. Oatmeal, although gluten-free, was out because it is a grain. All bread is out because I have no idea how to make it without grain of some kind. I’m left with eggs folks. That’s not a lot to fill up on for breakfast!
The “EveryMeal” Menu Plan
I knew I had to start writing out a menu for each day of the week. I do not like to grocery shop more than every two weeks, so in order to not run out of food after a week, I needed to know and shop for exactly how many eggs, sausage links, apples, sweet potatoes, and bunches of kale I needed. This need birthed my current method of menu planning. It’s hard-core but necessary for my diet.
I scoured Pinterest looking for a free printable menu plan that allowed space for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I found one by Maxine Renee Designs, but it looks like it isn’t available anymore. So sad, it is such a cute design!
I’ve created my own Every Meal Menu Plan Printable inspired by Maxine’s design. Feel free to click to download your own copy. If you shop on a day other than Sunday, look below the image for the other weeks-beginning documents.
Click to download the EveryMeal Menu Plan beginning Monday / Tuesday / Wednesday / Thursday / Friday / Saturday
I use the paper menu plan to write out what I will make for each meal, and while I am creating my meals, I keep a Google sheets open to create my grocery list at the same time. Click here to download my spreadsheet grocery list.)
Sit down with favorite cookbooks, Pinterest, and any other recipe sources along with the EveryMeal Menu Plan, and a way to make a grocery list (grocery list app, piece of paper, Google sheets, etc.)
- Make note of any special events – Plan any special meals or dishes that you need for any upcoming parties, easy meals for babysitters, overnight guests, etc. This one step will likely save your budget when that special event rolls around! It won’t be something extra to buy; it will be already worked into your plan and your budget.
- Plan Breakfast– I plan all the breakfasts for two weeks next. Breakfast is the most repetitive meal so it is easy for me to cycle through the 3-4 options we eat for breakfast. For breakfast only, I may write down all the meals then go back through to add the ingredients needed to my grocery list. I only do this for breakfast because I have fewer recipes and options that repeat.
- Example: We eat skillet sweet potatoes, sausage links, and scrambled eggs about 4 times every two weeks. I know for this meal I need 4 sweet potatoes, 1 package of sausage links, and 6 eggs. I would count up how many time I put this meal on my menu plan then add to my list: 16 sweet potatoes, 4 packages of sausage links, and 24 eggs.
- Note: I do NOT use this method for dinners/lunch. The dinners I prepare are far more complex so I decide the meal then immediately add the ingredients to my shopping list. This way I do not miss any ingredients.
- Plan Dinner– I plan all of the dinners next because most of the time we eat leftovers from the night before for lunch. If I plan dinner first, then planning for lunch is so much easier because most of the meals will be accounted for with the day before’s dinner.
- This is the most time consuming section for me. So take a deep breath and dive in!
- Plan the meals with the freshest vegetables first. Eat the kale, fresh greens, and berries within the first week.
- Check the servings and double/triple as needed. I want each dinner to feed us for dinner and lunch the next day. I know our family eats 4-6 servings. Most recipes I double so I have the leftovers I want. (My kids are only 2 and 4, what am I going to do when they are teenagers?!?)
- Go meal by meal, selecting the recipes, and adding the ingredients to your grocery list as you go.
- Plan Lunch – Way to go! You made it through the dinner planning which is a sigh of relief (for me!). Now work through the two weeks to make sure there is enough for lunches.
- Write what leftovers are to be consumed for each lunch. This will let you know where holes are.
- Fill the rest of the lunch meals with easily prepared meals. If you are doing this type of menu plan, you are cooking hard-core. Give yourself a breather by adding in some easy lunches.
- Our go-to’s are
- Tuna Patties with roasted seeweed (like this), veggies, and fruit
- Paleo Egg Salad with almond crackers, fresh veggies, and fruit
- Breakfast – eggs/meat or saute any leftover veggies and mix with scramble eggs, serve with side of fruit
Once you’ve got all the meals and their side dishes planned out, your grocery list should be mostly complete too. At this point add any snacks you know you might need (I make homemade date bars and nut mixes for most of our snacks) then organize your list as outlined in Part 2 | Making the Grocery List.
Shop then eat wholesome, healthy meals for two weeks!
This way of menu planning takes practice. The amount of effort this type of menu planning requires is not lost on me. I do it every other week! However, I also know the benefits:
- Grocery shopping is less of a chore – My list is complete, no guessing or wondering if I should pick up something extra. I know exactly what I need to buy. **Note: I do say less of a chore. I am not a lover of grocery shopping, but I do dread it less because I whip through each store because I am PREPARED.**
- No stress at meal time – I know exactly what meal I should be making, AND I have all the ingredients.
- Overnight guests, parties, and special events do not break the bank – I do buy more food for overnight guests, so that part does hit the budget a bit, but parties and special events can easily be worked into your regular budget. No need to go in debt for that birthday party!
An EveryMeal menu plan is not for the faint of heart, but it will leave you totally prepared for every meal within your shopping period. If you are looking into a Paleo diet, considering the Autoimmune Protocol, or have allergies to work around, I highly recommend menu planning at this level. The couple hours it take you to plan will leave you with 1-2 (3???) weeks of stress-free cooking and eating. Give it a try!
What is your plan for keeping healthy meals in front of your family? What is your favorite source for whole-food, clean recipes? Do you actually make the recipes or pin or are they more of a theoretical inspiration? 🙂 Do share!
Check out the rest of the Menu Planning 101 Series!
I have the same sort of method, though I grocery shop each week. Planning around evening swim lessons , taekwondo, or an adult event is so key for making a meal plan work! I usually schedule leftovers for a busy evening.
We eat a meat (leftover or nitrate-free lunch meat), raw veggie or previously-cooked mashed sweet potato, apple or other fruit, and a candy for lunch (reward for drinking 2+cups of water!) while eating the same thing for dinner two days in a row. I’ve also been letting the boys have their lunch meat on Schar GF bread, though it is not the best thing in the world. They are so skinny and I’m trying to add more calories where I can!
We eat a lot of bananas, but I haven’t noticed them in the meals you’ve shared. In fact, a banana with almond butter or peanut butter for the post-dinner “dessert” is a staple here. Is there a reason I haven’t seen bananas ’round here? I find that sweet potatoes and bananas are a great filler in place of bread.
We do eat rice and oats now after not having them in the diet and Grant and I eat cheese (and…ice cream). 🙂 The kids get DF, GF coconut ice cream after dinner on Sundays.
Good ideas for lunch! We do eat bananas, but they are mostly for the kids. Bananas are very high in carbs making it hard for my pancreas to manage. One banana has almost30 carbs which is more than I eat in a meal. The boys do love banana in almond butter though! Or apple in almond butter.
I thought the carb count might be an issue for bananas. Oh! You may want to try making a big batch of pumpkin puree/egg or banana/egg pancakes for multiple breakfasts for the boys! There are recipes online with the ratios. I’ve even used those as “bread” for PBJ sandwiches for the kids before. They think it’s a huge treat! 🙂 I dislike making breakfast from scratch every morning, so I try to make big batches of things to last for a few days. A 22-egg crustless quiche with veggies in a 13×9 pan works well for me!