Meal Planning

After last weekend’s flurry of activity, I had a feeling this weekend would not compare. I was right! The most exciting events of my weekend included staying under budget for the first time since moving to Chicago on my weekly grocery shopping and discovering that there’s a dryer in my building’s laundry room that will happily eat your quarters, but will not dry your clothes in exchange.

On the bright side, my bedroom smelled like clean laundry all day on Saturday!

I also want to give a quick shout-out to Chobani for really impressing me with their social media strategy on Saturday. Matt Grevers is one of their athletes, and on Saturday he was on Michael Phelps’s final relay team. Chobani tweeted their congratulations to Matt Grevers before the race aired on NBC, and I was SO mad that they spoiled the results. It was kind of a last-straw sort of situation for me, as I had had results spoiled for me in various ways every. single. day. of Olympic competition last week. I tweeted Chobani letting them know that I was frustrated with their spoilers, but fully expecting to be  ignored. Chobani not only replied, but they kept up the Twitter conversation with me about the 10K, which I was watching and tweeted about at the time. While I was still a little bummed that the relay results had been spoiled, I was so impressed with Chobani’s social media customer service that any anger I felt towards Chobani completely went away. A+ social media management, Chobani. You’re still my favorite Greek yogurt company 🙂

Since I have no exciting weekend shenanigans to share, I thought I’d use today’s post to talk about meal planning. I’ve wanted to post about this since Meghann included a post on meal planning while participating in the Survive on 35 Challenge, and now seems like a good opportunity!


I started really cooking for myself when I did my internship in Chicago about a year and a half ago. I found that around 3 p.m. every day, I would start thinking about what I wanted to eat for dinner that night. Normally I could come up with something, but last minute decision making can really limit your options, especially with foods that require defrosting.

At the start of my senior year of college, I decided to start meal planning. Meal planning has made grocery shopping significantly easier, helps me include variety in my meals, and, most importantly, keeps me from standing in front of the refrigerator or pantry for absurd amounts of time every evening, hoping ingredients will magically hop out and make themselves into something good.

I usually do my meal planning on Friday afternoons. When I plan, I take three things into consideration:

– What does my evening look like each day next week?
– What do I already have on hand?
– What’s on sale?

I’m in the midst of half marathon training right now, which means as soon as I get home from work I’m out the door for my workout. By the time I’m done, it’s been about six hours since my last full meal and I’m not interested in taking a lot of time to put dinner together. Leftovers or super quick meals are the mainstay of my Monday through Thursday dinners.

(Nothing for today because I have plans with a friend, so dinner is very up in the air)

In order to have leftovers, I have to cook meals that make leftovers a possibility. During college, I would often alter recipes created for four to single servings. Now, however, I try to make something larger on Friday and Saturday–days when I have lot more free time–to give me enough food to last at least through Wednesday of the following week. This week isn’t the best example because I’ve got weekend wedding plans, but you get the picture.

Because of my reliance on leftovers, I really only need to come up with ideas for two or three dinners a week. Every time I cook something, I write the recipe down on a 3×5 notecard. Occasionally I’ll go through my notecards to look for inspiration. Lately,  I’ve relied on Pinterest for new ideas.


In college I made a point of creating my own recipes, but unfortunately that’s fallen by the wayside since graduation. Definitely something I need to bring back to my life!

I gravitate towards recipes that include the staples I keep stocked in my apartment: pasta, shredded cheese, chicken, marinara sauce, garlic — anything Italian, apparently haha. If I find something that really sounds great but requires ingredients I don’t have, I’ll usually either alter the recipe to make it fit what’s on hand or, if I absolutely can’t make substitutions, I’ll put the necessary ingredients on my grocery list.

And that’s that! I also do a little lunch planning on Sundays, but tends to be a lot more straightforward and takes maybe five minutes. I used to eat the exact same thing for lunch every day, but lunch planning guarantees variety and eliminates the need to be creative the night before. Having to make last minute decisions always means I go for the easy and familiar, but meal planning keeps my diet interesting and varied.

On a COMPLETELY unrelated note, I flipped out when I saw this morning’s RedEye:

Heyo! I’m famous! Now all of Chicago’s commuting population know how I feel about Olympic spoilers.

Do you meal plan?
Have you ever gotten the attention of a large company because of social media? Clearly Twitter is doing good things for me lately!

5 thoughts on “Meal Planning

  1. I usually meal plan but there are weeks (like this one) when I just don’t have time. I also try to make recipes with lots of leftovers. It makes packing a healthy lunch a no-brainer… just grab and go!

    Also congrats on the red eye mention 🙂

  2. Pingback: Thursday Things | accidental intentions

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