domesticity,  Stealthy Spy Cooking

Meal Planning Day One!

the plan

Wow. So you guys want to know how I plan my meals? Me?!! The one who is a horrible cook? Alrighty then! Now I know what to blog about all week. This should be fun. As in let’s-make-fun-of-Brenda sort of fun. Ha ha! Bring it ON!

So uh. The above is my fancy plan. Do you like how Bug added her big “H” signature? She likes to contribute. Pretty much what I do is I have this pre-created sheet of things that I buy at the grocery store and off to the bottom right I have the days of the week listed and lines to write in. Before I finish up my grocery list and head off to the store, I quickly fill out those blanks and make sure I have all the ingredients. If I don’t I add them to my list. Sometimes I start on Monday, sometimes I start with Thursday. It doesn’t really have to be a set day, I just always shop for a week’s amount of food.

I’d love to shop every day and be that kind of cook who buys the freshest seasonal ingredients to inspire the day’s meals but I just can’t make that big of a time commitment. I don’t have time to shop every day. I’d also love to only shop once a month but then we’d have lots of nice vegetables for a week and the other three weeks we’d be living off canned goods and frozen food. I like fresh vegetables every day if I can manage it. Since vegetables don’t last much longer than a week for me, I shop for a week.

the list

This is what my shopping list looks like. I created it ages ago before Bug was even born (back in the days when I had more free time, but I still think it’s worth making even if you are busy because once you make it, you can print it out until the end of time and save yourself lots of headaches). It’s not very fancy. I created it in Adobe InDesign and if any of you use that, I’d be happy to share that file with you. But it’s set up for my grocery store, which is Ralph’s, and catered to the things I buy so it probably won’t be all that helpful to you other than comparing and contrasting. Here’s a pdf for your snooping pleasure.

super mom meal plan

I made an illustrated one for you guys that asked for one but I don’t personally think it would work for me because I need those prompts to help me remember what I need to buy. But this can be a starting point. Try this out and let me know how it works.

have list, will shop

After I’ve made my list and checked it twice, I head out of the house to go shop. Whatever you do, don’t forget your list! I do that all the time and then I royally fail. Maybe you have a photographic memory but I don’t. Good thing we have another market within walking distance that I can run off to if I need a missing ingredient. But it’s more expensive than my favorite grocery store and usually swarming with beach tourists.

we didn't forget the list!

Then we shop! With the list! Bug helps me all the time. I thought the little tiny cart would be a fading novelty but, no. She insists on pushing it every single time we visit. If they are out of small carts it’s a tragedy. The small cart is actually really helpful. It keeps her going in one direction (most of the time) and we get a lot of people remarking about what a good little shopper she is. She’s mostly learned the routine and isn’t throwing in every single green product she sees anymore.

food for a week

This is what I bought this week (minus a few boxes of cookies for Toby the junk-food-aholic). No wonder I’m always broke. That’s a lot of food! I’ve tried to buy less and it never works. So this is what we consume. Sometimes I buy less meat but we were low since I have been out of town for two weeks.

This is this week’s plan:

Monday: Vegetable Pork Stir-fry and sticky rice
Tuesday: Meatballs in sour cream sauce with small red potatoes and a green salad
Wednesday: Green Enchiladas and a green salad
Thursday: *leftovers (or mac and cheese or ramen noodles with vegetables)
Friday: Roman Chicken with oven baked french fries and/or sweet potatoes and a green salad
Saturday: leftovers
Sunday: Lasagna and a green salad

*Thursday was going to be sausage and rice but I somehow flubbed up and forgot to buy sausage. So the list doesn’t always work perfectly but that’s okay because most of these meals will create another meal’s worth of leftovers. I like leftovers. I know some people don’t but I do. They mean less time in the kitchen and more time on my laptop!


This is what we ate last night. It was yummy. Recipe after the jump.

I’m terrible at recipes so you’ll have to improvise if I leave out an exact measurement or just use any simple Chinese-food cookbook. This is a pretty basic recipe found just about anywhere.


1. Vegetables: we like broccoli, bok choy, sugar snap peas, celery and green onions, but anything can go here. Sometimes I add red or yellow bell peppers for color.
2. Meat: we use pork because it’s usually cheaper. But any meat you can chop up and fry will work well.
3. Soy sauce
4. Sherry or white wine or even orange juice (I even used champagne once)
5. Water
6. Chinese Five Spice powder
7. Brown Sugar
8. Garlic (I use paste because I’m lazy and a horrible cook)
9. Ginger (again, paste—see above)

prep, chop


  1. Chop everything up. Keep your meat separate from your vegetables (duh). I keep my green onions separate from the other veggies because I add them to the meat sauce.
  2. In a little bit of peanut oil (or vegetable oil if anyone is allergic) I fry my meat with a bit of ginger and garlic.
  3. Once it’s nearly cooked through I add the sauce: about 1/3 cup each soy sauce, sherry and water. Then I add a dash of Chinese Five Spice powder and a small spoonful of brown sugar.
  4. ssssssssssizzzzzle!

  5. Simmer it a bit and then add the chopped green onions. I don’t know if this changes the flavor much but it looks pretty.
  6. Once the meat is done I transfer it to a bowl with a lid. (I think most people would just add the vegetables in on top and let them cook together but Toby is very picky about his vegetables being crunchy and not getting soggy. So we make them separate and then serve on top of each other on our plate or bowl.)
  7. Then I fry up the vegetables. I don’t bother cleaning out the pan. I just add a touch more of oil and fry them up. They make a wonderful sizzling noise. I let them steam for a few minutes and then I’m done!
  8. Serve with white sticky rice!

Bon Appetit! If you try this, let me know how it goes!


  • Mrs. Mom

    Looks yummy! Now I know what to make for dinner tomorrow, Thank you!
    Your meal plan looks great, THIS is what my grocery-shopping list looks like, I should include the meal plan thingy, what an awesome idea!

  • Amanda of Shamelessly Sassy

    I think instead of making my own meal plan that I just need you to post yours every week, and I will follow in suit. I hate meal planning. I wonder if I can find some place online to plan my meals and the groceries I should buy for doing so. hmmm…

  • mackenzie

    what a great idea for the shopping list! I’ve just started cooking dinners for the fiance and myself, and that is just what I need when we go shopping. Thanks! :)

  • dori

    Yay! I love “regular people” recipes (not by pro-chefs with tons of fancy ingredients and time). My stir fries are really boring, but yours looks a lot better. Isn’t that always the case though? Anyone’s cooking is better than your own. Well, I’m going to get back on the stir fry horse with this. Thank you!! Love your lists too…

  • Glenda

    Your awesome! Thanks for the pdf file and the tips! I will definitely use them. Definitely trying the recipe too! :)

  • Angella

    I’ll be right over for dinner.

    Seriously, though, I do the same. I meal-plan (Using my Daytimer)(Polestar!) but I just keep a notepad on the counter – so that I can jot down things as I run out :)

  • Ninabi

    Your dinners look delicious. No- you are not a bad cook at all. Trust me. My mom (God love her) is the worst and hated the job so much I took over as a kid and when my kids were growing up and carping about what was on their plates I’d say, Listen, you want to know how grandma made chili….?

    I love your shopping guides- so pretty and fun. Will take to Trader Joes with me and who knows? Maybe another shopper will see it and say, Oh! Are you a fan of SAJ too?

  • Allison

    I’m a bit of a lurker to your blog :) And have adapted many crafts for my son and even ordered flags from your Mom, found you thoruhg Alpha Mom. Would love to see the green enchilada recipe.

  • a madhouse wife

    YES! Thank you so much for the PDF! I have been waiting! lol I really do need to make a list tailored to my grocery store and my buys, but I’ve never done it. I plan my meals by the week, but we just used canned and frozen everything around here! I about passed out when I saw all those vegetables on your cabinet. I need to get my act together! ;)

  • Becky

    Thanks for the idea of meal planning. That looks very helpful. I think it will help us to be organized before we go shopping. Man it is tough to go shopping and plan things with kids (especially with a 2 1/2 yr old and a 6 month old)!

  • Monique

    bravo on making a plan and sticking with it! i also use a shopping list template type thingy – makes it easy when we run out of things because the person (usually my husband) just has to put an X next to what we need. half the time i forget the list when i head to the store and the other half the time i forget to mark up the list. i like the addition of the days of the week so you know what meals you need to buy for. oh, and will you share your roman chicken recipe – i’m intrigued by the name!

  • Tina

    Thanks for the inspiration! Though I have to admit, I had Beef Stir Fry on the Menu for the next two weeks (We have sweet peas in the garden we wanted to use in it and they neeed to get used up)…but you got me craving it and so I made it tonight. ALSO, I didn’t have the 5 spice powder so I used a different recipe, but I really want to try it with your recipe sometime in the future.

  • mrs doodle

    That was awesome. I so need help in the meal planning…. I love to cook but always forget to take something out to cook or don’t have everything I need for a meal. Poop on me… thanks for the illo… you rock!

    And that bug is getting so BIG!


    This is great – I’ve been a stay-at-home for nearly six years now, and I’m still not this organized! I love your list – I’m thinking I need to personalize one for myself with our regular items – maybe it will help me be a better meal planner… I’m very last minute. Thanks for the inspiration – I need to set a better example for my girls!

  • erika

    ahh, Ralph’s. I’m a native Californian and you just made me miss Ralph’s. And Thrifty’s. And In N Out.

    See what you started?

  • Ellen W

    One trick I’ve learned is to replace non-persishable items as soon as I open the package. I dump a bag of flour in the container and put flour on the grocery list for next week.

  • mamalang

    I posted on Flickr that your grocery planning sheet is nicer than my notebook paper. But then I have to admit that I have a grocery list like you do. It’s written in the order of the commissary aisles, so I hopefully don’t have to go back.

    But my meal planning is done on a piece of notebook paper. I list the days of the week for 2 weeks, but we don’t have to eat them on those days. It’s more to make sure I have enough meals planned. It does help to have a list to look at each night and figure out what to pull out for the next day’s dinner. I’ve not been so good about it with just the three of us, but it’s great when there’s all five of us.

    I wish my grocery trips were that small…lol.

  • Lisa V

    Your Ralph’s grocery list is the most brilliant thing I’ve seen since Al Gore invented the internet and starred in Love Story. Truly. I’m stealing the idea. Though it’s not stealing if I tell you, right? It seems more functional for me rather than the beautiful one you made.

    Easy recipe idea I just found last week, and so far everyone at my house loves them.

    Stuffed Chicken Breasts two ways-

    1) Pound the hell of out of a chicken breast. Put dijon mustard, frozen chopped spinach (thawed) and some brie on one side of the breast. Roll it up, put it a little olive oil on the outside, and put it under the broiler.

    2)Marinate beaten breasts in herb and garlic marinade- I like Paul Newman’s. Lay out the breasts, put fresh basil and tomatoes on them, roll them up, put them under the broiler for about 20 minutes.

    Thanks for inspiring me.

  • lala

    I have always wanted to do this but never got around to it! I think it would help with my crazy work schedule if I can plan easy meals my teenager can make!

  • corinneyb

    Epicurious also has great weekly menus if you’re slightly more adventurous (some of the recipes look a little daunting, but most of them are pretty straightforward). They come complete with shopping lists, ingredient tips, and even ways to make ahead in some cases.

  • gingermog

    I am once again astounded by your generosity of time to write all this and throw in a free illo as well. I am going to benefit from your meal planning advice. Maybe we could throw in some quick n easy meals back your way? Kinda even up the balance. I think Mr Gingermog may be having Swedish meatballs for his tea soon . xxxx

  • turkey lurker

    I’m a lurker from afar (Turkey). I’ve really enjoyed following your blog. I wanted to share a website I found the other day that you might find helpful in meal planning:

    I grew up with meal planning, only with a twist. There were four of us in my family (mom, dad, bro, me). We all sat down on Sunday afternoons and planned our week. Particularly when my bro and I were in HS we weren’t home too much for dinner. We would then figure out how many nights we would all be home for dinner. For every night we were all home the night would have 3 points – 2 for cooking, 1 for cleaning (the dishwasher meant only 1 point!). We would then divide the week out and everyone would have to earn the same number of points. Some of us would cook, some would clean, some both. After making the schedule my bro and I would head to the cookbooks and choose recipes. Then we all went to the grocery store to do all of our shopping. The following Sunday we started all over again. Like I said, with a twist.

    Keep up the great blogging!

  • Lori

    i’ll tell you what i did. i made a list of every regular recipe i make with all its necessary ingredients. when i go to the store, i just pick a week’s worth of meals and put checks next to them, then cross off anything that i already have enough of.

    like so:

    HOMEMADE PIZZA: flour yeast tomato_sauce tomatoes green_pepper onion pepperoni sausage mozzarella

    it has made shopping *so* *much* *easier*.

    i made a section for regular household items, personal items, etc. – so instead of writing out a list, i just circle what we need. and i can always update the list on the computer if we find a new recipe we like or i realize i should add something to one of the other lists.