Meal Planning: Implementing Your Plan

Now that you've organized your recipes and chosen a method it's time to put it to use!

I'm going to give you an example of what I did with my recipes and method of choice, hopefully this will give you a good idea of what you want to do with yours.

I gathered my recipes and stored them in Paprika. Then I chose to do a Seasonally/Similar Ingredients method to create my meal plan.

Categorize Recipes By Season

I made a list of produce that is available for our area for each season of the year. Then I went through our favorite recipes and placed them in the most appropriate season based on their ingredients. If they didn't fit somewhere I tried to put the recipes somewhere that made the most sense: I saved meat-based recipes for winter, lighter meals for spring and summer, and recipes that need high temperature cooking, like pizza or pita bread, I saved for winter.

These are some of our recipes that fit well in the seasons:


Strawberry Spinach Salad
Broiled Tilapia
Pesto Honey Salmon


Baked Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta
Fish Tacos
Mango and Avocado Salad
Chicken Ranch Kebabs
Sauteed Zucchini and Corn
Thai Chicken and Pineapple Fried Rice


Butternut Squash Chowder
Chicken, Apple, Pecan Salad
Roasted Butternut Squash and Quinoa
Vegetable Bean and Tamale Pie
Minestrone Soup


Beef Chili with Cornbread
French Onion Soup
Lentil Soup
Perogies with Applesauce
Swedish Meatballs
Black Bean Soup
Stuff Cabbage

I had so many recipes I wanted to use and it was REALLY hard for me to narrow it down to only 20 per season. I went back to the original reason I wanted to meal plan: healthy and cheap.
  • I had pot roast, sole florentine, and steak fajitas on my menu. But I took them off because the meat cost too much money. Instead, I put them in a "Special Occasion" file for times that we don't mind spending a little more money for a meal.
  • I had a Swedish salmon dish on the menu, but it had a butter sauce that cost too much money and wouldn't have been healthy to eat on a regular basis. Cue the "Special Occasion" file.
  • I went even further and took out the recipes that took too much time to prepare or wasn't freezer compatible.

Organize Recipes Into Weekly Plans

Once I had found 20 dinner recipes for each season I organized them 5 per week. 

While organizing recipes by week take these things into consideration:
  • Plan freezer meals or leftovers on the busiest days of your week.
  • Plan recipes that use perishable produce at the beginning of the week to avoid spoilage.
  • Group recipes by week based on ingredients. For example, most recipes only use a little bit of cilantro so I try to find 2 or 3 recipes that use cilantro and put them in the same week.

Meatballs are a great food for freezing

Shopping and Preparing

The beauty of organizing your recipes in this way is how easy it is to do shopping and meal prep!
Because the meal plan is seasonal (every 3 months) I do the bulk of my shopping and meal prep every 3 months instead of monthly or weekly.

Since I know that I will be making a recipe 3 times in the next 3 months I can buy in bulk for the items that can be stored in the freezer or pantry. I don't have to take a wild guess at how many pounds of black beans I should buy because I know exactly how many pounds I'll be using in the next 3 months (or even 6 months!).*

The other cool thing is that most food items can be frozen up to 3 months. So a lot of the recipes I only have to make once in triple amounts and then freeze them. For example, chicken tagine, beef chili, vegetable bean and tamale pie, quiche, pizza crust, pie crust (for quiche) and most of the soups. The first month is really the only month I have to spend time cooking meals. The other two months we use frozen meals and add a fresh side dish.

It may seem labor intensive, but I promise it really isn't! I spent my free time organizing recipes and creating meal plans over a few months. I did take some time, but in the end it has saved us a lot more time and money in the long run.

*As a side note, meal planning is AWESOME for food storage. You can plan your meals around foods that you have stored. The other great thing is that you can buy the amount of beans, grains, and canned goods etc. that you know you'll be using in the next 3, 6, or 12 months. 

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