How a Meal Plan Changed My Life

{Includes Free Printable Meal Plan & Shopping List}

Note: This is a guest post by Michele Cook of Michele’s Finding Happiness. You can read more about Michele at the end of this post.

I know it sounds crazy that a meal plan could change my life, but it’s true.  When Julie puts up her monthly meal plans, I get jealous.  How awesome would it be not to have to think about what’s for dinner for a whole month!  Alas, my husband and I both work jobs that are not quite static. We often don’t know what state we will be in next week, so a month-long plan seemed like a pipe dream for me. Instead of a month, for the past two months I have been doing weekly meal plans and the results have been nothing short of amazing.


Get meal-planning benefits & tips (+ free menu #printable!) from guest poster @MMCook76 >> Click To Tweet

I Saved Money

I knew that I would save some money doing this, but I had no idea that it would be close to $100 a week, that’s $400 a month!  I now had a list to go by so I wasn’t running around the grocery store willie nillie grabbing everything that sounded good, but there were other ways I saved too.

  • No mid week stops.  I would decide what I wanted to make, only to be missing one ingredient, so back to the store I would go.  Do you think that the only thing I bought was that one ingredient, NO.  “Oh I need a little of this, and a little of that”  $50 bucks later and I am walking out of the store.  
  • No convenience store stops.  Just stopping in to grab some milk, oh and they have my favorite cookies! Or Etta Jane made her world famous brownies.  I guess I better grab a newspaper. Once again a $3 stop for milk turns into $10 or $15.  
  • I could use coupons.  Since I knew what I was going to buy, planning for coupons was easier to manage.  I only printed coupons for things on my list, so I wasn’t standing at the register sifting through a thousand coupons to find the right ones.  
  • I use more of what I already have.  I had this horrible habit of seeing something on sale at the store and then saying ohhh I could make X with that.  Then I would look up the recipe on my phone and buy everything I needed, except I didn’t need half the stuff.  True story, I was banned from buying salsa because we had about 4 jars of the stuff in the pantry.  Now I can see what we have before I go to the store so we don’t end up with so much excess.
  • We eat out less.  Since I know what I am going to make each night, we don’t do the “Eh, I don’t know, let’s just go out” thing.  If we want a night out, we plan it and I love it.  


I Have Less Stress

This was the whole reason I wanted to start creating a meal plan and it worked beautifully.  My husband and I enjoy planning meals over our Sunday dinner, and I even let the kids have a say now and then.  I am not worrying about what we are going to eat and trying to come up with something at the last minute and it is so much more peaceful.  Not having to think about what is for dinner, takes a big stress off of my plate.  


I Lost Weight

And so did my husband. Since I have started meal planning I lost 10 pounds. I didn’t mean to, I didn’t even realize it until I could slide my jeans off without unbuttoning them.  If you look at my list of ways I saved money, you can easily see where I saved calories too.

  • All of those convenience store stops where Etta Jane was selling her home-baked goods, gone.  
  • All those dinners out, gone. (Yes I would love some Queso dip with my chips)  
  • All of the little things I would grab at the store, gone.

Losing weight was a big shock to me, I wasn’t particularly overweight, I had a little extra fluff here and there but since I just turned 40 I thought this was just my age catching up with me.  I really wasn’t trying to lose weight.  I wasn’t exercising more, I wasn’t counting calories and I wasn’t consciously eating less.  Starting to plan my meals just meant I was giving myself less of an opportunity to splurge.  Etta Jane is not particularly happy with this arrangement, she did mention that she sees me less. As much as I love her and her baking I think I will stick to this plan for a while.  


Don't think meal planning would make a difference in your life? Oh, but it can! by @MMCook76 Click To Tweet


Some Tips to Get You Started

When I first started meal planning, I made a few mistakes. Here are a few tips to help you out, so you don’t make the same mistakes I did.

  • Be Flexible.  If something comes up don’t be afraid to switch a few days around.
  • Don’t plan all complicated meals.  I love Pinterest, and there were so many recipes that I wanted to try that I would put all of these complicated meals on my meal plan and it was exhausting!  Now I plan one or two complicated meals along with some really easy ones.
  • Let the kids pick a meal a week.  If your kids are like mine, they are not picking filet mignon and lobster, they are picking ramen noodles (no), tacos or cheeseburgers.  All easy to fix, but not particularly great tasting.  Still I give them their day and use it as my easy meal.
  • Plan a day for leftovers.  It seems like no matter how many people I am feeding I always have leftovers.  My dad was here for a week, still had leftovers.  The kids had friends over, still had leftovers.  Planning a leftover day kept my fridge cleaned out and I had a day with no cooking.
  • Use a notepad app for your shopping list.  I might forget a paper list, but chances are I am not forgetting my phone.  Since I live 20 minutes from the closest grocery store, if I forgot my list, I wasn’t turning around to go get it.  
  • Don’t forget the sides!  Somehow when I was planning some of those awesome Pinterest meals I would forget that you need more than a hunk of chicken for dinner.
  • Try and use the same ingredient in more than one meal.  If you check out my meal plan and shopping list you can see that I use several of the ingredients more than once.  Cilantro is used in the tacos and the chicken dish, the stuff for the salad is used for the tacos and cucumber salad etc.   


My Meal Plan and a Blank for You

If you are interested in seeing a few of my meal plans and shopping lists you can find them here, and use them or print out a blank one (or 10) for your meal plan.

How a Meal Plan Changed My Life | Guest Post by Michele Cook {Free Printable Meal Plan & Shopping List} I know it sounds crazy that a weekly meal plan could change my life, but it's true & the results have been amazing. |


One final note:  We purchase beef by the half cow once a year.  I pay just under $5 per pound after processing for around 300 pounds of meat.  (How much meat I get depends on the size of the cow)  $5 per pound may seem like a lot for hamburger, but it is pretty cheap for steaks and roasts, and I get to say how I want it cut!   If you have the freezer space and are interested in doing this check with your local Ag co-op to find beef suppliers near you.   

How a Meal Plan Changed My Life | Guest Post by Michele Cook {Free Printable Meal Plan & Shopping List} I know it sounds crazy that a weekly meal plan could change my life, but it's true & the results have been amazing. |


Michele Cook is the author behind Michele’s Finding Happiness, a website dedicated to helping people find their path to happiness in their life.  She is a mom, a wife, a railroad signalman and a freelance writer.  Check out her site to find ways you can add a little more happiness to your life.



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13 thoughts on “How a Meal Plan Changed My Life”

    1. Hi Emma Francis — what a pretty name! Michele did a great job on this post, didn’t she? I’m so glad you found it helpful and thank you for visiting! 🙂

  1. What an interesting post! If everyone could lose weight by planning their meals better, there would be a whole lot of folks planning meals! 🙂

    1. I was just as shocked as you when I stood on the scale, but when I really started thinking about it, it was easy to see where all of those calories went!

  2. So awesome that meal planning worked for you. Congrats on eating healthier and losing weight. Thanks for being a part of Let’s Get Real link up.

    1. Hi Jessica! Oh, those difficult challenges can be even more fun! Clean eating would be my favorite, haven’t done that one in a long time. Hmmm… you’re giving me some thoughts for September.

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