meal planning.

by Janetha on August 29, 2010

in meals

thanks for all the nice things you all said about my kitchen! <3

i have a stye on my left eyelid. to put it bluntly: it blows. my eye is throbbing and my whole head hurts.

there is no real reason i just told you all that. maybe just for sympathy ;) i kid. but the stye definitely explains my complete worthlessness this weekend.

aside from eating, giving the dogs a bath and going to the grocery store.. i haven’t done a thing.  well, except lay on the couch with a hot rag on my eye. i’m worthless!

worthless people still have to eat. last night, marshall & i went to our FAVORITE greek restaurant.


we opted to sit outside because the days of dining al fresco are numbered.  even last night there was a nip in the air.


we started off with an appetizer of hummus & pita.  now, i have never been to greece, but this hummus is what i imagine authentic hummus to taste like.


the creamy texture and distinct flavor blow all other hummuses (hummi?) out of the water. i wish i knew how aristo’s made their hummus.


the pita bread is equally as incredible.  it comes out warm.  the texture is crisp around the edges and chewy throughout the middle. hands down, my favorite pita on the planet.


it got too dark by the time our entrees came, so the photo below is pretty horrible.  i ordered the greek salad with one chicken souvlaki.


fortunately, for me, it came with MORE chewy, delicious pita. i was generous and gave a piece of it to marshall.



the meal ended with coffee and conversation.


someone needs a haircut. pronto. luckily i have one scheduled this week!

because i was feeling so bad today, i didn’t photograph a single meal.  i had cereal for breakfast.  babybel cheese and sea salt & pepper cashews for a snack. wasa crackers with cheddar and whole wheat toast with almond butter and raspberry jam for lunch. not sure what dinner will be.. but i have a LOT to choose from!

menu planning & budget!

since getting married and moving into the same house as marshall, i haven’t gotten totally used to buying groceries and cooking for two.. but i am getting a pretty good hang of it!

despite my eye, i managed to get to the grocery store and purchase all the groceries for the week.  a week’s worth of breakfasts, lunches and dinners. and snacks. and desserts.

i spent $106.89.

some people may think this is a lot of money for a week of food for two people.  personally, i think it’s amazing.

let’s break it down.

first, i need to subtract a few of the items that are “staple” items and are things i buy only when we are out, therefore i do not include them in the week’s meal plan budget (they are in the “staple budget” that i will elaborate on):

  • shampoo & conditioner: (-$15.50)
  • coffee creamer (-$1.75)
  • whole grain deli mustard (-$2.75)

which brings the total to $86.89.  for seven days of meals. for two people. we eat two meals out during a typical week, so not counting those, that is 40 meals. that is an average of $2.18 per meal.

when you put it that way.. i think i did pretty well with my meal planning and budgeting! plus, the food we eat is a whole lot better than what the dollar menu has to offer.

granted, some items that are used for the meals are already in my pantry, but i definitely had to purchase several groceries for this week’s plan.

it is important to build up a stockpile of staple items.  buy them when they are on sale or purchase them from costco.  it will make your grocery budget go so much farther each week because you won’t be purchasing items like almond milk, nut butter, bread, cheese, frozen veggies, etc on a weekly basis.  costco and the freezer are two of my best friends :)

it should be said that we have a grocery delivery service that delivers milk, eggs, juice & greek yogurt each week for $10.  that is $40 a month for these items.

we spend around $150 a month on staple items.  sometimes less, sometimes more.  then, each week, i make a plan of what i want to make for dinner and also list any additional items needed for breakfasts and lunches.

with the delivery service and the costco items, that is roughly $200 each month for staple items.  if you divide it out, that is $50 a week or an average of $1.25 per meal (using that 40 meal equation i mentioned earlier).

add that $1.25 to this week’s average meal price of $2.18 and that is $3.43 per meal. with snacks and desserts FREE. i will talk more about why they are free later.

i decided to share this week’s plan with you guys so you can see how i break it down.

here is what is on the menu!


marshall and i eat different breakfasts.  i always drink a protein shake or make a yogurt mess.  he always eats a bowl of cereal and a yogurt.

items i purchased for breakfasts this week:

  • 9 bananas ($1.36)
  • 5 containers yogurt ($3.00)
  • 1 large box cereal ($2.69)

everything else needed for this week’s breakfasts we already had (staple items): protein powder, almond milk, cow’s milk, chia seeds, granola, nut butter.

for 14 breakfasts this week, not counting staple items, i spent 51 cents per meal.


marshall packs his lunch: sandwiches, chips, babybel cheese, etc.

i either make my lunch at work or eat leftovers from the night before.  i have a full kitchen at work, it’s so convenient.

items i purchased for lunches this week:

  • 4 sweet potatoes ($1.29)
  • 3 (16 oz) containers cottage cheese ($3.00)
  • 3 heads organic romaine lettuce ($2.25)
  • 2 lb mushrooms ($2.00)
  • 1 lb low sodium turkey breast ($6.00)
  • whole wheat english muffins ($3.69)
  • sourdough english muffins (free, they were BOGO free)
  • fat free cream cheese ($1.00)

everything else needed for this week’s lunches we already had (staple items): bread, cheese, condiments, tomatoes (free from my sister’s garden!), potato chips, wasa crackers.

for 14 lunches this week, not counting staple items, i spent $1.38 per meal.


this is the one meal marshall and i eat that is the same!  the prices for these meals is a LOT higher than what i spend on breakfasts and lunches, but you need to remember that i eat leftovers for lunch almost every day.  marshall also eats leftovers as a snack almost every day.  i make more than one serving of each meal because we love leftovers.

monday: hawaiian haystacks & steamed vegetables

items i purchased for this meal:

  • organic chicken breasts ($3.99)
  • brown rice ($1.49)
  • chow mein noodles ($1.29)
  • water chestnuts ($0.69)
  • cream of chicken soup ($3.00)
  • green onion ($0.59)
  • bell peppers ($1.79)
  • crushed pineapple ($0.79)
  • slivered almonds ($2.44)

items i already had for this meal: chicken broth, celery, shredded cheese, frozen veggies.

price paid for this meal: $16.07. servings we will get out of it=4. price per serving=$4.02.

tuesday: taco tuesday!

items i purchased for this meal:

  • ground beef ($4.75)
  • diced green chiles ($1.09)
  • taco seasoning ($0.89)
  • taco shells ($1.50)
  • sour cream ($1.00)
  • 2 avocados ($1.58)
  • black beans ($0.99)

items i already had for this meal (or listed in the purchased ingredients above): lettuce, bell pepper, shredded cheese, tomatoes

price paid for this meal: $11.80. servings we will get out of it=4. price per serving=$2.95.

wednesday: almond crusted chicken with apple cranberry chutney, mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli

items i purchased for this meal:

  • organic chicken breasts ($3.99)
  • almonds ($2.44)
  • yukon gold potatoes ($1.87)
  • broccoli florets ($1.73)

items i already had for this meal: chutney (from trader joe’s—i got it while on vacation)

price paid for this meal: $10.03. servings we will get out of it=2. price per serving=$5.01.

thursday: basil parmesan pasta with tofu (based off mama pea’s recipe)

items purchased for this meal:

  • tofu ($2.29)
  • whole wheat spaghetti ($1.25)
  • sabra hummus (im lazy this week!) ($3.79)
  • parmesan cheese ($2.24)
  • lemons ($1.18)

items i already had for this meal: basil (from farmers market), reduced sodium soy sauce, bread/butter/garlic seasoning for garlic bread.

price paid for this meal: $10.75. servings we will get out of it=4. price per serving=$2.69.

friday: leftovers or eat out

saturday: leftovers or eat out

sunday: leftovers!

as you can see, i plan for two meals eating out on the weekend, but we would easily have enough leftovers in the house to NOT go out.. it is just something fun we like to do :)

snacks & desserts:

snacks are free! yep, that’s right.  i didn’t purchase any “snack” items. or any treats!  snacks and desserts will come solely from leftovers, breakfast items, lunch items, or staple items.  the 3 gallon tub of ice cream left over from the wedding is nice, too. when you consider the amount of snacking marshall and i do (quite a bit!) and factor in the fact that we have eaten dessert every night.. it is pretty cool that i spent zero extra dollars on snacks and desserts.

other items i purchased that were NOT on the list.. aka “impulse buys”:

  • green teas that were on sale ($3.00)
  • new flavor of trident ($1.29)
  • marinara sauce ($0.99)<—i decided i may want to snack on english muffin pizzas
  • extra tofu ($2.29)
  • extra lemons ($1.77)
  • asparagus ($2.99)

i try to stick to my list, but sometimes things just end up in the cart!

okay, i know this was long and boring.. but i know as a fact that at least ONE person found this useful and/or interesting.  how do i know? because i LOVE stuff like this and i know i am not the only one ;)

i am going to go put a hot rag on my eye. exciting, i know.


1. do you meal plan or do you wing it? do you have a budget you stick to? when i was on my own, i used to just buy whatever i wanted, whenever i wanted. since getting married (and buying a house!) i have realized i need to stick to a plan and a budget. i love this sort of thing, so it is fine by me.

2. how many people do you prepare meals for? i guess i can’t count penny and randy here, so my answer is two: marshall & myself.

bonus Q: leave any meal planning / budget tips in the comments below!

xo. janetha g.

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Allie August 30, 2010 at 8:40 pm

This is an amazing system you’ve got going – I love it. I’m particularly fond of the cost per serving thing – I always have to talk myself into spending a lot on bigger things (meat/costco-sized products) but when you calculate it out that way – it makes it seem totally practical.

Also, stye’s suck bigtime – I hope yours goes away soon!

Amy bee September 4, 2010 at 5:44 am

Bit late on the blog comment loop (busy week) but I had to say you’re so right! I don’t like posts like this I LOVE them! I think I will take a leaf outta your book and give this budget plan a try. Any pointers on where to start?

Carla September 5, 2010 at 5:57 am

Wow, what a great post. So detailed. Like you, since getting married, buying a home and having a baby, I’ve started to meal plan more seriously and I love it! Living in Bermuda where everything is so expensive it would be a dream to spend only $100 a week on food for my family. Our budget is $175 a week and that’s for the basics! I find having a stocked pantry and being creative with it really helps.

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