guest post—> tina h.

by Janetha on February 2, 2011

in meals

hey guys! HAPPY GROUNDHOG DAY! do you miss me? hope so ;)

welcome tina, from carrots’n’cake! i asked tina if she could talk about how she manages to meal plan for two (tina lives with her husband and her cute dog, murphy).  i think she came up with an awesome game plan!



Meal Planning for Two

I’m all about saving money at the grocery store, but much of it happens before I even leave my house. On Sunday afternoons, I take the time to meal plan for the week. Meal planning saves me time during the busy work week and, of course, it saves me money. Here’s how I plan my meals for my husband and I even before I set foot in the store.

Step 1: Put It On the list!


As soon as I run out of something, I immediately add it to The List, which hangs on the side of the refrigerator. So, when I use the last of the peanut butter on Monday morning, I don’t forget about it by Sunday afternoon. This system works like a charm!

Step 2: Assess Your Kitchen


The first thing I do in my meal planning process is see what I already have in my cabinets, freezer, and refrigerator. I even take the time to move things around and really see what I have on hand. Most of the time, I am surprised by what I find– a jar of marinated artichoke hearts, a can of pinto beans, a half-used bag of coffee… you get the idea.  So, instead of buying these items again or letting them go to waste, I incorporate them into the coming week’s menu.

Step 3: Consult Recipes for Meal Ideas


I love trying new recipes, so I am constantly ripping pages out of magazines and bookmarking recipes online. I actually keep torn out magazine pages on the refrigerator right next to The List as a little reminder to test out some new meals. I also keep a separate folder in my Gmail account for recipes. I check it at least one a week for ideas.

Step 4: Incorporate On-Hand Ingredients Into Meals


A jar of marinated artichoke hearts, for instance, is a perfect addition to a pasta dish or topping for a homemade pizza. Basically, I build my meals around what is already in my kitchen instead of buying more ingredients. This also helps me get creative with my meals!

Step 5: Check Out the Coupon Situation


I basically collect coupons as a hobby! I get a lot of questions on Carrots ‘N’ Cake about coupons, so here how I get a hold of them:

  • I cut coupons from the Sunday paper, magazines, and other print publications
  • I look for coupons online to print
  • I sign-up online for my favorite companies’ newsletters, which often include coupons
  • I save coupons from boxes, bags, lids of products that I buy
  • As a food blogger, companies send them to me
  • My mom gives me coupons
  • My sister and I trade coupons
  • I check out store flyers (like Whole Food’s Whole Deal) before shopping
  • I save the store coupons that I receive with my receipt at check-out

Step 6: Schedules meals around your schedule

Before I visit the grocery store, I look at my calendar as well as my husband’s for the upcoming week and create a menu around when we will be home for dinner. We typically plan a meal for each night at home and take into account meals with lots of leftovers, like chili or homemade pizza. I then schedule one or two nights, typically Fridays and Saturdays, as ‘wing it’ nights because we usually end up going out to dinner or meeting friends for appetizers and drinks.

Step 7: Cut recipes in half

Many recipes serve between 4-8 people, which is typically too much food for my husband and me to eat. (Hey, we love leftovers, but after two or three days of eating the same thing, we get bored!) So, instead of wasting food, I cut the recipes in half and only buy half as much as I need to make a recipe. For example, I recently made Coffee-Braised Brisket with potatoes and carrots (, but instead of buying 2.5 pounds of beef brisket like the recipe called for, I only bought 1.25 pounds. It was more than enough for my husband and me, and none of the leftovers went to waste because we were sick of eating them!


thanks so much for the information and ideas, tina! i know i will incorporate these tips into my own meal planning for marshall and i.


how many people do you meal plan for? how do you manage this?

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maria @ Chasing the Now February 2, 2011 at 5:18 am

I plan for my husband and I. We sit down every weekend and think about what we both want for dinners in the upcoming week or if there’s something one of us DOES NOT want. It helps avoid any confusion. We have a calendar on our fridge and I write the dinners in and make lists from that to shop. Helps avoid buying too much or missing things necessary for meals.

Also, my husband is picky, so getting his input ensures he will like or at least be willing to try everything.

Erika February 2, 2011 at 5:39 am

Great post Tina! In my family of 4 I’m not the main cook – my Mom is. But once or twice a week when I cook dinner I’ll usually have it easy considering most recipes have 4-6 servings. :]

Heather February 2, 2011 at 6:09 am

i have loved the meal planning/budgeting series on CNC lately…this is great too though! meal planning for two can be hard when a lot of recipes make 4 servings, but these tips are sure-fire :)

Katy (The Singing Runner) February 2, 2011 at 6:15 am

I live by myself, so I usually make enough dinner for two- one for that night and some for leftovers the next day. It works well for me because it makes lunch easy and I am utilizing food and not letting it go to waste. :D

Blog is the New Black February 2, 2011 at 6:24 am

Great post! I usually make enough to have leftovers to save time/money!

Sarah (Running To Slow Things Down) February 2, 2011 at 6:44 am

Great post! I love reading Tina’s blog. :D

In my family, we cook for three with (hopefully) leftovers in mind. It’s all planned out for a week, but we occasionally have to stop at the store for milk and/or fruits.

I plan on using some of these tips though…thanks for sharing! :D

Ashley @ 365 things February 2, 2011 at 7:02 am

I plan for me, my husband and son.

Like you, I check fliers for specials and collect coupons…lots and lots of coupons. When something is on sale, say red bellpeppers are 2 for a $1 (which is a crazy steal!), I’ll snag those and make stuffed bellpeppers instead the other beef dish I was going to make that would have required me to buy MORE food.

I also keep frozen food for the nights I don’t want to eat out, but don’t feel look cooking much either. I get things like frozen panko crusted tilapia (from costco) and just prepare the sides while the fish are in the oven. Easy! So between making full meals w/leftovers, only making sides for already prepared food, AND going out to eat, we eat a good variety of food.

mrmrscoop February 2, 2011 at 7:09 am

I just posted about this yesterday on our blog! Seems like great minds (and tight wallets) think alike!

withasideofhope February 2, 2011 at 7:19 am

I love this post! I meal plan for my boyfriend and I. I sometimes will make a little bit more of a recipe so that we have leftovers and we are saving money and not wasting food in the process. :) I am the coupon queen! I love matching coupons to store sales. You really save so much money doing that.

enjoyingthechaos February 2, 2011 at 7:27 am

I am loving all of your guest posts..hope you are having an amazing time! I have to plan for 4-6 people depending on if the kids schedules…I like to make a big dinner on Saturday or Sunday so that we have leftover on Monday. For some reason I have a hard time with leftovers..they give me the heeby jeebies…

Kathie February 2, 2011 at 8:18 am

I am a big menu planner. I plan my meals every’s a great cost-effective strategy and stress saver!

Sarah February 2, 2011 at 8:20 am

i only cook for myself, but i usually just make the whole recipe and then eat leftovers for the rest of the week. i try to change up my leftovers (into a salad, a wrap, with a different grain, etc.) so i don’t eat the EXACT same thing every day. it works though, and this way i cook a couple things a week, but i don’t have to cook big meals every single day.

Nicole C February 2, 2011 at 8:49 am

I meal plan for 2 people..and 2 dogs. Sneaky little pups..well when one can see whats on the counter is guess it’s not so sneaky. Carrying on, I don’t manage this well. It’s actually a work in progress. In fact, I was marinating carne asada last night and instead of buying enough for 2 I marinated the whole damn thing. Why you ask? Ben is a big boy. He is on the road a lot and if I can get him to take a lunch (please cross your fingers for that) then I would like to have food available.

Your coupon cutting reminds me of a show about extreme couponers, CRAZY how much they save..and stock up on for no real good reason.

purplebirdblog February 2, 2011 at 8:59 am

I really only plan for myself. My schedule and Alex’s schedule differ so much, and he isn’t always down to eat what I’m making, so we often times do our own thing.

C. February 2, 2011 at 10:11 am

cutting the recipe is a simple but GENIUS idea. I need to remember to do that. I always make a TON of food.

Amy Seifert February 2, 2011 at 10:16 am

My two FAVORITE Bloggers!!! I was so happy to see this blog collaboration today :)

Rachel February 2, 2011 at 11:12 am

Great tips! I wish that I was a better coupon user. I am a coupon cutter, but some how I seem to forget them when I am at the grocery store.

Thanks for the great guest bloggers this week. I find that I am adding your bloggers to my favorites.

Thanks again.

melissadishes February 2, 2011 at 11:30 am

I couldn’t have written it better myself! I follow many of the same ideas that you use. It’s just me and Dan, so I often cut recipes down.

We always keep a running list on the fridge and add things when we run low. Then I just add the groceries for whatever we’re having the next week onto that. I try to get stuff onto the running list before we run out. But sometimes Dan uses stuff I don’t realize and it runs out, but we both add things onto the list at that point.

fittingbackin February 2, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Great post! I”ve JUST started incorporating my coupons in my meal planning! I cook once a week, on Sundays, for two peeps. I make meal plans based on our schedule and typically only make 11 recipes (breakfast, lunch and dinner) of 4-6 servings!

racheyroo83 February 2, 2011 at 12:23 pm

really good ideas!! I shall begin that list right now, with canned tomatoes that we used the last of this evening!

rachel February 2, 2011 at 12:24 pm

great post! I’ll be checking out your blog regularly!

Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) February 2, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Tina, great guest post! I saw some of these tips on your site the other day and love the reminder :)

For meal planning for 3 (including a child and dual working parents with crazy work schedules) I make PLANNED leftovers and batch cook. Not a huge production, but just if I turn on the oven or stove, i make sure whatever i make feeds us not only once but 2 or 3 times. It saves sooo much time and energy (and money too) when you just cook extras the first time around rather than starting from scratch the next meal.

Great guestie/tag team post, ladies :)

Salah February 2, 2011 at 1:08 pm

I plan for me and my roommate but she usually ends up cooking the meals because she gets home before I do

Allison February 2, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Thanks for the tip! I also have the grocery list on the fridge and am always adding to it! It works like a charm!

Caree@Fit-Mama February 2, 2011 at 2:59 pm

I meal plan for 4 but two of them are 1 and 3 years old and barely make a dent…

Christine (The Raw Project) February 2, 2011 at 5:06 pm

I live with my husband, but some meals we plan together and some not since I’m vegan and he’s not. Great post, thanks!

momma b February 2, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Thanks Tina for some great ideas! It’s just me and papa randall here at home now and I am STILL cooking for 8-10 (and we only had 6 total people in our family when the kids were small!) I sometimes take the left overs to my kids :)

It’s hard for me to cut back and realize that half of the recipe really will be enough! You’ve given me the push to try, try again!


Emilyeatsclean February 2, 2011 at 6:06 pm

If only I could get my hubby to remember to write down things on our list on the side of the fridge when he uses the last of something. Any ideas?? :)

Christina February 2, 2011 at 7:14 pm

I love reading how people menu plan- I’ve only been menu planning for about six months and it’s great! I cook for 2 people- my husband and I. He’s not really a picky eater so I plan the menu for the week and he goes with the flow. I try to use what I already have on hand and pick one or two new recipes to get ingredients for. So far it’s working but I’m still trying really hard to keep us on a budget!

Sara February 5, 2011 at 11:19 am

Hah, this is actually EXACTLY what I do also. Great post!! :)

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