How I Plan Meals & School Lunches!

We’re coming up on the one-year publication anniversary (Dec 29th) of my spiral-bound Meal Planner! That means I’ve been using this workbook to keep all our meals super organized for a full 12 months … and it’s also time to start a new one! It was quite a moment when I realized I had just finished the “Week 52” templates and was now holding an entirely complete journal of all our dinners and groceries from the past year. It gave me such an unexpected (and nice) feeling of accomplishment! :)

Flipping through the 100 Days of Real Food Meal Planner workbook that is filled out for the entire year.

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I’ve loved using the Meal Planner so much, I think it’d be a GREAT gift for anyone in your life who’d like to get organized and/or eat better in the New Year … including you! Try these Easy Lunch Ideas too!

Where to Buy

 Amazon on 100 Days of Real Food  Indie Bound Books on 100 Days of Real Food  Barnes and Noble on 100 Days of Real Food  Target on 100 Days of Real Food
Books a million on 100 Days of Real FoodPark Road Books on 100 Days of Real Food
Amazon | Indie Bound | Barnes & Noble | Target | Books-a-Million | Park Road Books

There have actually been quite a few unexpected benefits of using my Meal Planner, but first … let’s review the 6 steps that make up my tried-and-true meal planning system (that took me years to perfect)!

My Life-Saving Meal Planning Process

  1. Write down ingredients as you run out of them (on the Jot Down Shopping List).
  2. Record dinner ideas as you think of them (under Dinner Recipe Ideas).
  3. Plan out your meals for the week (in the Dinner Plan Sketch area) and write them up for all to see (on the laminated Dinner Menu template).
  4. Ask the kids what they want for school lunches (by having them fill out the laminated School Lunch Packing Chart) and write down a couple items to make (in the Recipes to Make section).
  5. Figure out what groceries you’ll need (on the categorized Supermarket Template).
  6. Head to the store or place an online order and get ready to tackle your upcoming week!
Meal Planner, dinner menu, and school lunch packing chart on counter with list of instructions on how to use each.

As you can see, I literally designed each part of my Meal Planner workbook to walk you through this process step-by-step! Oh, and I have definitely been using the included 20 one-dish recipes throughout the last year as well (most recently the Simple Broccoli and Sausage Pasta, just the other night!). See below for a full list of what’s included!

Unexpected Benefits of Using the Meal Planner Workbook

All the templates in the planner are perforated so you can tear them out, but after getting my early copy last fall, I decided to instead try keeping all my pages in the book both for use at home and while shopping. Someone actually stopped me in the store just last week and asked me where I got the book that was keeping me so organized. I had to blush a little when I explained I was actually the author! :)

Meal Planner sitting in grocery cart at the store.

Why I Like Leaving the Completed Templates in the Workbook

  • When I finish writing out my grocery list I can calm that nagging feeling of, “What am I forgetting?” by looking back at what I bought last week or the week before!
  • When I’m at the store and they’re out of something (which seems to be happening more and more these days!) I can just flip to the next week’s templates and add that item to the list for when I’m back at the store next time.
  • When I’m feeling drained and have no more ideas for “What’s for dinner?,” I can just flip back to what we ate weeks or months ago for inspiration. It’s amazing the yummy meals (and sides) we forget!
  • Similar to the “On this Day” memories feature in Facebook, sometimes when I’m looking back I come across a holiday week, an especially busy week, or a time when guests were in town … and it’s a nice reminder of days forgotten and how we’ve managed to keep up with good-for-you meals all along!
  • The Meal Planner itself fits so nicely in the shopping cart with the spiral acting as the perfect spot for holding a pen so you can mark things off against the hardback cover as you go.
  • I did not predict the sense of accomplishment I’d feel after completing my first year of Meal Planning templates. I’ve got it displayed in my kitchen with my favorite cookbooks (and new Meal Planner for 2022) like a badge of honor!

One-Dish Dinner Recipes in the Meal Planner Workbook

As I mentioned, in addition to the weekly templates, I’ve been using the 20 one-dish dinner recipes that are included in the Meal Planner A LOT. We had an exceptionally busy fall with loads of evening sports and other commitments, so easy cooking and cleaning was a big theme around here.

Collage of 20 different dinners that are in 100 Days of Real Food Meal Planner

Recipes Included

  1. Simple Broccoli and Sausage Pasta
  2. Chicken Enchilada Stuffed Peppers
  3. Asian Balsamic Sheet Pan Chicken and Veggies
  4. Easy Flank Steak Taco Bowls
  5. Slow Cooker Brisket Tacos
  6. Easy Sheet Pan Sausage and Peppers
  7. Chicken and Wild Mushroom Skillet
  8. Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps
  9. Kale and Tomato Alfredo
  10. Greek Chicken Lemonato
  11. Roasted Chickpea and Veggie Couscous Bowls
  12. White Chicken Pasta Bake with Peas
  13. Creamy Coconut Fish
  14. Chicken Curry Skillet
  15. Huevos Rancheros Casserole
  16. Roasted Veggie “Tostadas”
  17. Pesto Salmon Sheet Pan Dinner
  18. Easy Tamale Pie
  19. Sheet Pan Chicken and Veggies Fajitias
  20. Kale and Ricotta Quesadillas

Where to Buy

 Amazon on 100 Days of Real Food  Indie Bound Books on 100 Days of Real Food  Barnes and Noble on 100 Days of Real Food  Target on 100 Days of Real Food
Books a million on 100 Days of Real FoodPark Road Books on 100 Days of Real Food
Amazon | Indie Bound | Barnes & Noble | Target | Books-a-Million | Park Road Books

If you’ve tried the Meal Planner yourself in the past year, I’d love to hear how it’s been going for you in the comments!

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4 thoughts on “How I Plan Meals & School Lunches!”

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  1. Would this planner work for empty nesters? Not kids at home, but was thinking the lunch section would work for me packing my lunch for work?

    1. Yes! It works for everyone. The meals could always be saved for leftovers, too. It’s a great way to stay organized for everyone :) – Nicole

  2. I really enjoyed using the meal planner this year. Is there any way to get additional weekly templates? I’ve got only 4 weeks left in the planner!

    1. So glad to hear you’re enjoying it. At this time we don’t offer any refill, but we’ll pass this request along! – Nicole