I've written in the past that I meal plan to make it easier on myself during training cycles so I figured I should write-up how I meal plan. This is what is currently working for me based on my marathon training schedule and is flexible enough to change based on how the upcoming weeks look.
Once a Month: Plan Out Upcoming Meals
We do one big grocery shopping trip every four or five weeks (depending on if we spend time away and aren't cooking as much) to buy non-perishables for the upcoming weeks plus everything we'd need for the next week's meals. To prepare for this, I plan out upcoming meals on Google Calendar so I don't have to worry each week about what we are making. Plus, it's easy to move meals around when something else comes up and I can see at a glance what's coming up.
I keep all my recipes in Evernote to make it easy to search through and plan out what meals we'll have for the upcoming weeks. It's also easy to add in new recipes using the Web Clipper extension and share out recipes with Mike when he's the one cooking. I use the Notebook feature to divide recipes by type and then when I pick out what we'll be cooking I tag it with the date of when I do a big grocery shopping trip. Easy to find what I'll be cooking either to make a grocery shopping list or cook the meal! If you aren't already using Evernote and want to try it out, I have a referral link that will get you a free trial of the Premium version.
I pick out all the meals that look interesting (and that we haven't had in a while which is another place tagging recipes with a date comes in useful) first and then I plan when we are going to have them. Right now, we are cooking dinner on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays based on our work schedules and my training schedule.
I put the dishes that take longer to prepare or cook on the weekend, when Mike and I have more to devote to these meals. Tuesdays are Mike's day to work late so I plan on having something either in the pressure or slow cooker this day so I don't need to be as hands on since I'm running and taking care of Vinnie. Thursdays I still have a run but Mike is home so he'll usually start dinner while I'm doing my mobility and it's usually something easier that doesn't need to cook for more than 30 minutes.
Once a Month: Big Grocery Shopping Trip
Once we have a meal plan ready, I go back through the recipes to create a shopping list for a big shopping trip. This one I divide out items by area in the store to make it easier to grab things (especially since we visit two stores to get the best deals while shopping).
What goes onto this list is everything for upcoming weeks that can be frozen or is canned/in a jar plus all the ingredients for the upcoming week's meals. We have staples that we get on almost every shopping trip (eggs, milk, yogurt, fruit/vegetable on sale) that round out our other meals for the week.
I eat breakfast at home every morning while Mike usually gets something at work and makes breakfast at home on the weekends. We eat leftovers or make simple wraps/sandwiches for lunches and dinners (if it's not a day we're cooking).
Weekly: Smaller Grocery Shopping Trip
Since we do one big grocery shopping trip, our weekly trips tend to be quicker and just replenishing our staples plus the perishable foods for the upcoming week. Depending on what is coming up for the week we can sometimes just go to Aldi to get everything but usually we go to Aldi and either Cub or Target (depending on whether we need paper/laundry products). Right now, I'm doing grocery shopping on Saturdays (after my run) and usually make it to Aldi right when they open so I can get in and out quickly.
Do you meal plan?