How I Eat, Sarah: "Aim to Follow 80% of your Plan 80% of the Time" #mealplanning
How I Eat

How I Eat: “Aim to Follow 80% of your Plan 80% of the Time”

Welcome to How I Eat: Meal Planning for Normal People. (If you missed it, click over to read more about this series on The Pajama Chef.) This series is meant to inspire readers (and myself!) with tips and tricks for meal planning and getting dinner on the table. Whether you’re cooking for one or a crowd, I firmly believe that good food shouldn’t be sacrificed just because life is busy.

How I Eat, Sarah: "Aim to Follow 80% of your Plan 80% of the Time" #mealplanning

Today’s feature on How I Eat is Sarah. Sarah lives in the Cincinnati area with her family. Our husbands were college roommates, and though we don’t see each other often, it’s always fun when we do. 🙂 I love chatting about recipes, food blogs, and more with her!

Tell us about yourself. Who are you cooking for? What else influences how you get meals on the table?

I cook for my husband and my two small boys (ages 6 & 22 months). I am a stay at home mom which means I sometimes have time to prep meals ahead of time. But the reality is my youngest is screaming while I type this. We really like slow cooker meals, soups, and casseroles (easy clean up is our main concern). My husband’s family has a history of heart disease and he is trying to lower his cholesterol, so “Heart Healthy” meals are something we also try to make on a regular basis.

How I Eat, Sarah: "Aim to Follow 80% of your Plan 80% of the Time" #mealplanning

What meals do you plan?

  • Lunch
  • Dinner

In a typical week, approximately how many meals per week do you plan to eat at home or prepare to take with you (e.g., to work or school)? No shame… curious minds want to know! For this, I would include any food purchased at the grocery store (e.g., rotisserie chicken, bagged salad mix, etc.) but not takeout.

  • 19-20: I eat out once or twice a week.

What is your basic meal planning method?

It’s really more of a venn diagram of what’s on sale and what my kids are willing to eat. My husband will ultimately eat anything I make. I like to look at our activities for the week as well as the weather. Believe it or not, the weather really helps us with our meal planning. When it’s really cold we really like soups, casseroles, and slow cooker meals. When it’s warmer we enjoy grilling and eat more raw fruits and veggies, as well as things like chicken and tuna salad. As far as activities predicting the menu goes, I have choir rehearsals on Wednesday evenings and my oldest has swim lessons on Tuesday evenings. On Tuesdays we some version of “Taco Tuesday.” It’s fast, easy, inexpensive, and everyone likes it. On Wednesdays I make soup or a slow cooker meal. I can dig in before Hubby gets home and then he can feed the boys after I leave for rehearsal.

What are your favorite weeknight meals?

What are your “no-brainer” meals? Or what meals do you make when there’s “nothing” to eat?

  • Spaghetti and Meatballs
  • Brinner (Breakfast for dinner)
  • Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

Do you use any tools to help you create your meal plan and/or execute it?

  • Home meal delivery service (e.g. Blue Apron or HelloFresh)
  • Freezer or batch cooking

Is there anything you would like to elaborate on from the previous question?

We just started using Blue Apron, so far we really like the food. It really helps on days that my husband doesn’t get home from work till 6:00 pm. I can feed the kids something then after we put them to bed, we can eat an adult meal. I also really enjoy cooking with him and having a meal with just us (date nights are expensive when you have to add a sitter).

What is your best advice for someone who is just starting to meal plan?

Aim to follow 80% of your plan 80% of the time.

How I Eat, Sarah: "Aim to Follow 80% of your Plan 80% of the Time" #mealplanning

Anything else you want to add?

Our priority is our boys and the time we spend in the evenings with them. We really value authenticity over perfection and believe that our “good enough” is sometimes more than enough. We aren’t perfect and don’t try to be. Thank you Sarah, for asking me to be a small part of your new series. Love reading your blog and love that our lives have crossed paths.

How I Eat: Meal Planning for Normal People - a new series on thepajamachef.com inspiring YOU in the weekly routine of meal planning!

Thank you, Sarah! I love your attitude of “good enough” instead of perfection! This is true in so many areas of life, not just the kitchen. 🙂 Great tip to do Blue Apron for a date night… that sounds like so much fun. I need to try those weeknight meals! That honey mustard chicken looks fantastic! Hope our families can get together soon.

Connect with Sarah for more inspiration on Instagram.

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How I Eat

How I Eat: Nutritionally Balanced Meal Planning for Families

Welcome to How I Eat: Meal Planning for Normal People. (If you missed it, click over to read more about this series on The Pajama Chef.) This series is meant to inspire readers (and myself!) with tips and tricks for meal planning and getting dinner on the table. Whether you’re cooking for one or a crowd, I firmly believe that good food shouldn’t be sacrificed just because life is busy.

How I Eat, Emily: Nutritionally Balanced Meal Planning for Families

Today’s feature on How I Eat is Emily from A Nutritionist Eats. I’m so excited she was willing to stop by in the midst of her family’s transition from LA to Minnesota! She has two cute little girls and a healthy, simplified approach to eating–not just for adults, but for kids as well. I wish we lived close by–I think playdates together would be a blast. Read on to learn more about Emily’s simple, old-school approach to meal planning (that totally works! It’s very similar to my method, that I should share with you too.). She’s got great ideas, delicious recipes, and a fun new meal planning service launching soon. I think you’ll love hearing from Emily!

Tell us about yourself. Who are you cooking for? What else influences how you get meals on the table?

I’m a Nutritionist and mom so I plan meals that are nutritionally balanced – and of course, family-friendly!

What meals do you plan?

  • Dinner

In a typical week, approximately how many meals per week do you plan to eat at home or prepare to take with you (e.g., to work or school)? No shame… curious minds want to know! For this, I would include any food purchased at the grocery store (e.g., rotisserie chicken, bagged salad mix, etc.) but not takeout.

  • 16-18: I eat out 3-5 times per week, maybe a few days for lunch or so.

What is your basic meal planning method?

In an ideal world, I check out what we have in the freezer and/or pantry and try to build a meal around that and I always start by figuring out what nights we need dinner – or what nights we’re going out/have something going on. I always have a huge list of recipes I want to try and test, so I’ll usually use weeknight dinners as an opportunity to test recipes that I’m working on. I also mix recipes that are super fast with ones that take a little bit longer – it seems like there are always nights when dinner needs to be on the table in 15 minutes.

What are your favorite weeknight meals?

Panko Crusted Fish – This easy fish takes about 15 minutes and is SO tasty!

How I Eat, Emily: Nutritionally Balanced Meal Planning for Families

Easy Baked Ziti – My easy baked ziti is a super satisfying and comforting meal. And who doesn’t love pasta?

How I Eat, Emily: Nutritionally Balanced Meal Planning for Families

One Pot Mexican Quinoa – I love when meals come together in one pan or pot – less dishes and mess! This one is full of flavor and little ones will have fun topping their bowl!

How I Eat, Emily: Nutritionally Balanced Meal Planning for Families

What are your “no-brainer” meals? Or what meals do you make when there’s “nothing” to eat?

I always (or hopefully!) have sprouted bread, eggs, pasta, and a jar of pesto in the cupboard, so I’ll often make fried egg sandwiches or pasta with pesto. In meals like this, the veggie might be as simple as baby carrots!

Do you use any tools to help you create your meal plan and/or execute it?

  • I use old-school paper and pen!

Is there anything you would like to elaborate on from the previous question?

I like to sketch out meals and grocery list on the same sheet of paper! It’s old-school, but it works for me! I think that’s the important piece too, find a method that works for you!

What is your best advice for someone who is just starting to meal plan?

I would suggest to start simple, you don’t need to strive for perfection! Start by planning three dinners a week and some breakfast and lunches.

Anything else you want to add?

I’m launching a meal plan service soon – let me know if you need any help when it comes to meal planning or want to try it out for free! Read more about this service here… and get the yummy recipe for Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken and two meal ideas for it! (Sarah’s note: I think Emily’s meal planning service sounds AWESOME and fills a great niche… cook once, eat twice – simplified meal plans for busy families.)

How I Eat: Meal Planning for Normal People - a new series on thepajamachef.com inspiring YOU in the weekly routine of meal planning!

Thank you, Emily! I love your approach to simple, balanced, healthy eating. You always inspire me to introduce new foods to my son. Your tips about feeding kids (that appear regularly in your Instagram stories, for my readers who haven’t met you before today) are always so helpful! Your oldest daughter is just a little older than my son so it’s great to see that example and get ideas.

How I Eat, Emily: Nutritionally Balanced Meal Planning for Families

Connect with Emily on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest for more inspiration.

How I Eat

How I Eat: Using Whole Foods-Based Freezer Cooking to Feed Your Family

Welcome to How I Eat: Meal Planning for Normal People. (If you missed it, click over to read more about this series on The Pajama Chef.) This series is meant to inspire readers (and myself!) with tips and tricks for meal planning and getting dinner on the table. Whether you’re cooking for one or a crowd, I firmly believe that good food shouldn’t be sacrificed just because life is busy.

How I Eat, Polly: Using Whole Foods-Based Freezer Cooking to Feed Your Family

Today’s feature on How I Eat is Polly, one of the lovely ladies who runs Thriving Home. She does a little of everything including: photography, baking, repurposing furniture, sewing, deal-hunting, gardening, and bird watching (yes, bird watching). She regularly feeds crowds of hungry college students at her house and keeps her children (6, 4, and 1) busy outdoors. She’s a go-getter who isn’t afraid of a challenge. I think you’re going to love her tips on meal planning using freezer cooking!

Tell us about yourself. Who are you cooking for? What else influences how you get meals on the table?

I cook for a family of 5. Kids are all under 6 years old. My priorities in the recipes I choose are: whole foods, easy, and tasty! Bonus points if they are freezer friendly.

What meals do you plan?

  • Dinner

In a typical week, approximately how many meals per week do you plan to eat at home or prepare to take with you (e.g., to work or school)? No shame… curious minds want to know! For this, I would include any food purchased at the grocery store (e.g., rotisserie chicken, bagged salad mix, etc.) but not takeout.

  • 19-20: I eat out once or twice a week.

What is your basic meal planning method?

On Friday or Saturday, I look at the week ahead to see what nights we are home. I then look in my freezer to see what I have to build around. From there I use my cookbook, From Freezer to Table, and Pinterest to build my menu plan.

How I Eat, Polly: Using Whole Foods-Based Freezer Cooking to Feed Your Family

What are your favorite weeknight meals?

Anything from From Freezer to Table!

What are your “no-brainer” meals? Or what meals do you make when there’s “nothing” to eat?

Pasta with marinara. Grilled cheese. Pancakes. Peanut butter & Jelly. Mac and cheese. Quesadillas.

Do you use any tools to help you create your meal plan and/or execute it?

  • Meal planning whiteboard or chalkboard
  • Freezer or batch cooking

I have made freezer cooking part of my lifestyle. I almost always double a meal each week and freeze it (before cooking).

How I Eat, Polly: Using Whole Foods-Based Freezer Cooking to Feed Your Family

What is your best advice for someone who is just starting to meal plan?

Take small steps. Don’t try to completely overhaul your norm or it won’t last. Simply try to plan a few meals a week at first. Double one meal a week and start reaping the benefits of freezer cooking. You’ll be hooked!

How I Eat: Meal Planning for Normal People - a new series on thepajamachef.com inspiring YOU in the weekly routine of meal planning!

Thank you, Polly! Freezer cooking is such a game changer. I did a bunch before my son was born and it truly has become a habit! I love your tip to double one meal per week… starting small with these things is the way to go! Your cookbook is a great resource.

Connect with Polly and Thriving Home for more inspiration on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram.

How I Eat

How I Eat: Cooking on a Budget for an Easy to Please Husband and Two Picky Toddlers

Welcome to How I Eat: Meal Planning for Normal People. (If you missed it, click over to read more about this series on The Pajama Chef.) This series is meant to inspire readers (and myself!) with tips and tricks for meal planning and getting dinner on the table. Whether you’re cooking for one or a crowd, I firmly believe that good food shouldn’t be sacrificed just because life is busy.

How I Eat, Morgan: Cooking on a Budget for an Easy to Please Husband and Two Picky Toddlers

Today’s feature on How I Eat is Morgan of My Confetti Life. Morgan lives in the Nashville area, and is a fellow contributor to Nashville Moms Blog. She’s also married to a Ben, her college sweetheart, and is mama to three cute kiddos. Through her blog she shares her life, family, food, faith, and more. It’s my pleasure to share her approach to meal planning today!

Tell us about yourself. Who are you cooking for? What else influences how you get meals on the table?

I am cooking for an easy to please husband and two picky toddlers, ages 3 and 5. My husband came from a family where his mom would fix a entrée and two or more sides and a dessert. Our weekly grocery budget does not allow for that, so I pick meals that have low cost ingredients or meals that I know we will have leftovers from. I am a stay at home mom and I love being in the kitchen so I do not mind a little prep work.

What meals do you plan?

  • Dinner
  • Snacks, Desserts, etc.

In a typical week, approximately how many meals per week do you plan to eat at home or prepare to take with you (e.g., to work or school)? No shame… curious minds want to know! For this, I would include any food purchased at the grocery store (e.g., rotisserie chicken, bagged salad mix, etc.) but not takeout.

  • 16-18: I eat out 3-5 times per week, maybe a few days for lunch or so.

What is your basic meal planning method?

I write down the days of the week. I fill in meals that we plan to eat out. I then scroll through my Pinterest for dinner ideas. I usually make 3 classic meals then try something new for the other 2 or 3.

What are your favorite weeknight meals?

What are your “no-brainer” meals? Or what meals do you make when there’s “nothing” to eat?

Grilled cheese! Sometimes with bacon.

Do you use any tools to help you create your meal plan and/or execute it?

  • Paper meal planner of some type

What is your best advice for someone who is just starting to meal plan?

Weekly meal planning is amazing, it takes a little effort to get the hang of it. I base the order of the meals we eat off of the produce and its shelf life.

Anything else you want to add?

Kroger ClickList is an awesome meal planning tool. I plan my meals and order the groceries all at the same time.

How I Eat: Meal Planning for Normal People - a new series on thepajamachef.com inspiring YOU in the weekly routine of meal planning!

Thank you, Morgan! I like your tip about planning menus while thinking of the produce/ingredient shelf life. For that reason I’ve lately been planning meals with frozen veggies for the end of the week, or choosing to have our weekly meal out on Friday night when we’re almost out of groceries. I also agree, ClickList is great! I don’t use it every week but occasionally it is a lifesaver. Great idea to plan and shop simultaneously! Thanks for sharing your strategies with us!!

Connect with Morgan for more inspiration on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube!

How I Eat

How I Eat: Twin Mama with a Passion for Cooking Locally, Seasonally, and Frugally

Welcome to How I Eat: Meal Planning for Normal People. (If you missed it, click over to read more about this series on The Pajama Chef.) This series is meant to inspire readers (and myself!) with tips and tricks for meal planning and getting dinner on the table. Whether you’re cooking for one or a crowd, I firmly believe that good food shouldn’t be sacrificed just because life is busy.

How I Eat, Amy: Twin Mama with a Passion for Cooking Locally, Seasonally, and Frugally

Today’s feature on How I Eat is Amy of Savory Moments. Amy loves food, as many food bloggers do, but her interest was sparked by a trip to Thailand! How cool is that? Currently Amy stays at home with her boy/girl twins, who are just a little younger than my son. It’s been so fun to get baby/toddler cooking ideas from Amy and chat online about kid stuff. Amy has lots of baby/toddler recipes on her blog and even started a Facebook group on this topic that I’ve found really helpful! Before kids, she worked in aquatic ecosystem restoration and science. I’ve been following Amy’s blog for awhile and have always been impressed with her interest in cooking seasonally, locally, and frugally.

Tell us about yourself. Who are you cooking for? What else influences how you get meals on the table?

I cook for my husband who has a crazy work schedule and our twin toddlers (and myself, of course!). I’m currently a SAHM, but with two rambunctious toddlers, kitchen time can be difficult to come by!

What meals do you plan?

  • Dinner

In a typical week, approximately how many meals per week do you plan to eat at home or prepare to take with you (e.g., to work or school)? No shame… curious minds want to know! For this, I would include any food purchased at the grocery store (e.g., rotisserie chicken, bagged salad mix, etc.) but not takeout.

  • 21: I make all my own food and very rarely eat out.

What is your basic meal planning method?

I look through the Aldi ad, scroll through Ibotta (editor’s note: that’s my [Sarah’s] referral code–you’ll get $10 for signing up and I’ll get $5… highly recommend this moneymaking app!) for good rebates, and check out our freezer white board (we buy some meat in bulk – for example a half pig each year from a local farmer, so I need to ensure we use it up), and go from there. I try to incorporate at least one vegetarian dinner per week and then mix up the rest – one chicken, one pasta, one beef, one pork. I’ve written about how and why I make our weekly menu before.

How I Eat, Amy: Twin Mama with a Passion for Cooking Locally, Seasonally, and Frugally

What are your favorite weeknight meals?

Anything that goes in the slow cooker is always a hit for me. I love to make things like salsa chicken (just chicken and salsa with maybe peppers + onions) cooked on low and then use it for tacos, burrito bowls, nachos, quesadillas, etc. I also love soups and chilis. Stir fries and fried rice are also my go-to meals, especially in the summer and fall when produce is abundant. I’ll throw together whatever odds and ends of vegetables we have around and use them up like that. Since I’m a food blogger, I tend to like to try something new each week, but I also fall back on a lot of staples and favorites that aren’t really “food blog” worthy type meals since they aren’t measured, etc. One pot skillet meals are also an easy weeknight choice like this Skillet Chicken and Summer Squash Quinoa or One Pan Stuffed Peppers Skillet (below).

How I Eat, Amy: Twin Mama with a Passion for Cooking Locally, Seasonally, and Frugally

What are your “no-brainer” meals? Or what meals do you make when there’s “nothing” to eat?

I always keep a frozen pizza on hand (no shame!) for those times when you just need one. Also, breakfast for dinner! Pancakes are always a hit with everyone, especially the twins, so they are something I’ll whip up and it makes everyone happy!

Do you use any tools to help you create your meal plan and/or execute it?

  • Meal planning whiteboard or chalkboard
  • Ads/sales

While I don’t “plan” breakfast and lunches, we do have a basic system down for those. Breakfast is generally oatmeal, scrambled eggs, or pancakes, and lunches are either leftovers or some sort of sandwich meal. Occasionally we change those up, but in general those are what we eat for those meals.

What is your best advice for someone who is just starting to meal plan?

Try not to get frustrated and give it some time. It can be hard to get into the habit of making and sticking to meal plans, but once you do it’s such a time and money saver. I hate having to think all day “what’s for dinner??”

How I Eat: Meal Planning for Normal People - a new series on thepajamachef.com inspiring YOU in the weekly routine of meal planning!

Thank you, Amy! I know you didn’t really talk about Aldi much, but I have to say… it’s been such a game-changer in my food budget lately. And the quality has vastly improved from what I remember even just a few years ago. If you have an Aldi around you, check it out! You may be pleasantly surprised. Amy’s advice to plan your meals around the store ads is relevant no matter where you shop. You can save so much money that way. Also, I like your formula-based approach for breakfast and lunch. I kind of do that as well, and it can simplify grocery shopping significantly if you aren’t trying to buy ingredients to make various recipes breakfast or lunch. Instead, you can just check the pantry and fridge to see whether you need more oatmeal, eggs, lunch meat, etc. Easy easy!

Connect with Amy on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest for more inspiration.