We dive into meal planning and approach it from a stress-free and guilt-free place! We share our strategies for weekly meal planning and how to make it FUN (as much fun as it is for Darlene, anyways.)


Listen on your favorite podcast player. 

Show notes for episode 26 – Meal Planning: 


Big Question: Do you meal plan? Do you enjoy it?? 


Meal Planning: Why Even Do It? 


First – a distinction: Meal planning: where you think about/decide what you are going to make during the week. Meal prepping/execution is the actual chopping of vegetables. 

  1. To reduce the stress of what to feed my family – the mental load!!
  2. Reduce food waste – Wasted! food documentary

    • 40% of all food produced in the US is wasted. 
    • 90% of wasted food ends up in landfills 
    • 1 head of lettuce can take up to 25 years to decompose 
    • Put in your yard debris bin if that’s okay with your city OR try to compost. 
  3. To not overbuy and spend too much money at the grocery store.
  4. Buying seasonally and making sure to capitalize on the ingredients that are in season! 
  5. Planning out to make food at home vs. running out to a restaurant and buying dinner
  6. Avoiding making a decision at the end of the day

Make it one less decision you have to make at the end of the day and take away that mental load! 


Darlene’s Meal Planning:


  • Cookbooks: I look through seasonally, magazines and online inspiration – I’ve had to learn to scale back (I don’t need to cook a “new recipe” each night, or it ends up being too much food and wasted, and also too much time. Racheal Ray is a liar!
  • What do I feel like? What sounds good to Joel, what’s in season!? 
  • What’s in the fridge that needs to be used (I’m not as good about shopping my pantry and freezer) 
  • I have a whiteboard in the kitchen and a food notebook for writing down ideas, lists, new recipes. I figure out what to make for the next week, sometimes two weeks and I write on the board what meals are on what nights.
  • I put my “big rocks in first” and it usually starts with the days that Joel is gone, and I do something simpler. I do a “freezer meal” and a “pantry meal” where I shop the pantry and freezer and try to use stuff there – my solution to being bad at this! And I do at least one night is leftovers of some kind or repurposed meals
  • From there I create a shopping list, we also add in whole fruits and veggies and anything else we need. I am always buying lettuce because that’s our go-to veggie side. We have salads with dinner probably 3-4 nights a week. 
  • CSA boxes are also a really interesting way to meal plan, it becomes about using what’s in your box and creativity and trying new ingredients- ag connect 
  • Restaurant meals at home- we get excited about recreating something we had out and have certain dishes that are now go-tos. 
  • I DON’T do well with a prescribed meal plan out of a book or from a website – some like those but I have to create my own plan. Some people love them like Prep Dish or other special diet books that give you a month’s worth of recipes and tell you what to prep, etc. 


Kristi’s Meal Planning: 


Oh man, I am super picking when it comes to planning meals. I could plan out exactly what I am going to eat every single day. But, when it comes down to it… none of those items sounds good. So, I have to take a highly specialized approach to my meal planning.

  • Start: What food do we have in the fridge, freezer, or cabinets that needs to be used.
  • Next: Plan some meals the family would like to have for the week based on the foods we have on hand. Important note: these meals are NOT designated for specific days of the week.
  • Then, I’ll add a few more meals, if needed, based on items on sale at the grocery store.
  • From there, I will create a shopping list
  • But, I don’t need to go into crazy detail because I have made a meal planning sheet you can use!! 


Favorite fall dinners AND favorite meals to rotate through for easy meal planning:

Sheet pan chicken with mustard, potatoes and Brussels or broccoli  

Stuffed delicata squash

Classic roasted chicken 

Soups – Italian sausage kale and clam chowder, recipes in Bend Bulletin soon! 

Lasagna or Mac and cheese 

Roasted squash of any kind 

Roasted vegetables: parsnips and carrots roasted together are really good

Pears are coming into season too!

First day of fall (September 23) I like to make Cider House Chicken. Rachael Ray recipe I actually like but it is not exactly easy. 

Pumpkin bread 

Apple Cake 

Nachos! With Enchilada sauce in the jar from Trader Joe’s




Check out this other episode of Meal Planning for Families we loved! From The Mom Hour podcast. 




Everyday food  magazines – past issues of magazine and past issues of all September months magazines I have

Various notebooks of recipes and recipes from family 

Dinner ideas note In Wunderlist 

Grocery store/csa box/garden 


Fav dinner cookbooks: 

Any seasonally sorted cookbook is my favorite – especially the Everyday Food cookbooks 

Dinner a love story by Jenny Rosenstrach and Dinner the playbook 

Mad Hungry cookbooks books – very accessible food 

Real Simple Magazine sometimes has easy recipes and the parenting mags, parents, family circle, good housekeeping 

Melissa Clark cookbooks 

Shutterbean website has a ton of family meals (garlic bread, lemon chicken) and she shows her meal preps on her blog

Kitchn does a meal planning and prepping email newsletter that is awesome. 


Food for thought: 

Some people hate meal planning but it can be fun!! Get some visual eye candy in the form of cookbooks and chill with a beverage and a notebook and start getting inspired by the food and the possibility of what’s for dinner. Just be prepared because you will need a snack. 


Food inspiration: 

Darlene- Fall soups and one-pot dishes because I’m tired of doing dishes all the time. Martha’s one-pot cookbook. Also getting inspired by the changes in season, and new recipes and books. Garden tomatoes are finally coming in and they are so delicious. Gherkins and quick and fermented pickles. 

Kristi- All the fall things!


What’s for dinner: 

Kristi: Pizza. It’s Friday night. And, we love to go to 10 Barrel for pizza. It’s our family’s way of kicking off the weekend.

Darlene: Sheet pan dinner! Pork tenderloin, potatoes and Brussels sprouts 


Where to find Darlene

Pickle Jar Studios website
Pickle Jar Studios on Instagram
Tough Cookie on Instagram

Where to find Kristi:    

kristi coughlin

Effectual Nutrition website
Effectual Nutrition on Instagram