Here’s how we do the dang thing! This is how we actually DO our meal plan! We talk about what PREP looks like for us and how and when we actually do it. 


Listen on your favorite podcast player. 

Show notes for episode 27 – Meal Planning: 

Big Question: HOW do we meal prep? 

Darlene’s Meal Prep: 

We love to make everything they can from scratch ever since we watched Food Inc and King Corn. (OR The Jungle, like what Kristi was remembering re: the meat industry). Nowadays, I do take some help from the store. BUT we still prefer homemade bread/desserts and baked goods, and we make our own pizza and pizza dough 98% of the time. 

Also, lower sodium and lower blood pressure = better health! Take a look at how much sodium is in Papa Murphy’s pizza

What I actually do vs what I want to do: 

Usually, I meal prep on a Saturday or Sunday and that’s most of the main prep I do. I’ll make a loaf of bread or some hummus, salad dressing, cashew cheese or almond milk if we need any/want any. 

Salad dressing in a mason jar – we use a lot of mason jars in my house – sometimes I make this the first night in that week that we have salad and then we eat it the rest of the week.

Batch making beans in the instant pot – freeze in individual bags in the freezer – kinda prepping because they are there already, but made and pretty much ready to eat. Cheaper than canned. 

A lot of my prep is happening on weeknights and I need to get away from that! Dinner at 8 🙁 

Kristi’s Steps to Meal Execution: 

1. Share

    • Share your meal plan online (optional) – We wanna see!!! Tag #toughcookiepodcast  

2. Create your list 

    • Grocery list – with that trusty plan you created, you will need to figure out what to buy. Much like your master dinner list, you may consider maintaining a master list of recipe or list of ingredients needed for your meals – or at least frequently eaten meals. This will help make the process quicker – in the long run. 
      • Darlene: uses Technology!! Wunderlist.  Kristi uses good ol’ pen and paper. 

3. Procurement of goods 

    • Grocery shopping! Or, online shopping. I have friends that really enjoy Click List Fred Meyer. I haven’t done it yet. But, if you’re crunched for time or trying to limit impulse buys, this could be a great option for you.  

4. Prep

    • Some items can be prepped ahead of time. So, do what you can. For myself, this does not mean cooking a whole week’s worth of meals in one day. Instead, I will chop some veggies when I bring the groceries home. Or, in the morning I will take a few minutes to marinate meat and gather ingredients for dinner that night. 
    • Important note: I RARELY spend time on the weekend prepping ingredients. I want to enjoy a small break on the weekend. My preference is to prep ingredients while I’m already in the kitchen preparing a meal. It’s easiest to do on nights when you cook a sheet pan meal – prep another meal’s ingredients while your meal is cooking. Or, when you are making a crockpot or Instapot meal. This way you aren’t actively making two meals – I did that once and I ruined my cream of broccoli soup I was making from scratch. Side note, if I had my Instapot at that time, it probably wouldn’t have happened!!  Kristi loves this soup in the Instant Pot.

5. True execution time!

    • Uh, make your meal. So, it’s cooking time. Hopefully all the steps you’ve had up to this point help to streamline the process. And, your Rachel Ray 30-minute meal is actually cooked in 30 minutes. 
    • Don’t forget to use your family as your sous chef. 
    • Consider cooking meats with minimal seasoning so you can divide the portion to be used for two different meals.  

6. Enjoy your meal

    • This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for!
    • Don’t forget to save those leftovers to use again. Remember, they can be reimagined. And, eaten for lunch or another dinner. 😉  Pizza night!

7. Copy, cut, paste. Repeat!

    • Because we eat every day. This is not going away…  



Other Tools that help with food prep: 


Food for thought: 

Don’t overthink your meal plan – and execution!!! We are NOT doing this for Pinterest. It is easy to get caught up in all the things. But, all those things can cause you to stop after you plan on meal planning. Consider rolling out your meal plan in phases. This week you plan only dinners. Or, you focus on planning only two meals instead of a whole week.

Which brings me to my most important message for you on this – Focus on your “big little wins.” Shout out to Ashley and Jenna over at Middle Finger to Perfection. They talked about celebrating your big little wins. We tend to underplay our accomplishments – “little wins.” So, let’s change the conversation and celebrate those big little wins! And, simply planning two meals for the week is definitely a big little win. 


Darlene – All the squashes! Try a random squash from the grocery store squash bin.

Kristi – Can I say my cast iron skillet? I know it is not a food, but I am obsessed with this thing lately. And, I love the way food comes out of the cast iron skillet. Especially onions. Have I told you I don’t like onions – but I love caramelized onions from my cast iron skillet. So, I am running out of ideas for my delicious cast iron onions – Please direct your suggests for recipes to @toughcookiepodcast on IG and FB. 😉 

What’s for dinner? 

Kristi- Winging it!!! I love that we are talking about meal plan execution today, and I am planning on not planning. Seriously, I did not intentionally plan this. But, my oldest daughter has a volleyball game tonight. And, I’m driving carpool home afterward. So, we are likely going to pick up some food on our way home. And, since I’ve been obsessed with bean burritos, I’m thinking I’ll want that. However, I do have a (picky) teenager to debate with on this one! 

Darlene- Chicken stew with tomatoes and cornmeal dumplings – Everyday Food Light

Kristi’s Enchilada Casserole: 


1 can diced tomatoes (fire-roasted or regular)

1 small can green chilies 

1 can black or pinto beans, drained

1 cup frozen corn 

1 cup chopped bell peppers (or frozen bell pepper mix from Trader Joe’s!)

About 12 flour or corn Tortillas (either cut into strips, or whole)

Enchilada Sauce (Kristi likes the large can of La Victoria for this)

2 cups Colby jack or cheddar cheese, shredded



Mix up the tomatoes, chilis, beans, corn and bell peppers in a bowl or in a skillet and warm gently. 

Warm the tortillas and Put a little enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 pyrex pan.

On a flat tortilla, sprinkle a little of the cheese and add ½ a cup of filling to a tortilla and roll-up. Place in the pan, seam side down. Fill the rest of the pan. Pour the enchilada sauce on top to cover the enchiladas. Top with the remaining cheese (Darlene likes to add sliced black olives here too). 

Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 30 minutes. 

You can mix up this filling and freeze half of it to make a 9×9 pan that night for dinner, and have enough ready to go for another 9×9 pan later! 

To make this more “casserole” style, cut the tortillas into strips and mix up filling, tortilla strips, some of the cheese, and sauce then pour into a pan. Top with remaining cheese and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. 


Any closing thoughts? 

Don’t forget to share your meal plans with us on Insta #toughcookiepodcast

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