Menu Planning vs. Meal Planning

I'm the type of person who has a really hard time eating the same meal more than twice in a row. I also can’t bring myself to go to a grocery store without a shopping list. For that reason, I’ve been committed to menu planning since college. It’s also one of the best ways Alex and I have been able to save money and time. After a long day of work, it can be tempting to order take-out, but with the right planning on the weekends, we’re able to enjoy a home-cooked meal together and have enough leftover to pack for lunch the next day.

We have a dry-erase board with each day broken into two meals:

  • Monday Lunch
  • Monday Dinner
  • Tuesday Lunch
  • Tuesday Dinner
  • Wednesday Lunch, etc.

From there, we plan which meals we want to eat and what ingredients we’ll need. We usually leave the end of the week a little more open because we anticipate having leftovers or using the extra ingredients for a scrappy meal (i.e. fried rice, soup, stew… something that we can easily toss together).

A few of our menu favorites that require inexpensive ingredients and minimal prep:

  • Mapo tofu
  • Japanese Curry with Chicken (Instant Pot)
  • Healthy Green Soba Salad
  • Kimchi Fried Rice
  • Pulled Pork (Instant Pot)
  • Beef Bone Soup (Instant Pot)

During the weekends, we’ll gather the ingredients from either 99 Ranch or Costco, and wash, prep, or defrost as much as we can to save time throughout the week. However, we don’t cook everything all in one day or pre-pack our meals into Tupperware portions. There’s something about making and eating a fresh-cooked dinner at night that’s really special to me and helps me de-stress. Maybe because that’s something my parents valued and always provided when I was growing up. Or maybe I’m just picky like that.