Reader’s Request: Meal Planning

Hey everyone! Hope you’re having a loverly day 😉

I got the following email last week:

Can you do a post on how your organize your meal plans?  Any shortcuts (chopping takes the longest for me)?  One idea — can you post grocery list of the products you use and where to get them? (such as Ezekiel and maca).  How do you remember all of your recipes?

Figured it’d be a fun way to switch things up on the ol’ bloggy a bit.

So here we go, Meal Planning 101:

Every week, unless it’s a weird one where one of us is out of town, I sit down on Sundays with my favorite cookbooks and pick out our meals for the week.

These are some of the “usuals” even though I have around 100 cookbooks… I’m obsessed 😉


I also look online for recipes, because I don’t like to repeat the same dinners for the pilot and I. There are SO many recipes and ingredients out there- might as well shake it up!

Step 1: Create a dinner plan for each night of the week, using some of the same ingredients as repeats (for example, if you don’t have something on hand but have to use it for a recipe –like a spice, vegetable or meat- try to find two recipes that use the same ingredients. Like if I make the pilot a type of chicken one night, I freeze half the package and use the rest for another chicken meal)


Also, while planning our meals I consider nights when the pilot is flying or I have late training appointments. I create meals on those nights that can either be made in advance or in the slow cooker.

Above is our tentative dinner plan for the week, including Turkey Day aka Shrimpsgiving

Step 2: Create a grocery list from the recipes for each menu, making sure not to repeat items – like if I need two onions, I’ll put 2 in parenthesis and only write onions once. That way, I don’t forget anything.


Also include a “need” category on your list for necessary staples, breakfast and lunch items. As far as bfast goes, I’ll keep the usual staples on hand (bananas, oats, almond milk, spinach, organic eggs, ezekiel) and for lunch, I’ll make sure to purchase lots of organic salad beast materials and whatever veggies look fresh and delicious. I also pick up some seasonal fresh fruit—whatever looks good 😀

Step 3: Shop it up! I usually hit three grocery stores for all of our food—everything I can find at the commiscary I will get there, as it’s the cheapest and tax free, next I’ll stop at Publix (Publizzle) for organic meat and veggies, then to the health food store (on Tuesday) for all of the fun and special goodies (Ezekiel, Mary’s crack, Kombucha, almond butter, dried coconut, etc)


Step 4: Anything you can prep in advance, do it!

This includes chopping veggies (that will hold their shape and last, like bell peppers, cucumber, carrots, etc) and putting them into ziploc baggies or airtight containers, making hummus, sauces, spreads, casseroles, whatever. If it will make your life easier during the week, prep it all on Sunday.


Step 5: Enjoy the fruits of your excellent organization and small amount of labor 😀

To answer the other questions above, I purchase the maca through Earth Shift and as far as remembering recipes, I don’t! I write down unique recipes (or make them up on the spot), or follow ones from a cookbook or online. The only recipes I could make from memory would be any of the dessert recipes from 105degrees, because I made them over and over..and over 😀

I’m off to teach Zumba!
If there’s anything you’d like to see in the “Reader’s Request” segment, shoot me an email: fitnessista at gmail dot com

Happy cooking!


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  1. Carrie on November 23, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    I’m like you, I hit multiple stores. Which is actually king of annoying because I don’t have a license (I’m in my 20s, but I find I don’t need one) so I have my husband chauffeur me around or bus it.

    I like to chop veggies too, sometimes I’ll pre-shred cheese or chop up meat for stir fries. I also prepare for the next night’s dinner or do dishes while that night’s dinner is cooking.

  2. Jessica @ How Sweet It Is on November 23, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    I am going to purchase some maca now!

  3. Jackie on November 23, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    G, thank you so much for this post, it will be super helpful! Can’t wait to see pics from your shrimpsgiving!

  4. deisegirl on November 23, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    Most people I know hate Sundays because of the whole back to work thing but I sneakily look forward to them because I get to all my food prep for the week….I’m so glad I’m not the only one who spends *so* much time getting my stuff together! It’s only in the last couple of months that I’ve gotten ultra disciplined regarding meals for weekdays and it makes my life a lot easier. Like Carrie above, I’ll often do something for the next night’s dinner when I’m waiting for something else to cook. Time is so precious!!

    I have had to reel in my cookbook habit for a’s dangerous! My boyfriend’s mother was looking at the shelf in the kitchen and commented I had a lot of cookbooks but she didn’t see the ones I keep upstairs..oops!

  5. Lauren on November 23, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    This was so helpful-thank you!

  6. Nicci@NiftyEats on November 23, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    Great tips. I do my meal planning on Friday nights for the following week.

  7. rhodeygirl on November 23, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    If you don’t mind I’d like to add something!

    Keep a list of your staple items in your bag or wallet at all times (or desk whatever) so that when you need to make your “need” list you can refer to that. So many times I have forgotten the most basic items like bananas or baby spinach that we buy every week because I didn’t have a staples list. Before I go to the store I just take a quick survey of what’s missing and then refer to my basic list when I’m at the store!

  8. Carrie on November 23, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    Oh! Another thing I do is use Evernote to cut and paste recipes I want to try that I find on blogs. Then when I do my meal planning I look at what I have, what’s in season, what’s on sale and do a word search for those items. Then recipes pop up with those things and I usually use them. If you haven’t tried Evernote, do it. Best way to bookmark ever, please give it a chance. And no I wasn’t paid to say this, I just really love it. 😀

  9. Jaclyn on November 23, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Hey Gina!
    I’ve seen maca powder at Whole Foods..I know you don’t get there too often but its a good choice if you (or other readers) don’t want to buy it in bulk…I actually haven’t tried it yet but I really want to! Does it have a taste/flavor?

    • Fitnessista on November 23, 2009 at 5:02 pm

      it has a malt-like taste and goes great with chocolate– i’m sure the wf’s maca is totally fine 😀

    • Ermi on November 23, 2009 at 9:26 pm

      Thank you Jaclyn :)I will be hitting up “whole-heaven” this weekend for sure!!

  10. Lindsey on November 23, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    Great tips 🙂 I really hope you’re planning to publish a Fitnessista cookbook sometime in the future…

  11. VeggieGirl on November 23, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    Excellent tips, my friend – thank you!

  12. Gena on November 23, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    This is such a useful post, and so full of great tips. Thanks for sharing it!

  13. Kristie Lynn on November 23, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    Such a fun post! I do the same sort of thing on Saturdays with meal planning and making a grocery list of things I need to make the recipes. 🙂

  14. Shelby on November 23, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    I used to do the exact same thing! It made shopping so much easier. Now I’m getting a little lazy with cooking and preparing foods, but this post motivates me to get back in the kitchen!

  15. aSHLEY on November 23, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    Is it just you and the pilot for thanksgiving? if so i’d love a post on how to do thanksgiving just for two, as i’m having trouble figuring out a menu that doesn’t feed 6+ people. Also, any chance of you sharing your green bean casserole recipe before thanksgiving? Thanks!

    • Fitnessista on November 23, 2009 at 9:09 pm

      yes, and of course!

  16. Kristin (Kristin's Nibbles) on November 23, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    I do pretty much the exact same thing for my grocery list! I love being organized =)

  17. Lauren @ eater not a runner on November 23, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    Love this post! prepping really makes cooking SO much easier…

  18. Light Delight with TouTou on November 23, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    I’m thinking about doing it too, otherwise I need to spend so much time thinking about what to cook everyday! it saves time for grocery shopping too:-)

  19. Mama Pea on November 23, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    Really great tips, sister. This is exactly how I do it too, but I organize my list by aisle. Otherwise I end up running back to the produce section 32 times for “one more thing.”

  20. Kasondra on November 23, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    Great post! Thank you for sharing your tips!

  21. Kim M. on November 23, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    Mmmmm. The Veganomicon Snobby Joes are soooo good. Thanks for the great tips!

  22. GirlonRaw on November 23, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    Such a great post. All of them are of course. And you look so adorable in your shopping stance. Thanks for sharing some great tips!!

  23. Tasha - The Clean Eating Mama on November 23, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    Prepping your food ahead of time is a total meal saver! Great post!

  24. alissa on November 23, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    way to be organized!

  25. Paige @ Running Around Normal on November 23, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    Great post. I always hear about people prepping all their food on Sundays. Such a good idea.

  26. Katie on November 23, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    I’d love ot know about the stuffing! I miss it so much, but I refuse to eat non-vegan and most stuffing is NOT vegan. I need to meal plan and prep. I get too afraid to try new things and am definitely in a rut. Thanks for the kickstart I needed!

  27. Jenny on November 23, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    can you just be my own personal life coach? thanks.

    • Fitnessista on November 23, 2009 at 9:08 pm

      fo sho 😀

  28. Julie @savvyeats on November 23, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    Thanks for the post, it is inspiring me to pick up meal planning again!

  29. Jenna on November 23, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    Thank you for this post! It reminds me that I need to plan meals. When I actually thought out in advance what we were going to have during the week it saved SO much money.

    • Fitnessista on November 23, 2009 at 9:07 pm

      seriously! i get so many emails asking me about budgeting and saving money..the thing is, i dont have to think about it that way– the planning does it for me 😀

  30. Alison on November 23, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    I guess I’m not the only one who calls it the commiscary. Ha! It’s cheap, but oh how I hate shopping there.

  31. Haleigh on November 23, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    Thank you for the meal planning tips! I followed a meal plan for my husband and I for awhile. It worked well while I did but I managed to get out of the habit.

    I am looking forward to see how your dishes come out for Shrimpsgiving! Enjoy your evening! xoxo

  32. Jessie (Vegan-minded) on November 23, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    It’s so funny, we have practically IDENTICAL handwriting! It looks like I wrote that list!
    Seems like you have a great Thanksgiving meal planned out so far. I can’t wait to see the pics. 🙂

  33. Ermi on November 23, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    Awesome-awesome post 😀

  34. Vickie on November 23, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    You must have been reading my mind. I just love your blog and was thinking I wish you had a meal planning section with recipes and stuff. Thanks so much for taking the time to do this…your blog is so inspiring. I’m glad I found it.

  35. kristin on November 23, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    this is awesome!! can you post your green bean casserole recipe? i was just trying to come up with a healthier version of it! 🙂

  36. Jenna on November 23, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    thanks for the helpful post!

  37. Melissa S. on November 23, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    wow, you are so organized…and i feel like it’s a lot of work! maybe i’m just lazy…haha. great job though! i envy you!

  38. BethT on November 23, 2009 at 11:50 pm

    This is great! I have a request: How can I switch to more of a clean eating lifestyle? Gradually? I eat a lot of veggies and fruits, and MOSTLY whole grains, but I ain’t exactly bringing my own Ezekiel bread to a restaurant, know what I’m sayin? :0

  39. Nelly on November 24, 2009 at 2:05 pm
  40. Katy on November 24, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Hey Gina!

    I love the idea of meal planning ahead of time, but I get nervous about how long foods can stay in the fridge before going bad! What’s your rule of thumb for gauging this?

    • Fitnessista on November 24, 2009 at 3:21 pm

      *most veggies* 3 days cut, 1 week untouched; things like mushrooms, apples, pears, anything that will get soggy, i don’t prep in advance
      sauces 2-3 days
      meats (cooked) 2-3 days (if they’re raw, i freeze them until the day or day before we use them)

  41. emily on November 24, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    This is awesome!

  42. Lisa on November 24, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    Great ideas. Sometimes I change my mind during the week when I pre-plan; I will make breakfast for dinner, such as an omelet or french toast. Ususally, I’ll have these ingredients on hand. Sometimes when I make soup or spaghetti sauce I will make a lot and freeze some of it for emergencies. We like quesadillas and stirfries also when we want something quick.

  43. Emily on November 25, 2009 at 1:38 am

    Great post Gina! Nice shot of you in the supermarket too.
    I used to do this back when we had a regular schedule, and this served as a reminder that I really need to get back to it.
    Thank you 🙂

  44. jenna on November 25, 2009 at 9:37 am

    what an awesome post Gina! 🙂 thanks!

  45. Lisa on November 26, 2009 at 2:45 am

    Oh my, I’ve got a request. Any suggestions on how to get a man to ramp up his healthy foods and cut down on nutty bars and mountain dew for meals? My boyfriend is wonderful, but his eating habits are just scary. I’ve so far been successful in convincing him to at least stop using hard crisco to fry foods in and use olive oil instead (haven’t convinced him to stop frying his meals, but baby steps here). I’ve gotten him to try avocado (response: YUCK) and pomegranate (response: not as yuck as avocado, but still yuckish). Did the pilot eat healthy before you came into his life or is it something you introduced him to? Also, what are some go-to healthy foods that likes a lot? I’m making some headway with my boy (no more crisco! woohoo!), but I’m accepting new ideas 🙂

    • Fitnessista on November 26, 2009 at 1:03 pm

      hey girl,
      that’s a great suggestion– i’ll definitely write about it in my next “reader’s request”
      have a great day!

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