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How to Fail at Meal Planning

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Do you have problems with making a meal plan every week? Here are some common failures and ways to combat them!

I’ll admit it- I’m a failure. A lot.

Even as someone who blogs about meal planning, I make a TON of mistakes when creating my grocery list and going shopping. Sometimes I think, “How am I even qualified for this?”

I know I’m not alone, though. You probably make a few of these mistakes, too. I wrote down the common meal planning failures and how to help you get through them; can you relate to any of these?


Image of a hand writing on a piece of paper in a grocery store

Don’t Double check your list

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone shopping, and then later realized I forgot to add all the ingredients for a whole meal. Do you ever accidentally skip over recipes, too? It’s so frustrating!

When you create your grocery list, have your recipes in front of you- either printed, or the links on your computer. Comb through each one super carefully to make sure you have everything.

And oh my goodness, check your pantry to see if you actually have the ingredients you just know are in the house. I know I always have flour; but sometimes the bag gets super low and then I forget to put it on the list. And then when it comes time to make bread, surprise! I only have two cups instead of four.

Sometimes in that situation, it helps to keep your grocery list on the fridge so you can easily add items as you use them. Or have an app on your phone, like Google Docs, Out of Milk, or another list app.

Forget to plan the small things

So I am usually pretty good at planning dinners. I make sure I have 6 dinners and one leftover night. Breakfast is typically not a problem either. But it’s everything in between that I somehow glaze over.

Things like snacks. Hello Jaime, you practically survive on snacks! How can I get through my entire grocery list and forget to add snacks? Having nothing planned means I go crazy and start eating the unhealthier foods.

When you make your list, go through the following and check them off mentally:

  • 6-7 dinners
  • 1-2 lunches (N/A if you just eat leftovers)
  • 1-2 breakfasts
  • Snacks (For kids and parents, make sure there’s enough for everyone every day)
  • Desserts (A bag of cookies, yogurts, etc. Doesn’t have to be huge)
  • Special events (IE, you need to bring food for a potluck that’s not part of your usual shopping)

If you follow that list, you should have no problem remembering what to buy.

An image of strawberries soaking in a large bowl

Buy (and waste) too much food

Do you ever overestimate how much food to buy? Unfortunately, that’s me. I have this issue of buying a whole package of 3 Romaine hearts and only using one or two. Since I had no plan for the other one, it goes bad by the end of the week and I throw it out.

Doesn’t that make you mad, too? You’re already on a budget and wanting to eat healthier, and you go and toss that healthy food because you bought too much and had no plan. Wasting food AND money is my major pet peeve with myself.

There are two ways you can combat this:

  • Plan carefully to use up all that you bought. If you got a huge package of lettuce, eat a big entree salad one night and use the rest for taco toppings or side salads throughout the week.
  • Buy a smaller package. Although a bag of pre-chopped Romaine mix is more expensive per ounce than the unchopped hearts, you’ll still be saving money by not throwing away the extra.

See: Meal Planning When the Schedule Changes

Image of homemade packaged pizza dough and spaghetti sauce

Plan too many complicated meals

I am SO guilty of this. Sometimes I get on a huge health kick and want to cook all new recipes that week, all with 15 ingredients and require an hour of prep. I’m tired just thinking about it.

Seriously, there shouldn’t be any pressure for us to be this gourmet chef. Especially with kids that won’t care either way. If you want to try new recipes, aim for only one per week. That way you can experiment but still have some simple meals so you don’t get overwhelmed.

Here are some simple meals I rotate on a regular basis:

  • Pancakes- every week, seriously. They’re cheap and loved by all.
  • Burritos/bowls
  • Pasta and some sort of sauce
  • Sandwiches- grilled cheese, deli meat
  • Grilled chicken, rice, and roasted veggies

See: Simple No-Cook Summer Meals

Failing at meal planning sometimes doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It happens to all of us at some point, in some shape or form. Sometimes every week. Hopefully the tips above will help you get a better handle on your meal planning and realize that you’re not alone!

What problems do you have when it comes to meal planning? Share below in the comments!

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