How I Structure My Week & Plan My Meals

How is it possible that we are already 24 days into 2019?!? In my mind I still feel like it should be August. Time has accelerated so much for me in the last year and I’m trying really hard to be present in the moment and live deliberately so that I don’t let life pass right before my eyes. I really wish I knew how to slow time down!

It actually hit me last Sunday, when I was overtired and not getting much done, that laying around exhausted and useless is not how I want to spend my time. I actually thought, “if this was my last day on earth, would I be happy with how I’m spending it right now?” My immediate reaction was absolutely not! I am never happy with just laying around on the couch or in bed, begging my body to get some extra sleep so I can feel alive again. Being tired is by far the thing I hate most in the world.

At any rate, the “last day on earth” thought that popped into my mind was one that inspired a bit of a perspective shift for me. Every day since I’ve asked myself that same question–would I be happy with what I’ve done today if it were my last day on earth? Would I be proud of myself, my actions, what I’ve accomplished? It’s even given me the idea to do a “Last Day on Earth Project”, where I live by that rule every day for a week and track what I do and the decisions I make as a result. I haven’t decided yet, but it’s something that may potentially be upcoming on the blog. Please stand by!

Yesterday was a full and productive day. Logan wanted to go to Annie Laurie’s a downtown antique store, to shop for a knife to add to his collection. Once his wishes were fulfilled, we went to the Marquette building to get some coffee (and tea for Logan), camp out on a comfy couch, and get some reading done. I’ve nearly finished Witness, the book I’m reading to learn a bit about Jewish culture before writing my own novel.

My friends and I had another fun night out, even in spite of the snow and gusty winds. Our original intentions were to go to Jackson, the next town over from where I live in Cape Girardeau, and have dinner at a restaurant called Tractor’s, with post-dinner drinks at Barrel 131. We had already rescheduled it once, and now we have to reschedule again. With the bad weather came bad roads, and Barrel 131 decided to close early. So we altered plans and went to Seis Amigos for dinner, with after-dinner drinks at Cask…both places within a mile of home for three of us. Even though we didn’t get to keep our original plans, we didn’t let Mother Nature stop us from enjoying our Saturday evening!

On Sunday I didn’t leave the house all day. It snowed again, my street was a solid sheet of ice, and I nixed our plans to drive 30 miles north to go to church and visit my grandparents. We had to drive up there on Monday anyway so Hunter could get his hair cut, so we would just wait and see my grandparents then. So on Sunday, I hunkered down and got things planned out for this week.

If you don’t know this about me–I am an organizer, and I love my excel spreadsheets! I use Google sheets on my phone so I can have access to the same documents everywhere. Every time I find a meal idea I want to try, I save it to a tab on my 2019 document titled “meal ideas.” I label each idea with the week I want to try it, so when that week rolls around I can go to the meal ideas tab, see what meals I want to try for the week, then pull up the recipes and make a shopping list of the ingredients I need. I also have ideas on this same tab for lunch and snacks. I try to choose three recipes per week, so I have plenty of variety from my usual, go-to dishes.

{On my 2019 spreadsheet, the tabs I have include goals (to keep my goals for the year front and center for reference), to-do-list (which I use to keep track of work and school tasks), fitness (which details the specifics of my upper body, lower body and ab workouts, plus poses for yoga flows and how many minutes/miles for walking and elliptical), fitness log (for planning out what I’ll do each day, then highlighting whether I got it done or not), diet (listing the basic food items I need to keep around to help with making my shopping list), meal ideas, 2019 ledger (a ledger I have broken out by month to track spending, with an auto-sum feature to automatically add up my entries), and 2019 reads to keep track of my 36 book reading goal for this year}

Next up is my shopping list. I keep a list in the notes on my phone of things I’ve run out of, plus the ingredients for the meals I want to make, and additional items I need for snacks, breakfasts, etc., and make a list in order of where the items are in the grocery store, and write the approximate price of each item out to the side so I can track how much I’m spending and keep myself on-budget.

So for example…my go-to spot is Aldi. First thing inside the door at Aldi are the nuts on the left. So if we’re out of peanuts (one of Hunter’s favorites for snacking), that will be at the top of my list because it’s the first thing in the store. Then crackers if we need those, which are opposite the peanuts by the front door. Then wine, then bread and salsa. After that is the produce section, so I put any produce items on the list next. After that comes eggs and almond milk. Up the next aisle are condiments and vinegars, then canned goods such as beans and broths…I think you get the idea! I put everything on the list in order of where it is in the store so there isn’t any backtracking and I can get in and out quickly.

listI keep the running total of how much I’m spending, so that I know how much cash back I can get each week to use for going out and enjoying life with friends or my kiddos. I basically take whatever the price of something usually is and round up to the next dollar to make sure I account for tax. At the checkout I am almost always under what I have budgeted, and that is a great feeling!

This image was my shopping list for this week (yesterday was my grocery shopping day). On the dinner list for this week: Grilled chicken with chili-lime rice and veggies, and Chicken and Spinach Pasta Bowls. The boys are gone to their dad’s this weekend and we have quite a bit of stuff left in the fridge from last week, so I didn’t need many new dinner ideas.

As for snacks: yogurt and granola (Logan’s favorite, which needed replenished this week), peanuts with cheddar cheese (Hunter’s favorite, which also needed replenished this week), and blueberry-lemon power bites for me. We still have plenty of veggies and humus left, so that will likely be on the list for next week. Lastly, my work lunches for this week: Bean and Kale Stuffed Sweet Potatoes, and Quinoa Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Apples. For both of these I already have all of the ingredients I need at home, so I didn’t need to add any of the ingredients to the shopping list. Everything else on the list is just fridge and pantry staples we were out of.

Aside from this, I put together meals and lunches from whatever I have on hand in the fridge and pantry, because I love to keep some spontaneity in my meal planning too. I’ve learned that being too structured can cause more stress than it relieves, so I like to leave room in my organized life for a little flexibility. I’ve also found that a lot of my recipes, like most of the ones I share here on my Mediterranean Monday posts, are born in that flexible space, simply from playing around with different ingredients that I have in the kitchen.

This is also why I don’t meal prep. I like to plan some meals, but have room to get creative too. I just make sure that I make enough that I can take leftovers to work for lunch…and I keep lunch items around for when I don’t have leftovers. Every night after dinner, as I’m cleaning up and putting food away, I pack my lunch for the next day. There really isn’t an extra step involved because I’m already putting it away anyway. I also use that time to set up the coffee pot for the morning, so when I get up the coffee is waiting on me.

If you have any tips or advice on how you plan your meals, your shopping lists, or do meal prep, feel free to share! I hope you’re having a happy and healthy week!



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