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A Cheater’s Guide to Meal Planning

A Cheater's Guide to Meal Planning | Columbia SC Moms BlogThe best thing that ever happened to my meal planning was THEMED NIGHTS. What’s evolved is the answer to the grocery list. I can quick shop without one – and have food to eat for a week.

But first, a bit of history…

It all began with PIZZA NIGHT.

That’s Friday for most everyone I know. Some of you make your own, with homemade crust and all. To that, I holler DiGiorno, in my best Italian accent.

And then there was TACO TUESDAY.

I know that’s a restaurant thing and we rarely go out. But I love a little alliteration, so Tuesday it was. Usually tacos turned to nachos because throwing the ingredients on top of crunchy things was easier than packing them into crunchy things.

But what really converted me was when a friend started serving sandwiches on Monday nights. Routinely she’d mention going to Trader Joe’s for sandwich ingredients.

A Cheater's Guide to Meal Planning | Columbia SC Moms Blog

See that picture above? I’m pretty sure that’s how her SANDWICH NIGHT table looked. I could see the dollar signs adding up at Trader Joe’s. I wasn’t sure this was for me. But, I did love a good bacon cheeseburger or a quick quesadilla (that’s Mexican sandwich, you know.)

From then on, I started noticing the things – like sandwiches – that my family really enjoyed. You know the meals you tend to get the compliments on? They aren’t that meat and three or Pinterest find you slaved over.

I still make a meat and three and a Pinterest worthy meal about once weekly.

But mostly I’ve created this little cheater weekday meal plan.


It’s brilliant.

Why? It’s incredibly versatile.

You want to be creative and plan ahead? Go right ahead. Straight from the Pinterest boards…

Not convinced? 

Then let’s pare it down to the basics. 

I present to you my grocery list for my worst week ever. My family will still be wowed.


2 cans of my choice

(Hint: If tomato, then buy cream to add to it; if french onion, then buy cheese croutons; if Italian wedding, then buy a chunk of real parmigiana; if clam chowder, then buy extra can of clams or other seafood.)


1 loaf of hearty bread
Peanut butter
Favorite preserves
1 bag of Kettle Chips
Ranch dressing
1 bag of baby carrots

(Hint: Grill that PB&J and it’s gourmet. Not that adventurous? A grilled cheese never disappoints at my house.)


1 container of chicken salad
1 bag mixed lettuces
1 box of favorite crackers

(Hint: Use leftover ranch dressing and baby carrots from SANDWICH NIGHT.)


1 bag of frozen cheese tortellini
1 jar of favorite sauce
1 bag of frozen broccoli florets

(Hint: My PASTA night is actually STARCH BOWL night. It might be pasta, rice, grits, or even mashed potatoes topped with whatever!) 


2 favorite frozen pizzas

And do you see the brilliance? Modify it to your own family’s taste for each category. I bet that you can stand in line at the grocery check out and verify quickly that you can live through the week.

A Cheater's Guide to Meal Planning | Columbia SC Moms Blog

Hmm … let’s see … can I make a soup, a sandwich, a salad, a pasta, and a pizza? Yep. Good to go.

By the way – your handicap??? 


No app. No list. No Pinterest.

You got this, mama!

What’s your easiest go-to meal that doesn’t require a recipe? Please share…  

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