Today we’re focusing on how we can reduce waste by meal planning and grocery shopping effectively. I think meal planning is the NUMBER ONE thing people could start doing TODAY that would completely change their lifestyle. I’m at the grocery store every week with my printed out meal plan and grocery list, and I look around and no one else has a grocery list. It’s so strange to me. 

I couldn’t imagine grocery shopping without a list. Just wandering the aisles, picking out things that look good with no plan. That’s how waste happens, thats how spending too much money happens, and how unhealthy habits continue. When I first met my fiance, I’d go grocery shopping with him and it would take HOURS. He’d just wander down each aisle, trying to remember things he needed more of. And unless you have recipes memorized, you definitely need a list if you are cooking at home. 

Here are the steps I take to meal plan each week:

1. I open up the notes app on my phone, and update my pantry and fridge/freezer lists. I like to keep running lists of what I have on hand. This is useful when meal planning and when you’re at the grocery store and can’t remember if you have something. 


2. My fiance and I look at our schedule for the week. Do we have any work lunches or dinners? Are we going to be really busy one night, or have to work late? 

3. I choose 3 recipes– usually cooking Sunday night, Tuesday night, and Thursday night. We eat leftovers on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. 

4. I print out the recipes and add the ingredients to my electronic grocery list (a word document). It’s organized by aisle of the grocery store. Download a copy for yourself here! If you don’t already separate your list by aisle– pleaseee try it at least once. It will change your life. No more running all across the store. 


5. We decide what we want to eat for breakfast and lunch, and add that onto the meal plan and list.

6. I print out my combined grocery list/meal plan and bring that, along with the printed recipes, to the grocery store. 


When choosing my dinner recipes: 

I usually use Pinterest or refer to my Recipe database here on Zen & Spice. I try to choose at least one meatless meal for the week. Lately with all of the changes and getting ready to move I’ve been choosing simple recipes. Sometimes we don’t do a recipe– just pasta with pesto, spaghetti and meatballs or something in the crock-pot. You definitely don’t have to choose full-blown gourmet recipes– think of simple foods you can just throw together. 

Here are some of the recipes that I make the most on the blog: 

Cheesy Savory Steel Cut Oatmeal with Avocado & Fried Eggs

Cheesy Savory Steel Cut Oatmeal with Avocado & Fried Eggs | Zen & Spice

Roasted Parmesan, Garlic & Lemon Asparagus:

Roasted Garlic & Lemon Asparagus | Zen & Spice

Black Bean & Roasted Poblano Rodeo Pizza:

Black Bean and Roasted Poblano Rodeo Pizza | Zen & Spice

Avocado Fettuccine:

Avocado Fettuccine | Zen & Spice

Easy Baked Chicken Parmesan:

Easy Baked Chicken Parmesan|Zen & Spice

Spicy Asian Meatballs with Veggie Fried Rice: 

Spicy Asian Meatballs with Veggie Fried Rice 4Try to consider: 

  • What items do you have on hand already? Try to plan your meals around what you have. 
  • Do certain items need to be prepped ahead of time?
  • Does it need to be defrosted? 
  • Are you supposed to marinate something overnight? 
  • Will you get home from work in time to cook the recipe (does it take 20 minutes or an hour)? 

Meal planning can not only prepare you for living a nutritious, healthy life at home, but it can also save dollars and the environment. When you have a meal plan, your kitchen is prepared for nutritious meals. If you go day by day and just “wing it”, you’re more likely to choose fast food, pick up meals, or unhealthy items. When you meal plan, you save money because you can buy just what’s on your list and exactly what you need, versus wandering the aisles and picking up what looks good (and is probably more expensive). 

And when you meal plan, you are helping the environment. When you buy exactly what you need, you reduce the amount of food that is thrown away because you didn’t have a plan. It guarantees that you have a place for each food item you buy. This is being mindful of your body, your wallet, and the world. 

If you need recipe ideas, sign up for my Supper Club! Every Sunday, I send out meal plans (for both vegetarians and carnivores) with delicious recipes you can include in your meal. 

supper club (2)

I want to hear from you! 

Do you meal plan? What got you started? Any favorite recipes you have on rotation? 



  1. My meal planning system is really similar to yours! Thanks for this series, it’s been great and informative

  2. Jillian says:

    How do you feel about the fact that going vegan would be a highly effective way of looking out for the environment? If you still consume animal products, all the other steps you take to help the environment are basically null.

  3. I really like your post about meal planning – I actually posted about meal planning on my blog a few days ago! I also find it strange when I go shopping and no one else seems to have a shopping list. I like your tip about keeping a record of what you have in your pantry/fridge on your phone, that’s really neat!

  4. I do EXACTLY the same thing, write my grocery list on one side, and my meals on the other. It really helps me actually get stuff I plan to use, instead of wandering the aisles of TJ’s aimlessly and coming out with twelve bags of various snacks and a couple avocados.

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