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What Meal Planning Looks Like at Lina’s (It’s Surprisingly Not Always Pretty)

31 Comments

What Meal Planning Looks Like at Lina's (It's Surprisingly Not Always Pretty)

Hi there! I’m Lina, one of Collin’s sidekicks!

As Hip2Save’s recipe blogger, you may be surprised to know that I’m terrible at meal planning — but I use splurges and saves that make all the difference! I’m super casual about meals, but I’m working to plan ahead to keep my evenings running a bit more smoothly.

lina cooking in kitchenRight now, I generally tackle both the shopping/cooking, while my husband is great at grilling and using our smoker to cook meat. He also makes a great Sunday morning breakfast and is our resident bacon fryer — he seriously makes the best bacon! Any tips on how I can get him to deliver me breakfast in bed? 😉

What’s really exciting in our house is that my kids are learning to cook!

They are 10 and 12, and my son is usually the cook on Boy Scout campouts for his patrol. I’m actually pretty passionate that kids should learn early how to make the basics because it will serve them well in the future. My son can cook a solid bacon and egg breakfast along with a delicious spaghetti dinner. He’s got those two meals down, but we are expanding from there!

As for my daughter, she is excellent at pancakes and loves to bake so between the two of them, they could totally handle a full day of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert!

I don’t really mind handling our household’s grocery shopping since I happen to live next door to a beautiful new Fry’s (Kroger) grocery store. It even has a wine bar with local beers where they offer beer flights and tastings. You can even pick up a cheese plate to snack on in between. It’s actually a  fun, low-key date night idea at the grocery store! 😃🍷

A lot of my time there is spent shopping for Hip2Save and the recipes I’m working on, but I obviously shop for family dinners there, too. I’ve tried meal kits, and while they are convenient and tasty, I still prefer to shop through a store myself.

I often shop for basics on Sunday, but I pop into the store daily or every other day since it’s nearby. If we have sports in the evening, I often plan a slow cooker meal or something easy. Friday and/or Saturday, we usually eat out because by then I’m ready for a break from my kitchen. Plus, trying new local restaurants is a fun hobby!

When it comes to my grocery bill, I wish I paid more attention to how much I’m spending. Since I pop in so often, I spend $20-$30 on quick trips and around $100 on Sundays when I stock up for the week. 😬

I like to splurge on higher quality meats and bacon, especially the thick butcher kind. 🥓 We often buy one-quarter of an organic grass-fed cow to stock the freezer and that’s helpful for meal planning. I also love buying meat at Costco like their steaks, roasts, and really anything from their meat and seafood department in general. If it’s a special occasion, we’ll splurge on nice steaks and crab legs!

Dinnertime at our house varies based on the evening’s schedule (like the kids having sports). It can be a meal I’ve made for Hip2Save, or another simple dish. In all honesty, I tend to gravitate toward ideas that don’t require a recipe! lol

I also really love easy sheet pan dinners. We live in Arizona and can grill all year, so burgers, steak, and grilled chicken are popular choices for my family. And then even simple things like quesadillas, spaghetti, tacos, or even sandwiches are another one of my go-tos.

I do love a good snack-based dinner (I wrote about that here). It’s a great way not to cook, and I also use up all the veggies and odds and ends in the fridge.

My slow cooker is such a lifesaver for busy weeknights, and I use it a lot. One of my go-to easy meals is slow cooker ribs. Simply season, set on low most of the day, then coat with BBQ sauce and finish in the oven to caramelize. It’s one of my family’s favorites and is so darned easy!

Speaking of slow cookers, last night for dinner I made this Slow Cooker Sausage & Corn Chowder. It’s a perfect, easy-to-make soup for fall, and it was ready to eat when we got home from volleyball!

What I love about our family’s mealtime is that we make a point to eat together at our kitchen table. Oftentimes, we focus a lot on the dinner, and we should really be focusing mostly on our time together! It’s the best part of my day listening to the kids tell me a funny story about school and sharing the highs and lows of each day.

Although to be real, things don’t always go perfectly.

Sometimes baseball will go extra late and we eat ballpark hot dogs. Or sometimes I’ll have a cooking fail. Or, sometimes the dog will eat the entire tray of Chicken Pot Pie because I accidentally left it out — yep, that actually happened!😳

Life isn’t always perfect, and I too sometimes hit the drive-thru. In fact, I may have a small McDonald’s Diet Coke and ice cream cone addiction, don’t judge. LOL 🤣 Collin and the rest of the team know this about me,  and once sent me an 80’s Happy Meal toy ice cream as a joke that was super funny! 😂

Sometimes I’ll have a crazy day and only have the energy to warm up a frozen pizza. But that’s okay! 

To try and get ahead of this, I like to prep a giant salad on Sunday night for the week. The key is to first spin the lettuce really dry using a salad spinner. I store it in a Tupperware covered bowl with lots of fresh veggies lined with a paper towel — and of course without dressing.

We eat salads during the week as part of dinner, and I love a great salad for lunch at home on weekdays. Sometimes I’ll grill up some chicken for the week, too, then for my weekday lunch, I can eat a grilled chicken salad! Yum. 😋

Meal planning for only a day or two at a time means less food waste, which also means less money tossed in the garbage. Too many times I’ll plan for the week and then we won’t be in the mood for what we’ve got planned, and then food spoils. My strategy is heading to the store more often and using what I have, along with focusing on simple and quick meals during the week.

At the end of the day, sometimes I’ll forget or get too busy to go to the store or meal plan, and then I’m stuck heating up a frozen pizza or order out from Uber Eats – And that’s okay, too! Perfection isn’t as important as family. ❤️


Stay tuned for more meal planning stories from the Hip2Save team!

Join The Discussion

Comments 31

  1. bw1

    I like cooking but hate meal planning. Thanks for the tips! Also, I have that same Mcdonald’s toy from yeeeears ago!

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Oh haha too funny – thanks for stopping by today!

  2. Raquel

    Great post and ideas, thank you for sharing! I live in Gilbert! When I saw the San Tan Brewery pic at first I thought it was an Ad and had to do a double take, lol!

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Oh funny! Yes we love our local breweries 😍

  3. Sara

    Test

  4. Suzanne H

    I too like cooking but hate meal planning as I tend to change my mind/mood! Does anyone have any good slow cooker recipes that are HEALTHY and/or have a lot of veggies? I’m always trying to switch things up since I get “food bored” easily!

    • Lana

      I often cut the meat in half and double the veggies in crock pot recipes and they turn out fine and we like them so much better.

      • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

        Great idea!

    • Carrie

      Check out a site called newleafwellness.biz

      It’s all healthy slow cooker recipes.

      • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

        Thanks Carrie!

  5. bdubs

    <3 that salad storage idea! I'm assuming you add cheese when serving? I hate making salads for lunch each day but making them ahead isn't great either. I'll be trying your idea this week!

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Sometimes I add feta cheese and dressing when serving- yep! Oh good I think you’ll enjoy it.

  6. Jillibe

    The burned hot dogs cracked me up. We always see the picture perfect pinterest dinners, it’s nice to see reality that sometimes things don’t go according to plan. Great to hear the whole family gets into cooking!

  7. 50ShadesofLipstick

    If the worst thing that you do is to heat up frozen food or order takeout, then you’re doing just fine <3

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      LOL thanks ❤️

  8. Babymair

    Lina, thx for this post. I sometimes feel guilty because I can’t make a home cooked meal and we get pizza for dinner , when the boys are playing sports. It’s nice to know that someone out there has the same struggles as I do. please keep up the good work!! And God bless

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Ah thanks-and yes for sure I’m in it with ya! 👊🏻

  9. Shaunn

    I remember working at McD’s when we had those toys! Worst was the first Teeny Beanie Babies, when we kept running out of toys & no one could see in the bags.

    I absolutely LOVE my Kroger’s! The fuel points, freebies, good employees, excellent pharmacy & tons of perks keeps me a loyal customer. Sure hope Hip2Save can do more with Kroger’s. We don’t have most of the stores and restaurants H2S touts. It’s not much saving to travel to the “big city” these days, especially the one-day-only deals, which are frequently a red herring by the time I get there. Don’t buy much online, as it eats up money we don’t “see” until the bank statements & card bills come in — OUCH!

    Anyway, best wishes to you and all the H2S family!

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Ah thanks for reading and commenting Shaunn! Yes fuel points rock! Thanks for the suggestion – I’ll pass along. 👍

    • Lana

      iheartkroger dot com

  10. desiree57

    I thought after my girls grew up and off to college this single parent could live happily ever after without anymore meal planning. Wrong! My elderly parents now require meal planning and cooking on a regular basis. God help me!

  11. WMears

    One thing that helps me is to fix two meals on Sunday night….I know, sounds crazy, right?
    One of those is an easy crockpot/pressure cooker/grill meal-perfect for heating up during the week.
    And if I am feeling really energetic, I will prep the veggies for taco night!

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      I like that idea! Thanks

  12. Nancy McConnell

    I like casserole dishes with lots of veggies. No kids at home any more so I make 2 smaller casseroles and freeze one. It is nice a month or 2 from now when I can just whip one out of the freezer and have a night off. Thanks for the tips. Enjoyed reading your post

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Thanks Nancy!

  13. Nita

    Yes, so much of this is about mood N what u “feel like” for dinner. It’s definitely difficult and not an exact science. Also, I know multiple kids = multiple moods, so that’s another thing. But I don’t think anyone’s ever got this down perfectly and sometimes leftover pizza or drive thru is as good as its gna get! N that’s Ok.

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Thanks Nita!

  14. Sue

    McDonald’s ice cream cones are one of my favorite desserts, hands down. My favorite thing is to order a coffee and an ice cream cone, and alternate taking a sip of one and a bite of the other. It’s like a mix of my favorite things – coffee with lots of creamer and coffee ice cream!

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Lol oh my gosh sounds awesome ❤️ I agree – thanks Sue!

  15. Emily Stoner

    What kind of ribs do you buy? I always see so many different kinds and I don’t know what the differences are/which ones would be good! Because that recipe looks wonderful!

  16. jaci

    Please share slow cooker ribs recipe

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