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