6 Meals in 6 Minutes Meal Planning

Hello, my name is Sarah and I am addicted to meal planning.

The last meal plan I made was yesterday, but I’m already thinking about what I am going to cook the week after next. And for Christmas dinner.

It all started one evening when I found myself in the grocery store for the third time that week, buying chicken thighs and smoked paprika for a recipe that I had downloaded earlier that day while waiting on a latte at Starbucks. Attention customers: nervous breakdown in aisle 3!

And so I started meal planning. Real honest-to-goodness-shop-once-eat-fabulous-meals-all-week meal planning. Praises.


Now, every Wednesday night, glass of vino in hand–or early Thursday morning, sub vino for cappuccino–I make my meal plan. My 6 MEALS IN 6 MINUTES (one day off) meal plan to be precise. Aka THE 6-STEP PROGRAM. Here’s how I work it:

1.  Pick six themes: I like veggie night, egg night, beef night, chicken night, fish night and pasta night, but the variations are endless (pizza night, chick-pea night, breakfast for dinner night, mother-in-law’s delivery night, etc.).**

**This seems like a dumb step, I know. But trust me on this one. Somehow figuring out what you are going to eat on egg night is easier than figuring out what what you are going to eat on Wednesday.

2.  Pick a meal for each theme: some old favourites (Mama’s pot pie); some new Pinterest/paleo food blog/Jamie Oliver thangs; some super-easy; some freezer-friendly. To make this step really simple, I keep a running list, on my phone and in my Google Docs, of all the various meal possibilities in each theme category. And I’m trying to assemble a similar list here on the blog, by tagging all of the recipes and meal ideas with their corresponding theme. Like these ideas for chicken night.

3.  Make a grocery list: in whatever format makes you happy. I’m still totally stuck on paper; the apps and zaps and fancy techy things don’t do it for me in the grocery-list-making department. Yet. I’ve even made a template, which you can download here, for keeping track of the planned meals and the groceries that I need for each of them. I keep a printed stack of them with my cookbooks, so that I’m always ready to go.

Meal Planning and Grocery List Template

4.  Shop once: preferably by yourself after a pedicure. Or online, if you are lucky enough to have an online grocery delivery service where you live. (I do, and I cannot possibly say enough good things about it.) Use the list of course.

5.  Cook some, freeze lots, eat, be zen. (= more time for Pinterest: see step 2.)

6.  Oh, and eat out or order in on day 7.


This is of course just one of what must be an infinite list of possible meal-planning techniques. But it’s the one that has worked best for our family. The result is that I don’t spend nearly as much time humming and hawing over “what’s for dinner?” as I used to, and Kiwi, Bean and I all get a good variety of healthful food to get us through the week…and some dirty take-out food just to keep things real.

I’d love to hear what meal-planning techniques have worked for you. Share them in the comments below.

In the meantime, I am off to plan the first course for new year’s eve.

Yours in meal mayhem,


7 Responses to 6 Meals in 6 Minutes Meal Planning

  1. UK Essays Help May 22, 2019 at 6:24 am #

    This is the perfect meal making plans tool I actually have ever seen! I love the idea of designating a night to something and running from there!

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  3. Sara Vartanian January 20, 2014 at 5:25 pm #

    This is the easiest meal planning tool I have ever seen! I love the idea of designating a night to something and working from there! Thanks, Sarah!

  4. Tara September 27, 2013 at 7:51 pm #

    Hi! I’m super low-tech, but recently downloaded the app Paprika. It’s the greatest thing ever. You download all your recipes into it, drag recipes into the calendar, and then it will generate your weekly shopping list – broken down by grocery department. It has cut down my grocery shopping time like crazy! Love it!!

    • Sarah September 27, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

      Aha, this sounds great! Sounds kinda like Ziplist, which I’ve tried…but I keep going back to paper. Not sure why I’m so resistant when it comes to this one thing. But I will give this one a try and see if I can’t force myself…

  5. Betty McKinnon September 27, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

    Praiseworthy planning for sure, Sarah! Oh, how I wish I had this figured out when I was working and taking care of a family. I like the idea of theme night; we rarely eat beef, so I’d probably throw in a legumes night for lentil and bean things, and a beef/lamb or pork night. I’m going to play around with this idea because I find that, even in retirement, prepping good meals can take up a substantial part of the day. In fact, I probably use my slow cooker more now than I did when I was working. Looking forward to seeing how some of your meal plans look.

    • Sarah September 27, 2013 at 8:49 pm #

      Yes, I find the themes really help me. And actually our “beef” night is really “meat” night — lamb, pork, beef, sausages of some kind. So I’m with ya! And the slow cooker…yes, that can really help with meal planning. Sadly it’s one thing I haven’t been able to master. Everything ends up too liquidy…sigh.

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