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Do you plan your meals in advance?

Since I started blogging, I’ve received quite a few emails like this recent one, below:

Hey Katie! I’m a new reader and a new vegan too. And I have a question for you. Your meals always look amazing and so well put together. So my question is how do you decide what to eat? Do you plan your meals in advance?

My response: I have a great friend who tells me exactly what to eat: Mr. Stomach!

Okay, lame jokes aside, I actually don’t plan in advance anymore. For a while, I tried planning my meals out the day before. But then, when the time would come to eat said meals, I often found I was craving something else, so I’d have to change the plan anyway.

That being said, there is some planning that goes into my meals. I make different things up in advance and keep a rough list on hand of what’s available. That way, come mealtime, I can choose what I want to eat.  So in reality, I “plan but don’t plan.”

Chocolate-Covered Meal of the Day


Almond milk, frozen mango, and Snickerdoodle Oat Bran.

An example of my “plan-but-don’t-plan” idea: I made up the oat bran the night before but didn’t decide to snickerdoodle it (Like my verb?) until the morning.

Published on November 6, 2009

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  1. jcd says

    Snickerdoodle oat bran sounds yummy. Mmmm… snickerdoodles…

    We plan our meals, but only so much as pick a few recipes for the week and buy ingredients for them. If we don’t feel like making a recipe from that list, we don’t! We always buy a few extra ingredients so we can make other things on a whim.

  2. Eliza says

    loved this post Katie 🙂
    i also used to plan out my meals every night for the following day, it was quite stressful lol…and then i just decided to eat more intuitively, and decide in the moment or like an hour before dinner for example i just think “what does Eliza want” 🙂 and it has been working out perfectly…
    i found also when i would plan, the meal would come around and i wouldnt be in the mood for whatever i planned to have…it is nice to just eat what you feel like having! and yes, if you only crave sweet things i think your body would realize it needs some veggies 😉
    balance is key, treats and such are so great to allow yourself, and i try to allow myself some chocolate every so often, and other yummy things…we all deserve to enjoy food and life! and not restrict yummy things like chocolate etc…

    love you beautiful girl

  3. The Foodie Diaries says

    I definitely don’t plan my meals–but my foodie machine of a mind is always cranking… so sometimes I conjure up future creations haha. On a day to day basis, I eat what yo quiero comer! 🙂

  4. Boomette says

    I kind of plan my meals in advance. Because I tag recipes on recipe zaar ( Then I have 2 weeks to do the recipes. So I always know what to cook. I don’t have to search a recipe at the last minute.

    This weekend I’ll probably do your recipe of fudge babies. I wrote the ingredients to buy tonight and I’ll try them tomorrow probably. 🙂

  5. The voracious Vegan says

    I’m just like you; I plan but I don’t plan! If there is something special I have been feeling like eating I will choose what day I’ll have time to make it and make sure I have the ingredients on hand, but usually I just keep stocked in my basics (fresh fruit, veggies, and other staples) plus a few random things I feel like that week and make my meals from there. In general I eat a lot of the same dishes (hummus! salads! smoothies! raw veggie wraps!) so I know what to get.

    I listen to my body, that way I always know what to eat, whether it is a plate of oranges for dinner or s’mores for breakfast, I obey!

  6. tabitha says

    thanks for the coconut oil/butter answer–i hadn’t gotten around to googling it yet
    i made almond joy fb’s w/ cc oil and they were yummy!
    each night is a new fb for dessert–it’s a very fun/exciting time for my kiddos (and me) 🙂

    i have general plans
    all the stuff for a week and then i pick which i want which day most of the time

  7. Beth S. says

    I know you do a lot of pancakes…are vegan waffles possible?

    I plan meals to buy groceries, but if on a day to day basis I eat what I want and it’s not strict. Otherwise I’d spend hours at the store.

  8. susan says

    OMG I want a magic bullet SOOO bad! My niece a d I used to watch the infomercial together every time it was on… She was 6 haha

    can’t wait to hear about the giveaway!!!

    Thanks for your discussion on planning… People are always tling me to plan plan plan but I find that makes me too obsessive.. So I prefer to fly by the seat of my… Tummy??? =)

  9. blissfulbellas says

    Hey Katie,

    we just started our new roommate blog! and we’ve added you to our blogroll! We hope this will help you on your operation! Good luck and we’re in full support!

    Gotta love the unplanned meals!

  10. Chrysta says

    i used to plan my meals out and I sometimes still do. But I allow for a lot of wiggle room too. I think thats the key to staying on track with healthy eating. Sometimes if i plan out a meal and later I find Im just not hungry for it, well I switch it up then! By the way I wanted to say your snickerdoodle oat bran looks rockin!=)

    hhmmm magic bullet, spiralizer or a hand blender? Ah!! tough choices! All are cool porducts, i just cant decide!

  11. Diana says

    I almost never plan my meals in advance, for the same reasons you listed. If I’m craving something else I’m not gonna eat whatever I had planned just because. :p

  12. Teresa says

    First off- you already know that I very often eat fudge babies as my fuel before my early morning runs. Can’t imagine anything better.

    And second, gotta share the Heather love. What a rad girl… she’s such a sweetheart.

    Ok and on to meal planning… I’d have to say that I go through phases with that depending on my lifetsyle and schedule of the moment. But for the most part I like you have a pretty good idea of what food I have available in the fridge and kind of sort of plan around that. Like your oat bran, the night before I might decide “Ok tomorrow for dinner I’m having zucchini pasta,” but I won’t decided what kind (pesto, marinara, creamy alfredo, etc.) until I begin making it at dinnertime. THere is SOOO much food waste in this country and I think it is most important that people take stock of what’s in the fridge to use food at it freshest and not let it go bad!! Can ya tell I HATE wasted food. When it comes to meal planning I think people should do whatever works best for their lifestyle, and Sanity!

  13. Janna (Just Flourishing) says

    I try to plan my meals in advance actually. I find that it really helps with the grocery shopping (and the grocery shopping bill 😉 ).

    Usually I’m fine with what I have planned. But if I feel like something else, I`ll just switch out that days meal for another day.

    It takes some effort, and sometimes I`m lazy and dont get around to it; but I definitely prefer to have my meals planned out.

  14. Scott in Ohio says

    Hey Katie. I linked to your blog from HEAB…so glad I did. Great blog! Your generosity shows right through.

    I’m definitely a planner. My wife and I stay pretty busy so we like to get a lot of meals made ahead of time and/or have leftovers. Whatever works for you, right?

    My sister raves about her Magic Bullet so I’d love to have one of those for quick smoothie making.

  15. Tasha - The Clean Eating Mama says

    I try to plan my meals in the morning when I make my coffee – like if I have a squash on the counter, like now, that needs to be eaten, I will make a plan to eat it that day. I can only do this for breakfast and lunch because dinner Marc and I decide together.

  16. rebecca lustig says

    This was such an insightful, heartfelt post– LOVE it!

    I have to plan out my meals.. I guess thats the perfectionist quality inside of me, but it also helps ease my anxiety during meal times.

    I really need to learn how to listen to my stomach.. We always get in fights, hehe.

    Have a fabulous weekend! 🙂


  17. Sarah A says

    Being the only veggie girl in our house (my parents and older sister are all of the meat-eating variety), I end up ‘planning’ at least a portion of my meals by what produce needs to be used up before it reaches that point of no return. I compost food scraps in our compost heap, but why wait for it to go bad and throw it away when it can be baked or steamed or pureed into goodness? It’s gotten to the point where my family will see browning bananas in the fruit bowl and ask, ‘Why haven’t you done something with these, Sarah?’

  18. Alisa - Frugal Foodie says

    Haha, my answer goes back to one of your prior posts! If I were single, I would just eat what my tummy called for. Since I am married, I have to plan or we end up eating out since he must have “a meal,” and I am bad at whipping up full meals spur of the moment 🙂

    So glad the fundraiser is going well!

  19. maya says

    i used to plan my meals out in way advance like a week of meal plans!!! it was so annoying, and sometimes i wouldn’t be in the mood when the meal came! but kept me on track in my recovery at the time.
    Now i do not meal plan in advance i just go through my day, snack and meal at a time and see what i am in the mod for, although i plan dinner at like 3:00 and i think about what to have for breakfast the night before, although i sometimes change my mind, its soo good to listen to ur body and what it is craving! have some chocolate just bc you feel like it! 🙂 —snickerdoodles are like my fav thing! and favorite food word 😉
    treats are good, but a balance of all groups are needed! with no restrictions!! have what Maya wants is my #1 goal in my food life/journey through my recovery. 🙂


  20. Cassie says

    i <3 you, katie! i do my best to listen to what my body wants too, but i have a meal plan in a dorm so sometimes i don't have many options. i can pretty much always go for some pb and apples though! instant oatmeal and simple salads are almost always welcome by my tummy also. listening to your intuition regarding diet is always the best bet 🙂

  21. Pure2Raw Twins says

    I used to plan out my meals too, than it got way out of hand. Ending doing more harm than good. So now I am like you… I plan but don’t really plan 🙂 Listen to your tummy best advice!! 🙂

  22. Melinda says

    Some things I plan in advance so that I can be prepared with a few things that I pick up from the grocery store, but most of the time I just wing it. I buy essentials every few days so there is always something on hand. If it is a really crazy week it falls more to convenience foods, a simple protein, veggie and starch dish, which is almost always what I am for. Breakfast and lunch are almost always the same for me.

  23. Bekah says

    I plan out my meals typically only to make sure I use whats in my fridge, and give myself some variety, because I do want to eat all the goodies I’ve got, but my problem is that “I can have it tomorrow, I don’t have to eat it all today”.

    That being said if I want something different when meal time (or snack time?) comes around, I will listen to my cravings. Or if I get a lunch invite after i’ve already made a nice looking lunch, I’ll usually go out and enjoy myself. I can’t let my planned meals control my life, thats for sure.

    Love this post! And love what you’re doing with the Operation CCK, I’ll be sure and link to you in the nearrr future. 🙂 xoxo

  24. Diana (Soap & Chocolate) says

    I can’t wait to hear how much money you end up raising with your project! So glad everyone is spreading the word.

    Every weekend I plan all my meals for the week ahead–it just makes it so much easier to grocery shop and not over-spend. That works for me, cooking for one and all, and I’m lucky that what I plan usually still sounds good to me when it comes time to eat it. Plus I change it up so much that it’s hard to ever get tired of anything.

    And yes I would love a Magic Bullet, it is in fact on my xmas list!

  25. Bianca- Vegan Crunk says

    I plan my meals…but only because I’m super obsessive and have to micro manage every second of life or I’ll freak out. Is that crazy? It sounds crazy. My friends laugh at me because I have a dry erase board in my kitchen with the week’s menu. And I guess I’m always craving whatever I have planned … probably because I rarely make the same thing twice (unless I’m testing for my cookbook). That’s keeps things pretty interesting. And I allow a few “free” days on the weekends…

    In other craziness, I also map out schedules for each day with to-do lists — one for work and one for home. And I count calories and glasses of water with iPhone apps. The downside? When anything happens unexpectantly, I freak out. And spontaneity is totally out of the question. I go into panic mode when someone suggest a spontaneous activity. It’s probably some kind of psychological disorder, but whatevs…

    A Magic Bullet giveaway would be awesome!

  26. Heather Eats Almond Butter says

    Oh Katie, you’re too kind. Just doing what I can to help. 🙂

    Sometimes, I plan out meals, but usually only for one day at time. I never plan out the entire week or anything. Mostly just go with what I’m craving in the moment based on what’s in our fridge/cabinets.

    OH MY GOSH. I want a Magic Bullet so bad. Sometimes the Vita is just too big for the job, ya know?

    Love you sweet friend. Have a wonderful weekend!

  27. Katie says

    I need to start planning. I’m eating far too many chips/chocolate chips throughout the day and the jeans are getting tight. I just get so stuck on what to eat. Any fun recipes for vegans that are quick and easy? I am getting kinda tired of rice and beans.

  28. Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) says

    Hi Katie!!!! Thank you sooo much for the lovely, kind words you wrote here, and on the email you sent. Sorry that Ive been slammed and havent gotten to write back yet, but know that your words cheered me and warmed me and made me feel soooo lovely, and all the same back to you too sweetie 🙂

    Meal planning…sadly, with a child, you have to. You can’t just say, oh, it’s 6pm and I am maybe hungry, hmmm wonder what we have. No, if you want to eat healthy foods, you need to plan it out, shop in advance, do your prep and chop work and cooking of it in advance so that when dinnertime is here, it’s 15 mins from fridge to micro if reheating or stovetop or whatever to table. Kids change your life 🙂

    I lov u Katie!!!!

  29. candice says

    I’m way too lazy to plan my meals. I just make do with what I have on hand and somehow combine (or sometimes compromise, unfortunately!) my cravings with it. 🙂

  30. River - The Crafty Kook says

    We plan our meals in advance before we do our weekly grocery shopping, but we always end up changing some menus if we don’t feel like eating what we had planned. Always listen to Mr. Tummy! 🙂

    How amazing that Heather is helping out so much with Operation CCK! That’s awesome!

  31. Cyn says

    I should plan my meals out ahead of time and I am starting to make more of an effort to do so. If I dont plan ahead and have to put something together for dinner when I get home that often means no dinner until after 7 or even 8. Considering that I need to be in bed by 9ish to get up at 4ish, eating that close to bedtime is not a good thing. If I dont plan I usualy eat something that is not a well balanced meal.

  32. Kiersten says

    I don’t plan every meal, but I pick out a few recipes that I plan on making during the week. It makes grocery shopping much easier. I just wing it some nights, based on what my tummy is telling me.

  33. Shelby says

    I used to plan them out, but don’t anymore. I’m just too lazy. I actually think I should start up again since I’m in school and can’t make anything without prepping it in advance. I usually just make a list of all the recipes I want to try, them pick whichever one sounds the best at that time.

    Aren’t Averie’s treats phenomenal!? She sent me some and they were gone in less than 5 minutes!

  34. eatmovelove says

    I LOVE your blog!! Found it through HEAB’s. I just started my own – and love writing – but feel so lost and uncertain at times :(.

    But…what a great post about eating according to your tummy. It made me feel good. I agree about the eating sweets all the time – even if you did, after a couple of days (at least haha!!) you’d be wanting something solid like fresh veggies and fruit and or fish (whatever)…the problem is that I stillll eat alot of chocolate and stuff every day…yah…then I feel ‘guilty’ and anxious about it…mostly because I don’t really stop to think about it and shove it in my mouth before my tummy talks to me…! yeah, i know i know – slow down right!! but something takes over me…

    anyways, i appreciate your words and hope that one day I can practice WHAT YOU preach 😉 (please God)!

    oh and I’d lovvvve a spiralizer!! any suggestions of a kind that’s not hard to use or useless??

  35. Tiffany S. says

    Big applause for you, Heather, Averie and all the other gals who make up my Bloggy Posse! You gals RULE.

    (You can read that with a drunk slur because I have had a glass of wine tonight)

  36. Deb (SmoothieGirlEatsToo) says

    I’m glad that OP CCK is working out well- I’m doing my part to help 🙂 click click click.

    I don’t plan, but wish I did just to use up stuff in the fridge. Sometimes I’ll have some leftovers and then just crave something else entirely, so Ill have what I really want. Even if it’s yogurt and maple oaties and fudge babies for dinner 🙂

    Have a great saturday!


  37. Marina says

    Great post!
    I plan some meals in advance, because it helps me sometimes. Sometimes it’s so hard to know what I crave and need, and to have a plan makes it a lot easier to buy groceries and just go and cook for me and my boy. But most of the time, I cook what I feel like eating and have in my fridge

  38. Christina says

    I hardly ever get cravings so I really like planning out my meals in advance but hardly end up doing it. Last year I always did and it was awesome because I made so many new dishes. I need to get back on track!

  39. CaSaundra says

    I usually plan lunches for the today–plan Friday, grocery shop Saturday, cook it Sunday, and eat it for lunch Mon-Fri 🙂 But other meals, I just go with what I feel like, or what I have on hand!

    Any giveaway would be fab!

  40. livingfreeforever says

    Love this post! I used to plan all my meals out a week in advance, but like you, when the time came, I would be craving something else. I do need to plan a little though. I’m glad you posted this, because I was curious as to how you plan or ‘un’plan:)

  41. BroccoliHut says

    My meal planning usually consists of picking out a few recipes that I want to try for the week, not assigning specific times to eat them or anything–that way I have the flexibility to go with my gut cravings:)

  42. Valerie says

    I try to plan some meals in advance but its hard sometimes. I am sort of transitioning to vegan. I am curious: were you vegetarian before vegan? And what is a day of meals like for you?
    I have been eating soy products (tofu, tempeh, edamame) about 3-5 times a week, but I am not sure that is right. I read so many different studies on soy and they all yield different opinions on how good it really is. So I rely a lot on nuts and seeds and nut butters. Can it really be good to rely so heavily on these? I also eat a lot of beans and lentils. What are your thoughts on Sun Warrior vegan protein? Heather at HEAB liked it and I thought a small scoop occasionally might be fine?
    Thanks. SOrry for 101 questions.

  43. Jessica says

    I’m definitely a planner! I make my dinner menu a week in advance, that way I only have to go shopping once. I have a pretty tight evening schedule, so it’s easier that way…

  44. Marianne says

    I’m the sort of planner you are – plan, but don’t plan. I figure if you have a well stocked fridge, freezer, and pantry, then you don’t really need to plan much. I may start to think of some good meals to use up leftovers or food that’s soon to go bad, but they are never set in stone. Because like you said, if you aren’t feeling it, what’s the point in eating it?

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