Meal Planning Archives - Percolate Kitchen

Pick and Choose Chart for Kid’s Packed Lunches

Use these ideas to get your kid's packed lunch ideas flowing! Pick one thing from each section for each lunch packed and be sure your kids cover their food groups and enjoy their lunch at the same time. There's even space to add in your own favorites!

I may be new to the ‘kid’s packed lunch scene’, but it doesn’t mean I’m full of fresh ideas as to what I’m supposed to pack!

“Will she eat this? Is this even healthy? Wait, am I including enough food groups?” Seriously, packing a kids’ lunch shouldn’t be this dang stressful. And yet it’s one of my most dreaded chores.

My kids aren’t school age yet (my son is 1 and my daughter is 3) but three days a week, they go to a babysitter/daycare situation from 9-5, and they bring a packed lunch with them on those days.

I do this so I can actually get, you know, work done.

I send them off (despite working from home) so that I can actually work, instead of, say, losing my mind or temper or plonking them in front of the T.V. for eight straight hours. It’s a win-win for everyone, and they absolutely adore their babysitter.

I make their packed lunches the night before, while I’m cleaning up after dinner but before I put leftovers away. I find that if I try to cram in packed lunch prep in the morning, I usually forget something – plus, it’s way too stressful! We have enough morning time battles to fight, such as trying to brush my daughter’s hair without her running away from me. Ain’t nobody got time to deal with lunch making, too.

Use these ideas to get your kid's packed lunch ideas flowing! Pick one thing from each section for each lunch packed and be sure your kids cover their food groups and enjoy their lunch at the same time. There's even space to add in your own favorites!(click the image to pin straight to Pinterest!)

I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks along the way regarding these packed lunches:

  • Try to only have one food group item at a time (so, say- one piece of fruit, one vegetable, protein, etc)
  • Cheese sticks are my very best friend
  • Those reusable baby food pouches I bought too many of when my daughter was just getting into solids? Those are the perfect vehicle for applesauce.
  • My daughter tends to try more things at the babysitter’s house, so this is prime time to add in things like green beans, roasted broccoli, dried apricots, etc. She lives by the credo, “If it’s from mom, it’s gross. If it’s from the babysitter, I should try it!” So, I totally take advantage of this.
  • Leftovers are my other bff after cheese sticks. The nights before the kids go to the babysitter, I try to cook a dinner that is easily ‘leftover-able”. This saves me time and money, stretching a meal out this way!

Want some great ideas for a simple recipe you can make at home that works fabulously in kids’ packed lunches?

Check out this Facebook Live I did, where I made 15-Minute Peanut Satay Chicken Skewers and Broccoli Pesto Pasta.

Percolate Kitchen on Facebook Live: 2 Easy Back to School Packed Lunch Ideas

( Plus, I share my faaaaavorite reusable food containers, from Kids Konserve. They’re leakproof and practically indestructible! )

But wait! I went one step further, and created this handy little ‘Pick and Choose Packed Lunch’ cheat sheet for you! 🙌

Guys, this takes SO MUCH of the thought process out of planning and packing kid’s lunches. Add in a few extra options that your kid’s like; make it personal to you and your family.

Then, when it’s time to take care of the kid’s packed lunch, just pick one item from each section on the chart. Add it to the lunchbox, zip that sucker up, and toss it in the fridge or backpack.

It could.




Well, easier if you had like, a maid to do this stuff for you. But you know what I mean.

Anyway, the download’s FREE!! No strings attached, no email to hand over. Just click and save and go about your merry little lunch-packing way.

Enjoy the school year!

Click here for the straight-up pdf version. Or, click the image below to download!

Use these ideas to get your kid's packed lunch ideas flowing! Pick one thing from each section for each lunch packed and be sure your kids cover their food groups and enjoy their lunch at the same time. There's even space to add in your own favorites!

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 How To Cook ‘Family Meal; Just Like a Chef 

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The 5 Minute Meal Plan (Quick Cooking Tips #1)

This Is The Best Way to Begin Meal Planning, If You’ve Never Done It Before

I used to think meal planning was a waste of time. Wrong! Read on for steps you can follow to begin meal planning, the easy way!

I used to think meal planning was a waste of time. Wrong! Once I nailed meal planning, our lives got easier! Read on to find the steps you can take that will get you planning like a meal planning master.

Real talk: I used to think meal planning was stupid and a waste of time.

When it came right down to it, my biggest problem was that I really didn’t know where to even begin meal planning:

What if I didn’t want to eat what I had planned?

What if I made too much food?

What if we decided to meet friends that night instead?

What if something else sounded better at the grocery store? 

Couldn’t I just wing it?

Now, I look back at myself and laugh; meal planning has, if anything, made my life easier! Now I know what I will be spending that week at the grocery store, I know what we’re having for dinner that night, and I know just how I can ‘pivot’ to a different dish if something comes up or we change our minds last minute.

While I thought meal planning was hemming me in, it was really freeing me up in ways I could never have expected.

I’ve been writing on this page about just how I plan meals for our week since I started it, in 2016. But my meal planning journey began after my first daughter began eating solid food, when I was tired of throwing meals together at the end of an already long day, and hated how I would sometimes reach for the easiest thing to give her when I didn’t feel like cooking (she ate a lot of banana and avocado dinners back then)

In this post, I’ll be dropping all that knowledge into one big, fat list.

If you’re new to meal planning, there’s info here to get you going. If you’re in a rut, I got you covered there, too. And if you just need some inspo to figure out what the heck you’re actually cooking this week, I have cheat sheets and idea lists galore!

Getting Out of a Meal Planning Rut with Tiffany from Don’t Waste The Crumbs

Welcome back to the next post in my “Ask an Expert” series!

This week, we’re talking about: How do you get out of a meal planning rut?

Tiffany at Don’t Waste the Crumbs has a few good ideas on how you can jumpstart your creativity when you’re feeling stuck!

Her site is awesome for those who are trying to save money, utilize everything we’ve got in our fridges and pantries, cook fresh, wholesome (mostly organic) foods for our families… and not break the bank in the meantime!

I love Tiffany’s email newsletter because she’s always sharing something that is actually helpful.

If you’re not signed up for her emails, I really recommend that you go do so right now. I’ve been a subscriber for a while now, and I genuinely look forward to her emails! It’s never just an update or a pushto buy something, but genuine ideas to get you cooking fresh food and while saving money, too.

And I love her idea for banishing the meal planing rut, down after the jump. I’m totally going to start doing her idea now!

 Please note this interview has been edited slightly for clarity.


The 5 Minute Meal Plan (Quick Cooking Tips #1)

How I create my '5 minute meal plan' each week, using a super simple system! Once you have it set up, you won't believe how easy it is to use.

I’m spilling my favorite secret today with my ‘5 Minute Meal Plan’ tip!

Today I thought I would share one of my favorite time saving, quick meal planning ‘hacks’. It’s Evernote, the cloud-based note-taking app! I’m going to break down, step-by-step, how I use this super simple app and program. Then you, too, can work a super quick 5 minute meal plan! 

My Evernote system is something I use regularly when I’m making my own family’s meal plans, and I also use it when I create my customized, bespoke meal plans.

It’s nothing special or crazy or complicated, but you do need a smartphone to fully pull it off.

I use Evernote to store all my recipes.

No binders or recipe card boxes here!

If you’ve never used or heard of Evernote, I urge you to check it out! It’s a cloud-based list making app, and it is so powerful. Since it’s based in the cloud, it will take up very little room on your phone, tablet, or computer. Yet it has the capacity to store thousands, if not millions, of your recipes!

Here’s a quick rundown on how I have my Evernote set up:

YES! Free Meal Planning Kit!

Subscribers to Percolate gain instant access to this handy Meal Planning Kit! Includes weekly meal plan template, recipe ideas, cheat sheet, and checklist.

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How to Start Meal Planning: A Convo with Angie Trueblood from

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of getting together with Angie Trueblood, of! Angie graciously let me pepper her with questions about how she got her start meal planning, where she gets her inspiration, and what she does on those nights when the whole plan falls apart (hint: it’s not ordering takeout!)

Ruthy: How do you decide what to cook for dinner each night? Do you have a binder, a list, “theme nights”, etc?

Angie: I have all of this. 🙂 I have a binder that has a one-month rotation of our ‘theme nights’ that I use as the starting point for our meal plan. Then, for each theme night, I have a list of our favorite meals and recipes. My goal is to cut down on the decisions I need to make when choosing our weekly meals, so having these decisions already made saves me time AND brainpower (a hot commodity, these days). 🙂

Ruthy: When did you start meal planning? What motivated you to figure it out?

Angie: Really, not until I had my daughter, my first child. My husband and I were both working full-time, and we’d rush in the door after work and be torn between wanting to spend time with her while also needing to feed us all. Doing that without a plan made for a cluster of a night and I knew there had to be a better way. So, true to form, I created a system that worked for us.


Ruthy: What’s your favorite ‘pivot’ dinner recipe? (I love how you refer to them as ‘Plan B’ meals!)

Angie: I always keep shrimp, frozen veggies, and a great sauce on hand, so I can do a super simple rice bowl. The key to not having to run out to dinner when I don’t really want to (and honestly, if the day is requiring a last-minute pivot, I’m usually not in the mood to go out anyway!), is to have quick-cooking items on hand that make a meal that you’re somewhat excited about. 🙂 Keeping shredded chicken or meatballs on hand in the freezer are also great go-to’s and can be turned into a meal in no time.

Ruthy: Do you have a favorite ‘use up the leftovers!’ type of meal?

Angie: It’s not super sexy, but I can make a hearty meal out of quesadillas most any night. Most nights, I purposely cook more food than we’ll eat at one sitting, so we have leftovers for lunch and usually another meal where I’ll ‘repurpose’ the meal into something else. Any leftover meat or veggie is game for stuffing in a quesadilla and since we always keep rice and black beans on hand, it’s easy to make a complete meal out of it. Grilled sandwiches and soups are also great ways to repurpose leftovers.

Ruthy: What would you tell someone who feels overwhelmed about where to start meal planning?

Angie: Just start. Don’t worry about creating a complicated system that is going to work forever. A friend of mine recently wrote her first weekly meal plan EVER on a pink index card. Having that plan gave her more peace of mind than she had ever had at dinner simply because that major decision of the day was made. Don’t invest in digital meal plan subscriptions or go out searching on Pinterest first, either. Those can come in time to add variety but, first, start with the meals you know your family will eat and go from there. Obviously, if you need help, I’d love you to check out my course, What the Fork is for Dinner? In it, I walk you through the steps of creating a simple system that works for your family and your schedule through video tutorials, a detailed workbook, and printable planning sheets.

Bonus! Angie is offering her course only to Percolate Kitchen readers for the discounted price of $47 until Saturday, May 27th at midnight! Enter the coupon code RUTHY to snag your deal; after theat, the price shoots up to $67!

Ruthy:  What’s a good way to get out of a ‘planning rut”?

Angie: First off, give yourself permission to take a break. (Ruthy: I freaking love this)

Seriously. No one needs to be making 7 dinners from scratch every night of the week for months on end. 🙂 Plan in some ‘kitchen closed’ nights where you DO go out or nights that are super easy. I love doing meat and cheese boards at home and they’re a hit for the whole family. We put a couple of different meats, cheeses, fruits, crackers and jam out and we’re done! Usually, once I come up with a couple of fun ideas, I’ll get excited again. Recently, a friend shared the idea of a ‘Takeout Fakeout’ night and it’s now my mission to recreate some of our favorites!

Ruthy: You’re big on finding simplicity in life. What’s your favorite tip for someone who feels they need to simplify things in their life a little more?
Angie: I am. And, I’m big into simplifying so that I can enjoy the people that matter. I would say first, get clear on your priorities and start evaluating how your actions reflect those priorities. If work is not a huge priority, but you’re spending 10 hours a day there, something needs to change. For me, eating dinner at home is a top priority, but cooking everything from scratch is not. So, I serve healthy meals any use plenty of shortcuts to get there. Seriously…the rotisserie chicken is better than sliced bread in my opinion. 🙂

Guys, honestly- how helpful is Angie!? And I’m in love with her site, too. It’s full of helpful tips, simple recipes, and meal planning support. Definitely my kind of website!
Don’t forget to snag Angie’s STEAL of a meal planning course, ‘What The Fork Is For Dinner?‘ for just $47! This price is only valid until May 27th, 2017 at midnight. After that, the price is $67! Use coupon code RUTHY at checkout to claim that price.

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3 Reasons Why You Need Better Kitchen Organization

Better kitchen organization is crucial to making quick, easy recipes. Don't just DIY it; use this handy template for ideas on organizing your own kitchen! Better kitchen organization is crucial to making quick, easy recipes. Don't just DIY it; use this handy template for ideas on organizing your own kitchen!

It’s super important, but: Do you know why you need better kitchen organization?

I worked for years as a line cook in a variety of restaurants, and you know what tip stuck with me the most? Hint: it wasn’t splashing water next to a cheeseburger on a grill so the steam would melt the cheese (good tip, tho).

No, the best tip I took from working in professional kitchens is this: organize yo’self. 

Pro cooks call it ‘mise en place’, which is French for ‘set in place’. This is the most important part of your kitchen organization.

Put simply, it means everything in the kitchen has a ‘home’. And not only that, but God bless you if you move something out of its home and you don’t put it back; you will face the wrath of not just your boss but the rest of the kitchen staff, too.

But another, more important reason for everything having a ‘home’ is that it makes a cooks’ life easier. You work faster this way, without scrambling to find butter or breadcrumbs when you need them the most.

If your home kitchen isn’t organized with a clear, easy-to-follow system, you might not feel the wrath of your boss for being a slowpokey mess. But you will have a harder time making the most of your kitchen.

PSST: Want to grab the template from this post AND all 22 recipes, cheat sheets, and worksheets from all the other posts in the series?

Make the Most of Your Kitchen

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Let’s take a look at my top 3 reasons why you should get yourself a kitchen organization system already.

With an organized kitchen system, you can:

1. Grab it quick

It probably goes without saying that a well-planned organization system will help you find your stuff faster. You don’t want to start baking cookies only to have to hunt down the baking soda.

But the real magic in an organization system comes not just from knowing where things are, but why they’re there in the first place. For example:

  • Keep the baking ingredients in the cupboard above the stand mixer and mixing bowls.
  • Store your pans with their lids close to the stove.
  • Keep silverware close to the sink so it’s put away clean much easier than traipsing halfway across the kitchen.
  • In the fridge, place defrosting meats in a dish or bowl on the bottom shelf. This way, any dripped juices won’t contaminate the rest of your fridge.
  • Put hot sauce and ketchup in the fridge door so they’re grabbed quickly on the way to the table.

These little things make a big difference in terms of speed!

Check out this example diagram I put together. Obviously, every kitchen is laid out different and requires its own system. But see how like item is placed with like item? The ‘flow’ of products, appliances, and ingredients makes sense compared to the location of the stove, sink, and fridge. I only wish my NYC kitchen was this big and airy, but that’s for another day.

Do you know why you need better kitchen organization? Years as a line cook taught me this important kitchen tip: organize yo'self. Here's why.

Side note, I only wish my NYC kitchen was this big and airy, but that’s for another day.

Make the Most of Your Kitchen

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2.Use FIFO

‘FIFO’ stands for ‘first in, first out’.

It’s also the way grocery stores stock their goods; the oldest thing goes in front of the newer thing.


You have a box of chicken broth that will expire soon. That soon-to-expire box of chicken stock should be used in something so it doesn’t go to waste, yes; but it should also be in front of the next oldest box of chicken stock. Not only will you be able to grab it quickly, like in Step One, but you’ll be able to tell immediately that you need to write ‘chicken stock’ on your grocery list.

This means a little extra work when you’re putting away groceries since you have to rotate the new stuff to the back, but it saves a ton of money in the long run and gives you peace of mind.

Won’t it be nice to never have to find yourself hunting down, say, tomato paste while swearing to yourself, “I KNOW I bought it last week! Or did I use it? Did someone else use it? WHERE DID IT GO.”

 3. Ninja-like speed

When you have a kitchen organization system, you can cook much faster. There’s no scramble. As you get to know your system, you can reach without thinking to grab the olive oil, or a pan, quickly move boiled pasta from the stovetop to a colander without extra steps involved. A smart system means you work faster, which gets dinner on the table quick. And that’s why we’re all here, right?

The key takeaway

The thing is, all three steps work together in order to best get your kitchen organized. Once you’ve got things in their ‘homes’, are operating with a FIFO rotation, and are so knowledgeable as to how your system works, your meals will get on the table faster, you’ll save money at the grocery store by not buying what you need, and (bonus) anyone can come into your kitchen and easily find their way around.

This also marks the end of this series! Woot woot! If you hung with me all the way through, you’re a freaking rockstar. I’d love if you shared your favorite part of the series so others can benefit, too!

Click below to read the last three posts in the ‘Make the Most of Your Kitchen Series’ 

How to Cook ‘Family Meal’ Like a Chef

‘Don’t Throw That Out!’ Reusing Leftover Food

The 5+ Best, ‘Must-Have’ Kitchen Appliances Every Busy Cook Needs

Make the Most of Your Kitchen

Get this FREE ebook chock full of recipes, cheat sheets, guides and advice to help you get your act together in the kitchen.

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit