Tips for meal planning after vacation

My husband and I just returned from 3 weeks of vacation where we enjoyed many yummy pastries and cappuccinos for breakfast and bratwurst, schnitzel, or pork belly for dinner. We did almost no cooking and only ate a couple of “at-home” meals. 

On the final leg of our journey home, I started thinking about meal planning (as one does when you work for a meal planning company), but it felt so tedious. I was drawing blanks on what we normally eat and what recipes I typically have on my meal plan. 

I knew when we got home there would be limited food and I would need to grocery shop pretty much right away, but meal planning just felt hard. 

I despise going to the grocery store without a list, so even though I wasn’t ready to pull myself out of vacation mode, I knew I needed to give my future self a favor. 

I want to share what I did to get back in the swing of things and create my first meal plan after being on vacation. And I also want to share a few extra tips that might help you get prepared before you leave town.

dutch apple cake from Winkle's

1) Meal plan while you’re waiting in the airport, during a flight, in an Uber, on the car ride home…

Or anywhere else you have a few minutes of downtime! I created my meal plan while we were waiting in the airport during a layover. I grumbled about it for a few minutes, but once I got started it became easier and easier. Use moments of downtime to your advantage because once you get home, there are about 100 other things that will demand your attention.

2) Scroll through what you were planning before vacation.

The main problem I encountered when I opened my Plan to Eat app was I couldn’t think of a single recipe to add to my planner. Instead of scrolling through my recipe book (which has so many recipes in it), I started scrolling through my planner to remember what I planned before vacation. This was a good place to start since the recipes I was making before we left were all fairly quick and used mostly pantry ingredients. 

We arrived home in the evening and I knew I wasn’t going to grocery shop that night, so I thought if I had recipes that used things we already had on hand, it would save us from getting takeout that night. 

I added two of those recipes to that return meal plan, so if I didn’t make it to the store the next day either, we would still be able to eat!

Here’s one recipe we love that I was able to add as a “pantry” meal (minus the fresh herbs): Cold Thai Noodle Salad 

3) Peruse your Queue or Times Planned filters.

Next, I went to my recipe book and looked through the recipes in my “Times Planned” filter and in my Queue. Rather than trying to rack my brain for what we normally eat, I let Plan to Eat do the thinking for me! And I use my Queue to hold our easy family favorite recipes, so I knew any recipes there would be suitable.

I like to meal plan by focusing on dinner recipes, eating leftovers for lunch, and buying staples for breakfast. So after I planned a week of dinners (and checked their serving sizes to accommodate leftovers), I went to my shopping list and added all our usual breakfast items and condiments. Then our meal plan and shopping list were done! I was able to go to the grocery store after we got home and pull up my list without any effort! It was a big help since much of our first weekend back was spent pulling weeds in the garden and catching up with friends.

spiraled potatoes and curry-wurst

Since returning home, I’ve had a few more ideas for how I could’ve made this process even easier.

1. Create a Menu with simple, no-fuss recipes to plan the week you return. 

Maybe you already have a Menu like this in your Plan to Eat account that you can use and take ALL the guesswork out of planning ahead. I’ve decided I need to create one for the next time we travel.

2. Order your grocery pick-up or delivery for the day you get home (or the day after if it’s late).

You may not be able to schedule your groceries for weeks in advance, but if you already have your shopping list made, you can easily send your list to your preferred grocery store from the airport or on the ride home. 

3. Add a few recipes for post-vacation, before you leave! 

Do your future self a favor and meal plan for your first week home while you’re creating your “right now” meal plan. I couldn’t believe how challenging it was to think of what to eat when I started planning and I wish I had thought ahead and planned for post-vacation before we left. 

If you have summer travel plans, I hope you have the best time! Enjoy all the pastries and cappuccinos you can and happy planning! 

If you’re ready to upgrade your meal planning routine, try Plan to Eat. Start a free 14-day trial – no payment info required! 

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