Meal planning! Do you love it? Hate it? Never tried it before?
If you’ve never heard of meal planning (which I’m sure most of you modern mamas have) it is a skill easily learned where you take time to plan any number of meals for the week. This can include every single meal including snacks or just dinner. Meal planning can be adapted to every family’s needs. In a gist, meal planning is asking the what’s for dinner question once for the whole week! Are you on board yet?
Planning out our meals is such a life saver for my family for a few reasons:
- When we have a meal plan, we don’t eat out as much which saves so much money and is much more healthy.
- There is way less stress of wondering what you’ll eat every night and there is hardly any running to the grocery store every day for ingredients before being able to begin cooking.
- There is no wasting food because everything is planned, which again, saves money.
If you love the sound of saving money, less food waste, and minimal dinner stress then you’ve got to give meal planning a shot. Meal planning is often seen as a daunting overwhelming task, but when it is broken down into key steps, you’ve got yourself a successful week of planned meals.
So how do you do it?
Step 1] Start planning on the weekends!
If you’re anything like me, starting fresh on Monday is key to a good week. Meal planning on the weekend gives time to select recipes, grocery shop, and meal prep.
Step 2] Create a list of the meals you’d like for dinner.
I personally only use Pinterest as my recipe book. I have many boards with recipes to try and recipes that we love so I just go through and choose from there. You can use the old fashioned paper cookbooks, Google searches, other cooking sites, etc. I like to use a meal planning template through my phone to write down the meals I select but you can use a sheet of paper, a blank calendar, meal planning apps, chalkboard in the kitchen, write it in your planner or whatever you feel comfortable using to track your meal plan with. Choose dinners with the intent of having leftovers for those nights you just aren’t feeling it to cook. Another pro tip: shop in your kitchen, meaning choose recipes based on ingredients you already have at home, that way you’re saving even more $$$!
Step 3] Make a grocery list.
Congrats, you’ve now got a plan! Go you, I knew you could do it. Now it is time to figure out what ingredients you need to make the meals. Make a grocery list by going through the recipe’s ingredient lists. Check your pantry and fridge first! Now you know exactly what to buy and how much to buy when shopping, again, saving money!
Step 4] Grocery shopping time!
I use online grocery ordering via Walmart and Target apps. As a mom of three kids 5 years old and under, this is a huge time saver and stress reliever. You’re welcome for not crowding the stores with my rambunctious roaring circus! Ordering groceries via an online service isn’t for everyone so another tip is to shop early mornings – hardly anyone shops then.
Here are a few additional tips I’ve learned along the way:
- Do not be afraid to show your crockpot/instant pot some love. Add crockpot recipes to your meal plan to save yourself even more time and stress on weeknight evenings. Oh also, sheet pan dinners! Those are used just as often as our crockpot.
- Do not stress yourself out by thinking meal planning means all home cooked meals because that is so far from the truth. Freezer meals and precooked meals are well loved around here.
- Do not think that just because you meal planned it is set in stone. There is so much room for imprecisions and customization in meal planning.
Now having a meal plan will not solve all your problems. There will be some days you’ll forget to defrost the meat or you may not feel like cooking. Also we feel very strongly about pizza night around here – can’t forget that in the meal plan.
If you’ve followed these steps, you’re well on your way to having your own meal plan that leads to saving money, less food waste, minimal dinner stress, and no more what’s for dinner without having an answer!