Meal Planning Made Easy in 5 Simple Steps
Meal planning will help you save money, time, and stress, as well as help you eat healthier.
Do you struggle with getting a healthy, home-cooked meal on the table at a decent time? If your house is anything like mine, you are probably so caught up in teaching, corralling two-year-olds, and scaling Mt. Laundry that you look at the clock at 4:30 p.m. and realize that you don’t have a clue what to make for dinner. So what’s the answer?
However, maybe you’re thinking, I know I need to meal plan and I want to. I just don’t know how to get started. Believe me, I understand. That was me not too long ago. I just could not seem to get a handle on meal planning for the longest time. For instance, I’d decide to start, plan a week or two, but then we’d get busy and I’d give up. That happened over and over for years.
But now I’ve finally figured out how to get a meal plan to stick, and I want to share what I’ve learned with you!
This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using this link.
How to Easily Begin Meal Planning
1. Designate a day to plan next week’s meals.
We all gather every Sunday evening after dinner to plan our meals for the next week. Because our grocery shopping happens on Wednesdays, we actually have our meal plans going from Thursdays to Wednesdays. In addition, our store’s sales flyer comes in our Sunday newspaper, so we also plan our meals around what is on sale that week.
Consequently, by always writing up our meal plan on Sundays, we have gotten into the habit of setting aside that time after dinner to make it happen. In addition, the few times we’ve had something going on or have forgotten, we just made sure to do it Monday night or as soon as we could.
2. Look at your calendar.
Before you start figuring out your meals, you need to look at your calendar. Do you have any evening activities scheduled? For example, perhaps you need to plan a meal for your slow cooker or a meal that can be eaten on the go.
Earlier this year, my boys had an activity on Thursdays from 5-7 p.m., while my daughter had an activity from 7-9 p.m. In this case, we planned a meal that could be eaten earlier for my husband, daughter and toddler, while I ate with my older boys after their activity. Before meal planning, we would have gotten something out those nights.
3. Start simply.
If you want meal planning to be something you stick with, go easy on yourself and start simply. Maybe just start with planning dinners for awhile until you get into the habit of writing those down each week.
Likewise, you could assign certain meals to certain days, like Taco Tuesdays or Soup & Salad Saturdays. In my family, my kids have set Fridays as homemade pizza night. They look forward to it every week, and we hear lots of moaning if we dare suggest something else! The easier something is to do, the more likely you are to do it.
4. Make your grocery list along with your meal plan.
If you are already looking through a sales flyer or through your pantry as you meal plan, you certainly can make up your grocery list at the same time. This way you don’t have to try to remember what you need for Tuesday’s meal when making up your grocery list, or worse, while you’re at the store.
We like to write our list in sections of the store: dairy, frozen, grocery, produce, meat. It makes our shopping much easier and we are less likely to forget something.
5. Hang up your meal plan.
If you are going to go through the effort to make a meal plan, make sure you hang it up where you can see it and remember to use it! In our kitchen, we painted a small side wall with chalkboard paint. We hung a dry-erase calendar on that wall as well, and made it into a command center of sorts.
I write our menu on this wall each week. As a result, having it written where I can see it helps me remember any prep work that I need to do, such as thawing meat or making pizza dough. Most importantly, the kids can also see it, keeping them from asking me all day long what’s for dinner!
Bonus tip: Keep a record of your meals.
I printed off a year’s worth of blank calendar months and stapled them together. I use this to keep a record of what we have for dinner each night. Moreover, it’s nice to refer back to it when we can’t come up with something, or to see if we need to change things up.
Without a doubt, we’ve seen many benefits since we started meal planning. First, we have saved money not eating out and planning meals based on sales. Also, I have more time during the day and am less stressed because I’m not trying to figure out what to make for dinner. Above all, we are eating much healthier than we had been because we aren’t eating out as much.
Do you meal plan or do you plan to start now that you have some tips to get you going?