Last week, I talked about the benefits of meal planning. If you aren’t sure if meal planning is for you, I can assure you it is! All it takes is a little bit of time and thought, and the result is stress-free dinners the rest of the week!
This week, I’m going to walk you through my meal planning process and give you a few tips for creating your own.
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My Meal Planning Process:
**Update** I no longer plan my menu on paper. I now use Evernote, instead. To learn more about why I switched and the awesome advantages of Evernote, download my FREE ebook How to Organize Your Entire Life: The Ultimate Answer to a Cluttered Mind. However, the general steps are still the same!
Make my grocery list from the grocery sale ads
For several years, I did my meal planning in the opposite order. I planned what I wanted to make, then made my grocery list for those recipes.
When I made a commitment to cut back on our grocery budget, I realized I needed to change this. To avoid buying items at full-price, I now scour the ads and make my grocery list first, then come up with something to make from those items. Making this small change cut our grocery budget by at least $20 a week!
Consult my schedule.
In my planner, I look at any evening activities that would require eating by a certain time or afternoon activities that might interfere with making dinner. I then write these things right on my menu plan so that there are no surprises. I don’t want to plan for a dish that takes an hour to bake and then realize that I have to be somewhere earlier than it’s going to finish!
Fill in any planned outings or leftover days
Right off the bat, I fill in any days that I plan to eat out or that I know are going to be our leftover days. For examples, Wednesday nights are almost always leftover nights for us because of evening activities.
Figure out the tricky days
One of my next steps is to figure out the busiest days — I know I will need slow cooker meals, freezer meals, or quick meals on these days.
This is where my schedule notes come in handy. If I have plenty of time in the morning, but very little in the evening, I might designate that night to be a slow cooker meal.
If I don’t have much time at either point in the day, I might plan to pull out a freezer meal the night before or plan for a 30-minutes-or-less meal.
Planning these nights ahead of time is one of the benefits of meal planning!
Assign a protein to each day.
My next step is to assign a protein for each day. I try to plan a good variety, including a mix of beef, chicken, pork, and fish. One night a week I plan a meatless meal. I do this for the health of our bodies, as well as our budget!
Fill in the rest of the days
Finally, I plan specific dishes using items that are on sale that week or ones I already have on hand. I take some effort to match up preparation time with the most appropriate day for it.
Once the main dishes are decided, I round out each night with a simple vegetable and potato, bread, pasta, or rice. I usually keep the side dishes as simple as possible.
Bonus tips for a great meal plan:
- Plan for the most perishable things early in the week.
- Plan for what Kathi Lipp calls LOOP (LeftOvers On Purpose). Cook meat once and serve two different ways. And plan for leftovers for lunches!
Related Post: 50 Ways to Repurpose Leftovers: Waste Less, Save More!
- To save time on planning, you could have dedicated theme nights that are the same every week. For example, Meatless Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, etc.I’ve even read of some women rotating the same two, three, or four-week plan over and over until their family tires of it. I personally would not like this style, as we like trying new things and our schedule changes too often, but it might be something to consider if you really don’t like meal planning.
Meal planning does take some time and effort. But a couple of the steps take hardly any time at all, and the others get easier the more you do them. This is especially true if you keep things simple and have a cache of tried and true recipes. Though it takes some time and thought upfront to meal plan, when dinner time rolls around the rest of the week you will be so glad you made the investment!
If this post was helpful to you, you’d like to know more meal planning tips, or you just straight-up want to learn how to feed your family in less time, for less money, and with less stress, then you definitely want to check out The Every Mom’s Meal Solution Handbook!
I wrote this book for any mom (or woman… or man!) who wants to feed her family well but feels frustrated by a lack of time, money, or energy. It’s FULL of practical tips and strategies for creating meal solutions that work for you no matter your season, budget, or lifestyle.
Want to learn more? Click here to read more about the book and what it can do for you!
- 5 Ways to Simplify Your Meal Planning
- How to Cook Real Food on a Budget
- How to Simplify Meals to Save Time & Energy
- Freezer Meals 101: Filling Your Freezer the Fast, Easy Way