Want to spend less time meal planning (while reducing food waste and lowering your grocery bill)?? Here’s my favorite way to meal plan in 30 minutes or less!
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By now, I’ve written quite a bit on the subject of meal planning — from a general approach to troubleshooting the most common obstacles.
Now I’m going to show you how to do it in 30 minutes or less.
This is a system I’ve been using now for about a year, and it has streamlined my planning and given me back precious time on Sunday afternoons/evenings.
It has also drastically reduced our waste and helped us save money on groceries!
If you’re looking for a way to spend less time planning and more time doing what you love, then read on! I’ll show you how to meal plan in 30 minutes or less.
How to Meal Plan in 30 Minutes or Less
The first thing you’re going to want to do is designate a place for your planning. I highly recommend a digital location so that you can easily change and tweak as you go. (You’ll see why in a moment.)
I use a simple Notes file, but you could use a Word document, a Google doc, an Evernote note, or some other document or memo app.
You may have a special meal planning notebook or family menu board, and that’s great! But for this stage of the meal planning process, you’ll want something very editable. I use a Notes file for my planning, then transfer my finalized plan to my Plum Paper planner.
Once you have your workspace, follow these simple steps:
Make a list of what you have
One of the hardest and most draining parts of cooking wholesome dinners every night is figuring out what to make, am I right? And one of the hardest parts of planning is knowing where to start.
That’s why knowing what I have on hand (or what’s on sale/what I’m going to buy that week) is a KEY first step!
So the very first thing I do is make a list of what I have to work with (meats/other proteins, produce, freezer meals, main ingredient staples, etc.), making special note of anything that’s close to the end of its shelf life and needs used up.
Related Post: 25 Pantry Meals You Can Make With What You Have on Hand
Using this as a starting point is how I drastically reduced our food waste and lowered our monthly grocery bill.
Don’t reinvent the wheel every time you meal plan! One reason a digital file is great for meal planning is that you can use this list from week to week, making minor tweaks as you deplete/replenish your stock.
Brainstorm some meal possibilities
Looking at the list you made in step 1, brainstorm some possible meals you could make. Don’t worry yet about which nights you’ll cook them. You’ll figure that out in a later step. For now, just brainstorm a list of meal possibilities.
Facing meal planner’s block or unsure what you can make?? Here are two strategies for fleshing out your list:
- Consult your list of family favorites — if you haven’t ever made a list of easy meals your family loves and eats on a regular basis, now is a great time to do that! It will save you SO much future time and energy.
- Google your ingredients — this is my (not-so-) secret meal planning hack. This is how I regularly find meals with what I have on hand. Simply go to Google (or Pinterest!) and type in “X and Y recipes,” and see what pops up!
Consult your calendar to see which meals you need
Before we start assigning those meals to specific days, look at your calendar and figure out how many meals you actually need. Between outings, events, and date nights (if/when you have them), you may find you don’t actually need as many as you think.
Assign your meals to each day
Now it’s time to schedule your list of meals. Do this with your calendar/planner in front of you so you can strategically plan around each day’s activities (i.e. crockpot meals for busy evenings, freezer meals for really busy days, packed dinners for planned outings, etc.).
Adjust as needed
This is a circular process more than a linear one, so the final step is to move things around and adjust as needed until you have a workable plan. (This is the other reason I highly recommend doing this on your phone or computer before writing it down on paper.)
This may seem like a lot of work, but trust me. Follow these steps and you’ll be meal planning in 30 minutes or less!
Want more help getting dinner on the table quickly and easily? You can find TONS of effective strategies for meal planning, meal prepping, freezer cooking, money-saving, and more in The Every Mom’s Meal Solution Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Feeding Your Family Well in Any Season, Budget, or Lifestyle!
Click here to learn more and download a sample chapter!
You Might Also Like:
- 5 Ways to Simplify Your Meal Planning
- 25 Pantry Meals You Can Make With What You Have on Hand
- 10 Freezer Meals That AREN’T Casseroles
- 5 Quick & Simple Meals (To Save Time & Energy)
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