Let’s talk about the ins and outs of meal planning. Like I said last week, I don’t enjoy it. In fact, I often dread it. It’s one of my least favorite to-do’s. But I do it anyway because it makes a difference for my family.
Here’s why meal planning matters:
- It saves time.
- It saves money.
- It ensures that you have control over what’s in your food.
- You can choose whole foods instead of processed and how the food is prepared. No more grabbing for whatever happens to be in the pantry.
- You can cook once and eat twice. Perfect for busy nights.
How do I meal plan?
When I first started meal planning, I needed to think about every meal of the day including snacks. It took more time but it really helped me get a handle on how much food we needed to make it through the week. If you’re new to meal planning, try this free printable form:
Over time, planning breakfast, lunch, and snacks became second nature. We seemed to eat the SOB, SOL, and SOS – Same Old Breakfast, Same Old Lunch, and Same Old Snack. I know without any thought at all what we needed from the grocery store. I no longer needed the detailed form and transitioned to this free printable, which I use today to plan our meals:
I note any kitchen projects I have going that week at the bottom of the sheet so I remember to buy any groceries I need. It also reminds me to actually make them. It’s so easy to forget!
Simple Steps to Meal Planning
We’re going to keep this really simple.
- Before you start planning meals, look at your calendar for the week. What nights do you need a quick and simple meal? What nights will you or your husband not be at home? What about your children’s activity schedule? What nights do you have time to cook something more involved or cook a double recipe and freeze half for another evening? When do you plan to eat leftovers? Note all of this on your meal planning form so you can plan accordingly.
- Look through your refrigerator, pantry, and freezer. What needs to be used quickly? What do you already have on hand that you can turn into a meal?
- Grab some of your favorite cookbooks, magazines, or look through the recipes you bookmark when you’re web browsing. What fits with what you already have on hand and your family’s schedule for the week?
- Start plugging in meals. If using a recipe from a book or magazine, I always note the title and the page number. If the recipe comes from a website, I print it and paper clip it to my meal planning sheet for easy reference.
- Hang your meal plan in the pantry or somewhere you can easily access it. This makes it oh-so-simple to figure out what’s for dinner that night.
If you’re new to meal planning, set aside an hour. After several weeks, you’ll be able to plan meals and make a weekly grocery list in 20 – 30 minutes.
Once you’re comfortable planning one week at a time. bump it up to two or three weeks of meals at once. Double freezer-friendly recipes in the first week and let them make a repeat performance the second or third week.
Here are some simple meals to get you started:
- Winter Minestrone
- Curried Brown Rice & Lentils
- Pulled Barbeque Chicken Sandwiches
- Slow Cooker Chicken & Black Bean Tacos
- Apple & Carrot Breakfast Cake
- Protein Packed Breakfast Pancakes
Next week we’ll chat about how to stock your pantry for success.
Free Printables for How to Meal Plan:
This is also my submission to Go Ahead Honey, It’s Gluten-Free hosted by my dear friend Maggie at She Let Them Eat Cake. This month’s round-up is all about foods that heal. I can’t think of a better way to heal than planning your meals and filling them with whole, nutritious foods!
What are your favorite tried-and-true meal planning strategies?