Do you struggle with coming up with meals for your family? Do you feel like you spend hours at the grocery store, wandering aimlessly? Meal planning is so easy and will solve both of those problems for you!
I sometimes feel like I am lost as a mom. I mean, if you don’t, are you really doing it right? But I have to say, the one thing I do feel like I know is meal planning. I have worked on it for years and feel like I finally have it down to a science. When people find out that I meal plan and how much I spend per week ($100-$150) on said meal plan, they are all over me with questions. So I thought what better way to share than a free guide on easy meal planning.
I have to preface this with a few things though:
- If you are looking for healthy meals, this is not the place. By no means do we deep fry everything, but I do not eat/shop organic and I am not overly concerned with fresh fruit and veggies. Recently (since I went down to weekly meal planning), there have been more fresh fruit and veggies but sometimes I use frozen.
- I also do not meal plan lunches and breakfasts. My kids actually don’t really like to eat breakfast (they get that from me) so we sort of fly by the seat of our pants. Lunches I have a list of what we eat and sometimes they pick, sometimes they don’t.
- My kids are currently 7 and 4 and almost 2 year old twins (as I write this). So the age of my kids and the amount of people in my family is important to note as well.
- I do not shop around. I only shop at Wal-Mart because they have God’s gift to the parenting world – FREE grocery pick up.
There are tons of benefits to meal planning, and I want to highlight some of them for you because I think people don’t realize how many benefits can come from it.
How do you make a simple meal plan?
You’ve come to the right place! Making an easy meal plan is, well, easy. I have 4 kids and with this easy meal planning system, I am able to meal plan for a whole week in 20 minutes. I even grocery shop online so that 20 minutes includes grocery shopping for me.
Check out these grocery staples to keep
on hand for easy meals!
Benefits of Meal Planning
- Going out to eat – I don’t know about you but when my husband and I were both working full time, we pretty basically spent $300 a month on going out to eat, no joke. This was before I meal planned. It was so easy to just grab something on our way home or meet at a restaurant after work rather than going home and actually working on a meal, or even worse, running to the grocery store to pick up all of the ingredients for a meal, then going home and making it. With meal planning, you can set aside a certain night to go out to eat!
- Keeps you organized – Once you get the hang of it and get into the swing of things, you feel so organized. And that, my friends, is an amazing feeling. It is awesome to feel like you have at least one thing down to a science and you can focus on all the other 55 thousand daily tasks you need to get done.
- Keeps you from guessing – So many nights I would get home from work and just stand in front of the fridge wondering what I should make for dinner. You waste so much time! With easy meal planning, the decision is made for you.
- Gets the family involved – Sometimes I drag my 7 year old into meal planning and it actually makes him more inclined to eat the meals because he chose them.
- Keep track of meals – You’re less likely to constantly repeat meals because meal planning forces you to keep track of what you’re cooking.
How do I make an easy meal plan?
- I grab my meal planning notebook (sold here and lasts an entire year) and turn to the weekly page. It is a page for my weekly meal plan, breakfast/lunch/snack ideas (mostly if I want to try new ones), and a grocery list. There is also a spot for a freezer meal or 2 because when I started this, I was pregnant with twins and wanted to knock out a few freezer meals during the week to keep on hand for when they got here. Some were ready made meals I grabbed from Costco, some were double batches I made when cooking dinner, some were crock pot meals I just tossed into a bag to freeze, some I put together in one afternoon or tossed in the crock pot in the morning and bagged in the afternoon. (Stay tuned, because I’m writing a post on all those meals too).
- With my meal spreadsheet tab opened (I also have all of these written out and on index cards that are color coded because admittedly I am a pencil and paper person. I plan on doing a post about those, too), I go through and choose which meals I want to plan for the week. Then I will also hop over to my Facebook group and grab some new recipes from there. I generally do this on Fridays to start on Sunday. Grocery pick up is scheduled for Saturday or Sunday, depending on what we really need.
- We also have some staples that we do once or twice a week that require little to no thinking. Think about the stuff that is easy and you know your kids will eat – make a list of them. Ours includes things like mac and cheese, pizza, hot dogs, grilling out, cold sandwiches, spaghetti and meatballs, meatballs and rice, etc. Keep this list on hand for when you’re stuck and throw 1 or 2 into your weekly meal plan. We also generally do leftovers once a week as well.
- Once I’ve planned the whole week’s dinners, I hop over to lunches, snacks and breakfasts to list what we need. I don’t get fancy with those (quesadillas, cereal, toast, eggs, bacon, sausage, frozen waffles, sandwiches, frozen stuff from costco, etc) but sometimes I like to try new snacks.
- I also have a piece of paper on the fridge that I write stuff down on if I know I’m going to need it when I’m shopping. Eggs, sliced cheese, apple juice, cheese sticks, bread, lunch meat, bacon, milk, mac and cheese, butter, etc. The things we typically go through weekly, so I hardly write them down. They are just automatically added to my order when I shop.
- Then it’s grocery shopping time. I do my online grocery shopping through Wal-Mart. If you’ve never tried it, you can use my link to save $10 on your first order. Some will deliver to you as well. I grab the recipes and go down the week and write on my list what I need to make each recipe, submit and we’re good to go! One of my favorite things about Wal-Mart grocery shopping online is if you forget one of your staples (something you’ve ordered multiple times), it pops up before you submit your order and asks if you forgot it. 90% of the of time I did forget 1 or 2 items and I can easily add it to my order. My other favorite thing is you can edit your order up to 1:30am the day you pick it up. So if you’re sitting on the couch and realize you forgot milk, just hop on the app and add it.
It may seem overwhelming with all the paper but I promise, after a few weeks it truly becomes second nature. I don’t even remember what I did before I meal planned, honestly!