When it comes to the busyness of Monday-Friday, you’re probably wondering if there is any way to make weekly meal planning easier & healthier. What if I told you there was a simple planning technique that can help you manage your time, save money, & create structure in the kitchen to assure you’ll be eating a balanced diet?
I remember before I had my daughter there were many weeknights I’d stop by fast food for dinner way too often because of the convenience. And it never left me feeling good. As a mom to a growing (and very hungry) toddler and a fiance, I am no longer cooking to only feed myself. I’m cooking to create a nutritious, balanced dinner that all three of us will eat and enjoy.
In the beginning there was definitely some anxiety around meal times, especially as a new mom. I had no plan, no structure and no strategy. I realized I needed to dedicate my time into meal planning to see some changes. After two years, it has changed how we do things in our house and created a structure that leaves no room for anxiousness!
Let’s not waste any more of your valuable meal planning time and get into all the tips and tricks! <3
What Is Meal Planning?
Meal planning is taking the time to strategically plan out your meals for the day, week, or month ahead. I’ve found that this method has helped me save both time AND money. I no longer walk into the grocery store scanning the aisles to pick up anything I can throw together for dinner. I have a PLAN! Just like in sports, the more you practice, the better and easier it will get.
How Often Should I Meal Plan?
I recommend meal planning at the start of each week, but of course, you do what works for you. I usually break my meal planning up into two parts. On Sunday, I meal plan practical lunches and dinners for Monday through Thursday. Then come Friday, I’ll reassess and make a plan for the weekend to feed our family of three.
I found out the hard way that buying dinner meals on Monday for the upcoming weekend doesn’t always work out because… life happens! Plans come up, we end up wanting to order in or go out to eat, or the food from Monday just isn’t as fresh come Saturday night. On Friday (or even Saturday if we go out to eat Friday), I’ll take into account our weekend plans and meal plan and/or grocery shop accordingly from there.
Let’s just say the weekends we are “winging it,” but I feel 100% okay doing so since our Monday through Thursday we are consuming balanced, nutritious meals made at home.
Why Should I Meal Plan?
- saves time knowing you have a plan for your meals instead of scrambling to find something to cook for dinner
- saves (lots and lots) money – no more aisle shopping at the store!
- adds structure to your days
- assures you’ll eat a variety of nutrients in your meals made at home
- you’re in control of what you put in your body
- decreases food waste
Meal Planning Vs Meal Prepping
It’s one thing to plan your meals for your upcoming week AND grocery shop, but it’s a whole other ballgame to prep them beforehand too.
Since I stay home with my daughter, I have time to cook our lunches and dinners the day of. If you are someone who works full time or has a busy weekday schedule, meal prepping is definitely something you should look into to save time and assure you’re eating healthy.
There are very easy and simple ways to do this by carving out just an hour or so over the weekend. But for the purpose of this blog post, we are solely sticking to all thing meal PLANNING!
What Are Some Dinner Ideas I Can Add To My Meal Plan?
Each month I post a blog post called: a week of weeknight dinner ideas. Go check out some of my previous posts for some healthy & homemade dinner ideas and inspiration.
10 Master Tips To Help You Meal Plan Like A Pro
- Make a list of meals you and your family love. Write down in your phones’ notes page or on paper at least 20 MEALS that are you and your family’s favorites. Think seasonally too. What fruits and vegetables are in season right now? If it’s winter incorporate something cozy and hearty like a roast or soup. Or for spring think of meals that are lighter and colorful. This will help give you a base of meal ideas to pull from when meal planning and rotate into each week.
- Utilize what you already have when meal planning. Check your fridge and pantry and make a list of ingredients you have that you could use in a meal. For example, rice, sweet potatoes, beans, etc
- Browse Pinterest or cookbooks for new recipe ideas. I try to add one new meal a week, but of course this doesn’t always happen. My favorite cookbooks right now are:
- Choose a day to grocery shop & stick to it. Since I stay home with my daughter, we grocery shop together on Monday for the weekdays ahead. This means that we plan all of our meals on Sunday to have a shopping list ready to go come Monday morning. Find what day works best for your schedule, stick to it and then create your meal plan around that.
- Write your grocery list on your meal plan. After you create your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack meals for the week, take inventory of your fridge and pantry to see what items you need to complete each recipe. And starting now: never walk into the grocery store without your list. And with that rule comes this one: stick to the list. 😉
- Include leftover meals in your planning. Sometimes when we make big batches of a dish like a soup or roast, we’ll have lots to leftovers. These can make great lunches the next day, or even another repeat dinner for another night of the week! And don’t forget you can always freeze most of your leftovers and eat them another week.
- Pull out the crock pot for nights you know you’ll be busy. If I know Casey won’t be home from work until after Blakely is asleep and we just have a busy day ahead, I’ll throw a meal in my slow cooker in the morning or during her nap to have ready by the time dinner comes around. The crock pot saves me when the evening rolls around and my toddler is whining “I hungry!”
- This is the crock pot that we use and love!
- Account for your week ahead. When you sit down to meal plan, think about your upcoming week. Do you have dinner plans for Tuesday or a date night on Thursday? Fill those in on your weekly meal plan so you are aware of nights you won’t be home for dinner.
- Keep your previous weekly meal plans. I fully am a fan of meal planning on pen and paper. But with that comes the responsibility to not throw away your previous weekly meal plans! These will be useful for ideas in the future.
- Create a fun schedule to follow each week. This is a fun and helpful idea to assist with the planning process. For example, we love to do some kind of bowl on Monday’s. This could be a Greek chicken bowl, teriyaki salmon bowl, etc. Or another fun idea is Taco Tuesday where you cook a variety of Mexican themed dishes on Tuesdays each week. Friday’s we often love a pizza night, whether that’s homemade, ordering out, or from the freezer! Feel free to get creative with this one!!
I hope these 10 tips help you all to master your weekly meal plan! You got this!! <3