Meal planning ain't just for bodybuilders and people trying to lose weight. Meal planning is the secret weapon of busy mamas everywhere, who know that avoiding the "What the heck is for dinner" struggle will save their sanity and that heading to the store with a plan will save their budget.
Staying healthy is just another benefit, my friends.
1. Make a Master List
Make a master list of 10-20 meals that you and your family love. When you sit down to do your weekly plan, you can use this list to help figure out what will work for your week. Keep the recipes together in a convenient place - we have a family cookbook that we write our favourite recipes in!
I also recommend categorizing these lists so that you can easily plug in a meal from each category (Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Free-for-All Fridays, etc.)
2. Plan When You'll Plan
Choose a day when you plan to sit down and actually make your plan! For me, that's Sunday afternoon. I search for new recipes, look at our calendar for the week, and plug meals in for when they'll make sense with what are family has going on. Plus, I plan my grocery shopping day (Monday), knowing I'll have my plan together by then!
3. Plan Your Whole Day
When I first started meal planning, I thought breakfast and lunch would be easy and I just decided our dinners ahead of time. However, you'll save yourself time, stress, and trips to the drive-thru if you figure out all 3 meals (and snacks!) for each day.
4. Know what You've got on Hand
Plan your menu around what you already have on hand. Keep inventory on what you have in your pantry, fridge, and freezer and build meals around the things you have.
5. Overlap Ingredients
If you need half a head of cauliflower for your dinner on Monday, look for other recipes that require cauliflower for later in the week.
6. Be realistic
I used to plan to cook dinner 7 days a week. Um, really, Sarra? Nope, never going to happen! Now, I always schedule a leftovers day. I also look at our calendar and what's going on for the week and determine the best days for slow cooker meals and when we might need to eat out!
7. start with dinner
Dinner is the meal I share the most with my family; so, it's always where I start my plan. Then, I plug in breakfast, lunch, and snacks. Usually, I plan to eat the same breakfasts, alternate a couple of salads for lunches, and stick to the same snacks every day (although I might not always eat them all). This strategy helps me save money AND keeps things simple when I've got a busy day (which, let's be honest, is every day).
8. Find a Strategy and stick to it
Use a digital meal plan if that works for you.
Write out your weekly meals if that's your thing.
Just find what fits your family and stick to it. Don't waste time searching Pinterest for the best meal planning template; it doesn't exist.
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