Meal planning can feel like a big, overwhelming task – especially when you have picky eaters or special diets to keep in mind.
But don’t worry – we’ve put together this step-by-step guide to help make you a meal planning pro in no time.
Remember, it may seem like a lot of work on the front end, but at the end of the day, there are some great benefits to meal planning (check out the blog “The Importance of Meal Planning” to learn more). You’ll save time, money, and may even start eating healthier.
Win, win, win!
Here are some simple steps you can follow to plan out meals. As you get into a groove, you may find other ways of doing it that work well for you. You may plan for a week, a few weeks, or even a month ahead of time. But no matter how far ahead you want to look, this should give you a good starting point.
- Count how many meals you need: Look at your schedule and figure out how many meals you need for the week. Be sure to count breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and even snacks. Write it down in a notebook, on your phone, on a sticky note – wherever you will remember it and can keep track of it.
- Fill in any planned meals: Based on your schedule, are there any meals that are already planned? Is there a day that you are planning to eat out, grab something on the road, or treat yourself (yes, treating yourself is OK)? Fill it in now! You may find that some days are already filling up.
- Check your refrigerator: Now it’s time to take inventory. Do you already have some ingredients to make a meal? Do you have a good stock of cereal, milk, and eggs for breakfast? Go ahead and start scheduling any meals you have on hand. See – the number of meals you have to plan are already going down!
- Brainstorm meals: This may be the hardest part… start to brainstorm meals you could have during the week. Involve your family. Pick your favorites. Find some new recipes. Mix it up or go back to some old favorites. Remember, not everything has to be super complicated. A slow cooker meal or browning some ground beef for tacos are perfectly acceptable meals. But the important part is that you are planning. Helpful Hint: Be sure to save all the ideas you come up with in a notebook or on your phone – that’ll make meal planning the next time that much easier.
- Start scheduling the rest of the meals: Decide which meals you want to make and start filling them in. As you write one in, be sure to consider if you will have leftovers. If so, plan a leftover lunch or dinner. Before you know it, your whole week will be planned! Helpful Hint: Consider creating traditions for certain meals on certain days of the week, such as Taco Tuesdays, Leftover Thursdays, and Pizza Fridays. Doing this will help you establish a rhythm and automatically fill in more meals.
- Make your grocery list: Go through each meal one by one. What do you need for it? Do you already have it on hand? Build out your grocery list so you’re ready for a quick trip – because no one likes spending time wandering the aisles trying to remember what they need.
- Add a few frozen foods: Frozen foods aren’t the best, but if you keep a few on hand for a last-minute change of plans, it can save you a trip to the drive-through line. Frozen pizzas, frozen chicken, and frozen stir fry are some easy dishes that you can find in most grocery stores. And the good news is that they last a long time, and most don’t take up too much room in your freezer.
That’s it – you’re done meal planning, and you’re ready for your grocery run.
It may be a little rocky the first time. But don’t get discouraged. After you do it a few times, you’ll be planning meals out in no time – and hopefully your family will be excited to get involved and help you plan.
Have other tips for meal planning? Have a question or topic you want us to cover? Share your ideas with the Health for Her community in the comments!