Meal Planning 101 (plus free worksheets!)
Meal planning. It sounds daunting, and most people get scared of the word “planning”, but trust me, even if you use it just to only plan what you’re going to eat and for nothing else in your life, it’s going to help you in SO MANY WAYS. It helps to not be stressed, saves money, and literally gives you back time in the day! Yes guys. It’s that magical, and those who meal plan, know exactly what I’m talking about.
It’s not as hard as you think if you’re worried. I promise! I will walk you through exactly how I do it, because I’ve been doing it for years, because that’s what my mom did. And watching her do it basically made me realize that’s how she accomplished a thousand things every week. And here I am, many moons later juggling motherhood and can fully appreciate the benefits of meal planning. With that said, I honed in a system that I’ve used for a while now, and whenever I don’t follow this plan and fail to meal plan, I definitely have a harder week and it causes so much chaos and stress because at the end of the day, we all need to eat. And if you’re a mom, you know you’re already balancing about a thousand other things while trying to get meals on the table. You know that moment, when you open the fridge at 4 PM wondering what you’re going to feed the fam while your kids are telling you they are starving? I’m trying very hard to get you to never have that feeling again!
What do you think?? Are these issues that sound familiar to you?? Have I convinced you??
Are you ready to meal plan and see all the amazing benefits it’ll bring to your everyday life??
Click here to download the free worksheets!
When should I meal plan?
First things first. DO NOT MEAL PLAN ON SUNDAY. I repeat. If you’re doing it on Sunday, you’re going to hate life because you’ve already got that “smonday” feeling. And if you have to think about the week ahead, to plan what you’re going to eat, and head to a crowded grocery store, it’s gonna S U C K bootay, okay. You’re basically late to the game if you like for your weeks to “start” on Monday by doing your planning on a Sunday. I meal plan on Thursdays or Fridays, for the following week. So I plan meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks) for the following week starting with the coming Monday all the way through Sunday.
I shop on Fridays or Saturdays. More often that not, I’ll put in a curbside order at my grocery store and pick it up, and make sure it’s all put away before Sunday comes because Sunday is all about meal prep. Since you’ve already got everything (or most of it) in the house already, you can prep your fruits/veggies and marinate and freeze/thaw given what you planned on eating during the upcoming week!
How should I go about it??
Start with looking at your schedule for the week. And if it matters, your husband’s/kids’ schedule. Write in what days you potentially have a dinner out with friends, or your husband might be traveling, or what days your kids have activities. This will help decide what type of meals you should plan for. For instance, I know on Tuesdays the kids have gymnastics, so I always choose something easy because we get home close to 5:45PM. I also know that Thursdays are my days that I’m extra tired, so I always plan a meal that is effortless and comes together super fast.
Now with your schedule in front of you, start filling in those slots. I write down B, L, D for every single day. You can do this in your planner, or use my free handy dandy worksheets! I also write down KB, KL, KD for all the days. B stands for Breakfast, L stands for Lunch, and D stands for Dinner. The K in front of the other abbreviation stands for Kid, ie Kid Breakfast, Kid Lunch, Kid Dinner. If my kids are eating the same thing we are, I’ll write “same”. This tends to be the same for dinners, but for lunches, we end up eating different things. The L might say salad for me, whereas the KL might say sandwiches that I’m going to pack in their lunchboxes for school.
Wondering what to fill in? Think about meals that are tried and true in your household. Use those to fill in the spots first. For example, our fave dinner that we all four of us eat is trout and veggies, so I might fill in “trout and veggies” on D and KD for Wednesday. Maybe on Thursday (because it’s my tired day), I’ll write “mac and cheese” for KD. No matter how simple the meal, the trick is to write it down. It can be cereal and milk, or a simple sandwich, but it needs to be on the menu because it’ll be crucial when it comes times to write down your grocery list. The other way to fill in your menu is to see what you have in the fridge/freezer/pantry already. Perhaps you have some ground beef in the freezer…well, perfect! What would you like to make with it? Chili?? Meatloaf? A Bolognese?? Write down whatever you choose on one of the days. Don’t waste what’s already on your pantry!
My major tip here is, if there is a new recipe you’ve been wanting to try, I would put that on a day where you know you’ll have energy. Often times, I’ll choose things I want to try out, and I’ll leave those perhaps for Sunday night or Monday night when I know I potentially will have more time/energy to try out something new because it’s the beginning of the week vs. Friday where I tend to want takeout/eat out. Same goes for things that take a long time to cook. Save those for the days when you can allocate your time to doing so.
Also, save your meal plan worksheets if you can, and staple/paperclip them together. Highlight meals you know were really good so that when you sit down to meal plan again, you can go through your previous plans and quickly choose things you know were a hit! It’ll make it even faster and you know exactly how to make it because it was already done before! Maybe you even have leftover ingredients!!
Grocery List Time!
Keep it simple. I designate only 6 boxes to keep it from getting hectic. If these categories don’t make sense to you, please change them according to how you normally write yours! Or add another box potentially! I used to have a box when my kids were younger titled “Baby”. If you need more boxes, add them to the back of the worksheet!
- Produce – This includes all fresh items like veggies and fruits, and also things that are in the bulk foods section like nuts/granola/etc.
- Meat/Seafood/Deli Meat – I will write all my meat items here. It can be ground pork to chicken nuggets (since they are normally in the freezer section of the meat area), salmon or shrimp, deli meats for lunches, and so on.
- Shelves – This is basically the middle of the store. The crackers, goldfish, cereal, chips, granola bars, sugar, salt, salsa, etc. Things that would potentially live in your pantry…
- Frozen – This of course is pretty simple. Frozen veggies, ice cream, waffles, pizza, etc.
- Dairy – Normally this is the cheese, yogurt, eggs, milk list.
- Household Items – This can be all the other things. It’s like the miscellaneous box. Think toilet paper, diapers, nail polish remover, lysol, paper plates, etc.
So, now that you have your menu in front of you, start writing in the ingredients for the meals. If I already have the recipe, I’ll quickly go through and see what’s in my pantry and what’s not. Add them in accordingly.
If you notice, on my grocery list worksheet, there are two columns at the top with just lines. I use these lines to write other stores I shop at, and need things from. Perhaps I need to head to Costco for strawberries, or need to buy the cauliflower gnocchi at Trader Joes. Instead of adding that to my MAIN grocery list of squares, I’ll add that to the top so I know I need to head to those specific stores to get those specific items!
Make sure you think about snacks and add those in here if you didn’t think about them when you wrote out your meal plan! You’ll needs those too!
I hope this has been a little bit of a guide to help you get started on meal planning! If you have any questions at all and need hand holding, feel free to ask me!! And if you use my worksheets, please tag me on Instagram or Facebook! I’d love to see you guys using them! If you need some simple meal ideas, head here to start adding to your meal plan!
Also pin this so you can refer back to it!