Meal Planning 101
Ready to save time and money? Meal planning helps take the guesswork out of what’s for dinner.
There are so many benefits of meal planning but I believe the most important one is it removes the stress from your days.
Learning to meal plan efficiently, either once a week, once every two weeks or once a month, will save you countless hours in the long run.
I’m passionate about meal planning (after all I have created a whole meal planning system!) because it can save you lots of money and lots of time, which as a busy wife and mother is super important.
Meal planning helps take the guesswork out of what’s for dinner because there is nothing more panic-inducing than realizing it’s 5 o’clock and you have no idea what to prepare for dinner.
Meal planning is also essential if you are trying to lose weight, to eat more healthy or embrace a new diet change. If you don’t have a plan of what you will eat every day, you are almost certainly setting yourself up for failure.
There are so many benefits of meal planning but I believe the most important one is it removes the stress from your days. Sitting down once a week, once every two weeks or once a month to the meal plan will save you countless hours in the long run.
If you have never really meal planned before, or even if you need to give your current system an overhaul, it can seem overwhelming or daunting.
Where do you even begin?
Right here dear friend, with one step at a time!
Meal Planning 101
There is no perfect, one size fits all approach, to meal planning. In fact, if you asked a roomful of people how they meal planned, they will probably all give you a different approach, but the basic approach is usually always the same.
Decide how far out you are going to plan.
If you are new to meal planning, I recommend only planning for one week out to get your feet wet. Once you are more comfortable, try bi-weekly meal planning or even once a month meal planning (my personal preference).
Choose what meals you will plan for.
Think about whether you are just planning for dinner, or if you need to plan for breakfast, lunch, and snacks too.
Since we pretty much eat the exact same things for breakfast, lunch, and snacks now I really don’t spend that much time planning for them but I do make sure we have all the ingredients we need.
See what you already have.
Scan through your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer to see what you already have and need to use up. This is why it’s especially important to have an updated freezer and/or pantry inventory handy.
Check what’s on sale.
Refer to your main grocery store’s weekly sale ad, app or coupon book. This is where you will save the most money, planning meals around meats, produce or other food that is already on sale.
Certain times of the year, it’s also good to stock up and fills your freezer or pantry with staples. If you clip coupons, pull those out to match and stack with sales for the most value.
Use your planner.
Look at your calendar for the week or month ahead to note what nights you need to plan for easy meals or for no meals at all. It is important to always meal plan with your family’s schedule in mind.
Do you have a lot of after-school practices? Even Bible studies? Dinner plans? Will it be a long day where having a crock pot meal already prepared would be super helpful?
Trust me, this is an important step to really think through.
Plan your family’s favorite meals first.
Refer to your family’s favorite meals and incorporate a few of those onto your plan.
I keep a list of our family’s absolute favorite meals that I refer to often. It only took me about five minutes to sit down and list the meals we eat over and over.
Don’t forget to get your family’s input either. Every week I ask my husband to share one or two meals he would really like to eat soon. If your kids are older, ask them too.
Meal planning doesn’t have to fall entirely on you, get your family involved too!
Plan new recipes.
Scan Pinterest or your favorite recipe book or binder to try a new recipe or two. There is no point saving recipes online or clipping them from magazines if you never plan on trying them again.
Some may be duds, unpin them or recycle the recipe and move on, whereas others may become new family favorites. If they sit forever collecting dust they do you no good. I try to make two new recipes a month, one every two weeks on a night when I know I have more time and energy to get in the kitchen.
Really read the recipe and ingredient list BEFORE you plan on making it. If it’s super complicated or involved a lot of specialty ingredients you never buy, it might not be worth your time or money.
Create a shopping list.
Once your meal plan is created, make a master shopping list. Break your list into different categories (produce, baking supplies, canned/boxed goods, meats, freezer, refrigerator, household goods, etc.) so that way it’s easy to shop from.
Once I starting writing out my grocery list this way, my actual shopping trip took no time at all because I wasn’t scanning my list or backtracking through the store.
If you meal plan for a month out, make one huge master list off all the ingredients you will need for the entire month, then make a smaller weekly or bi-weekly shopping list off the main list.
Plan your store route.
Do you go to more than one grocery store, a warehouse club (Sam’s, Costco, etc.), the farmer’s market, your local CSA, or other specialty food source?
An important part of meal planning is the actual shopping part so don’t forget to think through how and when you will actually purchase your groceries. Make a plan and schedule that into your week.
Store your food properly.
Once you have shopped and have brought home all of your bags of food, spend the time to properly put away and store it.
Don’t just throw food into your pantry or refrigerator, keep them organized. Store produce so it doesn’t go bad, use freezer bags to store meat and then label them!
You might even go the extra step to brown all your ground meat to store in individual freezer bags or chop your vegetables so they are handy to eat instead of reaching for a more unhealthy choice when the munchie strike. Head here for more information on how to organize your refrigerator & freezer and to keep your pantry organized.
Yes, there are several steps to meal planning but once you create a system that works for you, it really does become second nature.
Meal planning only takes me, at the most, 30 minutes once a month then about 5 minutes each week to make a shopping list.
I only go to one store weekly and make a Costco run about every other month.
Now that spring is here, I try to fit in a weekly trip to the farmer’s market for fresh produce and do order online a few specialty ingredients and supplies here and there.
Create a Custamizable Seasonal All-In-One Meal Planner
Have you checked out the CHK Seasonal Meal Planner yet?
Does any of this ring true for you too?
Do you wish meal planning was more of a cohesive routine that allows for easy weekly planning?
Do you long to live seasonally and build in traditions to your meal plan?
Do you want to enjoy each season while taking time to plan for your family’s special traditions AND plan for meals you will eat every single day?
These were questions I had been wrestling with.
I wanted a meal planning system that would help me carry my seasonal mindset over into my meal planning but there wasn’t much out there.
The CHK Seasonal Meal Planner is an all-in-one meal planning system that not only helps to plan what we will eat each day but is also built around each season so we can naturally incorporate our family’s traditions and special days.
It will allow you to plan your meals with purpose and intention as you think through special days, holidays, and what each season uniquely offers.
AND It will guide you, step-by-step, through planning each month allowing you to save time and money.
This unique meal planner will hold your hand and take the stress and overwhelm out of planning easy, family-favorite meals.
Plus you will naturally include seasonal elements into your monthly and weekly meal planning!
I could go on and on about all the special features and why I love it so much, but I’d rather you go and check it out for yourself HERE!