How to Meal Plan: tips for beginners
It's 5:00 pm. Your children have nearly passed out because you are obviously torturing them by not feeding them. It was your plan all along right?! The hour before dinner time seems to be one of the craziest of the day in our house. And if there's no plan in place for dinner, it's all the crazier!
Let's face it, meal planning is not one of the most fun jobs. But the reality is that it is super awesome when I do make a meal plan. I used to just wing it. But then we'd end up eating dinner at 7, or even later. And now with kids who need to get up on time for school, that just doesn't work. We are a busy family of seven, I need a plan in place and I don't want to take a bunch of time to make it. I need easier, less "to-dos" in my life. As it is, I'm busy taking care of my kiddos and this is not something I want to spend a bunch of time on.
It's taken some time to figure out, but now I have a system that keeps me from having to wing it. At least most of the time...
If you are in need of some help on how to make a meal plan made, then read on my friend. By the time you get through these tips you'll see how to make a meal plan without adding a huge "to-do" to your already busy days.
The thing about meal planning that seems to make it such a challenge is this: most of the time us busy mamas are trying to make a meal plan right before it's time to go get the groceries for the meal plan.
Meal Planning TIP #1
Do your meal plan a week before you actually need to go grocery shopping.
Don't wait until the night before or the afternoon of. I promise you, all of a sudden your mind will go blank and every meal you've ever made will be forgotten. Okay, kind of joking.... kind of.
**The key to having success at meal planning is to do it a week or more ahead**
This allows you time to think when you are not under any pressure or time crunch. Our mom brains always have so much going on and can remember the most random things at random times.
Give yourself a little break and just write down a meal or two here or there. This allows you to be thoughtful in your planning and you won't be stressing to finish the menu & make a grocery list right before you need to go grocery shopping.
Meal Planning TIP #2
Decide how often you need to want to shop. This can vary from household to household and family to family.
I've tried meal planning and shopping for our family for two weeks at a time and it just didn't work. So we went to a one-week Meal Plan and once per week grocery trip.
But honestly, I hate grocery shopping and that was more than I wanted to be there! So, I've found that 10 days works best for our family (& me!).
Try out a couple different ways and see what works best for you and your family.
Meal Planning TIP #3
Think about what's on the schedule during the dates you are planning for.
If you know that you are going to be running the kids all over town to practices or activities, don't plan a meal that will take you an hour to prep and make.
Plan for your busy days by doing a crockpot or casserole type dish that will allow you to do the other mom stuff you have to get done.
It always feels great to be able to throw dinner in a crockpot and carry-on with your day like you've got a dinner fairy making your dinner!
Keep breakfasts and lunches simple.
This means only having 1-2 options for each breakfast and lunch. You'll not only save yourself the time you'll save yourself money.
Not only do I give my family just a couple of breakfast options. WHat I do ofree are very quick, simple, and easy options that I can prep ahead of time
Usually, it's homemade oatmeal and pre-cooked sausages or smoothies and individually baked eggs. All things that take just a couple minutes to heat up if I’ve already prepped them. I usually keep English muffins in the freezer as well for a quick option for the kids!
Mornings, especially school mornings, are crazy busy. There's no way I'm going to be putting together a huge breakfast every day.
Meal Planning TIP #5
Have 1-2 dinners the same every meal planning period.
This makes meal planning so much easier for me. Every Friday at our house is Movie Night which means homemade Pizza.
Which means every time I'm making our meal plan I already have Fridays figured out. It's the little things like this that make meal planning less of a chore.
Once you have those meals plugged in you can ask your family what types of meals they'd like to see on the dinner table that week.
Soon you'll see a trend in their favorites and without even having to ask you can be sure to add in their favorites and reduce the amount you have to come up with!
Last, but not least, keep your meal plan visible.
This can mean on the fridge, the counter, a cool chalkboard up on your kitchen wall. Totally simple, yet super important! Once your meal plan is made and groceries purchased, try to keep it visible.
Otherwise, you may forget what the plan is and that can lead to forgetting to take food out of the freezer in time. And when that happens, all plans go out the window and you'll end up eating cereal or getting take-out.
*You can even prep some items when you have some quiet time throughout the day so when the kids turn into a ravenous pack of wolves you'll be ready!
I know that you are a busy mama and meal planning is not one of the most fun or glorious jobs to do. But now that you know to make a meal plan well in advance, keep it simple, and keep it visible I have no doubts you'll discover it is not the worst thing in the world. And before you know it, it may turn into a habit you don't even have to think about!