If you’ve been thinking about meal planning or creating a healthy meal plan, it’s probably for a combination of reasons. Either you’re trying to wheel in the monthly food budget, make your life easier, create a healthy meal plan to watch your weight, or just want to get control of the week’s meals.
For me, it’s all four of those reasons!
So, I thought I’d share with you some meal planning tips for getting started as you embark on your menu planning journey. You can get the meal planning printable sheet that I use here. It will make your life so much easier as you try to keep track of meals!
Tips for Meal Planning
Tip 1: Write it Down
One of the biggest mistakes I made when we first started planning out our meals was that I kept it all in my head and didn’t write it down. By Wednesday (or Tuesday!), I would have completely forgotten what it was I was supposed to be making for dinner that night and we’d end up with pizza. Pizza’s great, but it’s not exactly healthy when it’s slathered in spicy pepperoni and gooey cheese.
The solution? I started writing down what we were having on a weekly meal plan sheet. I’ll email you the one I use; just fill out your email address and first name on this form. It’s a simple, no frills form that gets the job done and doesn’t waste a lot of printer ink – yay!
So, before you go on to the next step, grab your pencil (not a pen, but a pencil, because you’ll invariably have to erase) and download the weekly meal planning printable.
Tip 2: Make a Master List
One of the things that has helped us tremendously with meal planning is to create a master list of meals that we enjoy having. I’m always open to adding new recipes to the list if we find them, but a lot of the time we rotate through some core meals.
If you’re not sure what might work for your family, here are some ideas of things we like: Easy Meal Prep Meals.
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Tip 3: Think About the Week Ahead
Be realistic about the things you’re putting on your weekly meal plan calendar. If you know that you’ll be rushing around on Thursdays after school to get kids to and from activities, don’t schedule a four-course dinner for that night. Instead pick something that’s easy to put together (like a salad bar!) or plan a slow cooker meal for that night.
Honestly, I think this is really one of the most important parts of meal planning. If you’re realistic about your time and energy during the week, you can plan accordingly and that helps you stay on track. Otherwise, you’re ordering out or stopping to pick up food that’s probably not the most healthy for you.
If you know that every night is a busy night, there’s no shame in having slow cooker meals and soups every night. Remember, meal planning is about doing what works for you and your family to make life easier.
Tip 4: Choose Meals with Similar Meats
One of our favorite healthy meal planning meals is a slow cooker chicken. It’s so easy and gives us enough chicken for two meals. We also use it to make bone broth which has saved us from having to buy chicken broth for the last few years. Not only is it inexpensive, but it makes the house smell delicious!
When you’re meal planning, choose meals where you can use the same meat in a variety of dishes. So, instead of buying ham steaks for one meal, buy a whole or half-ham and make things like Ham and Cheese Quiches, Ham and Bean Soup, and more. Not only does it save money, it makes it so much easier to plan.
The key is to make sure your meals work together and that you get that first meal in. There have been times when I’ve forgotten to thaw something and had to wait a day to make that first meat dish, so it threw the rest of the week off. If you can, cook the big meat meal on Monday and then prep the rest of the dishes on Monday night.
Tip 5: Set a Budget
Setting a budget for your groceries can help a lot when meal planning. It makes it easier to figure out which meats and meals will work well during the week. If you’re on a lower budget week, having meals with expensive meats might not be such a good idea.
If you belong to a warehouse club, buying meats in bulk and freezing them can also be a good option. Keep in mind that even lower cuts of meat taste delicious when seasoned properly and cooked in the slow cooker for 4-8 hours! If you don’t belong to a club, check out the sale ads for your local grocery stores before heading out to shop.
Tip 6: Make a Grocery List
Don’t forget to make a shopping list! While you’re jotting down the meals on your weekly calendar, keep a list of ingredients that you’ll need to pick up to make each dish. Having an organized grocery list will save you from buying things you don’t need. You can also order groceries online to make sure you buy just what you need. We like using our local ShopRite Home Delivery service, as well as Amazon’s Amazon Fresh grocery delivery. This link gives you 30-days of free Amazon Fresh delivery if you’d like to try it!
Meal planning doesn’t have to take a long time, but it can save you a ton of money on food. Taking 30-45 minutes each week to figure out what you’re going to make frees up your time and makes meal time a whole lot less stressful! Be sure to watch for more meal planning articles coming soon! And, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below! I’d love to help you!
You might also like:
- Meal Planning: Quick Breakfasts
- Meal Planning: Healthy and Quick Lunches
- Meal Planning: Easy Dinners
- Easy Soups
- Easy Freezer Meals