Tuesday, June 27, 2017

How I Meal Plan

Life can be crazy sometimes. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that. Add in kids and/or a job and life gets even crazier. I know it's hard enough to take care of myself and make sure I eat a healthy meal, then add in that I’m making meals for other humans (big and small) and meals can get hectic. 

For years now I’ve been meal planning and it has made a huge difference in daily life. First, I don’t have to worry about what we are having for dinner. And I don’t have to worry about if I have all the ingredients for the planned dinner. Plus, I am saving money because I’m not running to the grocery store (or drive-thru) at the last minute. An added bonus is that if I plan well enough, I don’t buy multiples of items. If I ever get lax on my planning (which does happen, I am human) I always seem to end up buying too many bottles of soy sauce or jars of peanut butter. 

Alright, let’s do this!

Make a Master Meal List - First, I suggest you make a master list of meals your family likes to make. I didn’t do this at first and it was hard trying to decide what I was gonna make; I was always wracking my brain trying to remember what we like to eat. Once I made a master list, meal planning went faster. This list could be anything your family likes to eat plus things you’d like to try. Don’t get caught up in making this list perfect! You can always add to it in the future (or take things off). I’m always changing it and adding new recipes I find in books or Pinterest.

Check Out the Sales - Start your grocery list! We will finish it later, but I like to get it started by checking my grocery store for the weekly sales. If chicken is on sale, then we will be eating a lot of chicken that week (or freezing the extras). Write all the items you’d like to buy on your shopping list. Use this plus your Master list for the next step.

Plan Out Each Meal - This step gets easier with time, but at first, you may feel like your brain is going to explode! I made you a free printable to jumpstart your meal planning. CLICK HERE! This printable has the seven days a week and three meals a day plus snacks. Print this out and start filling in the days. 

In my home, we often eat the same thing over and over again for breakfast and lunch. So I can fill these meals up quickly. We also tend to have the same things for snack times (and I often don’t snack at all). Even though we repeat these meals, it’s still important to plan them out so you don’t miss adding things to your shopping list. Then for dinner, I like to change it up. So I go to my Master List for dinner ideas. I also keep the previous weeks’ meal plans to see what we did then. After doing this for many years it’s fairly easy to fill up the dinner slots. And I’m always cruising Pinterest for more recipes because I like to try something new each week. If the meal is a winner, I add it to my Master List. Remember the grocery sales! Compare that to the Master List to get the most bang for your buck.

Finalize Your Grocery List - Now that your meal plan is complete, go through and add things to your shopping list. Be sure to check what you have in your pantry/freezer first. This will save you from buying things you already have. Once your list is done, go shopping! In our house, I plan for two weeks at a time so the entire meal planning process can take me an hour (especially if I start cruising Pinterest and get lost amongst the tasty pins).

I have some final tips for you that may help your process:
  • Need to clean out the pantry/freezer? Use up those items by working them into your meal plan. You should be all cleaned out within a week!
  • Holiday coming up? Work holidays into your meal plan. For example, on Thanksgiving, we don’t eat much that day… usually just appetizers and then the big meal. Then in the days following we eat leftovers. So you won’t have to plan meals for some of those days.
  • Want the dinner process to go even faster? Create them nights for each day of the week! I haven’t done this (yet) but I’ve seen people who do Taco Tuesdays, Pizza Fridays, Asian Mondays etc. This takes some of the battles out of thinking what to make each evening.
It did take me a while to really hone the meal planning craft. So keep it up! When I first started, all I knew was that I wanted to quit the dinner-time crazies, but after doing it for so long, I have it down to a science!

CLICK HERE to download!

Don’t forget to download my free printable Meal Plan worksheet! Click here!

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