How To Meal Plan For Your Family-Simplified
Meal planning for your family doesn’t have to be complicated and overwhelming.
I’m going to save you the trouble of looking for the perfect meal planning system, because it doesn’t exist.
The best meal planning system, is the one that works for you and that you actually use, but if meal planning is new to you, it will take time to get it down. Like any new habit, you have to put in the work to see the benefits.
When you figure out how to meal plan and do it consistently, it can save you time, save money and help you avoid meal time frustration.
As a busy homeschooling, work-at-home mommy to 4, I had to figure out how to make meal planning work best for us if I wanted to get meals on the table each day.
With 5 people looking to me to feed them, I need to be prepared.
After many years of implementing meal planning, it has become a weekly habit and it gives me a huge sense of satisfaction when my 7-day meal plan is successful.
For me, a successful meal plan means that there’s little to no stress at meal time, we eat healthy, home cooked meals, the leftovers get used up and we use up random ingredients from the pantry or freezer.
I feel like a meal planning genius when that all comes together!
Not only do I love the satisfaction of meal planning, but there are some great benefits to it as well.
Benefits of Meal Planning:
· Saves your sanity
· Prevents food waste
· Helps save money
· Avoid unhealthy choices
· It’s easier to eat according to your needs
· Makes shopping easier
What Is Meal Planning?
Simply put? Meal planning is creating a week’s worth (or any amount of days) of meal ideas.
To get started with meal planning for your family, there are 3 key steps:
1. Planning/Selecting Meals
2. Shopping for Ingredients
3. Prepping Your Food
Those 3 steps sound simple enough, and they are, but there is strategy involved.
Step 1. Select Your Meals/Recipes
Deciding what you’re going to eat for the week doesn’t have to be complicated. There is so much variety and so many recipes to choose from, that finding inspiration doesn’t have to be hard. Thank you, Pinterest. ;)
However, the best type of meals and recipes to plan for are the ones that your family will actually eat and are not too difficult. They don’t have to be complicated or fancy, unless you like cooking that way and have the time for it.
When planning and selecting your meals for the week, consider this:
· How many meals do you need to plan; do you need to do breakfast, lunch and dinner or just dinner?
· What does your calendar look like that week? Do you need something that can cook all day and be ready when you get home, or do you have time to put something together?
· How much time do you have to put a meal together?
· What ingredients do you already have on hand that you can use up?
Where to get your meal ideas from:
Get your meal planning juices flowing by brainstorming a little.
· What are your go-to family favourites? Is there something everyone loves that you already eat often? Use it! Choose recipes you already know and love.
It’s so much simpler to go with recipes that you are already familiar with. Meal planning isn’t about adding a bunch of new fancy recipes. It’s about simplifying and streamlining the meal process for your family. If you want to try something new, don’t add more than one new recipe a week.
· Plan meals according to what you already have on hand and based on similar ingredients. For example, do you have lots of pasta and noodles? Cook a pasta dish that week. If you’re doing pasta with a meat sauce, why not plan for taco’s too and cook all your ground beef at the same time?
It’s working smarter, not harder ;)
If you’re looking for some more inspiration, browse Pinterest (I have boards for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Instant pot, Slow Cooker and more that you can check out here).
If you’re stuck for ideas, you can flip thru magazines or cookbooks. Inspiration is easy to find.
Step 2. Shop for Your Ingredients
Now that you have your recipes figured out, it’s time to create your shopping list.
Using the meal plan you just created for the week, go through each recipe and write down the ingredients you’re going to need.
Once you know what you need, go thru your fridge, pantry and freezer to figure out what you already have and cross those items off the list.
Step 3. Prep Your Food
Doing food prep for the week is such a huge help for the rest of the week, but completely optional. It isn’t something you have to do to be successful at menu planning. Having your menu figured out and the ingredients available is half the battle.
However, it will save you time throughout the rest of the week, if you choose to do it.
Preparing your meals ahead of time is by far, the best way to save time when it comes to planning your meals. While there is a concentrated effort upfront, it will save you time over the week.
You’ve created your weekly meal plan, chosen your recipes, made your shopping list and shopped for your ingredients. Now it’s time to do the prep. It can be as intensive or as simple as you’d like.
This is the second part of the battle. Making the actual meal, which you can do the day of, or you can prep ahead and make it easier for the rest of the week. This part always makes me the most excited because I know when this gets done, the rest of the week (at least the meals) will be a success.
It’s up to you and what your preference is.
If you do decide to prep ahead, this is what you should do…
The best time saving kitchen hack is prepping your veggies. That is the part that takes the longest with any meal. The washing, peeling, chopping dicing…you get the idea.
But if you’re going to do that every day of the week anyways, why not do it all in one day?
What you should do, depends on what you have planned, but these are the main big helpers.
· Chop veggies
· Pre-cook meat
· Pre-wash salad greens
Meal planning doesn’t have to be hard and the effort you put in really does pay off.
Each time you go through the process it will get easier, you’ll learn something new, what works best for you or what you can skip.
Keep doing this continually and you’ll get faster and more efficient.
Planning your meals is always more fun when you have a pretty planning printable…say that three times ;)
I created this menu planning template that I fill out and will leave on the whiteboard by the fridge, so I can quickly look to see what the plan is for the day. Having this easily accessible makes it easy to see if I need to pull anything out to thaw or if anything needs to be precooked.
In conclusion, creating a weekly meal plan can be as simple as:
· selecting your recipes
· shopping for ingredients
With the option of doing food prep for the week ahead of time.
Get these down and you’re well on your way to being a weekly meal planning pro!
What part of the menu planning process the most difficult to you? What do you think would make it easier? Reply in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you.
Don’t forget to get your copy of the Meal Planner Template here.