My Best Tips for Meal Planning - Plus a FREE Meal Planning Template!
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Need some tips for successful meal planning? Here are some things that I do to make meal planning a breeze.
I LOVE meal planning. This sounds weird, but it makes me feel so organized and put together. It also makes me feel good to know that we have good meals lined up and ready to prepare even on busy days or when we don't feel like cooking.
Even though I consider myself a pro at it now, there was a time when I had no idea what a meal plan even was or how you concocted one. It seemed weird to me to plan out what you were going to have during the week because you didn’t know what you would feel like eating until the day of. I knew if it wasn’t something my husband and I were craving, then it wouldn’t get fixed. We would end up going to get Japanese or a burger and just say the heck with it.
But soon I figured out that there were ways around that, and once we started carefully watching our grocery budget (find out how we eat for $100 a month through budgeting HERE), meal planning became something that helped us out tremendously. I want to help you out too!
If you are unsure where to start when it comes to meal planning or just need some tips to make it enjoyable and convenient, here’s what I do:
Plan out ALL of your meals, not just dinner
Only planning dinner was one of the first mistakes I made when I started meal planning. To save time and effort, I just planned out my dinners and hoped for the best. Soon after I went grocery shopping though, I realized I was back to square one when it came to breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. I realized I had spent the majority of my budget on dinners and left little room for all of the other meals. If you work out of the home, this helps you know exactly what you will need to prepare the night before so you can have a rush-free morning.
If it helps, plan out your meals monthly
This is beneficial for people who get paid on a monthly basis, or for people who simply just like to be organized and know that all of their meals will be planned out for the whole month in advance. Pick a day each month and work specifically on your month long meal plan. I’ve tried this, and for my family it doesn’t work, but I know lots of people who have had success with it!
Get free recipes from Pinterest, Google, or old cookbooks
This seems like a no brainer, but a lot of people don't think about these places as a tool for searching recipes! Even Google has some great recipes. Check out food blogs online to get a great collection of recipes, or even pull out your grandmothers old cookbooks to get some fresh ideas for your meals. Or, if you’re the creative type, come up with your own recipes!
Make simple meals
The worst thing you can do when planning your meals is planning to make fancy meals. Learn from my experience, don’t do it! Fancy meals require a long list of ingredients, and that equals a huge grocery bill. And after a long, tiring day at work, you won’t feel like coming home and putting in a ton of effort on dinner so you’ll end up getting takeout instead. Save the fancy meals for date nights or a weekend, and stick with quick, easy meals for the week.
Set aside a day for freezer cooking
This is on the top of my to-do list! I have been wanting to do this forever but I can never seem to get motivated enough (just being real here!). I did try it a few years ago and I loved it. It was so convenient just to pop those meals out of the freezer, stick them in a pan, and within 30 minutes dinner would be on the table. Just set aside a few hours in one day to prepare the meals and bag them, and you have meals planned for a whole month! Go to the store and grab your ingredients, purchase gallon sized freezer bags, grab a friend, and spend the afternoon cooking. Or even make it a date with your husband!
Use Crockpot recipes for busy nights
The Crockpot is my life saver when I am too busy or don’t feel like cooking. A family friend gave me one with a timer on it, and I absolutely love it! I can set a timer for as little as 30 min or up to 20 hours, and once the timer goes off the settings go to keep warm so it won’t overcook. You can buy one here. I love just being able to pop frozen meat in there and by the time I get back home at night, its done and ready to eat. I also put a Crockpot liner in there beforehand so clean up is super easy.
Set a specific day each week for grocery shopping
Organize your time. Don’t make several trips to the store (that’s how overspending happens!). Set a specific day of the week and time to go so you will know when you need to meal plan and have your list ready.
Use my FREE meal planning templates for weekly meal planning
I’ve done almost all of the work for you! Here’s an easy template to help you organize your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for every day of the week. It will make planning meals for your family so much easier!
What do you struggle with when it comes to meal planning?