Learn the basics of how to meal plan for the week so there is less scrambling at meal time and more quality time with your family.
If you’ve heard other moms rave about how to meal plan, but have yet to jump on the bandwagon, this post is for you! Meal planning takes some legwork on the front end, which will pay off in dividends when it’s dinner time in your home each night. Not only does proper meal planning cut back on your grocery store budget and trips each week, it also gives you peace of mind that you’ll have dinner ready and waiting for your family each night. There are many variables of family life that are out of your control as a mom, but thankfully, meal planning isn’t one of them.
As a mom of four, find out my tips for how to successully meal plan for the week for a family. This makes for less scrambling at dinner time and more quality time with my family.
HOW TO MEAL PLAN FOR THE WEEK
Make a Master List of Recipes
If you’re choosing to meal plan, you may have one or more goals in mind. You may want to save money or stay on budget, reduce take-out or eating out, eat healthier or cater to specific food allergies, or simply take the stress out of the all-too-stressful mom life. Regardless of your end goal, meal planning can streamline your life if you take some time upfront to do the prep work.
The first step to successful meal planning is to make a master list of recipes that you know your family loves. If it’s as hard for you as it is for me to remember old favorites, make a Pinterest board dedicated to favorite recipes that you can easily access. You can also references this board for inspiration each week when you meal plan since you know it contains recipes your family already loves.
To easily find your favorite recipes, break your board into specific category sections to make planning easier. Some examples may include Crockpot, Quick Meals, Casseroles, One-Pan Meals, Soups/Stews, etc. Also, create a board called New Recipes to try so you can save any recipes you come across that look tasty. If you test out the recipe and your family likes it, then move it over to the appropriate section of your favorite recipes board.
Know Your Schedule for the Week
Whether you have one child or four, the weekdays can be busy as you are often resident chauffeur, scheduler and chef. Before you start planning for the week, break out your family calendar to see what you have scheduled between work obligations, appointments, sports, social or church activities. This will let you know which busy nights you will need quick meals, crockpot meals, leftovers or thawed out freezer meals.
If you have a flexible schedule, also consider the mornings that are less busy so you can focus on meal prepping those mornings. This may include thawing meat, marinating meat, dicing veggies or prepping a casserole so that you can simply pop it in the oven that afternoon. If you’re feeling really ambitious and have enough time, think about doubling your recipe (specifically soups and casseroles) so that you have one ready for dinner and one to freeze for a busy night.
Shop Your Pantry and Local Grocery Store Sales
Before you begin choosing your recipes for the week, be sure to see what you already have in your pantry and freezer. If you frequently buy meat and pantry items in bulk when they are on sale, you will spread that food out in your meal plan over several weeks.
Also, be sure look at your local store sales ad. Basing your weekly meal plan menue around sales ensures you are stretching your grocery budget. Consider ordering your groceries online and picking them up curbside. Not only does online shopping make it easy to get everything on your list, but you can also easily tell if you are on budget. And many stores offer online coupons and specials.
Plan Your Dinners
Now you’re ready to choose your recipes for the week based on your schedule, your grocery store’s sale and your taste buds.
A big time-saver tip is to cook once and eat twice. This doesn’t just apply to making a large meal such as a casserole so you can have leftovers. You can also cook a large portion of meat (especially if it’s on sale) and eat it one night, then reuse it in a meal for another night. For example, we love to grill marinated pork tenderloin. We’ll eat it with side veggies for one meal, then the next night I’ll repurpose it to make pork “fried rice” by sauteing it with riced cauliflower and other veggies. One of my favorite cookbooks is Cook Once, Eat All Week. It offers 26 weeks of healthy meals that my kids gobble up.
Write down your meal each day in your family calendar and make any notes regarding prep work. So if you’re throwing together a crockpot meal because you have a busy evening, make a reminder for that morning to throw the ingredients into the crockpot. (Better yet, prep the ingredients the night before!)
If your recipe uses fresh produce, plan to schedule that meal for earlier in the week when produce is the freshest. There is nothing worse than planning to cook vegetables at the end of the week only to find they have turned bad.
Write Out Your Grocery List
It’s especially crucial to write out your list if you are shopping in person at a grocery store. If you are well acquainted with your store, group items together based on the route you typically take to ensure you don’t overlook anything.
If you order your groceries online, open up your recipes for the week in separate tabs on your computer so you can see the ingredients and immediately add those items to your cart online.
Besides ingredients for dinners, also consider breakfasts, lunches and snack items. If I ever have to make a mid-week trip to the grocery store, it isn’t because I ran out of food for my dinners, but because I ran out of food for lunches or breakfasts. Taking inventory of what you have will help you plan better for these meals.
If your family eats leftovers for lunch, adjust your recipes sizes accordingly. If they eat basic sandwiches and fruit, make sure you add these common items to your list or cart.
Practice Makes Perfect
The more you practice meal planning for your family, the easier and more routine it will become. Many busy moms cook a favorite meal a couple times a month, which makes planning a little easier. At any rate, having a weekly plan laid out for meals means that all you have to worry about is meal execution. Assign food prep and cooking tasks to your kids. They are eager little helpers who would love to contribute.