Do you meal plan? Many moms tell me that they don’t meal plan because they don’t think they have the time to do so. And, trust me, I understand that family meal planning can feel overwhelming and stressful when your calendar is already full of life’s busy activities. But, in all honesty, not planning meals is even more overwhelming and stressful.
I started taking meal planning seriously a couple of years ago when I took a long, hard look at not only what I was feeding my kids, but what I was feeding myself. I’d often skip breakfast, forget to pack a lunch (and end up at the drive-thru), and start “meal planning” for dinner at 5:30. Can you relate?
Oh boy, those days were stressful. I now plan out our meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We don’t always stick to our meal plan 100%. In fact, I (and my kids) often move meals around during the week.
But meal planning does mean that I am no longer wasting time coming up with meals to eat at the last minute (or sending my poor husband to the grocery store on his way home from work to pick up a missing ingredient or three at one of the busiest shopping times of the day!).
Now, I’m not perfect at meal planning and, yes, there are still some days where we are planning our dinner after 5:00 p.m. But, thankfully, those days are much less frequent. Being proactive in meal planning allows me to save time, money, and cut down on mealtime stress.
Below I’ve listed out my 7 top practical tips to make family meal planning easier:
1. Create a Family Meal Plan for the Week (or even for the Month)
Set aside a block of time once a week to complete your meal planning. Once you get your meal planning system down, this will probably only take you 20 minutes to do.
I complete my meal planning during my weekly review. First, I take a quick inventory of what’s in our freezer and pantry, and then I sit down with our weekly grocery list and our list of family meal favorites (which I’ll talk about in tip #2 below) and start planning.
You can plan for the week or even for the month ahead.
Quite frankly, I couldn’t even contemplate planning for an entire month until I took Erin Chase’s Grocery Budget Makeover class, (which she only offers a couple of times a year, usually in the spring and the fall).
Erin introduced me to the concept of stockpiling based on sales cycles and couponing. If you can get these concepts down, you’ll be saving loads on time and money.
In fact, after taking Erin’s course, I was able to cut down my grocery bill by $400 a month. That’s money that I can now redirect to my savings plan. You should check out her course if you’re struggling with spending too much on grocery shopping.
2. Family Favorites List of 10-20 Recipes
One great way to reduce meal planning stress is to have a list of 10-20 of your family’s favorite meals. By adding in a couple of these every week, you’re going to ensure you have happy eaters at home.
Sit down with the whole family and come up with a list of meals that everybody loves. If your kids are old enough, they’ll appreciate that you included them in this important family discussion. I have very picky eaters, and I was delightfully surprised that we were able to come up with about 15 meals that my kids agreed to add to this list.
You can request a free copy of my Family Meal Favorites template by subscribing below to help get you started.
3. Themed Family Meal Planning
Another way to simplify family meal planning is to have a themed weekly meal plan. You can have Saturday Soup, Taco Tuesday or Friday Night Pizza or whatever variation fits with your family’s palate.
If you already know what the theme is for a certain night, then it’s going to be a lot easier to fill in the meals for that week. Plus, you’ll probably already have some of the regular ingredients on hand, which will help you cut down on your grocery bill.
4. Let Someone Else Plan Your Meals
If you feel like meal planning is just too much for you since you don’t love to cook or you just don’t have a lot of recipes to choose from, then you might want to have someone do the meal planning for you.
A great option is the $5 Meal Plan. Each week they’ll email you a complete budget-friendly meal plan along with printable recipes and shopping lists. They offer a free 2-week trial, so if you’re struggling with meal planning, I’d recommend you check them out.
5. Prep Meals in Advance
Once you have your family meals planned out for the week, why not prep as much as you can in advance?
Sunday afternoons are a great time to dice those vegetables or put together spice packs for your weekly recipes.
Prepping meals together is another activity that you can do as a family (so long as your kids are old enough to help out). Put on your family’s favorite CD, be silly, have fun, and start prepping those meals together.
You’ll appreciate the time you spent together prepping when it’s time to start cooking during the week.
6. Keep Freezer Meals On Hand
One time-saving way to help with your week’s meals is to keep some freezer meals on hand. You can make freezer meals that you throw in the crock pot first thing in the morning or that you can easily stir fry or even just defrost, heat up, and put on the table.
If you’re not family with preparing freezer meals but want to give it try, you can check out Pinterest for some great ideas.
There’s also a new great resource called My FreezEasy that will provide you with ten delicious meal recipes each month that you can prep and load into your freezer in less than an hour. There are freezer meal plans for every diet!
I hope these 6 tips help you simplify your family meal planning so you can reduce time, money, and stress!
Don’t forget to grab a free copy of my Family Meal Favorites template by subscribing below to help get you started.
Do you have other ways you simplify meal planning in your home? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below.
Happy meal planning!