“What am I going to make for dinner tonight? Do I even have anything to work with? I better run by the store on the way home!”
That used to be me but then I started meal planning and it changed my life. Let me share with you my super-easy guide to meal planning so that you can save time, money, and stress too!
Why Do You Need a Guide to Meal Planning?
I know it feels like it shouldn’t be that hard to feed ourselves every day but as a newlywed I found it to be my biggest challenge. I had helped my mom in the kitchen but I had never had to come up with what we were going to eat every single day.
It was difficult to know what ingredients I needed for the whole week and keep it on a budget. Instead I found myself stressed out about dinner and dropping by the store in a panic often. That was definitely not a good plan.
That non-plan was leading to a lot of stress, wasted time, and it wasn’t helping us save money either!
Even worse, if you don’t have a meal plan you may find yourself picking up fast food or take away dinners or snacking on really unhealthy foods. Both of these alternatives are horrible for your health and your pocket book.
So fine, you need to meal plan. But why do you need a guide to meal planning? Simply put, if you have a system and few clever hacks it will make the whole process a lot easier. It will also help you save money, live better, and eat healthier! So let’s get to work!
Your Guide to Meal Planning Step 1: Create a Menu
Before you even think about going to the grocery store you need to create a menu for the week, or even two weeks if you want.
First let’s plan dinners since they are the most complicated meal. Take these steps:
- Look at your calendar and think about your schedule and days your are busy vs. days you are less busy.
- Plan easy crockpot, one pot, or minimal cooking meals for your really busy days.
- Choose a few more complex (but still easy) meals for your less busy days.
- Look at Pinterest for ideas but only pick one or two new recipes at a time or you will feel overwhelmed.
- Write a menu with your mix of easy and less easy meals on the right days, (You can always swap them around later if needed)
Step 2: Create a Grocery List
Now that you know what you are going to make every night you are going to need to make sure you have all the ingredients you need. Follow these steps:
- Look at one meal at a time.
- Add all ingredients needed for each meal to your list.
- Double check your pantry if you think you already have something.
Step 3: Create Breakfast and Lunch Menus
Now that you have your dinners planned the hardest part is over! You can easily plan lunches and breakfasts because most of us are used to less variety in these meals.
Do this to make meal plans for breakfasts and lunch:
- Think about the types of things your family wants to have for breaksfast and lunch.
- Check your pantry to make sure that you don’t already have some of these things (like cereal) in good supply.
- Add all the essential ingredients for your breakfasts and lunches to your list. (This could end up being a quite a lot of items if you have smoothies, or salad, or sandwiches so taking the time to really think it through can really pay off.)
You may be tempted to be haphazard about breakfast and lunch but it can be very beneficial to plan ahead for these meals. Packing a lunch instead of picking it up can easily save just one person $50 a week. You will eat healthier foods too! And having a good breakfast can set your day on the right track.
Step 4: Add to List
Now that you have taken a few minutes to think out your menu for the week you will be able to go through your menu and add all the ingredients you need to your grocery list.
If you plan on going to the store write a real list on a paper or in your phone. But if you are going to use grocery pickup you can simple add everything to your cart right away.
Make sure you take the time to think about all the little ingredients in your menu and double check anything you think you already have. I hate when I go to make something and find that I don’t have one of the main ingredients because I was too lazy to check when I could.
A Guide to Meal Planning & Fresh Vs. Stable Foods
Now as you meal plan you need to take into account your schedule. But you also need to consider the food’s schedule. For example mushrooms will only give you a couple days to cook them whereas pantry staples will be available for much longer.
I suggest replacing pantry staples like canned tomatoes, beans, rice, flour, sugar, etc. as soon as you notice you are getting low on them. The types of pantry staples you use will depend on what you like to cook regularly.
Another great way to make things easy is to plan 3-4 “fresh meals” that require fresh vegetables and then 2-3 “pantry” meals that can use frozen or canned vegetables for later in the week. Double that if you are meal planning for two weeks. It is great to have a couple “pantry” meals available at all times as a backup plan.
Extra Tips for Your Guide to Meal Planning
I promised you a guide to meal planning and I hope some of these ideas helped. I have been meal planning for several years now and I’ve run across a couple other meal planning hacks that might help.
- Cook twice as much as you need so you have dinner for the next night.
- Plan a crockpot meal for super busy days! It feels great to know dinner is ready when you get home.
- Use Pinterest to explore the world through your kitchen.
- Eat leftovers for lunch.
- Think about two meals that can work with one or two of the same ingredients. For example, when I have cabbage I used it for fish tacos and “egg roll in a bowl”.
- Don’t forget to add fresh fruit and carrots for healthy snacks!
- Use grocery pickup services to save even more time and money!
- Include vegetarian and light cooking options for fast and easy meals.
Your Guide to Meal Planning and the Benefits You Can Expect!
Gone are the days of panicking over what to make for dinner! I am so glad. I usually don’t stick to a strict schedule I created but I can easily pick out a meal from my menu. It takes all the guess work out of it and it saves me tons of money because I’m not taking extra trips to the store.
It’s really a simple thing to do meal planning but it can be hard to get in the habit. Still, I guarantee that you will enjoy simplifying your life with meal planning so give it a try!
Do you have any great meal planning tips? Share them in the comments section below!
A Guide to Simplifying Your Life
I know you want a happy simple life! Wouldn’t it be great if you could simplify everything in your life, not just meal planning? I can help!
I created the Doable Simplicity e-book to help you simplify you home, your schedule, your chores, your goals, and everything else. Find the minimalism that is just right for you! Simplify your life so you can focus on your bigger goals and enjoy life more!