Meal planning for your family isn't as hard as it sounds, with a few tips and some know how, this is how you meal plan with ease.
I've heard it so many times over the last few years:
"I want to get this grocery thing down."
As I have said before, at a glance grocery shopping seems easy: you go and pick up food and bring it home.
But uh...it ain't that easy.
Most of us get paid bi-weekly or weekly and some of us even monthly, so hearing "Mom, what's for dinner?" and looking in the fridge and finding it empty with payday another couple days or a week away, is a nightmare.
Planning a week's worth or even a month's worth of meals doesn't need to take a long time, though I consider my weekly planning to be a relaxing thing, and it will make your life so much simpler.
When you plan out your meals before shopping it saves you time, it saves you money, it helps you eat better and, if you're a worrier like me, you can rest easy knowing your family is going to be well fed and your budget is safe from unplanned over-priced dinners out.
It helps eliminate going through the fridge and realizing that container of $12 cherries has gone moldy and you didn't even remember y'all had cherries! You figured someone else ate them and they all figured the same thing, too, because no one had a real plan to do anything with those cherries and they ended up behind a bunch of leftovers and obscured from vision. This happened to us again and again and Brian would get so frustrated because we ended up wasting so much money on things we had no plan for and forgot about.
So how do you even get started with meal planning?
Make time. Some people may just jot down an easy meal plan based on a rotation in five-ten minutes, some may want to sit and spread out their recipes, coupons, and planners for an hour or two (I'm guilty of this). Just make sure you pencil in some time, while drinking your morning tea or while the kids are napping one day out of the week (or two weeks or month, whenever you meal plan)
Gather all the favorite meals. Have everyone write down their favorite foods and meals and keep them as a reference while making your meal plans, that way everyone has a say without you having to pester them with 'what do you want to eat this week?' and them saying 'i dunno'. I can't tell you how frustrating (and time consuming) it is to have to make a meal plan and everyone else is like, "I dunno what I want but I don't want that or that or that." Then you're sitting there for an hour trying to figure out what exactly to put down. Just avoid it by getting their meals written down in advance.
Look through the weekly specials and coupons. I'm not extreme couponer, but if I know I can use some, I'll use them. And looking through the weekly papers for price matching and specials help make shopping and figuring out meals to make using the specials a lot easier.
Keep all your tools organized. Buy a cute meal planner, use an app, get a coupon organizer, whatever you need, and use a caddy to keep them all together and out of the way of tiny little hands. Trying to figure out where your three year old hid your book of family meals and your pack of gel pens while only having an hour in your day to get this done is not fun.
Clean your fridge. Not only does this help you see what you've ran out of and what you need to use up this next week, but you got a nice, clean fridge to put your new groceries in and be able to prep and organize them easily. I don't know what it is about a clean, organized, fully stocked fridge, but just looking at it is such a breath of fresh air.
Theme your days. Taco Tuesdays are the best, amiright? Theme your days and your meal plan can be written up in a jiffy and you don't even have to worry about what to eat on what day, it's already there. And this is a great way to start a meal rotation, a bunch of meals you know how to make, everyone likes, and can be made with no fuss.
Plan Ahead. Freezer meals and leftovers can be your best friends, especially on busy days or days where you are just too tired to cook. Plan a double batch of a few recipes this week and freeze half to keep in the freezer, or figure a day for freezer meal cooking and you'll be set up with a ton of recipes whenever needed.
Get Inspired. Between Pinterest, food bloggers, cooking shows on tv, there is almost constant inspiration for new recipes to be made. Sometimes you just get tired of having chicken every night, no shame in trying out that fancy avocado toast recipe on your mister.
Don't forget the other meals! If you need to plan out meals for breakfast, lunch, and snacks, then do. Kids need lunchboxes filled and the hubby needs breakfast on the go, then make sure you have those planned out to avoid unnecessary spending and 'Mommy, I'm hungry!' meltdowns.
What are your tips on meal planning? Write them in the comments!
Eden Westbrook is the recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Sweet Tea and Thyme. A classically trained chef, Eden has inspired home cooks into the kitchen with cultural comfort foods, easy family-friendly eats and sweets, and glorious spreads for date night and entertaining since 2015.