I know how overwhelming it can be to get healthy food on the table every day when you have so many other things on your mind.
That’s why I’ve created these 10 easy tips for meal planning to take away that feeling of overwhelm and to give you confidence that you’ve got this.
I want to share with you what I learned many years ago on how to meal plan with changing family circumstances.
I know the stress that you feel, and I want to help you make mealtimes more enjoyable for you and for your family.
What Is Meal Planning And Why Use It
Understanding what meal planning or menu planning is helps us to see how beneficial it is in our homes.
The idea is to make mealtime easier for you, not more difficult, it’s not about making fancy meals that take ages to prepare.
You will learn about planning what you are going to eat in advance so you can ensure that you are eating a healthier balanced diet.
Learning to enjoy your evening meal as a family and taking the stress away from panicking about what you are going to feed your family each day.
Why Try Meal Planning
It will help you plan meals that are within your budget.
Having a menu plan will allow others to start the meal, or help with meal prep.
Removing the stress from trying to decide what to eat and not spending more money on take-out because no one can decide or be bothered to cook and prepare the food.
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This will help you with your daily Budget.
Planning Your Meals Saves Money Too!
Meal planning is great for helping you stick to a budget; it can mean spending less on groceries and giving you more money for other things in your budget.
You will learn how to plan your meals whilst tracking what you have already at home, not only will you save money on your shopping you will have less waste too.
Seeing The Benefits Of Meal Planning
The benefits of meal planning are:
- Saving money
- Eating healthier
- Choosing meals that are family favourites
- Reducing stress at mealtimes
Trying A New System
Like all new routines and systems, it is going to take time to practice making the meal plans.
But once you get the hang of putting your meals on a planner the easier it becomes.
You might have to fight the temptation occasionally, especially in the beginning, but once you get the hang of it, meal planning becomes second nature.
Remember your menu planner isn’t set in stone and can change if circumstance change during the week.
You can create weekly meal planning menus or you can tackle it monthly, I’ve used both, monthly I think is better for people who shop very seldomly and weekly for those who shop weekly.
Items You Might Need For Meal Planning
Sometimes it’s easier to see what you need to do and for other family members to see it too.
That’s why it’s easier to have some items to help you get started meal planning.
- Menu planner that attaches to your fridge
- Reuseable planner that is magnetic and can sit on your fridge door.
- Meal prep containers to make things easier for you
- Meal planning book to help you get started
- Meal planning note book and shopping list
Top 10 Tips For Meal Planning
I want to introduce you to my top 10 tips for tackling meal planning and then I will go over each one in detail on how it will help you.
- Have simple family favourite meals often
- Freezer cooking is important
- Involve the family in the menu plan
- Keep a pantry and freezer inventory
- Prepare food ahead of time
- Plan to use leftovers
- Create a master list of food and use this when creating shopping lists
- Labelling and organizing are important
- Plan for take-out meals or meals out occasionally
- Don’t meal plan when you are hungry
Make It Simple
The idea behind creating a plan is to save you time. Choose simple and easy family favourite meals that are quick to prepare and everyone enjoys them for those extra busy days.
Writing a meal plan is simple, it’s just about picking the food you are going to eat and writing it down on a particular day of the week.
I use family favourites and select one or two per week that I know will go down well and are easy to make.
It’s then just about filling in the gaps.
Batch Cooking And Freezer Cooking
Freezer cooking is a great way to save time, if you are making something that can be frozen, double up on the recipe and put one in the freezer for another day.
This allows you to have a healthy but quick meal on hand, it just needs defrosting and cooking.
These freezer meals can become a life safer, and a money saver. When your day hasn’t gone as planned and you are too tired to stand and cook having a meal you can throw in the oven which is homemade and healthy is amazing.
Getting All Family Involved
Involving the family with meal planning is important. It helps children see that their views matter.
I like to let everyone pick their favourite meal every few weeks and this allows everyone to have something they really like.
It also means you don’t have to come up with every meal idea yourself which is a win in my book.
It’s easy to slip family meal planning into the conversation at mealtimes, you can ask questions like:
- What is your favourite meal?
- Did you prefer dinner tonight or dinner last night?
These simple types of questions are a great way to encourage all family members to talk about food, when you have ideas just note them down.
Getting Stuff Done Ahead Of Time
Learning how to meal prep your food is important, it means that you are taking the time to get things ready ahead of time.
It might just mean peeling potatoes the night before or chopping up the vegetables when you get home from shopping.
Often my husband will peel potatoes at the weekend, they just get stored in a dish and covered with water. It saves time during the week when we are busy and tired.
All of this will save time when you make your evening meal, instead of adding preparation time to make your meal, it’s all done and ready to go, saving you time and stress.
Leftovers Can Make A Meal Too
There is no getting away from having leftovers. If you plan to have leftovers this is a great way to have a quick and simple meal in no time.
You can also have more choice on who wants what leftovers. This makes it fun for all family members by getting to pick one or two things that they love for a mismatched meal.
Having Lists Are Always Great
Create a master food list, this might seem weird at first but it’s a great way to keep a check on the food that you use and the food that you have. You can use recipe cards to help you keep track of the meals you and your family like.
It will help you when you are checking to see what food you need whilst you are compiling your shopping list. It’s also a great way to assess the food you have and to see if you still want to buy the item or if you prefer to replace it with something else.
When other people need to prepare food or do the shopping, they can see what food items they need.
Being Organized And Having Items Labeled
It wouldn’t be me if I didn’t mention labels and being organized. You can’t find anything if you don’t have a system to keep things organized.
I love my Cricut machine to make my labels, they are then completely customizable.
As for labels, I think you could ask my eldest on the importance of labels.
I lost a label off a bag in the freezer, I thought it might have been melon, but no it turned out to be turnip!
He wasn’t impressed and won’t ever taste test anything without a label!
Labels not only help you see what you’ve got but they also help to prevent guessing what you might be eating.
Don’t Forget The Treats
Plan into your meal options to either have a take-out or a meal out on occasions.
Not only will this be a special treat it’s something to look forward to and not just picking something off the menu because you haven’t got anything else to eat.
Make sure that you plan this expense into your budget, it might only be once every 6 months. Just think about making it work for you and your family.
Why not grab my free budgeting printable that will help you organize your money each week.
Avoid Meal Planning On An Empty Stomach
Meal planning when you are hungry is a ‘no-no’, not only will you put too much food into your plan you might want to spend more than your budget allows and it’s harder to fight with your budget when you’re hungry.
It’s the same rule as to never go shopping when you are hungry either as you will buy more food that you don’t need or want.
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Meal planning is about making choices and decisions and not right before you are expecting to eat.
Involve your family in the planning of the menu so they can help come up with ideas of their favourite meals.
Preparation is going to help reduce the amount of work needed before cooking.
Meal planning saves money and reduces food waste.
Try it and see how it goes, what have you got to lose?