Meal Planning Made Simple
Hello friends. Today, I want to share with you some tips to make meal planning simple. I know that meal planning can be a real challenge for a lot of people and I thought I’d share some helpful tips here to break it down and make it easier.
I’ve always been a very organized person. I don’t say that to boast, it’s just the way that I am. My parents tell me I used to organize my toy box at a young age of 3. I’d take all of the toys out of my toy box and then put them back in a nice, orderly fashion. Being organized has served me well over the years, but I know many people struggle with organization.
Meal Planning can help save you time and money and can also help you stay on track with healthy eating. Meal Planning can seem daunting, but it really doesn’t have to be.
Set Aside 30 Minutes Every Week
Setting aside time to meal plan on a weekly basis is essential. I like to sit down the night before my grocery store run and make a list of meals for the next 7 days. This is a good time to go through the freezer and see what meat you have on hand, take a look at the pantry and see what staples are around and look at the schedule for the week to see what weeknights will be super busy. Setting aside 30 minutes should be plenty of time. On busier weeknights, plan on quick, simple meals and save the more involved meals for nights that the schedule is open. I tend to make quick meals like tacos, wraps and entree salads during the week and on the weekends, I’ll make spaghetti, stir-fry or a casserole. Cooking is a joy for me, but it’s a chore when I’m feeling rushed and stressed out.
Create a Binder
Create a Meal Planning binder. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just a simple binder to keep meal ideas, meal planning templates and grocery lists, and most used recipes. Printing out recipes from your favorite blogs or websites and keeping them in the binder will be helpful when creating your grocery list. Also save previously used meal plans for future reference.
This is a simple 1″ binder that I purchased at Staples. I just created a basic, fun cover to match using Pages (software program) with some images that I downloaded royalty free. Sometimes office supply stores have some really fun designs on their binders, but if you can’t find anything you like, just pick a bright color and create your own cover. Orange spoke to me on the day I was shopping, so that’s the color that I chose.
Items needed to create a Meal Planning Binder
- View Binder (1″ or more, depending on the number of printed recipes)
- Sheet protectors
- Dividers or index tabs
- Printer Paper
Have a List of Meal Ideas
Keep a list of meal ideas in a sheet protector in the front of the binder. Include family favorites, recipes you have made and enjoyed from cooking shows, cookbooks or blogs, and even simple go to meals like breakfast for dinner or soup and sandwiches.
Since I use sheet protectors in my Meal Planning Binder, dividers don’t work, so I use these peel and stick index tabs from Martha Stewart Crafts. You can find something similar at Staples or other office supply stores. They are very sturdy and work just as well for keeping my recipes organized.
I have a list of 31 Unique Meal Ideas for sale on my Etsy Shop, but you can download it for absolutely free here. 31 Days of Meal Ideas. Many of the recipes for these meals can be found right here on the blog! Just search for the recipe using the search tool and scroll down to the bottom of the recipe and click “print” in the recipe card. Store in the categorized tabs in the binder.
Make a Plan
Take a sheet of paper and write out your meal plan for 7 dinners. A simple sheet of lined paper works just fine, but if you want a meal planning template, you can find plenty of options on Etsy. I have the template below with coordinating shopping list in my shop here.
Be flexible as far as which meals to serve on specific nights. Sometimes unexpected plans come up (do your children ever forget to mention important things like parent-teacher conferences or birthday parties?) Just having a plan for seven nights will help relieve the stress of deciding what to cook every night. I take out the meat to thaw the night before and depending on how busy the following night will be, I may do some additional prep like chopping veggies or making a marinade. Planning for breakfast and lunch will also help you stay on track with nutrition and weight control. There will be less temptation to run out and grab fast food.
Feel free to share your own meal planning tips in the comments. I’m always looking for advice from other busy moms.
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