Meal Planning: 6 Steps to an Easy Meal Plan For Your Family
If you need a way to get your grocery shopping and family meals under control, meal planning could be the trick. But you need more specific strategies than just to say you will do meal planning, so here is a tutorial for how to meal plan with ease.
Step 1: Get your materials.
Before taking on any task, you should get the materials that you will need so that you are ready to focus and complete the task with organization and success.
For meal planning, the materials you should gather include:
a meal planning sheet (such as the Meal Planner Pad)
a shopping list sheet (such as the Shopping List Pad)
access to an internet search (to use only if needed)
Step 2: Look at Your Calendar
You want to look at your calendar for the upcoming week or two that you are meal planning for so that you can be sure to write in meals that you may be having for purposes such as events and holidays. For example, if a Christmas Party is next Saturday evening, you will write that in for dinner that day. Yay! You don’t have to make plans for that dinner.
Step 3: Write in recurring meals.
Because time is so valuable and we don’t need to make things more complicated for ourselves than we really have to, it is helpful to identify meals that you will have on a particular day of the week and also to come up with a list of usual lunches or snacks that you plan for your kids (and even yourself). Yes, it could get boring to eat the same things over and over again, but it’s okay. You will have a few chances to try new meals and change things up a bit. Make things easier on yourself by having a plan. Then you won’t have to spend hours trying to find the right recipes and satisfying everyone in your house.
So, for example, you could have dinners that include:
Stir-Fry and Rice-Wednesdays
New Meal-Saturdays and Sundays
For lunches, if you pack lunches for your kids to bring to school, you could ask your kids what they like to have and somewhat modify your meal plans based on that information. For example, 3 days of the week could be one thing (like peanut butter and jelly sandwich, apple, carrots, granola bar, and water) and the other 2 days could be something else (like crackers, cheese, grapes, celery sticks, and a hard-boiled egg).
Do this for breakfast, as well.
Step 4: Fill in the blank spaces
Now, go through each day and write in a meal idea for any empty spaces (meals that you have not come up with ideas for yet). Remember, to best use your time now and in the future (when actually making the meals), keep it as simple as possible. This doesn’t mean you have to disregard health. You can still consider offering nutritional meals for your family, but just be mindful about not expecting yourself to spend an hour or more on making the meal multiple times a day (unless you truly have the time and enjoy doing so, but that’s a topic for another post).
A tip for this step is to have a prewritten list of about 5-10 meals that your family enjoys for each meal of the day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). That way you don’t have to spend the time thinking about what you will pick. Theoretically, you could just rotate through your family’s favorites. For instance, if my family’s top 5 favorite dinners include: Spaghetti, Homemade Macaroni and Cheese, Lasagna, Potato Soup, and Pork Chops and Mashed Potatoes, then I could go through and just write in one meal at a time on all the empty dinner spaces.
This is also the step in which you can briefly search the internet for a new recipe or meal idea but don’t spend too much time on trying to decide what to pick.
Step 5: Fill out the Shopping List
Go to your Shopping List sheet (possibly on the Shopping List Pad or your own version of a shopping list) and start filling it out by category by looking at each meal on your meal plan one by one and entering the items that you will need (that you also will not already have at home).
You should also review your basic household items (non-food items) that you will need during your biweekly shopping trip such as toilet paper, soap, etc.
Step 6: Write Down Your Grocery Budget
You should write down your grocery budget for the two week period. This information will come from your budget plan (a topic for another post). You will want to spend about 75% of your grocery budget during this biweekly trip but leave a bit extra so that you will still have money to spend on little things that may need picked up over the course of the next two weeks such as milk or bread when you happen to run out of these things.
TIP: Do your budgeting before you do your meal planning so you have an idea of what kinds of meals you should be planning (for example, if you should be looking to plan low cost meals or if you have enough wiggle room to buy an expensive roast or ham).
Consider using the Meal Planner Pad. To summarize, here are some tips for meal planning for your family.
Consider the nutritional guidelines from the Food Pyramid to keep health and wellness in mind when planning your family’s meals.
Meal plan for 2 weeks at a time. This tends to work best if you get paid biweekly but also reduces those large shopping trips saving time and energy.
Make it simple. No need to spend too much time trying to decide what new recipe to make.
You could keep your written meal plans and reuse them for another week. This will save time and energy and makes meal planning so easy. Just think, if you had 8 different meal plans you could rotate through them and people wouldn’t even notice because you’d only have the same meal plan once every two months or so.
If you would like a sample Weekly Meal Plan, go to our store and purchase Sample Weekly Meal Plan. If you would like a blank meal plan sheet that you can print and fill out yourself with the tips you learned above, you can purchase our Blank Weekly Meal Plan Form.