Simple, Weekly Meal Planning for Busy Moms
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It is appropriate that I am typing this up on a Monday because Mondays are my meal planning and grocery shopping days. Before you stop reading and tell yourself, “I don’t have time to plan out meals for an entire week. Heck, most days I don’t even know what I will eat for lunch.” Think again! Meal planning is one of the things I do at the start of the week that allows for the next 6 days to be WAY less stressful.
I will admit, meal planning used to take me close to an hour every week in the beginning of our marriage. However, like with most things, the more you do it, the quicker and more efficient you become. I am at the point where I can plan out all the meals for the week and produce the grocery list in under 15 minutes! And here’s a little secret, you can too! It really is not as hard as you might be thinking and it will save you SO much stress and time throughout the week.
Quick side note: if you have babies in your family and would like tips on preparing meals for the littlest mouths in your family, check out these 5 tips for making meals for babies. Using some of these tips have actually helped me not drastically increase our grocery bills because Hudson eats a lot of similar foods to us.
5 Reasons You Should Be Meal Planning
If you still are not convinced, below are some very clear reasons and benefits on why you should start planning out your family’s meals for the week.
1. Saves Time
People often think they need to be super organized and have a lot of initial time available to properly plan meals. I am here to tell you that is simply not true! As you get used to the weekly discipline of planning meals out every week, you will become more efficient. Even if it takes you a bit more time at the beginning, it is is worth it because it will save you so much time later in the week. dft67t6tcv yjbv
2. Saves Money
I literally used to spend MORE money on food when I was in college just feeding myself then what I currently spend to feed a family of three (and not just any family of three, a family that eats A LOT). When it was just me in college, I never planned out my meals. I would go to Trader Joe’s and literally just let my stomach guide my purchases. This is no way to grocery shop! I would buy lots of the frozen pre-planned meals because I thought it would save me time and money. NOT true! Plus, a lot of the frozen meals are pretty high in sodium.
I would buy really just whatever looked and sounded good and figured I would make things work for meals. This method resulted in HIGH grocery bills that I could barely afford. By planning out your meals, you are creating a grocery list only with the items that you actually need.
3. Wastes Less Food
Since you only are getting produce and proteins that you will actually use for meals throughout the week, you will notice that you end up throwing away much less food. I rarely need to throw away produce because it is all used by the end of the week. Really one of the only times I need to throw things away is on weeks that plans change and we don’t end up using all the meals I had planned out. In terms of proteins, I NEVER throw these away because I put all meats in the freezer, except what I am using that night and the next night.
4. Removes Stress
Our weeks are busy and after full days of work and chasing after littles, we should not be stressing about what our family will eat. Taking the time to plan ahead, will allow your weeks to run so much more smoothly around dinner time. It is now something I don’t even think about. I just know what we are eating and I start making it. There are enough stressors in our lives, don’t let dinner time be another one of those.
5. Allows for Healthier Choices
If meals are not planned, it is more likely that you will resort to going out or picking up something quick. While of course you can find healthy options out, it is more likely that you will consistently be eating healthier meals the more you plan things out. When you plan out your meals, you have the control to make sure you are getting lean proteins, greens, and healthy carbs.
So now you might be thinking, “Okay I get it, meal planning has some clear benefits, but planning ahead is just not my personality. I don’t even know where to start!”
That is where I want to help you out.
Remember how I mentioned it used to take me an hour to plan our meals for the week? Part of the reason it took me so long was because I didn’t have any plan to help guide me. I was doing all the hard front work myself. Now that I have been planning out meals for the past 4 years of our marriage, I have developed a weekly system that allows me to write out 7 meals + a grocery list in under 15-minutes. I actually timed myself and I planned out the meals in 12-minutes yesterday, while throwing tennis balls to our dog Nala and chasing around a toddler. This is something you can even do quickly in the middle of your chaotic days!
4 Simple Steps to Start Meal Planning TODAY
Below are four tangible steps you can start taking today to help with meal planning and make your life so much simpler.
1. Choose a Day to Plan and Shop (stay consistent!)
Pick the day that is open enough for you to plan out your meals and shop in the same day. If you are working, a weekend will probably work best. For me personally, I do it all on Mondays. Start by thinking about your week as a whole and intentionally choosing a day that you can do all the planning and shopping. Try not to split it up over 2 days. I used to do this and it made the process feel longer. Get it all done in ONE day, so the rest of the 6 you don’t even need to think about meals or the grocery store.
Grocery shopping on the same day every week is one of my favorite weekly rhythms. It saves a ton of time because you are just making one big grocery trip for the whole week. It is something that you expect to happen on that particular day so it does not hold as much dread. And it actually helps build a sense of community. I love the fact that I have come to know a lot of the people that work at our local Trader Joe’s. This type of community would likely not be as felt if we went grocery shopping at random days, times, and tons of different stores.
2. Write Down Ingredients Currently in Refrigerator + Pantry
To be honest, I don’t do this every week because by the end of the week, we are basically empty! However, at the beginning of your meal planning journey, you probably have a lot of food sitting in the fridge and pantry that are left unused. I got this idea from Jordan Page, a blogger and You-tuber on how to be frugal as a family. She suggests writing out a list of everything you have and then use this list to generate meal ideas. This will ensure that you are using ingredients you already have.
This is a much better strategy than first looking up recipes. I used to look up a recipe for nearly every day of the week, and I spent way more money on groceries because I was buying ingredients that I do not typically cook with. Don’t do this! Start with the ingredients you already have and generate meal ideas from there.
3. Create Meal Types for Each Day of the Week
Part of the reason I can so quickly plan out 7 meals in under 15-minutes is because I have created a system in which we have similar types of meals for each specific day of the week. This is REALLY helpful. It takes out a lot of the decisions when it comes to meal planning and it can actually be a really fun thing for your family to look forward to and expect. This is something you can get the entire family on-board with. To clarify, this does not mean we are eating the same meal every Monday or every Thursday, but we are eating the same “type” of meal.
For example our weekly menu includes “Meatless Mondays” and “Taco Tuesdays.” So on Mondays, I will either plan a veggie stir-fry, or veggie quinoa bowls, or a veggie pasta, or maybe even veggie burgers + sweet potato cubes. On Tuesdays, we might have turkey tacos, or shrimp taco salad, or even beef taco soup. See? There can be variety even though each day of the week is assigned a specific type. I put together a sample week in the graphic above. As you can see, I keep it REAL simple!
Isn’t this menu pretty? I made it just for you! Well, and for myself too, but mostly you. I’ll send it to you for FREE! Just enter your email right below here. Along with the menu, I will also send you the organized grocery shopping list. Say goodbye to your frantic and wandering days of grocery shopping. This list will get you in and out of the store with CONFIDENCE.
Yes! Send me the Menu!
4. Use My Weekly Menu Chart + Grocery List
There are tons of Meal Planning templates that you can purchase, but why spend the money? I typically just grab printer paper and quickly write everything out, but I wanted something that looked a bit nicer, so I created this really simple menu chart + grocery list. They are on two separate documents so you don’t need to cut the list off from the menu! I would highly recommend putting the menu up on your fridge or somewhere super visible in the kitchen so the whole family can see it. Make sure you enter your email above, so I can send you this FREE gift.
For the grocery list, I have created it with three columns: Produce, Proteins, and Pantry. I used to just list everything out, but this method made grocery shopping more difficult. Now, as I make a list I organize it into these three categories and it makes the actual shopping experience a lot simpler. So when creating your list, just think of the 3 P’s. Also, I started adding a fourth category: Freezer. I tend to not really get anything from the frozen section, except frozen berries and a couple dessert options. However, I included it on the list, just in case you tend to stock up on more frozen items.
I really hope this is helpful for you. If you are already a meal planning type of gal, I would LOVE to hear some of your tips. Leave a comment below! If you are still very new to meal planning, and have any specific questions, please leave them below as well.
See you next Thursday! Happy Meal Planning!