Most of us know that meal planning will save us money and lower our stress level when dinner time rolls around, but it can seem overwhelming to sit down and actually write out a meal plan. These meal planning tips will help you get started.
How do you go about meal planning if you’ve never done it before or have struggled to keep up with it in the past? Begin with the first tip and work your way down. You will be a meal planning pro in no time!
Meal Planning Tips For Busy Moms
1. Decide how many weeks of meals you want to plan
Some people plan a week, others two, and some brave souls plan out the entire month. What appeals to you? If you are new at meal planning, I recommend planning out only 1 or 2 weeks at a time.
One week is great because it’s pretty easy to set aside the time to plan out, and it shouldn’t take you long once you get the hang of it. Two weeks works well if you only go to the grocery store every two weeks—that way you’ll be able to plan out your grocery list in advance.
Decide which sounds more practical for you–one week or two; you can’t go wrong either way.
2. Set aside time to plan out your meals
Sometimes you just need to add meal planning to your “to do” list to make sure it gets done. Or set a reminder on your phone for a day when you will have extra time to do some thinking and planning.
When the reminder shows on your phone, or you work your way down to “meal plan” on your to do list, be sure to do it! Provide yourself with extra motivation, if needed. For instance, ”After I finish meal planning for the week I get to read a book for 30 minutes”.
Related: Items to Keep Stocked in Your Pantry
3. Consider all of the activities that are on the calendar for the next week (or two)
Now that you’ve figured out how many weeks you will be planning out your meals, open up your calendar and see what you have going on during that week(s). If there is a super busy day or an evening you won’t get home until late, pick an easy recipe or a slow cooker recipe for that day.
4. Look at what you already have on hand
Going through your pantry, fridge, and freezer is a good place to start meal planning for the week. Make a note of what you have, and think up possible meal ideas using those ingredients. Be creative—maybe you won’t have to visit the grocery store this week after all!
Make meal planning EASY with these FREE Meal Planning Sheets!
5. Use a theme for each day of the week
This is a trick many moms use. Pick a theme for each day, such as “Taco Tuesday”. Then, when you go to plan out your meals for each day, simply pick a recipe that fits your theme for that day. Of course, you don’t have to follow the themes every day, but if you do it most days, it will save you some time since you won’t be starting from scratch to come up with ideas.
Be sure to include leftovers on at least one of the days. You will likely have them so you may as well plan out a day when your family will eat them.
6. Plan to use some of the ingredients multiple nights
I’m not at all sure you can “repurpose” food (ok, I think you technically could but let’s not go there because it’s probably gross and this is a meal planning article for goodness sake!), but just as you can “repurpose” items, you could use some of the same ingredients on multiple days.
For example, plan two meals with chicken and cook double the amount of chicken on the first day. Then stick the extra in the freezer until later in the week (when you will use it for the other chicken recipe). Or maybe you need onions for two of the meals you have planned? Cut twice the amount you need the first time and save the rest in the freezer until you need them. You get the idea.
7. Be flexible
As moms already know, things don’t always go according to plan. (Ha! That must be written down somewhere in MOTHERHOOD 101.) If your week doesn’t work out as you planned, just shift things around a little. Write out your meal plans using pencil or these pens (they’re erasable!), so you can easily shift things around as needed.
8. Use someone else’s meal plan ideas
I am saving this for last because it doesn’t always save you money–it is harder to use what you already have on hand if you are using someone else’s meal plans. This method will definitely save you time though!
Do a quick search online for free meal plans and PLENTY will pop up. Browse a few websites until you find one you like, then bookmark or print it. Voila—you have your meal plan! You can also use this tip as a way to find new dinner recipes to mix in with your own ideas.
Put into practice these meal planning tips for busy moms and I guarantee that your meal planning days will get a whole lot easier. Your food budget will thank you because not only will you be using food you already have on hand, you won’t need to make any extra trips to the grocery store at the last minute to pick up something you forgot. Your grocery list will have everything on it that you’ll need since your meals are all planned out.
Listen up, dinnertime. No more sneaking up on us, we’ve already got you figured out!