Personally, I find meal planning to be an essential component for my family to eat well and without unnecessary hassle (think last minute runs to the grocery store when you’re already ravished). I know many of my clients would say the same – that not only does planning ahead prevent them from grabbing take-out in a pinch, but also saves money by avoiding over purchasing leading to waste, while also resulting in a greater enjoyment of cooking.
Meal planning comes pretty naturally to me (almost a decade after graduating and I still geek out when school supplies hit the stores every Fall) however, there are still those weeks where it can feel like a chore or I’m simply fresh out of ideas. That’s where having a system in place and go-to recipes can be a lifesaver.
Today I’ll run you through how I create weekly meal plans and grocery lists for my family. So hold on tight, here we go!
- First, I scan the fridge, freezer, and cupboard to see if there are any items that need used and can be incorporated in our meals (this also helps to cut down on cost as you use what you already have on hand). Often I’ll jot down the items or set them on the counter so they’re visible as I’m selecting recipes and making my list.
- Second, I begin creating our weekly schedule of meals by using my downloadable planner. I always have a stack printed and filed near my cookbooks. I review our calendar for the upcoming week, crossing off days we won’t be home and indicating days where its easiest do have a DIY or “fend for yourself” meal.
- I simply select recipes, adding them to whatever days they best fit. For instance, if I know a recipe is a bit more time consuming, I’ll schedule it for the weekend when days are less hurried. Freezer or prep-ahead meals are typically Tuesdays and Thursdays for us. These are meals such as previously prepared veggie burgers, leftover chili, a slow cooker meal, or quinoa bowls where the components can be prepped ahead. This makes it feasible to be healthy even when in a hurry. I use my Pinterest board to categorize recipes so its easy to find those that I most love. I also have a few key cookbooks that I can turn to for fail-proof recipes.
- When writing the recipes on a given day I will note if it requires prep ahead, such as marinating, and hi-light it in order to quickly and easily see what that meal will require. This really doesn’t take extra time since I’m looking at the recipe when creating my menu any ways.
- Lastly, pull the ingredients from each recipe and make that grocery list! (Be sure to incorporate the items from the first bullet point!)
My husband and I have found it helpful to create a shared Google doc to categorize our favorite recipes. Whenever we have a meal we absolutely love, we simply add it to the category it best fits and indicate where it can be found (i.e.: Choosing Raw cookbook, page 128). This makes meal planning a breeze. I simply visit this file and plug our favorite recipes into the weekly planner. We have categories for different seasons, quick & easy recipes, and those great for serving guests.
If you’re new to meal planning or it just doesn’t fit your style, that’s okay! Don’t get bogged down. These tools should be useful and not burdensome. If you’re brand new to planning, maybe it works best for you to select 2 recipes for the week and purchase the ingredients, being able to create them as it best fits the day. The method of planning I outlined works best for us at this time, enabling us to maintain full schedules but still eat healthfully and invite others to join in on the fun without feeling overwhelmed. It may take a bit more work initially, but once you have the tools in place you’ll be well on your way too!