Most of us know that meal planning is awesome. We realize it is a great way to save money on groceries, save time at the store and in the kitchen, eat better-for-you foods, and avoid the everyday stress of “what’s for dinner?” But sometimes the thought of planning meals for an entire week (let alone an entire month) can be overwhelming. It is so easy to get bogged down in the details and over complicate the process of planning what to eat. By keeping things simple however, you can get your meal planning done and your grocery list ready in just 15 minutes (or less) each week. Here’s how:
1) Pick your day to plan.
Choose a day each week that you can devote 15 minutes to meal planning. Put it in your planner (I love these cute stickers from Etsy to remind me!) and make it a part of your routine. I like to plan Thursday or Friday for the following week. Store ads and coupons are usually ready by then and I have one less thing to do over the weekend.
2) Make a list of your family’s favorite meals.
Putting together a list of what you like to eat might seem redundant, but when you’re pressed for time it is so easy to forget that your hubby likes chicken parmesan. Jot all your favorites down and keep the list handy, adding to it when you discover (or remember) a top pick. This list will become a tried and trusted tool on meal planning day.
3) Give each weekday a theme.
The lunch lady was on to something when she planned “Taco Tuesday”. Simplify your planning by using her strategy and making it work for your home. This is a great opportunity to incorporate “Meatless Mondays” or other nutrition-focused meals into your regular rotation. (Add a homemade pizza night each week and save time and money by making your dough ahead of time with a freezable pizza crust recipe.)
4) Put your smart phone to work.
Buy Paprika Recipe Manager. Go on, buy it now. It will make meal planning (and grocery shopping) a cinch! After spending way too much time and money on apps that are just plain awful, Paprika has become my absolute favorite and is totally worth the $5 price tag. And nope, they aren’t paying me to say that, I just really love the app and I know you will too!
5) Have a backup plan.
Sometimes our best efforts at planning fall through. Rather than make a stop at the drive-thru you can keep a quick, healthy meal on hand in your pantry and freezer. My favorite option is homemade frozen meatballs and pasta served with broccoli. The meatballs are quick to heat through, the pasta and pasta sauce are pantry staples, and the broccoli can come from your freezer and be steamed with butter and parmesan. In 20 minutes you can have a healthy homemade meal on the table.
6) Write your plan on paper and share it with your family.
My husband loves seeing our meal plan for the week posted on the fridge, and so do I. It gives me a sense of peace knowing that I don’t have to fret over our menu for the next week, and it saves us time as we prepare for work each day. (Because we all love having something pretty and purposeful to work with I’ve created a gorgeous menu printable to share with you for free! Download it by clicking here.) Save your plan from each week; before you know it you will have an entire month of menus completed and you can simply repeat what you have done before. How simple is that?