To Meal Plan or Not to Meal Plan, that truly is a great question. Does it help some people to save money and eat right? YES!!! Does it help everyone? NO! But we’ll discuss meal planning ideas and methods below, as well as get you started with some free printables.
Should You be a Meal Planner?
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you often not get meat out of the freezer until 3pm the day you’re planning on using it, because you just thought of what to make?
- Does making daily meals stress you out?
- Do you feel like making a daily meal is a big chore?
- Do you feel like you’re stuck in a rut with meals?
- Do you eat out often because you don’t feel like cooking or just can’t think of anything to cook?
I’m going to keep it real with you. I am not a huge traditional meal planner. I plan…and then completely ignore it after 3 days. It’s how I roll. Does that mean we eat out? No. I said I’m not a traditional meal planner. I have my methods (see below).
Often, meal planning to some degree will save money, save time, and reduce stress.
Meal Planning Ideas and Methods
Traditional Meal Planning
A great way to follow a traditional meal plan method is to complete the following steps:
Step 1: Make a List of Your Family’s Favorite Meals
- Use your resources. If you are feeding others besides yourself, then interview them. Mine give me the wonderful, “I don’t know”, so I narrow it down and ask them to give me their favorite Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. Give them ideas to get their brains moving.
- Categorize these meals by breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.
Step 2: Decide on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly method
- A weekly method involves sitting down once a week to plan all meals for the upcoming week. A good way to do this is to designate a time and write it on the calendar until it becomes a habit.
- A bi-weekly method involves making a plan for two weeks at a time. This is my favorite, because of its versatility (and because I know I won’t plan once a week).
- Plan a new set of meals every two weeks.
- Plan for 2 weeks and repeat. I make a two week plan for spring, summer, Fall, and winter to keep with seasonal veggies and whether we’ll be grilling, etc. Honestly, you’re only eating the same meal twice a month so they don’t get old before you change seasons.
- A monthly method involves sitting down a making a plan for the month. They can be all different, or you can repeat meals, whatever you choose. A lot of people who make monthly plan will also buy what they need and prepare a lot of items ahead of time ( cut veggies that will be frozen, dice chicken and add spices, etc.).
Step 3: Make a List of Supplies and Purchase Them
Whether you choose a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly method, you can easily make a list of everything you will need for that time period. Make a shopping trip and buy what you need so it’s at least in the house.
Step 4: Prepare Ahead of Time
Honestly, this step is optional. If you have made the plan and have the supplies in the house then you’ve won a HUGE battle! Congratulations! If you know you’ll be super busy during the week, then after your planning and purchasing, prepare as much as you can. Sharpen those nice and dice the chicken ahead of time. If making a stew, chop the veggies and meat and put them in a freezer bag ahead of time. Anything that you can do that will make cooking during the week a breeze.
Enlist kids! This is where they learn. Have them help prepare and then cook during the week. They will take these lessons with them into their own home. You’ll be doing them a great service!
That’s it. Traditional Meal Planning at its best.
So what is non-traditional planning? Well, another option is to plan out your meal and have the ingredients delivered to your door in a Sun Basket meal kit. This cuts out the need to run around looking for ingredients. If this is something you’d be interested in then click here to read a Sun Basket review to see if it’s for you.
There is another none traditional option too and it deserves mention because it’s what works for a lot of families. It’s basically completing Steps 1 and 3 above.
Step 1: Make a List of Your Family’s Favorite Meals
You will still complete #1 as stated above. Interview your family. Make a list of what you enjoy making. Make a list of what’s fast and convenient. Categorize it according to Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and snacks.
Step 2: Make a List of Supplies and Purchase Them
This is less formal then the traditional method. This involves knowing what’s on the Favorite Meal list and having those supplies on hand.
That’s it and works for a lot of people. If traditional meal planning is something that you feel like you fail at or only follow for a few days (like I often do), then try this:
- Stick that Favorite Meals List on your fridge
- Get in the habit of referencing it the night before. Why the night before? To get the meat out of the freezer and into the fridge.
If I know I’m going to have a busy few weeks I will use the traditional bi-weekly method and get everything ready. Otherwise, I often follow the non-traditional method. I cook according to my mood. 😉
Free Printables for Meal Plan Ideas
I’d love to help you organize your meals better so that you can decrease your stress levels and eat more healthy. Food is medicine after all!
Here are a few different types of planners. You can download these, or simply use them to give you ideas for creating your own. I hope they inspire you.
Click to Download
Please leave a note below telling us how you plan your meals. We’d love to hear from you.
This is part of the Simplify Your Life Series
Simplifying your life is a continuous mindset. Our goal is to reduce stress, simplify routines, simplify recipes, and get organized.
Others in this series:
- How to Begin to Simplify Your Life
- 12 Steps to Declutter and Organize Your Kitchen
- 15 Simple and Healthy Breakfast Ideas
- What Stress Does to Your Body
- 20 Stress Relieving Herbs and Teas
Shared on some of these great blogs!