How many times a week do you find yourself standing in your kitchen, staring at the fridge, trying to muster up a plan of what to make for dinner using the 3 ounces of energy you have left by this point of the day?
If you are like most busy mamas, you probably find yourself in this very scenario a few times a week. What’s the solution? Meal planning. This is the single best thing you can do to make mealtimes more manageable (even enjoyable!) and save yourself a lot of money. Now, you may be saying to yourself, the last thing I need is one more task to do each week, but trust me. Meal planning will actually save you time every day. Read on for my best tips on how to start- and stick to- meal planning.
Here are 3 Simple tips for getting started with a meal planning routine that works and that you can stick to.
1. Make a Menu
To get started, you will want to Grab a meal planner like this one here, a pencil (you may want to erase or move things around), and your monthly calendar. Start by looking at your week-what days are particularly busy? What days allow more time at home? Using this info, plan your meal around the busy-ness level of each day. For example, on busy days where you will not be home much, schedule this as a take-out day, a leftover day, or a slow cooker day. On days when you have more time, plan for a meal that takes a little more time to prepare.
Another fun this to do that also makes meal planning super simple is to dedicate each day of the week to a particular kind of food- Taco Tuesday, Pizza Friday, Pasta Sunday. get the whole family involved in picking out the days and switch them up seasonally. This is a fun way to meal plan, gets younger kids more involved (which can help picky eaters) and makes planning easier. If you already know what kind of food you are making you really only need to do a few tweaks each week and your menu is set.
2. Make a Grocery List
Take a look at the menu you just wrote down. Going day by day, write the ingredients you need for dinner each day. Now, add in the other items you need in general at the store. TIP 1: create your grocery list in sections that match where they are in your grocery store. TIP 2: Keep a notepad in the kitchen or on the refrigerator or pantry where you can write down anything that needs to be restocked so when you are making your grocery list you just have to add those things to your menu list.
3. Shop and Prep
Before you head to the store, clear out your fridge and pantry. Throw out any old leftovers, and anything that has expired, as well as fresh produce that went unsude and is past it’s safe to eat stage (meal planning will greatly reduce waste as well!)
Take your grocery list to the store and grab only what is on your list. Check in with yourself after a month of meal planning and you will see how much money you have saved by going to the grocery store with a plan as opposed to wandering the isles, hungry and confused, buying random things.
Once you get home, put your groceries away. Next, take a look at your menu plan. Are there any items you can pre-prep? Vegetables that can be cut up? Go ahead and prep those things now. You can also take this time to was your veggies and fruits so they are grab and go for you and your family during the week.
Make Menu Planning a Part of your weekly Routine
Now that you have a system, you’ll want to choose your day of the week for menu planning, shopping, and prep. If you need to, you can split menu planning into a separate day. I do this- I meal plan on Sunday and then usually shop and prep Monday morning. Do whatever works best for your schedule.
Ready to get started? Grab your free instant download of my busy mama meal planner!
Have questions about meal planning? Drop them in the comments and I will help you make meal planning work for you!