The Art of Making a Plan: Meal Planning 101

So, its almost February, who made a resolution to eat healthier this year? Anyone, anyone? If you’re like me in many years past, it was two-fold: healthier choices means more eating at home and more eating at home means less spending! Win, win! As with a lot our resolutions, good intentions, etc…, it’s tough to turn these into habits without a plan.

I’m going to show you my meal planning process and explain why it works for me!

CREATE A MASTER PLAN

Whether it’s a spreadsheet, app, or pen and paper, you’re going to need someplace to lay out your meal plan. I like to use a simple Google spreadsheet. I usually plan for 1-2 weeks at a time. I physically print it and hang it on the fridge, but my husband and I can also access it from our phones when we’re out, which has proven SO handy! Some of my friends like to print the blank spreadsheet and write their plan in. Try a few different systems and see which works for you! I’ll show you mine below!

MAP OUT YOUR WEEK

Take a look at all of the activities you and your family will be involved in for the week; sports practices, extra shifts at work, travel, lessons. Take a look at the evenings you may be getting home later and need a quick and easy meal versus the days you’ll have a bit more time for prep. I like to lay all of these things out on a spreadsheet like this:

CHECK YOUR FREEZER, PANTRY & FRIDGE

Once you know what’s happening in your upcoming week, take a look in your freezer and pantry. Do you have a whole chicken, several cans of black beans, a surplus of cilantro from a recent recipe. Try to incorporate these extras in the upcoming recipes. It’s amazing how much money you can save, not to mention cutting down on food waste. Last week I spent only $65 dollars on my family of four utilizing ingredients I already had in the house.

PUT ALL YOUR INFORMATION IN ONE PLACE

Maybe this is self-explanatory, but it was a huge game changer for me! My master spreadsheet has tabs for shopping lists (including all the stores I frequent, recipes, and ideas for future meals. Having it all in one place really helps me stick to the plan.

PLAN YOUR PREP

This may be my favorite part of my master plan! About six months ago I added a prep tab into each day. When I’m mapping out my week I can look at lighter schedule days and add some meal prep for upcoming busier days. I do the more labor intensive prep on the first day of the week, but also build in time to pack lunches, make a loaf of bread, etc… This really helps me to rely more on home cooked items and less on the easy access packaged ingredients.

BE FLEXIBLE

So, you’ve got your plan, make your shopping list, purchased groceries. What happens if Tuesday rolls around and you don’t feel like eating tacos? Who cares! You are in control! Change a day, eat leftovers, push a meal off to the next day. The plan is just a framework to help you avoid all those last minute panicked dinners or bowls of cereal for dinner. Here are some wonderful side effects of meal planning:

  • More time with my family. If I know I have a busy work week, I’ll choose simple Instant Pot or slow cooker meals. That way when we’re home, we’re together.
  • Kids help! My boys help me sit down on the weekend and pick out meals for the upcoming week. They love having a say in what they’re eating.
  • Healthier choices. By mapping out activities and meals I can make sure to purchase and prep foods and meals that align with my health and fitness needs and future goals.
  • Budget is in check. By making my list based on a detailed plan and checking my fridge, freezer and pantry every week, I can keep food costs and food waste down. This makes me (and my husband) super happy!

Now that you’ve heard my ideas, get to work on your own! I’ll bet you can find a system that will simply your life and help you gain some precious time back in your week. I’ll help you get started- download my template below! If you do, drop me a comment and let me know what you gain back into your week by meal planning. Happy planning, friends!

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