Meal planning…it has saved me money, saves me time, and helps me eat healthier!! What’s not to love?! Let’s learn together how to meal plan, free yourself from guilt when you follow your meal plan imperfectly, and help you think LESS about what’s for dinner!
Although the spreadsheets and algorithms and meal planning boot camps on the internet may make you feel otherwise, I FIRMLY believe learning how to meal plan doesn’t have to be complicated!
The Benefits of Meal Planning
There are so many reasons why meal planning is beneficial, especially to busy moms!
- Thinking once about “what to make for dinner” vs. multiple times a week.
- Shopping once, saving you time and money.
- So much less stress when I know what we are eating and when we are eating it.
The glory of meal planning is you think about it once for the whole week (or two weeks or month or whatever floats your boat) and then you don’t have to think about it again!
You just have to execute on your predetermined decisions.
Meal Planning Tips for Busy Moms
1. Consider your weekly calendar.
Take a peek at what you have going on–small group, night at the ball park, working late, etc. Put those events on your meal plan so you can eliminate nights you are cooking at home.
Think realistically about what’s going on and what kind of meals you have the capacity to make for your family.
2. Plan 1-2 weeks out at a time.
I meal plan one week at a time, but if you prefer to do it in two week intervals that’s totally fine! You do you, girl! My brain can only think ahead in one week intervals. My friend Emily loves planning ahead two weeks for her meal plans and has some great tips for that here!
3. Plan for eating out
We generally eat out once a week and I always put that on my meal plan first! Be realistic. It’s okay for pizza night to be part of the meal plan–it definitely is at our house!!
(P.S. You can still make healthier decisions when you’re eating out! Check out this series for more tips on healthy eating out. )
4. Write it down.
Your next step is to take pen to paper (or whatever is your virtual version of that) and put down your meals.
If you follow me on Instagram, you know I’m always raving about my planner! I use it to lay out my meals along with our plans for the week every Sunday night or Monday morning! I LOVE that the meal planning area is built in already! So simple!
5. Use the notes app on your phone to keep your meal plan top of mind
Once I have my meal plan established, I update my “Groceries” note on my phone with what I need for the week or just order it straight from my grocery store app.
I also like to keep an updated meal plan at the bottom of my “Groceries” note just so I can reference it when I’m shopping or don’t have my planner with me! This keeps my meal plan always at my fingertips.
6. Theme it up!
Creating themed meals is such an easy way to meal plan for busy moms that don’t have that much brain space. Simply keep the same themed meals on certain days of the week so there is less brain work from week to week!
Each “theme” allows enough variety that you don’t get bored and you can always plug in your favorites! Here are some theme ideas to get you started:
- Chicken night
- Mexican aka Taco Tuesday
- Soup night
- Crockpot dinner
- Grill night
- Stir Fry
- Breakfast for Dinner
- Baked potato bar
7. Keep it simple.
Do what you can friends. It’s okay to keep it easy, like really easy!
Whole wheat pasta, a jar of marinara, some grilled chicken or brown ground beef (you can also prep the meat ahead of time) is a great dinner option! Add a side salad and a fruit and you are done.
Don’t overcomplicate things.
It’s okay to stick with what is easy and works for your family. I like to cook but when things get crazy I go back to the “old faithful” recipes like chili, pancakes, and tacos (using our DIY taco seasoning).
8. Don’t be boring!
I try to keep new ideas to once a week or so because my kids are definitiely cautious of trying new recipes.
So dig through your cookbooks and start making those recipes you’ve pinned on Pinterest or watched on TikTok! My most used cookbooks are 100 Days of Real Food (also includes 4 seasonal meal plans!) and The Betty Crocker Cookbook.
For a huge variety and easy searching I adore Pinterest! I tried a new Whole 30 White Chicken Chili from Pinterest last week and it was amazing!!
9. Buy a pre-made meal plan
Buying a pre-made meal plan is an awesome way to get in the groove of meal planning or take a break from it when it’s overwhelming!
I love meal planning so much I created two complete 4 Week Meal Plans full of real food, tried and true, family favorite recipes!
These all-in-one solutions have completed grocery shopping lists, no-fuss meal prep guides, lunch leftover ideas–I basically am your paid meal planner so you don’t have to be!
10. Let meal planning serve you!
The meal plan is there to serve you and your unique family situation–not the other way around! This perspective gives freedom and flexibility to meal planning that families need!
If meal planning seems hard–let it be easy. Meal plan simply with chicken nuggets. Buy a pre-done meal plan. Pick a theme day once a week.
Don’t over-complicate something that is supposed to simplify things.
Meal Planning Ideas for Families
Here are a few of my simple, healthy, and kid-friendly meal plan ideas for you!
Meal Planning Breakfast Ideas:
Eggs (I always make scrambled)
Oatmeal — Pineapple Coconut baked oatmeal is a favorite!
Pancakes (we eat pancakes for brunch every Saturday)
I rotate these breakfasts for the kids. But besides Saturday brunch I have a healthy smoothie for breakfast everyday.
Meal Planning Lunch Ideas
Soups (Meal prep a batch of your favorite soup on the weekend)
Taco meat (Have on hand for tacos, quesadillas or taco salad)
Meal Planning Dinner Ideas
I’ve given you quite a few ideas above that you can just plug in your favorite recipes, BUT here is an idea of our meals for the week.
Monday: Healthy Turkey Chili
Tuesday: Simple tacos using DIY Taco Seasoning (Make extra to have for lunches)
Wednesday: Marinated Chicken Breasts
Thursday: Pizza night using homemade whole-wheat crust
Friday: Eating out as a family
Saturday: Avocado Bacon Burgers
Sunday: Cereal slosh (kids pick favorite cold cereal) or small group
All of these meals are super-budget friendly–no expensive or crazy ingredients needed! I tend to stick to recipes that use ground turkey, ground beef, and chicken, using lower priced meat cuts helps us keep our overall budget down.
Where to start with meal planning?
If this concept seems crazy overwhelming start by planning 3 dinners for this week.
Write them on your calendar or just on your fridge. Follow your plan this week! Next week, evaluate how it went and stick with 3 dinners or slowly add on additional dinners, lunch or breakfast plans from there!
I hope these meal planning tips have inspired you to make a meal plan for your family this week! Meal planning is a gift you give yourself every night of the week!