Need some easy meal planning tips for planning healthy meals for your family this year? I get this question from friends often when they spot our weekly meal planner in our kitchen. It’s not fancy – it’s a whiteboard with a dry-erase marker, but I outline our full week of dinners. It is an easy way to plan delicious meals and remind myself what to prep for the week.
I think my family finds a certain amount of comfort in knowing what to expect, and it helps eliminate food waste by forcing me to inventory what we have before planning a trip to the grocery store. I try to mix up our favorite recipes with new recipes to provide every family member a little something special.
Steps to Making a Meal Plan
When I sit down to meal plan on Sundays, I go through a quick checklist to see what we are going to eat. We rarely go out to eat or even grab fast food, especially with four kids, so it’s up to momma to make some decisions. Here’s what I consider:
- What do I already have in the pantry and freezer? I try to glance through to make sure I am using up what we already have which is a great way to prevent food and money waste, along with fighting the temptation to run out and buy fast food.
- When grocery shopping, buy in advance based on what’s on sale. I freeze meats in our deep freezer in the garage, so I don’t have to run out and buy meat for specific meals. It helps save on our weekly grocery bill and it doesn’t take much time to defrost when you plan in advance.
- Buying what’s in season tends to be more affordable and tastes better. For instance, in the winter, I buy more fresh fruit like oranges and apples instead of strawberries and blueberries.
- Does any child like a certain theme night? Sometimes, it’s fun to focus on a certain country’s cuisine or a special holiday for meal planning.
Ideas for Budget Meals
- We have one meatless meal per week. This usually means the meal is centered around beans or eggs as a protein source. Think about balancing all of the food groups when planning a meal to give a variety of nutrients and options for your kids.
- Plan to use leftovers throughout the week. I usually bulk up on recipes, so we can have leftovers at least one night or for lunches throughout the week.
- Try to keep beans and basic veggies on hand (onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, celery, tomatoes) to have the essentials available any night of the week. I also keep dairy sources like cheese, milk, and eggs in the fridge and rice and pasta in the pantry for quick meal ideas.
- How much time will it take to prep certain meals? If it’s a busy week of practices or events, it might be helpful to a whole chicken or some fresh fruit to have easy go-to ingredients throughout the week.
- Consider prepping some freezer meals or batch cooking to get ahead on a busy week and still offer homemade meals to your family.
How Do You Shop for Meal Planning?
Generally, I shop for meal planning once a week. I prefer to use pick-up ordering from Wal-Mart or Aldi to keep the grocery shopping list in check. I tend to build out my menu the week before, so I start loading my online cart or making a list in my phone to limit my grocery trips/pick-ups each week.
Consider picking up the basics like fresh berries, ground beef, peanut butter, roast chicken, and other whole foods to always have great ideas for healthy snacks and basic types of food on hand to prep easy meals. Peruse recipe books and Pinterest for meal-prepping tips and healthy meal plans. Feel free to sign up with your email for my free weekly meal plan below!
What is your meal planning process each week?
Yes, I generally follow a similar meal pattern each week. So, on Mondays, we may have a slow cooker meal, Tuesdays are for tacos/Mexican foods, Wednesdays for soups, Thursdays are for breakfasts and Fridays are for pizza night (with a movie!) We vary things throughout the week, but this provides a basic blueprint if needed. Leftover night is also a good way to use up everything in your fridge.
I am attaching a general copy of our free weekly meal plan below. Feel free to print off to give some ideas of what you can make each week. For even more info, sign up for emails! I will send you the weekly blueprint, along with healthy recipes for every weekday meal. (You can find the email sign-up block below if you are on mobile, to the sidebar if you are on a laptop.)
I hope this post inspires you with some easy tips for meal planning tips. If you would like a complete meal plan with recipes, please sign up for my newsletter – I would love to send it to you! Happy New Year!