How To Start A Meal Plan + FREE Weekly Menu Planner Printable
Families everywhere are turning to meal planning to help simplify their lives, and save money. See how to start a meal plan plus get me FREE weekly menu planner printable below!
Meal planning can sometimes seem like an art form that some people just don’t like, and if that is you, then I am here to convince you that it’s something that you will grow to love. If you are the other type of person however, you are either interested in meal planning, or you already have a structure to do so in your home.
So why should you meal plan? There are three simple reasons, sanity, health, and money. When you meal plan you don’t have to worry so much about dinner. If you know you have a busy day coming up, instead of ordering a pizza, or takeout, you can have something pre-prepared and save yourself the time and money. It has been proven that those who meal plan eat healthier and have overall better health than those who do not. This is because you are more consciously thinking about what you are eating each day and have a plan rather than throwing things together or stopping at the gas station for lunch. Overall, you will save a lot of money by doing this. With average weekly grocery bills in the $200 range, its no wonder that people buy the cheaper, less healthy products. You can eat healthy, and inexpensively when you plan out your meals and shop around the sales to find the good deals.
How To Start A Meal Plan
Before you start meal planning, you will want to write down a long list of foods that your family likes. What do you all like to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Write down meals, snacks, drinks etc. This is going to give you a good starting point when you go to make the weeks dinners.
You will also want an area to meal plan. That could be a whiteboard, a chalkboard, maybe you do it electronically using an app, or just a plain old piece of paper on the fridge. Whatever will work best for you and your family is what you should try. There are also some options out there for binders that are specifically for meal planning with printables (you can get my free one below), you can get as detailed as using sticky notes for all types of meals and foods so that you can reuse them time and time again to plan. Again, use what you see will best fit your family. Plus, Amazon.com has lots of meal planners at an affordable price if your prefer something more detailed 😉
If you are planning on using the sticky note way of doing this, instead of writing down a list, write those foods all on small post it notes. Have one color for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and desserts to help when it comes to planning.
To begin, look at that list that you wrote and your plan for the week. (Sunday through Monday should be written on something, with options for breakfast, lunch, dinner and if you would like it, snacks or dessert.) Begin with writing down breakfast on every day, then lunch, so on and so forth. This is going to be the basis of how you want to plan meals, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
What do you have on hand already? Using things that you already have will save you money at the grocery store. What is on sale this week at the stores that you most frequently shop at? If you plan your meals based off of what is on sale, you will significantly decrease the amount of money that you spend on your shopping trip.
Don’t fear the coupons! If you can find a few coupons before your shopping trip, they will add up over the year to save you a good chunk of change! Don’t fear them! No need to go coupon crazy, just embrace those savings!
You will also want to keep in mind your nutrition while planning. For example, when it comes to breakfast, don’t simply write “cereal” for every day. Planning out what you are going to eat for the week will allow you to get creative and vary what you eat each day rather than eating the same meals frequently. One day you have cereal, the next pancakes, maybe some granola, or oatmeal, mix it up! It is also a good idea to cut back on things that are expensive. Like soda and meat. This isn’t to say that you can’t have those things, but if you want to save some money, try cutting your soda, sugar and meat consumption in half, it will make a world of a difference not only in your wallet but also in your health!
So how do you find time to cook all of these foods? You set a day aside and cook all day of course! When meal planning you will find that it will be easy to stay on top of it, but you will want to create a stock once a month to use up. Set aside just one day, use two crock pots and your stove/oven and get to work. Making things like soup, and stews, baked dishes, pre-cook your meats, blanch and freeze veggies, will all help with the process of meal planning and eating healthy while you’re at it. Freeze the meals that you have made and you can plan an entire month’s worth of meals in a matter of minutes.
Keep snacks on hand in case what you are planning for the day isn’t filling for everyone. You can plan all you want, but kids get hungry often. A good way to go about this is to prepackage snacks like pretzels, crackers, cheese, nuts, seeds, and fruit into snack baggies so that they are more willing to eat them versus if they have to prepare something themselves for a snack, in which case they are going to go for those potato chips.
Meal planning is a wonderful tool for all families, whether you have children, or it’s just yourself or a spouse, it will allow you to become healthier, save money and have a little less stress each week.