I’m not a foodie, or a fancy cook, or a wonderful baker. I’m just a person who likes to eat good meals and wishes they would make themselves. Since they don’t, and since I’m really busy, I started planning my meals years ago, as soon as I had my first baby.
For those who haven’t meal planned before, it can seem intimidating. But trust me, once you get in the habit of planning meals it’s hard to imagine winging it ever again.
Meal Planning Saves Time + Money
It might seem illogical, but planning my meals out saves me a ton of time. It’s so much simpler when I know what I need to get at the store, as well as the meal options I have for each day. I mastered the art of running in and out of the store quickly once I had Sylvie. There’s nothing like nursing a baby to keep you running back to your little one any time you leave the house!
I also know that being more intentional with getting the groceries that I know I’ll need for meals saves a lot of money in the long run. Meal planning eliminates guesswork, impulse-buying, and over-buying as well. I’ve had plenty of times when I came home with random frozen shrimp that ended up staying in the freezer too long, for example. It’s just too easy to grab unnecessary things when there’s no plan to work with.
I’d feel lost without planning my meals. I just know that I’d be pretty stressed trying to come up with a dinner on the fly. Doing this saves me stress, so I’m a big fan! Here’s how I do it.
My Meal Planning Basics
First, I think about the types of meals I’d like to fill our week. Coming up with meals becomes SO much easier when I know Taco Tuesday is already a solid option.
Here are the types of meals I plan for on a weekly basis in the fall and winter.
- Meat & Potatoes
- Soup, Stew, or Chili & Sandwich/Bread
- Casseroles/Pot Pie/Skillet Meals/Faux Quiche
- Eating out/Leftovers/Frozen
How I Plan Meals
First, I grab my planner. I take a look at what our week looks like. It’s just a must to check for holidays, busy nights, or times away from the house. This time of year, I also check the weather on my phone to see how many warm, Fall meals I can add to the mix!
I sit down with my favorite cookbooks. Hopefully, I also grab my coupons. It’s so helpful to page through my favorite recipes. I like to mix up cookbooks, recipes from friends and family, and recipes specifically for my Instant Pot or slow cooker.
I make the plan. Then I simply write down the ideas I have for meals that week, and a page number if it came from a cookbook. I write down 5-7 meals (main and side dishes), plus a dessert to have for the week. I don’t assign most of those meals to a specific night, because I’m at the mercy of when my avocados will ripen for guacamole. Seriously, our entire week depends on avocados.
I add the ingredients for all of those meals to my shopping list. I think about what we need for breakfasts and lunch, and add anything we need to stock up on. Hopefully I’ve already added anything that we ran out of that week to the shopping list.
I plan several easy, familiar recipes each week, plus one or two new ones. I make sure I have options for days when there’s a bit of an obstacle to cooking a more involved meal. Sick kids, missing ingredients (oops), lack of sleep, and other issues have been known to happen quite often around here.
I stock my pantry with things like canned soup and and my freezer with some frozen lasagna. I freeze leftovers for easy meals as well. Also, I’d love to take a day to make some freezer meals for baking during these colder months…I just haven’t done that yet!
Finally, of course, I grab my groceries and see what meal makes sense for each night. I love that all I have to do is check my list and make the dinner I want to make for that night.
For something so simple, meal planning has made a surprisingly huge impact on how I balance everything around here. If I can do it, I promise you, YOU can do it! You’ll get into a rhythm and planning your meals will become easier and quicker with time.
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