If you are new to meal planning, it can seem like an overwhelming task. Especially when you don’t even know where to begin. Let’s eliminate the overwhelm right now, and get you started on how to meal plan for the week the easy way.
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Do you find yourself stressed out when it comes to preparing dinner?
Are you frequenting the drive thru more than you would care to admit?
Does the pizza delivery person know you on a first name basis?
If any of this sounds familiar, then you are not alone. And, I am here to tell you that it is not your fault.
Seriously, you have so much going on with your busy family’s schedule. And, let’s not get started on the house work, appointments, errands, and a hundred other things that need to get done.
You are busy. You are tired. But, your family is still hungry. Always hungry!
So, what do you do?
You want desperately to cook a nutritious and delicious meal for your family. But, let’s be honest. Once 5 o’clock hits…you are done. You are exhausted, and over it. And a drive thru sounds a whole lot better than cooking. Am I right?
But, what if I told you there was a better way? An easy way? A less stress way?
Enter meal planning. But, not the oh my gosh now I have to spend hours prepping kind of meal planning. No ma’am.
You are too busy for all of that. You need quick, easy, and efficient.
So, let’s dive into how to meal plan for the week, the easy way.
What Is Meal Planning?
Meal planning is in essence devising a plan for each meal that works for your busy family’s schedule.
It involves picking the meal ideas and recipes that you want to use for the week. Purchasing the ingredients you need.
And, then prepping what ingredients you can. Which is also known as meal prep. Don’t worry we will dive into that part a bit later.
I realize that this can feel really overwhelming. Especially if you are a beginner with meal planning. So let’s break down how to meal plan for the week shall we?
What Is The Best Way To Meal Plan?
Although I cannot share with you exactly which way to meal plan that will work best for you. I can give you a few tips and strategies that I use. Which totally maximize meal planning in a super efficient way.
- Use a weekly meal planner.
When getting started with how to meal plan you absolutely need a meal planner. I mean, if you didn’t write it down than did it even happen?
When deciding your weekly menu, having a meal planner just makes life easier. Feel free to jot down meal ideas and recipes in the notes. And, add to it as needed.
Write down any ingredients that you need for the recipes on the grocery list too.
You can grab your FREE weekly meal planner with grocery list at the bottom of this post.
- Pick a day and time for planning. And, stick to it.
Don’t worry you don’t need hours upon hours to meal plan. A solid 10-30 minutes will do the trick.
However, I have found that finding a specific day and time to plan is one of the keys to successful meal planning for the week.
Think about it. If you set aside a specific day and time each week to do this, then you are creating a habit. And, a positive habit at that!
I personally like to meal plan on Saturday mornings, and then shop and prep on Sundays.
- Think about recipes that you love, and would like to try throughout the week.
Whether you like to flip through cookbooks, or magazines, or love to find your recipes on Pinterest. Be sure to keep track of your ideas during the week.
This way you have a quick reference point when creating your weekly meal plan.
- Create a family favorites list.
Check in with your family, and find out what meals they love. Be sure to add one or two of them to your meal plan for the week.
- Check what is on sale, and what is in season.
When figuring out how to meal plan for the week, be sure to see what is in season, and what is on sale. This not only will save you money, but it will also provide you with some meal inspiration too.
Buying produce that is in season is at its peak. And, whoa mama is it delicious during that time. You will also find that it is much cheaper when it is in season too. 😉
- Go with theme nights.
When deciding how to meal plan for the week a great thing to do is to pick a theme for each night. This can eliminate some of the overwhelm with figuring out specific recipes.
Some theme night meal ideas are Mexican night, sub night, breakfast for dinner night, and pasta night. The possibilities are truly endless.
Picking themes can really get those meal ideas flowing.
- Leftovers are your friend.
When you start keeping up with a weekly meal plan, this magical thing happens. You will have leftovers.
This can mean you have a protein that can be stretched into a different meal, or it may mean a repeat of a meal. Either way, it seriously is a magically amazing thing. Because, it is one less meal to have to think about. You feel me?
- Plan for takeout, or going out to eat.
Oh yeah. You read that right. You may be well on your way to becoming a meal planning machine, but you are still human.
You are busy. I am busy. We are all busy.
And, we need relief from the chaos. Trust me, there is no badge or trophy for cooking every single meal that your family eats. I checked. 😉
So, go ahead and give yourself a break. But, make it part of your weekly meal plan, and pencil it in.
Benefits Of Meal Planning
Now that we have dug into the best way to meal plan, you may be asking yourself okay ‘but why should I meal plan?’. So, let’s answer that now.
- Less stress
Imagine a life in which you are never stumped on what to fix for dinner. And, that moment when those precious kiddos say, “Mom, I’m hungry!”.
You are prepared, and dinner is already well on it’s way to being done.
Sounds pretty amazing right?
Once you master how to meal plan for the week you may be shocked at how much your stress level decreases. I am telling you it is a total game changer!
- Meal planning saves you time.
Doing work on the front end saves a ton of time on the back end. Imagine dinner only needing to be thrown into the oven, or in the crockpot?
By doing a tiny amount of meal planning and prep now it will save you so much time later.
- Meal planning will save you money.
Think about it. By having a weekly meal plan, you are eliminating impulse shopping. And, also those last minute drive thru runs and pizza delivery orders.
This can save you a ton of money. Especially if your family eats out a lot.
- Meal planning is healthier.
Trust me, I am not the mom who is fixing the healthiest of healthy meals. I mean I try to get in our veggies, but life is all about balance. And, seriously life is no fun without tacos.
But, by eliminating all the drive thru visits, and last minute pizza orders. You will definitely be eating healthier.
And making real food with actual nutritional value for your family too.
How Do I Plan Weekly Meals For My Family?
First you will need to bust out your handy dandy FREE weekly meal template (you can get yours at the bottom of this post). And, take a good long look at your schedule for the week.
Are there any days and nights that are busier than others? Think about any sports or dance practices, or meetings, or school and community events.
And also think about your super busy days that you are running around like crazy.
For any days and nights that are a one stop train to crazy town, plan on making super easy recipes. Think freezer meals like these simple beef enchiladas, crockpot meals, and quick recipes like these 10 minute tostadas.
PRO TIP: Put an asterisk by your busiest days and evenings to be one step ahead when creating your weekly meal plan.
How Do I Prep Meals For The Week?
The unsung hero of meal planning is the meal prep. This can also be the part of meal planning that stops people in their tracks, and back away slowly. Maybe you can relate?
But, I am here to tell you that prepping your meals for the week is a powerhouse in eliminating stress when meal planning. And, it really is not hard at all. I promise.
Doing a little bit of work on the front end, is the secret sauce to making life SO much easier for you at dinner time.
Once you have created your weekly meal plan, think about the preparation of the meals. Take the time to assess what is on the menu, and see if there is anything that you can do ahead of time that will make getting dinner on the table that much easier.
Here are a few ideas that will help you meal prep for the week:
- Cut and chop any vegetables that you will need though out the week.
This is great for any soups, stews, salads, or sandwiches. You will be one step ahead when it comes to making your meals. And can whip them up in no time flat.
- Roast any vegetables that you will need for the week.
You can also go ahead and roast your vegetables too. These can be easily reheated in the microwave or oven for any meals during the week.
- Make any sauces or soups.
By making any sauces or soups now, all you will have to do later is reheat them. And, let me tell you…this is a total stress saver when dinner time hits.
PRO TIP: Double your recipe for any soups or sauces, and freeze half of it for later. Freezer meals are absolutely amazing for super busy weeknights!
- Cook your protein.
A big part of how to meal plan for the week is prepping as much as you can before hand. And proteins are no exception.
If you can go ahead and cook whatever meats you will be using during the week on the front end. It seriously makes throwing together a meal so much quicker.
Another thing you can do is what I like to call ‘stretching’ your protein.
An example of this is this oven roasted chicken. I make this chicken on Sunday, and then I can use the meat throughout the week for soups, salads, tacos, and sandwiches.
My absolute favorite way to use this chicken recipe is in this chicken enchilada soup that can be made in 20 minutes.
Weekly Meal Planning Wrap Up
You are now feeling less stressed about how to meal plan for the week.
And, you have got some easy recipes to make, know exactly how to meal prep, and are feeling like a meal planning rockstar. Now, get out there and get your weekly meal planning game on.
And, don’t forget to grab your copy of the FREE Weekly Meal Planner with Grocery List HERE. You got this!