Are you overwhelmed by planning meals for your family? Do you feel like it’s to time consuming, too complicated? I’m here to help! My planner and approach are the most simple meal planning you’ll find! If I can do it you can too!
Meal planning… how does it make you feel? Do you approach the week knowing what’s for dinner with a well stocked pantry, or does 6 o’clock roll around every night and you are frantically trying to thaw ground beef and figure out what in the world to do with it? Maybe somewhere in between?
I’ve never considered myself an organized person… in fact getting my shit together is something I have to work at, and find great systems for.
Whether it’s keeping my house clean, homeschooling, or getting dinner on the table, I have to have something that works for me. I still haven’t figured out laundry… if anyone has that one figured out, let me know!
Well, simple meal planning is something that I figured out a long time ago I wasn’t necessarily setting out to create a system, I just kind of did the same thing over and over again and it worked.
And let me tell you, my approach is simple… super simple. I’ve seen other meal planners that have 5 or 6 pages. Books on “simple” meal planning that are over 50 pages long… I’m sorry but to me, that’s not so simple!!
My approach uses 3 pieces of paper. Just 3, and the one is kind of optional. The printable planner has 4, there is a bonus page I’ll tell you about, but you really don’t need it for this to work.
And guess what? It works!! If my hot mess of a mind can plan meals like this and stick to it so can you!
Here’s how we tackle simple meal planning!
Ok let’s get to the nitty gritty of it. The most important page of this planner is your calendar page.
Start by looking at your week, in the space for activities write down what you have going on. Do your kids have karate on Tuesday evening? Maybe you’ve got a day at the zoo planned? By starting with what you’ve got going on you can have a realistic picture of what you have time to get on the table.
Learning to work around your schedule is the first step. If you love to cook plan your elaborate meals for days when you’ll have the time to enjoy cooking them! For busy days you can plan something simple! Having the visual of what your week looks like makes planning so much easier!
Tips for planning your meals-
Now that you’ve got your activities filled in, you can start planning meals. You want to approach this with the idea of making your life easier. So here’s what I do.
– Give yourself an no- brainer We have pizza on Friday. Every Friday. I vary it from personal pizzas on Naan bread, calzones, ordering out, or homemade… but if it’s Friday it’s a safe bet we’re eating pizza. Start your own taco Tuesday, maybe spaghetti on Saturdays…pick a night, pick a favorite, write it down.
– Keep a list of your favorites– I’ve included a list as part of my printable because it’s a great resource. Your meals don’t have to be elaborate, keep them simple, feed your family what they like! They say the average family eats the same 10-12 meals almost all the time. It’s ok if you stick to what your family likes. Keep those recipes handy when you’re planning. Even if you love to try new recipes making sure a night or two are a winner with your family makes life easier.
– Give yourself a break on busy days- This is where your calendar comes in. If you’ve got a super busy day or evening activities plan accordingly. Break out your crock pot and throw dinner in before you get your day going. Pick up some chicken nuggets and tater tots and toss them in the oven for a quick easy meal. Take into consideration what you’ve got time for and make that your dinner plan. Salads, pasta, sandwiches, think quick and easy!
– Plan leftovers– Are you grilling chicken on Sunday? Throw a few extra pieces on the grill to have for salads later in the week. Making soup? Double it and freeze the extra for another night later in the month. Chopping veggies for a salad? Chop extra for your crock pot meal later in the week! Take a look at your menu and figure out if there are places that overlap where you can prep two meals at once or make great use of your leftovers.
– Remember where your recipe is!– You’ll see a section in my meal planner for “Recipe Location” that’s because I’ve been known to plan a meal and forget where in the world the recipes is! In this section, you can jot down “Pinterest, vegetarian board” or “Rachael Ray cookbook” wherever your recipe lives so that you can find it when you’re ready to cook!
– Keep breakfast and lunch simple– You’ll notice I don’t have a daily space for breakfast and lunch. That’s because they really don’t need as much planning! I usually buy an assortment of bagels and cereal at the store. We always have eggs, and often I’ll make some pancakes, or waffles, or muffins to have on hand. A few choices is really all we need, no real prep or recipes required. At lunch time it’s leftovers, sandwiches, soup, mac and cheese, simple easy stuff. Just jot down what you want to have on hand for the week!
– Snacks & Special Recipes– Did you find a great brownie recipe you want to try? Maybe you want to make some dip for your family movie night. Jot down any recipes you want to make, and a list of snacks you want to pick up. I like to have a variety in our house and vary it from week to week so if I’ve bought pretzels and granola bars one week the next I’ll get something else I like to have it written down.
Time to make your list and go shopping!
So the second page that is super important is your shopping list!
Here’s what you want to do.
Take a look at your menu plan, for each meal planned write down the ingredients you’ll need on your grocery list in the appropriate section. If I need say two bricks of cream cheese for different recipes I’ll write it down with the number circled next to it so I can easily see how many I need.
Once you’ve got all your ingredients written to your list add in any other items you might need,staple items like milk or butter, paper products, personal care items, anything else you need to pick up at the store.
Now this paper folds in half, this is for two reasons. If you use coupons this is the perfect place to tuck those lovely little pieces of paper while you’re shopping. The second is that you’re going to write your menu plan on the other side.
Here’s why. Sometimes you’ll be shopping and see an ingredient on your list and think, “what do I need that for?” A quick glance at your meal plan will tell you! I also always always read over my meal plan one last time before leaving the store to make sure I got everything!! Sometimes in the process of writing down my ingredients, I’ll have forgotten one so this is a great way to double-check. You also may come across a great deal while shopping, maybe you had chicken planned but ground beef is on sale so you decide on the fly to change your plan, you’ve got it right there with you so you can!
Ok so there it is, simple right? Write in your activities, plan around them, make your grocery list and shop!! You’re going to save time and money and feel like a meal planning master!!
To make your life even easier I’ve made printable versions of these awesome tools so that you can just print and go! Just subscribe to my mailing list and they’ll be delivered to your inbox!! (I value your email and will never spam you! In fact you’ll get subscriber bonuses and exclusives!)
Get Your Super Simple Meal Planner Printable
Thank you! Your meal planner is on it’s way!
How do you feel about meal planning? I’d love to hear your approach!