You probably see a lot of books, and programs with great recipes for your meal plan but if you aren't quite sure what meal planning is or how to make it work for your family you may find yourself stuck and unhappy with one kind of meal plan.
In fact, even I'm guilty of sharing a lot of meal planning resources but never offering the basic steps of how to meal plan.
Meal planning is a simple method of deciding in advance what your family will be eating for a few days, a week, or even a month. There is no one way to meal plan
So here is a quick primer to get you started.
How to Meal Plan
These next 5 steps will help you get a start with meal planning. Then you can go from there and work out the perfect plan for your family.
1. Use Grocery Store Ads – Take a look at what's on sale for the coming week at your local grocery store. Is it anything you or your family would likely buy and eat? Anything on sale that can make a meal? For example, if ground beef is on sale for half price, then you definitely (if you eat red meat) want to make a note of that! If squash is on sale then make a note of that.
2. Use Your Resources – Your resources are things like your cookbooks and online websites. Now that you know what's on sale (that you'll actually eat) the next thing to do is to plan your meals for the week. Open up your cookbooks and favorite sites and look for recipes using the ingredients you will be buying or that you already have on hand in your pantry and freezer.
Online sites like Once a Month Meals are a great place to look for new meals. There are almost 200 recipes and the current season ones are at the top. That way you'll see recipes right away that could match up with what is currently on sale. Once a Month Meals is a freezer meal planning site but you can try all the recipes without signing up. If you want to create a customized meal plan you can sign up later for the low priced monthly plan.
3. Plan Your Meals – Now you have both your grocery sale items and recipes at your fingertips, and that means you're ready to meal plan. Sit down with your calendar and look at the next five to seven nights. Think about which of the meals that you've chosen can be made ahead of time and frozen. This is a bonus of meal planning.
Also think about which of your meals will generate leftovers so you don't have to cook every night. Remember to make sure you're providing a well-rounded meal. Fresh or cooked veggies sometimes times 2.
4. Make a list – This is one everybody knows but many times forget to do. Make a list of the ingredients you need for the entire week's worth of meals. Don't forget to check your staples like bread, milk and eggs.
5. Go Shopping! – It's time to get the ingredients! Make sure you shop from your list. If you deviate from the list, make sure you have a logical reason for the addition. A list helps you stay organized. It also helps you to stay on budget.
Meal planning isn't difficult. But, it does require a system. You need to be both organized and a bit patient. Sometimes the sale items just don't mesh with the recipes you have planned. Maybe your week is really busy. I like freezer meals for times like that. Meal planning can help relieve much of the stress of busy families and meal time.
Are you ready to discover how much less stressful life could be with meal planning?
(Or maybe you’ve been meal planning for a while, but need new recipes to get you out of a rut…)