Meal planning is a real game changer, especially for families with kids. You will be more zen, waste less food and spend less money. I will help you get started by sharing the system I personally use. These 7 steps make meal-planning quick and easy.
Creating a meal plan doesn’t have to be a huge and scary task you dread every weekend. You do need to concentrate a bit. But it doesn’t take that much time when you get used to it. If I can manage to meal plan, everyone can. Honestly, I think I am the most go-with-the-flow person I know. Before kids I never planned ahead anything. I didn’t like the strictness of a plan. And I never had a need for one. You can easily feed one or two adults with leftovers or takeaway or a quick clean-out-the-refrigerator salad. And the adults (normally) don’t throw a tantrum if the dinner is half an hour late.
With kids it’s an entirely different situation. Meal planning is the main foundation of smoother, calmer evenings in my house. Children get hungry in a second and need to be fed immediately if you want some resemblance of peace around you.
I can assure you from my experience – knowing what’s for dinner in advance liberates a huge part of your head. It lets you concentrate on things that matter more to you, like having fun with your kids. And if you are present with them, they will definitely be calmer and happier.
Start meal planning with these 7 small steps and spend your evening relaxing with your family instead of running around and stressing about dinner. Let’s say goodbye to that overwhelm once and for all.
The 7 Steps of Successful Meal Planning
Check your fridge, freezer and pantry. Look everywhere where you keep food.
Write down all food items you already have. You don’t have to write down every single spice tin, but be quite thorough. As an example: I do write down shredded cheese but don’t necessarily write down sugar (I do check if I have some left though). I usually make two columns for: 1 – proteins like meat or fish, 2 – vegetables and sides. I don’t regularly plan out snacks and breakfasts, but things related to this could be a useful third column. You need to find out what works best for your family.
Write down what meals you could make with what you have. Try pairing up veggies with different proteins. You’ll quite probably see that you already have a few whole dinner options all ready or missing just a few ingredients.
Check your schedule and write down the meals you won’t have to cook at home. This way you will know the exact number of meals that need to be prepared.
Organize the meals you came up with during step no 3 on different mealtimes of your week, beginning with the ones using the more perishable or older items.
TIP: A good rule to follow is “First In – First Out”. Meaning you use the things that are older first. This way you can avoid a lot of food waste. Even if the veggies you bought last night are beautiful and appetizing, you should still use the ones from last week before you take the new ones out.
Fill up the remaining time slots with recipes you can make using one or more of the remaining foods from the list you made in step 2. The rest of the open spaces, you can fill with your go-to family favorites or new recipes you wish to try.
This is what my menu plan looks like this week so you can use it for inspiration. Good luck deciphering my handwriting though😄. Yes I still prefer writing these things down on real paper and with a pencil on top of it all! Extremely old-fashioned, I know…
Make a shopping list. This is the last step and the one that will save you quite a lot of money in the long run. Promise me you will always make a list when going grocery shopping, okay? When you have a list you are much less likely to make impulse purchases and also, since you checked everything you already have, you will not buy things just-in-case because you don’t remember if you do or do not have something at home.
Here’s my shopping list for this week’s main meals. To avoid confusion I took a photo before adding regular purchases like milk, coffee, snacks, bread, morning cereals etc.
That’s it. It takes just a little thinking ahead, but you will thank yourself so many times over on those stress-free weeknights. And also while checking your bank account 😉.
You can just scribble everything down on the other side of your kids drawings (which I might or might not have done last week…). The main thing is to get to the habit of taking these few minutes and creating some kind of a plan.
If you wish, you can also download these blank tables (a weekly planner sheet and a shopping list) that I created for myself. I like pretty tables, and using these motivates me to take action😊. If you’re think they might motivate you too, feel free to use them to make your week a bit more organized.
You can also download my list of 30 Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids so that you can add these to your meal plan and get out a healthy snack at all times that it’s needed.
I hope you got some inspiration here. Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram for more tips and recipes and have fun meal planning!