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How to Make Easy Meal Plans

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Learning how to meal plan is the key to sticking to your grocery budget, your diet plan, and keeping your weeks running a bit smoother.

Making a family meal plan looks differently for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create a plan that is perfect for you! The goal is to make this process effective and easy for you, whatever that might look like.

And I’ll teach you how to plan meals for the week!

meal planning book with coffee, pen and planner in background

How do you get dinner on the table, every night, without getting bored with your meals, stressed about your plan, or just have things fall apart and order pizza?

  • Does the thought of sitting down and making a family meal plan make you cringe, cry and pull out your hair?
  • Does your current meal planning technique continue to fail you, or does it take over your life?

Learning how to meal plan is the key to sticking to your grocery budget, your diet plan, and keeping your weeks running a bit smoother!

Meal planning looks differently for every one, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create a plan that is perfect for you!

The goal is to make this process effective and easy for you, whatever that might look like. And I’ll teach you how!

corner of meal planning book next to planner

Why You Should Be Meal Planning

The whole point of meal planning is to create a tool that simplifies your life! Who wouldn’t want to do something that saves time, money, and sanity?!

Meal planning saves you energy:

  • You don’t have to think about it the rest of the week.
  • You won’t be stuck in a monotonous routine of the same meals every week (tacos, tacos, tacos)

Meal planning makes life easier:

  • Cuts down on screaming temper tantrums because your kids are starving
  • You know exactly what meals to make that fit your schedule.

Meal planning helps you save money:

  • Not continually going out to eat because you don’t have anything at home.
  • Spending too much at the grocery store because you don’t know what to buy.
  • Reduces impulse purchases (goodbye, double stuffed oreos…..)
  • Helps you stick to a budget because you only buy the things you need.
  • Reduces the amount of trips you take to the store because you forgot items.

Looking for a family meal planner that makes things simple? Get my newest book, “Adventures in Meal Planning“!

photo of meal planning book with buy now button

How To Make Meal Planning Work For YOU in 5 Simple Steps

Ok, so let’s break this down and figure out how to start meal planning and make this system work for you! You are basically going to make a meal plan generator for yourself!

1. Plan your frequency.

Take a moment and think about how often you want to plan your meals and go grocery shopping. Every week? Every two weeks? Once a month? The process for how to meal plan for a week and how to meal plan for a month is the same.

If you only want to shop once a month, you totally can! But you will also need to get creative when it comes to milk, bread and produce (you can totally freeze them).

You can also decide to plan for two weeks or a whole month at one time, but still go grocery shopping every week. Its totally up to you and what works best for your life. You just have to decide and stick with it.

2. Rely on your favorites.

Grab a piece of paper and write down all your favorite meals. As many as you can think of! (You can always come  back to this later and add more). Hint* Use my meal planning book to help you organize this! 

The point here is to simplify meal planning and make it as quick as possible for oyu. By creating a master list of your favorite meals, you make it easier to rotate through all the things you love – instead of only being able to think about tacos.

Now go back through and organize all your recipes ito sections, either by type of meat or by kind (like casserole, soup, slow cooker, etc). Again, this is to help you rotate through your meals in a simple way but to still give you a variety in your menu.

Need recipe inspiration? Head over to my recipe index to grab all the weeknight meals you want to fill out your meal plan!

3. Figure out how many meals you need.

Grab a calendar (or your Adventures in Meal Planning Book!) and decide how many meals you need to plan for, and how many people are eating those meals.

Decide if you want to plan out your daily snacking needs or if you want to just grab a few extra things. Our groceries look a lot different depending on school and work schedules, and you need to plan accordingly.

4. Think about your schedule.

Think about the week ahead. What kind of week is it?

Are you crazy busy Tuesday with afternoon and evening activities? You probably don’t want to plan on making a brand new 6 hour, 30 step lasagna from scratch that night. You are just asking for everyone to cry, whine, and eventually throw down some cereal for dinner.

Is it a hurricane outside? Probably not the best idea to grill.

Don’t make things more complicated then they need to be! Plan simple meals on your busy nights!

Need help with actually being able to cook your meals? Read How to keep your kids busy so you can cook!

5. Add in your meals.

Start filling in your menu!
This part is essentially just plugging in meals based on your schedule and your favorite meals! Just starting adding them into your meal planning template

showing inside pages of meal planning book

Extra Awesome Meal Planning Tips

How often should we try new recipes?

Add one new recipe every week or two, if you feel like trying new things. Not only does this give you and excuse to try out the 16,000 recipes you have collected on Pinterest and torn out of magazines, but it helps you to add new favorites to your list!

How can we reduce our food waste?

Take into account using ingredients for more than one meal – roast a giant pork roast and use it for multiple meals throughout the week. If you buy a big tub of ricotta cheese but only use half, how can you add the remainder to your menu?
As you place meals in your menu, jot down the ingredients you need on your grocery list. This helps to save time, and helps you realize how you can use your ingredients to your advantage.

Is it ok to plan for drive-throughs and eating out?

YES! I mean, really. If you have a doctors appointment at 10:45 and swimming lessons at 1:00, you are not going home to cook lunch. Nope, you are headed straight to Chick-Fil-A, my friend, and don’t even pretend you aren’t. Just go ahead and add it to your calendar!

Do you have meal plans I can use?

You bet I do! I think creating your own custom meal plan is totally the way to go, but I also understand that sometimes you just need someone to do the work for you. In that case, I have two options for you:

FREE Meal PlansSign up for my weekly email newsletter – every month I send out a free family friendly meal plan.

Digital Meal Planning – If digital meal planning is your thing, I highly recommend using the app PrePear. It has a lot of my recipes uploaded directly there (and adding more all the time!), and you can create your own custom meal plans, order groceries and cook, directly through the app! Sign up for Prepear here.

meal planning book with pen and cup of coffee

Learning how to meal plan is the key to sticking to your grocery budget, your diet plan, and keeping your weeks running a bit smoother! I would love to know if you have any questions!

Ready for more ways to make dinner easier? Also check out:

Food tastes better when its shared! If you try this recipe, let me know! Leave a comment and rate below!

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Brittany

Tuesday 2nd of January 2018

Hey! I clicked the link to get the free worksheets and subscribed to your mailing list but I still can't access the pages. I'd really love to use them. Could the link be broken?

Jenni

Wednesday 3rd of January 2018

Hi Brittany! You should be receiving an email with the download in it any moment now! If you still don't have it, let me know!

17 Clever Tools to Simplify Meal Planning – CB2 Fitness

Wednesday 20th of September 2017

[…] out the Gingered Whisk’s blog by clicking on the graphic above or on this link.  You don’t want to miss their step-by-step process on how to meal plan, she does such an […]

Maria

Tuesday 24th of January 2017

This is going to help me SO much. I just started doing this and I am saving $100 a week! Thank you.

Marla Meridith

Tuesday 24th of January 2017

Such a great post, now if only I could be so organized!

Kelli @ The Sustainable Couple

Sunday 13th of December 2015

I meal plan every week, and couldn't agree more with your tips.

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