Growing up, my mother’s biggest gripe was coming home after a long day of work to hungry kids asking “what’s for dinner?!”. Now, as a working millennial mom myself, I get it; there is nothing worse than staring into the fridge wondering what in the world to make for hungry (and cranky) mouths. Besides, with all the evening activities and appointments that occur throughout the week I decided a meal plan was a necessity.
Not only does a meal plan save you from the incessant worry of wondering what to cook everyday, but also, it can actually save you more money. Intrigued but don’t know where to start? Not to worry! Read on below for the ultimate guide to meal planning (bonus: I will also include a meal plan template for your lovely self!):
Shop your own fridge and pantry
Before you even get down to writing out your weekly meal plan, it’s important to take inventory of what you already have hanging around. For me, that means I’ll usually look into the depths of the freezer to see what lonely protein is lurking about and plan around that. I will also do the same with the pantry and almost always find staples like cans of tomatoes and beans that I will incorporate into a dish. This method reduces waste and (bonus!) also saves money, and who doesn't love that?!
Write out the weekly plan
Okay, there are a few ways to approach this:
- you can designate certain days of the week meal-specific like Meatless Mondays or Taco Tuesdays; or
- you can write out a weekly plan that you will use for two weeks and then rotate in a new one for the following two; or
- you can use a new one every week; or
- a combination of the above options!
This is completely up to you! I personally like to designate meal-specific days because it makes planning that much easier and stress-free, but I will switch up the dishes on those days. So, for example, for Taco Tuesdays we will have beef one week, turkey the next, and fish another. I find that this rotation adds variety and keeps the plan from getting stale. For the other days I will plan meals around the pantry staples that I need to use up like beans, tomatoes, rice, etc.
Once you have figured out a plan that works for you, it’s time to write it out!
Here is what a sample plan looks like for the week:
You can see from the above plan that I have two meal-specific days: Taco Tuesdays and Friday Pizza Night. Having these two days already accounted for makes planning that much easier and honestly, gives me something to look forward to (I mean, who doesn't love pizza??). You'll also see that the other meals were planned around pantry staples that I already had hanging around, which was also reflected in the grocery list. Less groceries=more money and that is always a good thing.
- on a Saturday or Sunday shop your fridge/freezer/pantry and take into account staples that you have on hand, and meal plan around those items;
- write out the meal plan for the following week and only include grocery items that you need;
- get your grocery shopping done (and meal prep to make your weeknight dinners a cinch to pull together); and lastly
- pour yourself a glass of wine because you just meal-planned like a BOSS!
GET YOUR MEAL PLAN HERE
Don't forget to get your FREE meal plan printable below, and let me know what your thoughts are on meal planning in the comments! Do you currently meal plan? If you don't already do so, is this something that you could see adding value to your life?