Learn how to meal plan and make your life easier in this helpful article! Find fun ways to organize your recipes and master the art of grocery shopping.
Are you on a mission to live a more organized life? If you’re simply trying to streamline your day and avoid unnecessary stress, consider learning how to meal plan.
This guide will explain how to plan meals for a week or month. If you want some tips for storing your food or weekly planning, check out our meal prep guide.
Wondering where to begin? Get our FREE guide, The 30-Minute Organizing Secret, and discover easy ways to overcome the chaos of clutter – even with kids at home!
Are you only responsible for feeding yourself or are you tasked with feeding the whole family each day? Meal planning will allow you to take an organized approach to keeping everyone nourished without blowing your monthly budget on groceries.
How to Meal Plan
This post will focus on how to meal plan, with emphasis on three important components of the process: organizing your recipes, creating your meal plan, and shopping for your meal plan.
All of these steps are easier to manage with the Take Actions Printables Binder. This binder has a grocery list that you can print and fill out plus a weekly meal plan printable too!
Or, grab our Meal Planner. It’s even more focused on just meal planning! It has grocery lists, a way to track favorite recipes, and even helps you manage food inventory.
step One: Organize Recipes For Your Meal Plan
Before you make your meal plan, it’s smart to start by sitting down to assemble a list of recipes your family will enjoy. These recipes can be tried-and-true favorites. Or perhaps you have fun spins on classic dishes, or brand new breakfasts, lunches, and dinners you’re eager to try.
When creating your meal plan, you shouldn’t have to spend a ton of time digging for recipes. Forget looking through unorganized bookmarks in your browser or flipping through dozens of recipe books to find the meals you’re looking for. Instead, keep your recipes organized.
There are a few different ways to organize your recipes:
- Pin them! Pinterest is a popular online tool for saving and organizing websites. It can be a great tool to organize recipes for your meal plan. You can create boards to organize recipes based on meal (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) or cuisine (Italian, Mexican, American). You can also get more specific with boards dedicated to specific foods or cooking styles (bread recipes, one-pot dinners, vegetarian dinners).
- Use a recipe manager. Recipe managers like Paprika and Pepperplate let you manage your recipes across multiple platforms. With these tools, you can save recipes to your collection straight from your browser. You can even use them to help build your shopping list.
- Build your own recipe book. If you love the idea of flipping through a book of your favorite recipes, you can print copies of your favorites. Then store them in protective sleeves in binders. This way, you won’t risk tearing them, and you’ll be able to easily prop them open to review as you cook.
However you choose to organize your recipes, you want to make sure they are easy to find and simple to follow.
Step Two: Make Your Meal Plan
When creating a meal plan, many people wonder how long it should last. Should you plan for one week of meals, or look ahead even further to organize the next month’s worth of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners?
How Long Should Your Meal Plan Last?
Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to create a meal plan for one week at a time. Here are a few reasons why:
- One week will give you enough time to incorporate a good variety of your family’s favorite recipes while also adding in one or two new things to try.
- You’ll be better positioned to take advantage of deals at your local grocery store, which often rotate on a weekly basis.
- When you shop a smaller time frame (one week vs. two), you’ll be less inclined to buy more food than you need, reducing food waste.
Changing your family’s meal plan on a weekly basis will also let you take everyone’s feedback into consideration more often. You don’t want to be an order-taker at a restaurant. However if everyone is truly tired of Taco Tuesday, you may want to adjust your meal plan to keep food fun and exciting.
Base Your Meal Plan On Your Budget Or Your Schedule
There are two easy ways you can follow to create your meal plan. It may be that one of your goals of meal planning is to help keep your food budget under control. If so, start your meal planning process by evaluating the sales at your local grocery stores.
Once you know what proteins and veggies are on sale, look through your recipes to find ones that will let you take advantage of those deals. Then, plan your meals and build your shopping list accordingly.
Alternately, you can build your meal plan for the week based around your schedule. If you’re meal planning to save time, there are plenty of things you can do to maximize efficiency:
- If you won’t have time to make a nutritious breakfast each morning, cook up a batch of breakfast burritos on Sunday afternoon. Then reheat the burritos throughout the week or purchase easy-to-eat treats like yogurt or fruit to start your days.
- Know you’ll make it home too late to cook one night? Plan for that and incorporate a slow cooker dinner into your weekly menu.
- Tired of sandwiches for lunch? Meal planning makes it easy to plan for leftovers. Add enough for one or two extra portions to your dinner recipes. Then reheat the leftovers the following day for a tasty, low-effort meal.
- Consider one or two consistent theme nights. For example, you could choose to indulge in homemade pizza each Wednesday evening or breakfast for dinner on Friday nights. This way you won’t even have to think about what you’re cooking.
Write Down Your Meal Plan
Don’t just think about your meal plan – write it down! Use a whiteboard on your fridge, a shared spreadsheet, a printable schedule, or an app – whatever works best for you! Writing down what you plan to cook and eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day is very important. It will help you’ll stay organized and on track as you move through your busy week.
A lot of people prefer to write down the meals in an undated yearly planner. It keeps everything in one place!
The easiest way to track your meal plan is in our Take Action Printables Binder. It’s all right there for you and really easy to fill out and update each week.
Step Three: Get Your Essentials
Make Your Shopping List
Once you know what you plan to cook throughout the week, look through your well-organized kitchen pantry. Check to see what ingredients you already have. Then, make a shopping list of everything you need to buy to complete your meal plan. Do this before you go to the grocery store.
Hint: use the printable grocery list from this printables pack. It’s easy!
When meal planning, it’s also a good idea to think about food storage needs in addition to the ingredients you have to buy. Is your kitchen stocked with everything you need to prep your meals? Do you have enough pots and pans, plenty of storage containers to hold leftovers, the right size casserole dish for whatever it is you’re planning to cook?
Streamline Your Shopping Experience
If you’re learning how to meal plan to save time and energy, you should make sure your grocery shopping experience helps move you toward that goal, too. There are a few things you can do to make your shopping experience as simple and easy as possible:
- Stick to your list. Whether you prefer to write everything down on paper or use an app or digital checklist to track the stuff you need, make sure you follow it once it’s time to shop. Don’t let yourself get distracted – you’ll wind up with ingredients you didn’t need and forget items you were supposed to purchase.
- Try in-store pickup or grocery delivery services. There are so many options for grocery delivery and pickup services. Odds are you have access to at least one of them. Take advantage of these services as excellent time-savers. Simply build your cart online, schedule your pickup or delivery time, and pay for your groceries – that’s it!
- Stock up on essentials. Evaluate your meal plan and see if it makes sense to purchase anything in bulk. If so, a membership to a bulk grocer like Sam’s Club or Costco may help you meal plan. This gives you access to larger quantities of the foods you need at a more affordable price. Stocking up on essentials like eggs, milk, and bread can lead to serious savings and leave you with enough to make meals for the week or more.
meal planning makes life less stressful
Learning how to meal plan doesn’t have to be hard. It will help you bring order and organization to an otherwise-chaotic part of your day. By carefully organizing your recipes, mastering the art of forming a meal plan, and making sure you have everything you need to successfully meal plan, you’ll be well on your way to serving up stress-free breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for your family.
Struggling to get motivated? Sign up to get our FREE guide, The 30-Minute Organizing Secret, and discover easy ways to overcome the chaos of clutter – even with kids at home!
More Family Organization Articles:
- How To Organize Your Freezer & Find More Space – Organize your freezer before you start your meal planning journey with these great tips.
- Pantry Storage Mistakes & How To Solve Them – An organized pantry makes meal planning much easier!
- Kitchen Organization: Your Complete Guide – Learn how to organize your entire kitchen with this helpful guide.