Life can get so busy when trying to raise a family, especially when it comes to meal planning!
The last thing you want to worry about is what you are going to make for dinner. Or breakfast and lunch for that matter. I find that if I don’t have a plan, I end up spending more money, more time, and serve something less nutritious than I would like. Do you relate? When I don’t put the time in to create a meal plan for the month, we end up going out to eat more than we would like which has a huge impact on our monthly budget. However, I don’t have a ton of extra time to devote to creating a fancy meal plan or cooking extravagant meals. What I need is a simple method to getting healthy, easy, and affordable meals on my table for each meal.
The meal planning strategy below can be done in less than 30 minutes per month and will save you time at the grocery store as well.
Step One- list your families favorite 5-10 dinners, list 5-10 easy breakfast items, and 5-10 easy lunch items. Only list items that have simple ingredients and are easy to prepare. You can make fancier meals for some occasions, but for your standard monthly meal plan, keep it simple and affordable.
Step Two- create a shopping list for each item. You will only have to do this step once or any time you add a new meal to the rotation. Create one list for each meal so you can take with you what you need for each week of the plan. Include everything you need for that item even if you will not have to purchase it each time. When you are ready to make the meal, just omit the items you already have on hand. To make this really easy you could keep the lists electronically.
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Step Three- get out a blank calander and mark down any special events ,date nights, or other activities that might need a specialized menu. This might include holidays, birthday parties, out to eat nights, or any other night that will alter the plan. If you account for these nights upfront you won’t have to change your plan around so much as you go.
Step Four- fill in the calendar, spacing out your meals so you are not eating the same thing too close together. Put meals with similar ingredients close together to make your shopping much easier and usually cheaper. If you buy three pounds of ground beef you generally get a better deal than if you purchase one pound. For example you might serve tacos, chile, spaghetti with meat sauce, nachos, and fajitas one week. Fajitas need chicken, but most of the vegetables and toppings will overlap with the other meals. Each meal has similar ingredients, but taste different enough that your family won’t feel like you served them the same thing for 5 nights in a row.
Take your shopping list with you for each of the meals you have planned for that week or two weeks depending on how you do your shopping and never worry again about what you are going to put on the table. If you have some extra time one day or are feeling like trying something new, you can always try out a new recipe. Maybe you saw something on Pinterest you think your family would love, give it a try. If it is successful with your family, you can add it to your list of favorite meals, but only if it is easy to make. The meals you put on your regular schedule should fit within your budget and be super simple to make. That will make it much easier to stick to it.
Don’t forget to download your free meal planning bundle, including recipe and shopping list templates, blank calendar pages, weekly meal planning templates and sample easy family meals with shopping lists that have been approved by my kids.