Meal Planning for Moms
Today we are going to completely uncomplicate meal planning for moms.
Many times I go to a website about meal planning and it is made into the crazy hard thing to do where you are tracking prices, and planning for every meal, and making lists and tracking coupons and color coding.
I just don’t do that.
I have been planning out our meals for 15 years and have never put my coupons in a binder with clear sleeves or tracked anything on my computer.
My method is simple and easy and I can’t wait to share it with you.
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What is meal planning?
Meal planning is the simple process of knowing what meals you will be making for the week so you can buy the right ingredients at the grocery store.
Benefits of Meal Planning For Moms
Planning out your meals for the week or even the month can do three things for you as a mom. It can help you save money, save time, and save your sanity.
Meal Planning Helps You Save Money
When you plan out your meals you can save money by not having to eat out. A little planning around the weeknight events that are to come can help you cook at home more often.
Did you know that the average American dines out 5.9 times per week, spending around $3000 per year eating out. Restaurants charge around a 300% markup on the food they serve you. [Source]
A $15 meal at a restaurant would only cost you around $5 to make at home by buying the groceries to make the meal yourself. Meaning you could save around $2000 a year just by planning meals for your family.
Meal Planning Helps You Save Time
One of the hardest parts of cooking during the week is thinking of what to cook. And then making sure you have all the ingredients…and the time to carry it all out. All of this takes a lot of your time when you are trying to think of how to prepare meals on the fly.
Meal planning takes the guess work out of your weekly dinners. Since you have already planned for the meals, you already know which meals you are eating each night, and you will have already gotten all the ingredients at the grocery.
So meal planning saves you time by helping you not waste your time trying to make things work in the moment.
Meal Planning Makes Your Week Run More Smoothly
So maybe you have planned meals before and then run into complications, wasting the food you bought and the money you spent on those groceries.
The trick is to not to just choose 5-6 meals and assign them randomly to the days of the week. Instead, look at your agenda and events for each night and plan a meal accordingly.
If you know that you won’t be home until late from a practice or game one evening, that is a good night to plan for a crock pot meal that you can start earlier in the day. Then it is ready when you walk in the door.
Short on time between the end of school and an event your family needs to get to that same evening? Plan for a meal that you can make really fast, like Turkey Clubs or Chicken Wraps. That way you won’t find yourself going through the drive thru for that last minute food.
By knowing what evenings you will be short on time and planning the right meals, you can make sure you never have to figure out what you are going to do for dinner at the last minute again.
Basic Meal Planning
Basic meal planning consists of brainstorming meal ideas for the week, writing down the ingredients to make those recipes, and then assigning them to days of the week.
In order to think of ideas for meals you can use things like the grocery store circular to see what is on sale, coupons you have to see where you can save, and Pinterst always has great ideas for different meals.
I personally like to ask my family what they want me to make so I make sure everyone likes what I am making at least one night of each week.
What is a Meal List?
In order to help myself and my family choose meals I keep a list of meals my family has liked over the last 15 years.
This helps me choose meals that I know all 4 of us will eat and saves me from having to make separate meals for different people.
How To Meal Plan for Moms Just Starting Out
1// Know what you already have
Knowing what you already have in your house that you can use in weeknight meals will help you save money and time at the grocery store.
Using something like and inventory sheet can really help you keep track of what is currently in your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. (I know there are some thing in my deep freeze right now that I don’t even want to attempt to find!)
2// Make a list of meals to choose from
When you make a list of meals that you can choose from each week, it saves you time thinking about what to make.
Pull recipes that you and your family have enjoyed in the past, recipes that are easy for you to make, and recipes with different meat components (such as chicken meals, meatless meals, beef meals, etc.)
I also add a category for vegetables and starchy sides that we can choose from when the meal isn’t a casserole or one pot meal.
3// Checking Coupons and Sales
If you are trying to save money, then this is your logical next step. You will want to see if there is anything in the grocery store circular that you can use to help make more affordable meals. You will also want to check coupons you have to use to help you plan certain parts of your meals.
If you are trying to save time, however, then you can skip this step and just move on to making a list
4// Making Your Meal Plan
At the top of whatever you decided to use for your weekly meal plan (printable, piece of paper, computer, google docs…) write out the days of the week.
Then for each day, assign a dinner that you will make. Be sure to take into account anything you have going on that day that may make making dinner harder, such as practice or a prior commitment.
If the meal is not a on-pot dish, be sure to write down which vegetable and starch you will have with the meal as well.
5// How To Arrange Your Grocery list
Now that you have planned out your dinners for the week, it is time to make sure you have everything you need to make each meal.
First, think through your grocery store aisles and try to label each section as you go through the store. This will help put your list in the same order as the store so you don’t miss anything. (for instance, my store goes Produce, Bread, International, Canned Goods…etc. So these are the categories I use on my list). This list is already labeled based on basic grocery categories if you need help.
If you have been making the meal for a long time, you may just know what you need for the recipe. But in the case that it is a new recipe or one you are not as familiar with, you may need to pull out the recipe or look it up online.
Then, just list out items you need under the appropriate grocery store category. Be sure to add quantities if you will need more than 1 or sizes if the recipe calls for a specific amount.
6// Adding Meals to a Calendar
The last step is to add the dinners you planned for the week to the calendar. This will help you remember what you are cooking as well as let your family know.
A Few Meal Planning Tips To Help You
1// Remember that if the process works for you, then it works.
2// Using an electronic page to create your list (such as google docs) will allow you to keep your grocery list items from week to week. That way, you can just delete what you don’t need and add what you do. Your normal items will just stay put (like bread).
3// Making your list accessible on your phone will help you remember your list because most of us take our phones everywhere.
4// If your grocery store has a rewards program, sign up for it. They will send you coupons on things you actually buy. I even save money on gas with my fuel points. So there are benefits for being part of the rewards program.
5// If you know you will be short on time one night, make a few of the meal items with a different meal during the week. For instance, if you are making two chicken meals for the week, make all the chicken when you have the time, then you can use the chicken quickly the night of those meals.
6// Plan for leftovers. Most weeks I plan for us to eat leftovers at least one night a week so I don’t have to cook.
7// Plan to use you meal at the beginning of the week so you don’t have to freeze it but you still use it before it goes bad. Then plan leftover meals or frozen meals for later in the week.
Other Types of Meal Planning
My type of meal planning is super simple and straightforward. But there are some other types of meal planning ideas that can help you make your weeks even easier or possibly more fun.
Themed Meal Planning
Themed meal planning can help you keep variety in your meal planning. Instead of falling into the rut of having tacos every Tuesday and pizza every Friday, try making Tuesday Mexican Food Night and Friday Italian Food Night.
Then try to have a different Mexican or Italian meal each week for the whole month.
You can use this blank calendar to help you plan.
Other Meal Planning Theme Nights are:
- Favorite restaurant meal made at home night
- Asian Meal Night
- DIY night (DIY pizzas, quesadillas, sandwiches that the family makes the way they want it)
- Leftover night
- Breakfast for dinner
- Grill night
- Fire Pit night (hot dogs and smores or whatever else you know how to make over and open flame)
Lunch Meal Planning For Moms
When I make my grocery list each week, I always make sure to ask my kids what they plan to eat for lunch each day.
Normally, they pick one thing and eat it all week. Such as a turkey sandwich, carrots, strawberries, Cheez-its, and a sweet treat.
I add these meals and grocery items to my meal planning sheet and grocery list.
But one additional step I do for lunch meal planning for my kids is make everything on sunday and package it up for the week. That way they just have to grab the components out of the fridge in the morning, stick them in their lunch box, and we are out the door.
Frozen Meal Planning
Frozen meal planning is something I do on occasion. Sometimes if I am making spaghetti meat sauce, I will make a double batch and freeze it for a quick meal later in the month. I also do this with my turkey chili and enchiladas.
The trick to this is remember that it is in the freezer! Which is hard if you don’t write it down. So get out your inventory sheet and write it down so each week when you look at the inventory sheet to plan your meals you see these extra frozen meals in there.
Monthly Meal Planning For Moms Who Shop Bargains
If you like to shop in bulk then you may prefer to meal plan for the entire month. To do this, use the steps above, but instead of writing out dinners for just Sunday-Saturday of one week, you will plan meals for every day of the month. You can use this blank calendar to help you.
Meal Planning Resources:
1// The free version of Evernote is great for storing your Recipes and finding them fast.
2// Pinterest has some great recipes to choose from. Here are some of my favorite recipes on Pinterest.
3// Print a meal planning sheet like this one and slip it into a clear sheet protector for a quick and easy way to keep track of your meals throughout the week.
4// Inventory sheets, especially for the freezer, can really help you plan your meals with ingredients you already have on hand.
5// A blank calendar like this one can really help you plan meals for the entire month.
6// Using a meal planner like this one can help you keep track of meals you have used, loved, hated, or never tried.
Happy Meal Planning!
As a stay at home mom myself, I have found ways to keep myself sane and organized while loving what I do …be home with my kids! After 14 years of being home, I realized other moms may benefit from some of the tips and tricks I have learned over the years. Join me to learn ways to manage your home and life as a stay at home mom so you can make time to enjoy the best part…family. Things I love…feeling motivated, Harry Potter, being outside, and digging deeper into my life and my family’s life in order to make it better. I have a Degree in Biology and am also a freelance writer.