Meal planning is one of the most important things I do each week to make sure my week goes as smooth as possible. Before I started doing meal planning, I found myself extremely stressed out anytime my husband would ask “what should we do for dinner tonight”. I usually had no idea what to make, nothing prepped, and we would end up eating the quickest thing I could think of (usually tacos). I was also spending so much more time on dinner than I do now that I plan ahead.
Since meal planning has made my life so much easier, I wanted to share my process with you. Below are 3 steps to follow to make meal planning super easy so that you can start making your everyday life simpler!
1. Make a list of the meals you want to have for the week – Below is an example of the list of meals I would make in a week. I simply type this list into the notes area of my phone so I know exactly what we are going to have for dinner each night of the upcoming week. This also helps me prepare so I know what type of meat I need to put in the fridge overnight to defrost. Otherwise I spend an additional 10-15 minutes just defrosting the meat in the microwave during the week.
I typically use Pinterest to keep track of all of the recipes I love as well as new recipes I want to try. So when I am making my meal plan for the week I have easy access to all of my recipes and ingredients. It really makes my meal planning process even easier. To find out more about how I use Pinterest, view my 5 Steps to Organize Pinterest for Meal Planning post here.
2. Make your grocery list – Once you have the list of meals you want to make for the week, you can start to put your grocery list together. I simply start at the very first meal, pull up the recipe, and make a list of all of the ingredients I need to pick up from the store. Below is the grocery list I would put together for my chicken fajitas recipe. At this point I would remove any of the ingredients that I already have on hand (like spices) and then move on to the next meal (BBQ salmon and zucchini) and add those ingredients to the list. You will start to see overlap of ingredients and can simply increase the number of an item that you need until your grocery list is complete.
3. Prepare as much of the food as you can ahead of time – This step saves me soooo much time during the week. I will usually set aside about an hour on the weekend to do some simple meal prep. Using my grocery list from step 2, I will chop as many of the vegetables as possible and make any sauces or seasoning mixes ahead of time. I then put the prepared food into individual containers/bags and label them so during the week I can simply grab all the prepared ingredients and put them together to cook. I will usually make a third list to help me utilize my hour of food prep as efficiently as possible.
These same steps can also be used to plan for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dessert. You just add the additional meals/snacks to your menu list, grocery list, and prep list. Most weeks, I will eat leftovers from the dinner the night before for lunch the next day. If I have time during my meal prep on the weekend, I will also bag up snacks for the week and make a batch of muffins or baked oatmeal to enjoy throughout the week.
I was shocked how 3 simple steps could make such a big difference in my life. Meal time is no longer a stress for me everyday and the hour of meal prep I do on the weekends saves me a crazy amount of time and energy during the week. I’ve also found that we spend less money at the grocery store following this process. Instead of just grabbing a bunch of ingredients that I think I might use during the week, I know exactly what I need and very rarely end up over spending on things we don’t need. We also eat out less and tend to eat healthier meals overall because I am cooking at home from scratch.
It took me a couple of weeks to get this new process figured out, but now I often times will meal plan for 3-4 weeks at a time saving me even more time overall. I hope you find this 3 step easy meal planning process to be a good fit for your family and hope it helps relieve some stress you might be feeling around meal time.