‘How can I create a weekly meal plan?‘ or ‘what is your meal planning method?’ is something I have been asked over and over again. I have been meal planning for almost as long as I have been married (18 years) and this is something that makes my life as a homemaker so easy.
Most people create a meal plan every week, but I usually do it every fortnight. It helps me stay organized and not go back and forth with groceries and looking at things last minute.
Why you should start meal planning:
There are many benefits of meal planning.
- It saves you time in cooking and also in thinking about what groceries you need.
- It saves money on grocery shopping because you are less likely to get stuff you don’t need.
- You are less likely to eat out or get takeaway because you have ideas on what you can cook or have in your kitchen.
- There is less stress. You know exactly what you have to do.
- You eat healthy homemade food and snack less.
- You have more ideas for including different diets.
- It is easier to try new foods and new recipes because you are interested in cooking!
- Nobody is cranky! (Wait, I should put that as #1 on the list.)
Many people think that meal planning is for people on a diet. That is not true. Meal planning is not just for dieting, although using a meal plan does make it easier to accommodate special diets and dietary restrictions.
I plan my meals because it makes my life easy when know what is on the menu that day. My kids also cooperate better when they know what is on the menu. It is also one of the best ways to help your picky eater by involving him or her in the whole process. I have found great success with raising children who eat everything this way!
There are two ways to plan your meals
Most people don’t know that there are actually two ways to meal plan.
- Do it yourself. Make your own meal plan from scratch.
- Get a done-for-you meal plan. Either subscribe to a ready-made meal plan subscription (often comes with grocery list, etc) or download one online.
I have tried both. When I was newly married or my kids were small, I’d often scour the internet looking for done-for-me meal plans. They were really good time savers and I got to try different cuisines too. But soon, when my children started eating, I found they weren’t serving their purpose.
The biggest problem with the second method is that most meal plans online just aren’t according to our family’s tastes.
What worked best for us was to create a personalized menu plan according to my family’s tastes and favorites.
The pros of creating your own meal plan for your family
I am from India but we eat… literally ‘the world’. We have a rule in my family. It is called ‘everything can be eaten once’.
That means, my kids know that they have to try what’s cooked at least once, before they come to a verdict on it. We try new recipes quite often, and everything that gets my family’s approval is added to my book of favorites.
The best part of testing out new recipes means that I can cook all kinds of meals in my home. My kids think food is fun. It is one of the best ways to raise children who love food.
I am sharing my method of how I meal plan for my family below. It is just five simple steps and you’re done.
Meal Planning with little kids
I have previously written about saving time in the kitchen and how to manage cooking when you have little children before. You can read about those topics below:
- 16 Kitchen hacks that save time
- How to keep your baby and toddler busy while cooking
- An easy lazy way to plan meals for a week.
But today, I wanted to share my five step method and how easy it is to implement it.
How I Meal Plan in 5 Easy Steps
Let me give you a brief idea as to how I do meal planning. I hope this gives you ideas on how you too can create one using your own recipes:
Step 1: Start by listing out all the recipes you know.
It is a good idea to keep a book and keep adding your tried, tested and ‘approved by family’ recipes to it. It also helps to write down all the ingredients needed for a recipe, but even if you just have the names of the recipes written down, it works!
Step 2: Take an inventory
Look through your fridge, freezer and pantry to see what you already have and may want to use as soon as possible.
Step 3: Put together meals based on what you have.
Pick something from your pantry that will use as many things as possible from your fridge and freezer to make a dish.
For example, I have white flour that, when mixed with eggs, yoghurt and milk, will make waffles or pancakes.
Another example: I have Egyptian sella rice from the pantry that uses chicken, tomatoes, carrots, chicken and yoghurt to make Kabsa rice and chicken. Or if I have bulgur wheat, then I know it can be used with tomatoes and chicken to make the Turkish Bulgur wheat pillaf with fried juicy Bang Bang Chicken.
Do you get what I mean? Do you see what I am doing here? Most people start meal planning the wrong way. They write down what they want to cook and then look through their fridge and pantry to see what they have, or buy groceries according to it. My method is that I start with what I have the first time and next time on, I will write my meal plan and then grocery shop.
Step 4. Fill in your meal planner
After you have made a list of recipes from what you have, it is time to fill the planner. Write down all these recipes that you are thinking of in your meal planning sheet as Breakfast, Lunch, Snack and Dinner.
Yes, snack too, because that’s the easiest way to prevent kids from eating junk food. It is very much possible that you may not have enough ingredients to completely fill up your weekly plan. That’s okay. Go ahead and add a few more recipes that you can get the groceries for easily.
Next week, we make the meal plan first and grocery list later!
Step 5: Write down the Pre-Prep Instructions
Now that you have your meal plan ready, start writing down your pre-prep instructions. This is the part many women leave out. But it can make simplify cooking so much!
So on another sheet, write down how to to make your life easier by doing things beforehand! For example: Say I am making pancakes for breakfast on Monday. Can I make the batter the night before on Sunday night? Write this down under Sunday – Evening.
Or maybe, I am making Kheema (Mince) on Tuesday; I can double the mince and freeze it for lasagna on Wednesday.
Another example is, say I am going grocery shopping. I can buy lots of chicken breast to make chicken strips that can be used in 10 different recipes for breakfast, lunch or dinner. This way I have less work to do on a weekday.
This, my dear friend, is my 5-step method of menu planning for the week and often a fortnight! Would you like to give this a try? To make it even easier, I recommend you download my Make Everyday Easy Mom Planner!
The Make Everyday Easy Mom Planner has a whole section on Meal Planning and includes all the sheets I talk about here as part of my process. I hope it helps you! <3