The whole goal of this article is to save you time. To me meal planning should save you time… period. If you plan ahead for simple meals at the beginning of the week you should not be going to the store more than once (unless a dozen eggs is dropped on the floor when you are not looking). Planning ahead will keep you from spending time spinning your wheels Wednesday afternoon coming up with dinner.
Let me just take a minute to say… I don’t believe in meal prep. I don’t have time to spend hours on Sunday cooking food for the week. I just don’t, in fact the concept is crazy to me. I am a firm believer you should be able to handle what you are eating for each day, each day. If not it is too complicated.
This is how I get through the week as a busy mom of two, and get fresh whole food meals on the table. I hope this helps really simplify your life! Spend some time getting organized and sit back because it does get easier. These are my seven tips to meal plan for your week and a pdf grocery list organizer.
1. When you cook, cook in bulk
If you are going to get the kitchen dirty cooking, then really cook! If you are cooking a pound of ground beef for tacos, do two pounds. Put half of it away to have it on top of a taco salad for lunch the next few days. If you are doing a vegetable stir fry for dinner cook some extra veggies and throw in an omelet the next day. See where I am going with this? Every time you make something think about a way to use the leftovers. There should never be just half a zucchini in your fridge. If you are cooking half a zucchini cook it all. You will eat the rest later.
2. Don’t over plan
Keep it simple, don’t over do it. On Sunday when I am planning our week I come out with guns blazing and inevitably the week wears me down. I don’t make it happen, we end up eating out because I decide I can’t make lasagn for dinner. Who would have thought? Don’t plan for long, difficult meals. You just won’t make them. Plan for meals you can actually, and will actually make! I pretty much never do a dinner that requires me buying more than five ingredients or has multiple cooking phases.
3. Get in a routine
This has saved me! It keeps me from reinventing the wheel every week. I use a routine in two ways. One, I always try and go grocery shopping on the same day, one day a week. This way I get in the habit and routine of buying for the week. I can much better anticipate our needs and be prepared so I am not running back to the store.
I also do theme nights. Every Friday we have mexican food. I do slightly different things each week, but I don’t have to get all creative and come up with dinner. This takes one whole dinner out of planning time for me. Other examples… we have breakfast for dinner, pork chops once a week, usually some kind of ground steak (hamburger without the bun), and I usually do an asian dish like (chicken fried rice or my asian stir fry). Sidebar: this helps picky eating children a ton. They know what is coming, they aren’t caught off guard by totally new food!
4. Save recipes
When you see a good, simple recipe save it! This way you aren’t racking your brain for ideas for dinner each week. Here is how I save mine.
- Take photos of paper recipes you like, for example in a magazine or an old recipe you aren’t sure where it came from. Then create a folder on your phone. I have a recipe photo folder, and then I can just scroll through all kinds of recipes.
- Pinterest. This is a great way to save links you may find or have been sent by a friend. I have a dinner board and just create pins as I come across recipes I like.
- Instagram. This is becoming more and more of a place for fabulous recipes! I use the bookmark feature to save things I see on Instagram. Here is how to bookmark!
Then when I am planning the week I just quickly go reference these areas for ideas. I have an area on my site, here, that has dinner recipes that take 30 minutes to make!
5. Get a list of go to recipes
You have this already. These are things you feel like you are making all the time, maybe like a little annoying you are making them so much. Write them down in a note on your phone. Add to this note as you find new ones you really like. What I have found is that I cycle through my go to recipes. I forget some of the really good easy dinners I had previously made. This will help you keep track of all of them and before you know it you will have a very long list to choose from each week.
6. Save your base shopping list
There are several items that i buy every single week. If you watch my Instagram you know one of those is avocados. I found myself spending so much time every Sunday writing my grocery list. Then I realized half the list was stuff I always buy. I was spending time racking my brain to remember stuff I should have just already had written down. Annoying and wastes time. Get together a list of your go-tos: apples, milk, eggs, and rice cakes… whatever they are. Keep this list from week to week.
7. Organizing your week
On Sunday evening… I organize my week. I look at what we have coming up that next week and I write my grocery list accordingly. I created the pdf below to help you make your grocery list. This is exactly how I do it every single week. On the back of my grocery list I write out what I am going to make for dinner each night. Then I write out what I need for our breakfast and lunches, and lastly what I need for snacks. Then I flip back and forth and write out the grocery list. I hope this pdf helps you meal plan and not go crazy with all your responsibilities!