How to meal plan like a pro

Weekly Meal Planning for beginners

Meal planning can be a daunting task, I know this to be true, and this is my testimony. Many moms out there know the struggle all too well. And even more over, the most dreaded question in the history of motherhood, “What’s for dinner???” (Please insert scary music when reading that line.)

I am here to give you 5 practical tips on how to manage weekly meal plans like a friggin boss. Like… more then a boss, like… you not only own your families nutritional well-being, you own the house, the car, and grocery store – including aisle 11 that protects our precious wine.

If you start these simple steps this week, I guarantee you will not be disappointed. You will see how great weekly meal planning can be, and will soon be on your own new path to dinner redemption.

1. Start with what you’ve got

This is probably the most most challenging step, because it requires you to take an inventory and then bust your brain for some creative meal ideas. So before you stop reading and look for the next quick fix my life – family dinner hack blog post, let me break it down for you as best as I can!

Grab a pen and paper and begin with your main coarse objectives. For our family of 7 this is typically a meat. We don’t necessarily eat meat with every dinner but we do often have a protein that takes center stage on our dinner table. On your piece of paper make a table that has M-F written down with at least 5 lines between each. Start looking in your pantry and freezer for meats or main meal ideas with stuff you already have, IE you have 2 lbs of ground beef that can be the base of 2 separate meals. Or you have one large can of refried pinto beans (think bean burritos or tostados) , you have one full box of pasta (spaghetti, alfredo, or other pasta dish that can be a main course), you have some frozen chicken breast (can be added to that pasta dish you are thinking of, you can you dice it up for tenders, or boil it and use it shredded in a dish). These are just some examples to get your meal wheels spinning. Don’t worry too much about having all the ingredients just yet. Once you have committed and declared your main dishes you can start to add some side dishes using the same inventory method. This starts to get really easy the more you do it, trust me.

2. Write down the plan

Once you have decided in whole, or maybe even just partially. Write down that plan. Then start a grocery list to get the things you don’t have on hand to fully prepare your meal. Be sure you are thinking outside the box when planning to make your dinners. Double check your stock of spices, oils, butters, and whatever else you commonly use to execute your feast from start to devour.

Or you can buy a weekly meal planner like THIS.

I find ones like this especially helpful because it also has a grocery list section that we will get to later. Another thing I love about having a list like this, is that I keep it somewhere in the kitchen that everyone can see. Reducing the amount of pain inflicted on my ears from hearing the shrieks of “what are we having for dinner mom!!??”

Keep it simple when you are just getting started. You can keep your meals to what I like to call a “One hit wonder” ( a meal that has your meat, a veggie, and a carb) or utilize your instant pot or crock-pot to keep the evening time kitchen fuss to a minimum. Once you get the swing of planning down, your life will seriously change for the better.

3. Hit the store

This photo is actually from a veggie haul, not a typical grocery trip.

If you are a busy mom, do what I like to do and hop online and order your groceries for some curb side pick up. On your way to get them, swing by your favorite coffee joint and order a large fancy pants mama drank and pat yourself on the back because you are now in cruising in the winners lane with the rest of us online mombies just trying to catch a break. Your family doesn’t need to know you won’t be pushing a cart today, so rake in the extra minutes like they are a pile of chips you just won at the craps table in Vegas. YOU DESERVE THIS – SOAK IT UP! Or you can also go in and spend some time choosing the perfect produce and extra goodies you need. You may not have finished up those side items and want to see what’s on sale to round out your dinner menu. You do you boo, that’s all this is really about.

Meal planning and shopping to your plan, really does save you money in the long run. You will eat out less, and if you shop to just what you need you won’t have waste, and you won’t have over shopped because you didn’t have a plan.

4. Prep what you can

Prepping doesn’t mean you wash and chop everything ahead of time, although that is pretty helpful if you’ve got the time and patience. For me one of the most important parts of meal prepping is having read through an entire recipe ahead of time, and knowing how much time I will need to make the meal and cook it. Prepping can also be something as menial as storing ingredients in groups based on that meal. You place your meat, and veggies in the same section of your fridge for easy grab and go. Prepping can also mean chopping, separating meat by pounds, or putting your dish in your crock pot or instant pot the night before for a quick start in the morning. After you spend a few weeks working out the meal prepping kinks, you will find ways that make your life easier based on your style of cooking, and the meals themselves.

5. Make that Meal Mama

If you have taken the first 4 steps seriously , planned out your 5 meals, shopped for what you need, and prepped wisely, this is truly the best part. Having spoken with hundreds of moms and why they don’t enjoy cooking, one of the main drawbacks in the kitchen when the witching dinner hour ensues is the lack of a plan, and having the right ingredients available. There is nothing worse that opening that fridge 17 times hoping something new pops up and is meal ready. We’ve all been there, it’s rough.

My best advice to get started on meal planning besides using these 5 steps, is know your wheel house. If you are a crock pot lover, start there. Find yourself 5 crock pot meals using what you’ve got and shopping to what you don’t got, and begin there. If you are super busy and are on a limited time schedule, look up those 30 minute meals and plan around how much time you’ve got. The more you get the hang of this, the better and easier meal time gets. Just do your best. And if you have a major fail or melt down, email me, we can cry the ugly tears together and video chat over ice cream or fudge brownies. I am here in the trenches with you mama.

Most of these photos were taken by Indigo Studio – Amanda Brooks.

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