Meal Planning Tips

by Jen on July 26, 2011

I’m a planner.  I’ve never been a spontaneous, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda girl.  I would say I try to control plan every aspect of my life.  Call me crazy, but it keeps me sane!

This applies to meal planning too.  Each week, I make a “menu” for the week.  Basically, I write down on a piece of paper, the meals we will be eating each night.  It looks like this:

Every evening, I look at the list to see what we’ll be eating the next day.  From there, I can make the appropriate preparations, such as taking the meat out of the freezer and sticking it in the fridge, or making a marinade to throw the meat in the next morning. 

Okay, so you’re thinking, this seems like it would take forever!  But I’m here to tell you, that you only need 15 minutes to plan your weekly meals.  15 minutes?  It’s true.

1. Plan Family Favourites
There is no need to haul out all of your recipe books and flip through them each time.  We all have favourite meals we like to eat, and my kids are no exception.  For Caleb, it’s Taco Salad.  For the other kids it’s Tuna Casserole.  And for the big boy, it’s anything with meat!  Of course, I’m a pizza kinda girl.  So I always make sure to include a couple of family favourites each week.

2. Keep it Simple
You don’t need to plan a gourmet meal each night.  After I’ve decided on the protein portion, I think of a few simple sides to go along with the meal.  Some examples are our favourite oven fries, simple summertime salad, or a fresh plate of veggies with some hummus!

3. Think About Portions
For one of your meals, try to make a large casserole or something that always has a few leftovers.  That way, you can save the leftovers for another meal, or you’ll have lunch for the next day.  One of my family’s favourites is Macaroni Lasagna.  It’s so simple and there are always leftovers for the next day.

4. Make your Grocery List
Once you’ve decided on the meals, make your grocery list.  For example, if I have Macaroni Lasagna on my menu, then I know I might need to buy some ground beef, pasta sauce, and cheese.  I always have staples, like spices and pasta, on hand so I don’t have to buy them every week.  I always add fresh fruits and veggies to my list each week because I know that we like to include them with our meals a lot.

5. Organize Your Grocery List
I like to organize my grocery list however the store is laid out.  For example, where I shop, the dry/canned goods always come first, followed by the meat and dairy, followed by the fruit and veggies, followed by the bread.  If I organize my like in the correct order, it makes my grocery shopping much faster.

6. Plan a Time To Shop
The best part about planning your meals, is that you only have to go to the grocery store once a week!  No more running there each night trying to figure out what to eat.  Once you’ve made your menu and list, pick one day a week that you will grocery shop.  Perhaps it’s the weekend when you can shop as a family, or maybe on a weeknight when hubby can stay home and watch the kids while you shop in peace!

7. Keep Your Menus
I’ve been planning my menus for so long, that I have a large stack of menus that I can refer back to each week.  That way, I don’t have to think of new meals each time.  I can just flip back and pick out a few favourites and repeat them.  Sure, sometimes I like to find new recipes from magazines or look through my cookbooks for some new ideas, but if I’m ever stuck for a meal idea, I can always look for inspiration from my previous menus.

There you have it!  Meal planning can be easy and only take up 15 minutes of your time.  And you’ll no longer be asking yourself everyday, “What shall we have for dinner tonight?”

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lori: Teacher Turned Mommy July 26, 2011 at 4:06 pm

I love to menu plan it makes life so much easier. I plan a week's meals and then grocery shop. I too have lots of the staples on hand and can make adjustments as needed.


2 I'm just the MOM July 26, 2011 at 6:41 pm

This is a great easy to follow how to for me! I've been wanting to menu plan for so long just have no idea how or where to start. Thanks!


3 Joey Tipping January 9, 2014 at 9:24 pm

Not only does this save time, it also saves $$ to make up a menu and grocery list….no impulse buying. Stick to the list. Ah, Jennifer, the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree, eh, my girl?


4 Jen January 13, 2014 at 3:03 pm

Very true 😉


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