There are a million ways to create a meal plan. Ok, not a million, but sometimes the options seem endless!
Most diets have a system for meal planning based on what they say you should eat. Those are great and they are usually very specific per the dos and don’ts of the diet. That sometimes entails going on an extensive shopping trip to fill up your cabinets with the foods of that diet.
I am all for the most simple and healthy meals. Being a busy work-at-home-mom tends to lend itself to the desire for ease and simplicity. However I also want to make sure that I have wholesome ingredients on hand for healthy meals.
The easiest way I have found to create this type of meal plan is to start with recipes.
Most of my fellow mommies and daddies usually know what is in their kitchens and pantries. You probably have most of the ingredients needed for your favorite recipes. The key is to keep staples on hand so there is no need for a quick store run an hour before your meal.
10 Tips & Tricks to Start a Healthy Life
Enter your email below and receive my 10 Tips & Tricks to Start a Healthy Life.
I write my weekly meal plan the day before I go to the grocery store. Then I am able to look at my kitchen to see what I will need for the week based on my plan.
First, I write a list of recipes that I know are healthy and family favorites. This list will usually include some recipes that have large serving sizes so I can cook one night and not have to the next. I break down the recipe lists so I have a few options for breakfast and lunch. For dinner, I usually have more recipe options available because my husband likes variety and usually eats the leftovers for his lunch (as he works overnight).
To make it easy, I write out 2 or 3 recipes for breakfast, 3 or 4 for lunch, and 7 for dinner. I don’t always make a different meal each night because a lot of my recipes make more than we can eat in one sitting. But, if one week that is not the case, then I will have the ingredients I need to make dinner every night of the week.
If you didn’t know already, Google Docs and Spreadsheets are amazing and simple! You can access and edit with them across all of your devices and everything is saved online. These are what I use to create my meal plans, and then they are super easy to edit on a weekly basis.
I use Google Spreadsheets to make my meal plans because you can make multiple pages organized with tabs under one document. The first tab contains my list of recipes. There are 3 columns with recipe lists: “Breakfast”, “Lunch”, and “Dinner”. I usually have to make the columns bigger because the recipe name is long and so I have space in between the categories.
Next, I make a new tab at the bottom of the page and name it “Menu 1”. In column “A”, I write out the days of the week on every 3rd row starting with the number 3 (Sunday is on 3, Monday is on 6, etc). For columns “B”, “C”, and “D”, I write “Breakfast”, “Lunch”, and “Dinner”. These titles are all on row 1. I then put the recipes I want for that plan on the corresponding block (i.e. Thursday Dinner is Pad Thai and goes on row 15 under column “D” or “dinner”.)
Now we come to the budget part of this planning system. Making regular meal plans helps me SO MUCH with my food budget. I only put what I need for the week on my grocery list. Sometimes I include a few other things we may be low on that I like to stockpile.
By planning AHEAD, I lessen the risk of grabbing whatever looks good of the store’s shelves. It helps me stay focused on eating wholesome foods versus processed things that I have a weakness for when I don’t plan.
I think most people know this but I will say it anyway: It is CHEAPER to cook at home using only whole foods than it is to buy anything and everything out of a box or at the drive-thru. By using this meal plan, you are able to use the exact amount of money (or LESS) you have allotted for a weeks worth of groceries. Most of the time I have extra money from that week. I can either carry it over to next week’s budget or can be used for date night or coffee!
Since implementing this process in my kitchen, I don’t overspend the money I earn that is used for food. I don’t spend it on junk that makes me sick after I’ve eaten too much. More importantly, it is easier to keep track of what I spend when I’m only buying the things I need for my meals in a particular week. No more am I looking at my bank statement wondering how I spent so much in a month on food. It is such a great feeling!
Now, I am NOT saying that you can’t stock things up because I am a TOTAL advocate for that. It simply helps you have control over what you are eating and spending. You are already going to the grocery store on a weekly basis to by perishable food items. Make the most of your trip by getting most or everything you need for the next week, PLUS your stockpile items.
Whether you have kids, or a career, or BOTH, planning ahead for your meals saves a lot of time and headaches on something that doesn’t have to be stressful. We live in a crazy fast-paced, stress-inducing environment; we don’t need to add to that when it comes to how we fuel our bodies. You WILL feel less stressed. Your tummy and bank account WILL thank you when you plan your meals ahead of time.