I have been a sporadic meal planner for most of my adult life. I started in college when I would try and plan my meals to stretch my budget, and I generally stuck with it. Since then it’s been an uphill struggle. I’ve tried so many different methods, some working better than others. What usually happens is I sit down to plan and fall head first into a Pinterest vortex, pinning more than I actually plan. Or, Husband and I sit and stare at each other for a while as we try to think of something to make for dinner next week. I feel like we’ve finally gotten into a groove with meal planning though, and I wanted to share with you what works for us. Here are my ultimate meal planning guide and the steps that I use to execute it. They don’t always happen all in the same block of time, but I’ve got it into a groove enough that I can easily pick it back up when I have another few minutes. You can also grab my brand-new FREE Ultimate Meal Planning Workbook that lays out every step in one easy to use guide.
Assign themes to days of the week. I resisted this method of meal planning for a long time, and I don’t know why! Having theme days makes it SO MUCH easier to fit meals into the week. I purposely scheduled quick meals on our busy nights and added in our favourite types of meals to make everyone happy. Here’s what my schedule looks like right now.
Mondays and Wednesday nights my daughter has activities at 6:30 and Husband gets home from work just after 5, so we need things that are quick and simple. Often I’ll pull a pre-made dish out of the freezer or toss something in my Instant Pot so I don’t have to think about it while I go about my day. Tuesdays are Mexican because my family goes nuts for chips and cheese. We eat nachos a fair amount, either with chips or roasted cauliflower as the bed, and add on seasoned beef or chicken, veggies, and cheese. Other nights we’ll have quesadillas, tacos, burritos, or even a tex-mex soup, salad, or casserole. Thursdays are for sheet pan suppers. Husband goes nuts for a sheet pan supper. They’re so simple and easy, again it’s another meal I can prep beforehand and then pop in the oven to cook. Fridays are Breakfast for dinner, another favourite. Saturdays and Sundays are for trying out new recipes and making big batches of our favourite meals to freeze for Mondays and Wednesdays. And then we start all over again!
Take a look at food ads to see what’s on sale and plan around that. This is a great way to save money. If tomatoes are on sale, make a big batch of salsa and tomato sauce to put in the freezer. If you see an amazing price on chicken, grab it up! Have your dinners be mainly chicken this week, and stock some in the freezer for later. I LOVE stocking my freezer with food that I can pull out and pop in the oven for dinner. It saves me HOURS. That’s what this meal planning guide is all about, saving time and money. Grab it below!
Time to shop. Go through every recipe and note what you need. I usually make one big brain-dump grocery list and then re-write so everything is grouped together in the areas you find it in the grocery store. Produce first, and then around the perimeter of the store, and up and down the aisles. It makes life so much easier when I don’t have to backtrack and grab a bell pepper or some toilet paper when I’m all the way across the store. Even better, if your local store has a click-and-collect option, do that! I can shop the flyer, fill in the rest of my list, and check out super fast. When it’s time to pick up I just call and say I’m ready, and they roll it out and load it in my trunk. Best. Service. Ever.
Now that you’ve got your groceries home, take an hour and prep everything before you put it away. If stir-fry is on your menu, chop up all your veggies (put them in separate containers). Burritos? Why not cook the meat and grate the cheese now, so all you have to do is heat and assemble? Doing it now will save you so much time and money. If takeout is calling your name, but you have your dinner ready to go? You’ll thank your past self for being such a smarty pants.
Before you give up on me as a hyper-organized type-A person, just think about it for a minute. I’ve developed these habits over years of adulting (and failing at adulting) and they’ve become second nature to me now. I’m all about the life hacks, especially those that save me time and money. Give meal planning and prepping a try, you won’t regret it. Use my FREE meal planning guide to make life easier for yourself and save hours and dollars!