Before I started meal planning it seemed foreign to me. My mom didn’t plan specific meals ahead of time, except for special occasions. It was so normal to just get home and dig through the fridge to figure out what I could eat.
But that gets old and frustrating. The chicken isn’t defrosted. The broccoli went bad. It takes way too long to cook brown rice and I’m hungry now.
I decided to start meal planning because I heard about how much money you could save. Not only am I saving money, but I don’t have to worry about what’s for dinner throughout the week. And we’re able to eat healthier. Now, it just feels like a habit and I can’t imagine living any other way.
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Here is my 4 Step Approach to Meal Planning:
Step 1: Check next week’s schedule
I take a look at the following week. For me, I need to know what nights my husband has class late into the evening and what days we might be getting together with friends or family.
You may need to account for having long days at work or kids with busy sports schedules. Make sure your meal plan allows simple meals for those nights. A crock-pot is a life saver for these kind of nights! I absolutely love my Crock-Pot because you can set it on a timer, then it automatically turns to warm.
Step 2: Use what you have
I take a peek in my fridge to figure out which veggies or other leftovers need to be eaten. Whenever there are great deals on meat, we stock up, and freeze it, so I’ll look through my freezer as well.
Recently ground turkey was on sale. We have some extra in our freezer right now and will whip up some chili soon (ahhh…the yummy taste of fall).
Step 3: Themed meals
Use themes to help you plan a variety of meals throughout the week. It will also help give you some direction when you’re trying to come up with meals.
For example, if you type into Pinterest “healthy recipe” you’ll have to sift through a bajillion different recipes, which can seem really overwhelming. On the other hand, if you type in “healthy taco recipe” or even “healthy mexican food recipe,” it’s narrowed down and therefore might be a little easier to find a recipe that works for you.
Here are some theme ideas: Soup Sunday (perfect to help give leftovers for lunches), Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Wine Wednesday (oh wait, that’s not dinner!). My husband and I love stir-fry, so we have that at least once a week. If you love burgers or pizza, include that in for one of your nights. Then you can start to get creative with it!
I always ask Alex for his input for our meal plan because he needs to be excited about what we’re eating that week, too! Don’t forget to include your spouse and even your kids with your meal planning. They’ll be more likely to try new things if they were able to help in the process.
Step 4: Other meals and snacks
I like to plan out my breakfasts, lunches, and snacks in addition to dinners. Even though we don’t stick to this part of the meal plan as closely as our dinners, it helps me when I make our shopping list to know what all I need.
For us, this is especially important for lunches because we typically have leftovers. When I plan ahead, I can make enough for the meals to make leftovers or make something separate (like burrito bowls) for lunch.
But I have to make sure I add those to the shopping list and if it’s not on the menu, it doesn’t go on the shopping list. (Did I mention that meal planning can save you a TON OF MONEY?)
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For breakfast, we typically have eggs and toast or oatmeal. And I like to have a couple options for snacks, primarily veggies and hummus, hard-boiled eggs, and fruit. When I make my shopping list, I make sure that I add these items if we don’t have enough.
Related: 5 Steps to make Meal Planning Easier
That’s it. You’re all set for a healthy week!
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