Contributed By: Emily
Do you dread meal planning every week for your family? I mean, I just planned meals last week. Why do I have to do it again?
I don’t know about your family, but mine is filled with busy people who also happen to be picky eaters. They all like food, just not the same foods, so it makes meal planning SUPER fun. But I’m an organized kind of girl, so to keep our family running smoothly and to keep me sane, I plan out our meals each week. This cuts down on spending extra money to eat out and keeps me from having to make 95 trips to the store in one week.
But planning weekly meals for a busy family is easier said than done. So I thought I’d share some of the tools I use to make meal planning easier.
6 Steps to Easy Meal Planning
Look at your family calendar for the week
Our family uses the Google calendar to keep track of everybody’s events. Your family might use something else, so take a look at your family calendar and figure out what each night looks like. This will help you decide if you have time for everyone to sit down together (check out my blog on the importance of Family Dinners) or if you need a meal that everyone can grab when they have time. That way if your son has an orchestra concert or your daughter has a softball game, you can plan a crockpot meal for that night.
Inventory your pantry and fridge
Build your grocery list from in your kitchen so that you can see what you’re out of and what you still have. This will keep you from overbuying and save you some money! You might even get some meal inspirations based on chicken you find in the freezer or a bag of yellow rice in the pantry. If your house is anything like mine, you’ll also find some empty boxes that the kids leave around, so use your inventory time to also clear out your pantry and get rid of any old leftovers in the fridge.
Check your grocery store website for bargains and meal ideas
I live in Florida and we have Publix, which is AMAZING. Their website posts a weekly ad that lists items that are on sale and I build my grocery list from there. I start with meats, since that’s the most expensive item and I plan at least 2 meals based on meats that are on sale. Then I move on to BOGO items and plan lunches and snacks based on that. This gives me fresh ideas and helps me to save a few dollars. Check your local grocery store’s website and see if they have something similar.
Write it down
It’s helpful for me to write down what we’ll have each night. This lets me see the bigger picture to make sure I’m not planning chicken two nights in a row or planning a big dinner on a night that we’ll be gone. I use a Weekly Meal Planner printable that makes meal planning SO much easier! You can download it for free here.
Make a Menu Board
Once I’ve planned my meals, I write them down on my Menu Board. This serves two purposes. It lets my kids know what’s for dinner, so that they don’t ask me 15 times and it also reminds me what we’re having the next day, in case it requires prep work. You can get a super cute chalkboard menu board from Amazon like the one below!
I know I told you that I’m an organized girl, so the last thing I do when planning meals is to put reminders in my Google calendar. If I have to take meat out of the freezer the night before or if something needs to be marinated, I put it in my calendar with a reminder to alert me. I mean, let’s face it, we’re all crazy busy, right? I can’t keep track of where my keys are most days, so setting reminders allows my calendar to think for me!
There is one last tool that helps me plan my meals each week. My go to, absolute must have for planning meals is the Grocery IQ app. Grocery IQ is NOT paying me to say this!! I just love their app so much that I think everyone should use it! I would be lost without it. I’ve been using Grocery IQ for about 7 years and it makes meal planning SO much easier. Grocery IQ is a free app that you can use for iPhone or Android. It allows you to make a grocery list right on your phone and you even get to check stuff off as you go (which I love!).
The best thing about this app is that it has a Favorite tab, so you can put those items that you use regularly here and then when you go to build your grocery list, just click the item and it’s added to your list!
Grocery IQ is associated with coupons.com, so you can clip coupons and have them right in the app as you shop! You can also arrange the app in the order of the aisles in your store, so that your grocery list is in order! I mean, if that’s not cool, I don’t know what is.
So those are my tricks that keep my family fed and me sane! I really encourage you to use download the Weekly Meal Planner printable and the Grocery IQ app. I could not plan my meals without them!
If you have a great tip to help plan weekly meals for your family, I’d love to hear them! Just leave me a comment below.