If you hate meal planning, this is for you! Meal Planning Made Easy with five methods to try.
Meal Planning Made Easy
Meal planning is one of my biggest, if not THE biggest, tip I give when someone is looking for ways to make life easier. I love it because it benefits and simplifies to many areas of life: budgeting, grocery shopping, meal prep, weekday mornings, weeknight dinner time, just to quickly name a few!
But so many people find meal planning hard to do. And I’ll admit, it does take some practice. I’ve been at it for a few years now and I’ve tried LOTS of methods and systems and routines. I change it up as my needs change. And I think that’s my biggest tip for making meal planning easy – don’t be afraid to try something new if your current system isn’t working!
I’ve also got five methods of meal planning to share with you that can help make meal planning easier!
5 Methods to Make Meal Planning a Cinch
Use a Subscription Service
This is the only one of these methods I haven’t personally tried. But it doesn’t get much easier than having the meal planning, the grocery shopping, and even the food prep done for you!
Most meal subscription services offer many options, such as Paleo, Vegetarian, Vegan, and Gluten-Free. Also, the meals are usually done in about 30 minutes. Having the food pre-prepped is a big time saver!
This would be a fun option if you have a more adventurous palette and like to try new things. You can pick your recipes with many subscription services, but you are still limited by what they offer. It might not be the best choice if you have specific things you like to eat.
There are just tons of services out there, but the one I came across that I was most drawn to is Sun Basket. They use sustainable and organic ingredients and their packaging is recyclable and compostable. Waste and ingredient quality are my two biggest concerns with these subscription services and Sun Basket has addressed both.
Use a Set Plan
This is kind of an old school way of meal planning. Basically, you have predetermined meals each night of the week. Meatloaf Monday, Taco Tuesday, Spaghetti Wednesday, etc. That makes it super easy because you don’t have to think about it. Grocery shopping is easier too because you’ll be getting a lot of the same things each week.
To be honest, this type of meal plan is a little boring for me. My family would be just fine with it, but I get bored with having the same thing to eat all the time. And when I get that way, I don’t even want to cook dinner. If you’re the same, you could use this idea but modify it by making a set plan for every 2 weeks or even the whole month. So you have the same thing on the first of every month, second of the month, and so on.
Use a Template
Using a template has been my main method for meal planning that seems to give me the best results. My template has changed over time, though, as my needs and wants change. That’s the beauty of DIY meal planning. You can make it work for your own needs.
Here are some examples of meal planning templates:
Every Meal Contains 1 Protein, 1 Carb, 1 Veggie
Monday: Soup/Stew, Tuesday: Breakfast-for-Dinner, Wednesday: Pasta, Thursday: Mexican, Friday: Out, Saturday: Leftovers, Sunday: Meat + Potatoes
Monday/Wednesday/Friday: Crockpot Meals; Tuesday/Thursday: Freezer Meals, Saturday & Sunday: Mom’s Choice
Use a Favorites List
A Favorites List is another meal planning tool that has worked well for me. I just write down a list of all my family’s favorite meals and pick from that list when making my plan. This method can simplify meal planning similar to the Set Plan method, but with the flexibility of choosing which days you have each meal.
My current method is actually more of a hybrid between the Favorites List and the template because my template does make space for including some of my family’s favorite meals. That’s one of my secrets for cutting down on the mealtime complaints from my three kids who all have different tastes and preferences! (Although, they do all agree on Mac and Cheese!)
Use a Planning Service
A meal planning service can be a fantastic way to really simplify and give yourself more time for other things. I used one for a very busy few months and it was a lifesaver. Look for one that creates a shopping list for you to get more bang for your buck!
The one I used is eMeals . It has over 20 plans to choose from, including Quick and Healthy, Clean Eating, Paleo, 30 Minute Meals, Kid Friendly, Heart Healthy, and several others. And you can switch between plans, so you’re not stuck with one plan if you end up not loving it. For each meal, you have the option of adding the ingredients to your shopping list AND you can even have your list sent to your local grocery delivery or pickup service, like Kroger Clicklist!
Meal planning does take some trial and error to find your groove. But once you do, it’s so worth the time! I have said many times, it helps keep me *somewhat* sane as a working mom of 3. And it keeps my grocery budget in check. Currently, I plan every meal and snack for my family. But there have been times when I just planned dinners, or just planned weeknights. It’s easy to flex your meal planning methods to fit your needs once you get the hang of the basics.
If you’re overwhelmed or frustrated or just annoyed by meal planning, give these methods a try. I’d love to know which ones worked for you!