Last week I shared some simple tips and ideas for getting a meal on the table without losing your mind.
There was a free printable master meals list to get you started with meal planning and today we are looking at meal planning in more detail, with lots of simple tips, tricks and free printables to make meal planning easy!
I resisted meal planning for a long time.
What if I got to the afternoon and didn’t want to cook what was on the plan?
It all seemed to rigid and inflexible for me, and just not my thing.
Then we moved to a rural area and I found myself home on my own with two small children (and later three, then four!) and I learned the hard way that meal planning could save my sanity.
It saves me from dragging cranky kids to the shops for the third time in as many days because there was one ingredient we didn’t have for dinner.
It saves me from totally blowing our budget, on both take out and those extra trips to the shop when I had one item I needed on my list but came home with ten!
It saves me from having to make that horrifically difficult decision of ‘what’s for dinner’ during the ‘witching hour’ when I was already stretched to my limit.
Now I am totally hooked on meal planning.
Occasionally I fall off the wagon or get a bit lazy, and that’s ok, but I know that if I put the time in to meal plan each month, everything else will be easier.
Here’s an easy lunch or dinner recipe to try.
Simple Tips for Meal Planning.
Meal planning doesn’t have to be complicated, or time consuming, but there is no ‘one size fits all’ menu planning system that will work for everyone. You’ll need to spend a little time thinking about your needs and trying out some ideas before you come up with a system that really works for you and your family. Putting in a little effort now can make the whole menu planning caper a lot easier in the long run!
Decide on a Meal Planning System
Think about your family’s routine and commitments and come up with a flexible plan that will work for your circumstances.
- Figure out if weekly, fortnightly or monthly menu planning works best for you and find a meal plan you like.
- Think about how often you shop, and match your meal plan cycle to that routine – I shop monthly so I meal plan monthly.
- Write activities and commitments that affect meals right on the plan so you can manage meals around them.
I shared my first set of free printable meal plans many years ago, and today I have a brand new set to share with you.
I’ve tweaked a few things here and there, and updated the look to match the other printables in this series.
Download the weekly menu plan with the week starting on Monday here.
Download the weekly menu plan with the week starting on Sunday here.
Download the monthly menu plan with the week starting on Monday here.
Download the monthly menu plan with the week starting on Sunday here.
What to Put on Your Meal Plan.
Now you’ve decided on a system, you need to fill that plan up with meals… which is sometimes easier said than done!
- Start with your master list of meal ideas (get the free printable here) and use that list of favourite meals to fill in your menu plan.
- Use theme nights to help mix things up a bit – Monday night pasta night, Tuesday mexi night etc.
- Start a pinterest board with meal ideas so you can easily find inspiration.
- If you are truly stuck or totally over it try someone else’s meal plan – Pocket Change Gourmet shares monthly plans, and The Organised Housewife shares weekly meal plans.
- Don’t worry about repeating favourite meals over and over, if everyone eats the meal it’s worth having it once a week!
- Check out these simple tips for getting meals on the table and our favourite freezer friendly and super quick and easy meals here.
Meal planning it supposed to make it easier to be organised, and with a few extra steps you’ll be able to keep on top of things easily.
- Work out what ingredients you use all the time and keep your pantry stocked with staples.
- Create a shopping list from your meal plan so always have the ingredients you need.
- Take a photo of your meal plan with your phone so you always know what’s on the menu when you are at the shops wondering what you need.
I’ve made a shopping list to match the meal plans. I figure if they look nice when I stick them on my fridge I’ll be more likely to use them… maybe?
You can download the shopping list here.
All the printables shared in this post are A4 sized pdf files, if you are printing on US ‘letter sized’ paper be sure to select ‘fit’ or ‘shrink to fit’ from your printer options.
These free printables are for personal use only, you may not sell, share, or link directly to these files.
So there you have it, my best simple meal planning tips, and some new printables to get you started. Now I’d love to hear your simple tips!
Do you meal plan?
How do you come with meals to put on your plan?
What do you do if you just can’t face making the meal on the schedule?
What would you add to this of simple meal planning tips?
If you are looking for more simple cleaning and organising ideas you can check out the Keep It Simple series where we share our best simple tips for everything from laundry, cleaning, meals, kids and parenting.
And check out my ‘Clean and Organise Everything’ board on pinterest too.
Read the comments or scroll down to add your own:
sangeetha menon says
Being organised and planning ahead…simple tips..but difficult to follow at least for me..LOL.. :-)
I totally agree, meal planning is a lifesaver. Some days when my girls have after school clubs or other activities, a meal plan means the difference between a healthy meal or fast food/delivery pizza. I try to think about which meals need last minute attention vs. those that can be made ahead and kept warm — useful when you need to help someone study for a spelling quiz or listen to reading, etc.
I’ve had that issue where I just don’t feel like making the dinner I’ve got scheduled for that day. One thing that has helped me with this is writing each dinner on a little post-it note and sticking it on the calendar (sometimes on the week above the actual date, so I can still see what’s on for that day), so that if something comes up or I’m just feeling resistant I can easily switch the meal to another day. Love the look of your printables and the fact that there’s space to plan for the other meals and snacks!
Meal planning really does make a huge difference. The 5 oclock rush for me is now 30-60 minutes of joy (thanks to my meal plans and food prep done earlier). I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Kate - The Craft Train says
These look great! printing some out now for my disorganised and unimaginative family meals. Thanks Kate.
It really keeps me organized, planning everything at home and office.
These are pretty, cheerful designs; thank you!
I love it when I’m good to myself and my family by organizing meal plans. Life is so much easier.
Here’s one idea that’s really useful for me — I need space to jot down where I have the recipe, or whether I’ve stored something in the freezer to use that day.
Especially the recipe source — it’s so useful to me that I find that I modify almost every printable I find so that I can incorporate that feature.
I use this when I gather a couple of books along with my Pintrest and other app lists. I need a way to jot in the plan that the recipe is in Book X, page Y, or in what app.
I think that your printable plans will be big enough to accommodate that information. Thank you for the creativity and time you’ve shared.
Dallas, Texas, USA
Thanks a lot!!!
You’re welcome :)