6 Easy Steps to Creating a Family Meal Plan

You’re just 6 easy steps away to creating a family meal plan that will not only keep you organized in the kitchen but also save you time and money along the way. Learn how to reap the benefits that so many others are already enjoying by learning to meal plan for your own family.

6 Easy Steps to Creating a Family Meal Plan

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Meal planning. You either love it or you hate it.

Those who love it get inspired and motivated by seeing meal planning pictures on social media and the Internet. The ones who hate it get overwhelmed at the whole concept just by seeing those same examples. 

Talking from my own experience, I can definitely relate to being overwhelmed with just the idea of meal planning. When you barely have time to get your forever ending to-do list done in a day, it’s almost comical to think about setting aside time for meal planning. Believe me…I get it.

Personally, I’ve gone through phases when it comes to my enthusiasm for meal planning. I’ve got one of those “all or nothing” personalities, so you’ll either find me going full-throttle with the idea, or doing absolutely nothing in the meal planning department. 

You’re currently catching me right at the end of one of those transitions. Around November or December I lost almost every organizing system I put in place for myself. I was so busy with the hustle and bustle of the holidays that I stopped meal planning, exercising, list-writing, etc.

I was a hot mess.

Come mid-January, I started to slowly get back to my more organized ways. My husband and I started working out on a regular basis, my meals were starting to include veggies again, and I was actually following a daily to-do list. It was invigorating!

Although I was being more conscious about my health in terms of working out and eating better, I was definitely not sticking to any sort of meal plan. Quite frankly, I was putting zero effort at all into thinking about what we were going to eat each night of the week. I was just “winging it”. 

There’s nothing wrong with “winging it” at times. I completely agree with it (I resort to it myself) when you feel like you’re basically living life in survival mode. There are just times in life when it’s necessary and that’s perfectly okay.

During those times, embrace it and give yourself a little grace. None of us are perfect, right?!

But when things calm down, as they did for me, it’s time to get your butt in gear and start meal planning again.

Here are a few things I notice when I’m not meal planning:

  • I spend way more in the grocery store. Because I have no plan, I just make random purchases of items I “might” make during the week.
  • I eat out more. This is also bad for the wallet. And don’t get me started on the growing waistline.
  • I waste a ton of produce. I will buy fresh vegetables and fruit for meals but I forget about it since I never really had an actual plan in mind on how I was going to use it.
  • I visit the grocery store more often. I might decide in the morning that I want to make a particular meal for dinner but quickly realize I don’t have everything I need to make it. I then find myself visiting the store to buy what I need. 
  • I waste so much time during my day trying to pull a meal together. It’s not a good use of my time at all. If I add all the time together, I know it’s way more than just knocking it all out in one shot. 

The proof is in the pudding. As much as I hate to admit it, the benefits of meal planning completely outweigh the alternative. This all leads me to why I am now back into the routine of meal planning. It’s just the smart thing for me to do…

If you’re ready to get started for the first time or are just looking for a more streamlined system, I’d love to share with you my weekly meal planning process. Feel free to use all of it or some of it when creating your own family meal plan.

6 Easy Steps to Creating a Family Meal Plan

meal plan on the wall

Set a consistent day and/or time to meal plan.  

Sundays tend to be a popular day for meal planning. I see a ton of people hashtagging #mealprepsunday while scrolling through my Instagram feed. While the majority of the meal prepping world uses this day to prep for the upcoming week, Saturday is actually my day of choice. 

Why Saturday? For starters, my husband works every Saturday but has off every other Sunday. With his limited time off on the weekends, I’d rather fit in meal planning when I know for certain it won’t interfere with potential family time. 

As far as my son Zach, at the moment he volunteers on Saturday afternoons. When he’s not volunteering, he’s sleeping until noon which leaves my mornings wide open to do all my planning. I can even shop and still get home before he wakes up. I miss my teenage years…

The point I’m trying to make is that you need to find the best day and time that works for you to meal plan. Simply forget about what others are doing. Before you know it, you’ll notice that the consistency in your planning will create a habit. It will just become second nature to start meal planning while drinking your coffee on Saturday morning!

Check your family’s weekly calendar for events.

The very first thing you want to do when sitting down to meal plan is to check your calendar for things happening during the upcoming week.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Are there any events that will have you eating out during the week? For example, a family birthday dinner, work function, dinner at a friend’s house, etc.
  • Will any nights be particularly busy due to kids in sports, music lessons, etc.? Maybe you or your spouse have to work late or have a later meeting one night of the week?

Once you know what your weekly obligations are, you can better determine your meals for each night of the week. For example, this week I had a parent meeting on Tuesday night. I knew I was going to be out past dinnertime so I opted to cook an easy crockpot meal. This allowed me to put dinner together earlier in the day and then it was ready to serve the minute I came in from my meeting.

Note: I just started creating Weekly Dinner Themes for each night of the week. I’m finding it easier to narrow down recipes this way. My friend, Jaclyn, wrote an entire post on Establishing Weekly Dinner Themes that’s totally worth the read if you’re interested in trying out this strategy!

Quickly inventory your refrigerator and pantry.

I always like to take a good look in my fridge and pantry before doing any meal planning. It’s almost like I go grocery shopping in my own home before I head to the actual grocery store. This keeps me from worrying about expired food and even saves me money at the same time. I will try to find recipes to use up all the ingredients I already have on hand before I start seeking out other recipes.

Use cookbooks, Pinterest, and even Google to find recipes. 

Am I the only person in the world who still likes to look through cookbooks for recipes? I have an entire cabinet in my kitchen filled with cookbooks I have purchased or received as gifts throughout the years.

cookbooks in a cupboards

I will fumble through my cookbooks first and then head over to Pinterest or Google for more inspiration. With the amount of time I spend on Pinterest, I usually have a few ideas already that I want to incorporate into my weekly meal plan.

I love to have all my recipes in one place for the week so I always print off a copy of any recipes I’ve found online. Also, I like to scan a copy of all my cookbook recipes using my printer. 

Scanning pages of a cookbook

Once I have all the recipes in paper form, I write the days of the week that I will be making each recipe in the upper right corner. 

Write your shopping list.

On a sheet of paper, I write my weekly meal plan down so I can see it all in front of me. I then go through each recipe and write down any ingredients I don’t already have. At this point, I’m literally just jotting everything down that I need one recipe at a time.

6 Easy Steps to Creating a Family Meal Plan

Once I have everything on the list for my recipes, I make sure to add any other items I need for the week. This includes snacks, breakfast and lunch options, paper goods, bottled waters, etc. 

6 Easy Steps to Creating a Family Meal Plan

Next, I cut out my weekly meal plan separate from all the ingredients I jotted down. I take all my printed recipes in order and staple them into a packet with the handwritten meal plan on the front.

6 Easy Steps to Creating a Family Meal Plan

You can totally stop here if you want, but I personally like to rewrite my grocery list based on the aisles in my supermarket. Yes, I have gone to the same Publix for so many years that I have actually memorized the store! There are many ways to organize your list and I’ve actually written a post all about this topic that you can find, here.

6 Easy Steps to Creating a Family Meal Plan

After you finish shopping, wash, and prep as much of your ingredients for the week as you can.

I try my very best to wash all my produce as soon as I get home from the grocery store. I have Rubbermaid Freshworks containers that easily hold all my produce for a good week if not more in perfect condition. This is extremely helpful if I buy produce that won’t be used until the end of the week.

If you have more time, you can even chop some of your vegetables to help cut down the time it will take you to make your nightly dinners. All of this does take some additional effort upfront but I promise it will save you so much time throughout the rest of the week.  

6 Easy Steps to Creating a Family Meal Plan

And there you have it! My hope is that these 6 easy steps to creating a family meal plan have helped motivate you to jump on the meal planning bandwagon. Like everything else in life, the more you practice meal planning, the faster the whole process will take. I’ve already inspired so many of my friends and family to jump on board and I loved for you to do the same!

Want to remember this? Post 6 Easy Steps to Creating a Family Meal Plan to your favorite Pinterest board!

6 Easy Steps to Creating a Family Meal Plan

6 Easy Steps to Creating a Family Meal Plan

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  1. Yes to meal planning! Whenever I don’t plan, I find that we eat less healthy, and I spend more money on groceries because I am always running to the store.
    I love cookbooks too!!

    1. I seriously have to have a plan or I make frozen chicken nuggets and Mac and cheese for dinner 🤪🤪

  2. Love this! I️’m the same way – I️ love meal planning, but I️’m an all or nothing type too…so if I️ get off track, it’s chaos at dinnertime! I️ pretty much follow the same rules you do for this, so I️ must be doing something right! 🙂

  3. Love these ideas, Tiffany! When our kids were young, I planned the menus each week–and I agree–if you don’t you end up buying stuff you don’t need and eating out more. However, when our kids got older–we started having family council meetings every week and part of what we discussed and planned–were the weekly menus. We found that if the boys contributed with ideas on what they wanted to eat–I could get them helping and preparing in the kitchen and they were more invested in the meal. Either way–it helps with keeping life organized!

    1. What an absolutely amazing idea, Sharlene! The control freak that I am enjoys organizing everything on my own but I can definitely see the benefits of doing this. I’m going to try this out with Zach for sure 🙂

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