Meal planning. Do you get a twinge of fear when I say that? It’s a phrase that gets tossed around a lot, especially on Pinterest.
“Meal planning saves you time and money! You have to learn to meal plan correctly or you’ll waste your money!”
That seems like a lot of pressure. What if you’re bad at meal planning, or just plain don’t like it? You have kids, there’s just not enough time to make elaborate meal plans. Trust me, I get it.
These 5 tips for when you’re bad at meal planning can help you save time and money, which creates a lot less stress!
Make a theme for every meal
One of the easiest ways for me to meal plan is to base my meals on themes, and make sure not to use the same theme twice in one week.
So for me, I always include a Mexican dinner, a pasta dinner, and usually a breakfast for dinner. That’s three out of six dinners already taken care of (we eat leftovers one night a week)!
Think you can’t come up with good theme ideas? Pin this graphic and come back to it when you need inspiration.
Keep a binder of favorite recipes
When I decided to streamline my meal planning, I went through my binder full of printed recipes and weeded out multiples and recipes we never make anymore. I also realized I really don’t need four different pancake recipes or Mexican casserole recipes; that just makes my meal planning harder.
Now I have very simple recipes in each category that I can look to for inspiration!
If you’re more of a digital person, you can create a board on Pinterest specifically for those meals you’ve made and loved. I have a secret board called “Meal Rotation”, and whenever I make something I know we’ll do repeatedly, I add the recipe there for easy access.
Keep it simple- only one new meal a week
Have you ever gone crazy (on a new health kick, for example) and added all new, complicated recipes to the next week’s menu? And then wasted a ton of food because you either didn’t like the recipe or just didn’t make it? I’ve been there too, and it’s not fun. If you want to be adventurous, try just one new meal per week and see how it goes.
Re-use a large recipe for new dinners
I’m a huge fan of re-purposing leftovers! If you don’t like eating the same meal day after day, use your leftovers to create a whole new recipe.
For example, if you make a big pot of chili, use some of it for chili dogs, chili cheese fries, or chili spaghetti. My favorite way to re-use leftovers is making this recipe for Chicken Parmesan Sandwiches, and using the leftover chicken spaghetti sauce for a pasta bake. You’re basically getting a whole new dinner for free, and who doesn’t like free?
Batch cook a breakfast, eat all week
Sometimes it can be hard to make breakfast every morning. Your husband wants something quick that he can just heat up, and the kids get antsy when you cook…. or is that just my child?
Try making a large batch of something on the weekend that you can just reheat every morning; it’ll save you time and sanity. Items like my banana oat muffins and pumpkin french toast are pretty easy to make in bulk, and even freeze well!
Eat some of the same recipes every week
I don’t know about you, but there are some things I could just eat every week and not get tired of it- anything Mexican, for example. If you and your family don’t need a lot of variety, there’s nothing wrong with making the same recipe every week!
It’s something you know you all like, which will save money on wasted food, and you now know what you can stock up on to keep those ingredients on hand- like pasta, rice, salsa, etc.
It might take a few tries for you to get used to your meal planning style. There’s no right or wrong way to make a meal plan, so find a way that works for you!
To help you get started, I’ve created a FREE meal planning sheet that you can print and use every week. Just use the form below to get access!
Jaime is a Nutrition Coach and professional writer. She enjoys cooking easy meals, running, and learning more about food.
Jaime specializes in helping women with ADHD learn to meal plan and cook healthier meals without getting overwhelmed.