Life is hectic. And moms’ lives can be a downright circus. But one thing that can contain and manage some of that crazy is planning.
I’ve been meal planning for years and frankly couldn’t get by without it. It’s a life saver for my time, my budget and my sanity.
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The benefits of meal planning & shopping lists
You know those terrifying dreams where you’re at school and you have a test you didn’t study for? Or you’re not wearing any pants? Or both?
That’s honestly close to how I feel walking into the grocery store without a list. I feel lost and start wandering the aisles aimlessly, close to ending up at the checkout with three bags of family size chips, a tub of cream cheese icing and a toothbrush.
But I understand not everyone is as neurotic as me. I mean, I’m not sure why, but whatever. So even if you’re a fly by the seat of your pants kind of shopper, or somewhere in between neurotic and breezy… there are still ways everyone can benefit from meal planning and shopping lists.
- It saves time in the store
- It saves money because you’re not buying things you don’t really need or already have
- It cuts down on wasted food
- You’re less likely to pick up a fast-food convenience meal (more expensive and less healthy) if you have a plan for dinner and all the ingredients are at your fingertips
Steps to successful meal planning
To get the full benefits of meal planning and shopping lists to save time and money, the work starts long before you get to the store.
- Start by scouring your fridge and pantry
Taking stock of what you already have will go a long way to cutting down on waste. And you’ll likely learn that you already have some of the ingredients you need. In that case, you may just need one more item to create a whole new meal.
- Check your calendar
It helps to know what’s coming up for your family over the next week so you can plan around activities and events. If you have a school fair coming up where you’ll be buying food, don’t plan a meal for that night. If you’re ferrying the kids to sports all night on Wednesdays, plan a crockpot meal you can dish up when you finally get home or plan leftovers for that night that can easily be reheated.
- Find recipes tailored to your schedule
Now that you know what kind of meals you need for each night, you can plan what to make. Pinterest is a great place to start for finding new recipes.
I’m also a big fan of cookbooks. I check out new ones from the library every chance I get and compile my favorite recipes from them in my own book.
- Write down your meal plan
Whether you like to plan one or two weeks at a time, I find it helpful to write it down. It takes the guesswork and stress out of deciding what to make each night. It also helps you keep the schedule on track.
I build in leftover nights to my meal plan to stretch the budget and reduce waste. But I need to make sure I make certain meals in the days leading up to leftover day or there would be no leftovers.
Also, my husband and I share dinner making duties as we juggle the kids’ extra-curricular activities, so it ensures we’re both on the same page.
- Make a shopping list
This is where all your planning really pays off because you can go to the grocery store with a precise list of what you need.
Believe me when I tell you that I am super particular about my shopping lists. I like to make them as easy to follow as possible. If not, I’ll get off track and forget to pick up things that are on the list staring me in the face.
So whether you like to group your list by types of items or by the layout of your favorite store, these printable shopping lists you see here can be customized to fit your style.
You might also like to combine your meal plan and shopping list on one page. You can do that with these pages.
Here’s a peek at my shopping list (below). I like to segment mine into:
- Recurring Items
- New Items
- Occasional Items
- Household Necessities
This is because I always seemed to come home from the store and realize I forgot some things, things we needed on a regular basis. And nothing annoys me more than needing to make multiple trips to the store throughout the week. It wastes time and money.
You can customize your own shopping list like this. When you download this printable PDF bundle, type in or write in your weekly recurring items and make copies of that page. That saves you from needing to write down the same things each week and cuts down on the likelihood that you’ll forget them.
The benefits of meal prep
If you want to take this whole prepping and organizing thing a step further and really rock the house, add meal prep to your weekly routine.
If it always seems like you’re rushed in the mornings and at mealtime and you’re reaching for unhealthy snacks… with meal prep you can:
- Save time by grouping small but time-consuming tasks like chopping, slicing and storing, into a one day a week prep session.
- Preserve some sanity by having prepped items at your fingertips when you need them.
- Cut down on calories by having healthy snacks like veggies and fruit already chopped and ready, which makes them just as easy to reach for as a bag of chips.
Steps to successful meal prep
I’m not gonna lie, this is not my favorite thing to do. So it’s good to make this process suck as little as possible, or you’ll put it off and never actually do it. I know, because I’ve put it off for so long.
- Set aside time
I like to do my meal prep on Sunday afternoons. It’s really up to you and your schedule, but try to pick a day that you can set aside an hour or two to get everything done that you need.
- Have a plan
Consult your meal plan for the week and prep anything you can that will make the process of cooking dinner, packing lunches and/or snacking easier and less stressful. Some good options are:
- Slicing veggies and fruit for snacking
- Chopping veggies and fruit for dinner recipes
- Prepping breakfast foods
Because I like a good list for ev-er-y-thing… I have a meal prep worksheet I fill out to make sure I don’t forget anything.
I also have some go-to recipes I like to use, especially for breakfast. Getting myself and two young kids out the door in the morning with a healthy, hot breakfast takes planning. And pre-made scrambled egg and oatmeal jars ready to heat or cook cuts down on a lot of time and stress.
- Have good storage options
There’s no sense doing all that chopping and slicing if you don’t have a good way to safely store the fruits of your labor. (pun intended)
I urge you not to use single-use plastic sandwich-type bags. There are a lot of great alternatives to plastic bags, like Tupperware-style, reusable containers, reusable storage bags or bags made from biodegradable material. Also, one of my favorite options is mason jars.
- Rock out or mellow out, make this time your own
Maybe you like to crank up some music and rock out. Maybe you like to light a candle and listen to softer tunes. Maybe you’re trying to make your way through all seven seasons of Gossip Girl on Netflix. I’m talking about you, not me of course. No judging here!
Whatever interests you, do it. You could even make this a time you look forward to each week.
Meal Plan Like A Mother! – 8-page printable pack
Want some help planning and prepping your meals like a boss? Then get the 8-page Meal Plan Like A Mother! printable pack here for just $1.99.
The Meal Plan Like A Mother! pack includes:
- Title Page
- 2 Meal Planning worksheets
- 2 Meal Planning & Shopping List combo worksheets
- 2 Shopping List worksheets
- Favorite Recipes worksheet
Prep It Like It’s Hot – printable pack
Get the Prep It Like It’s Hot printable pack here for only $0.99, which includes:
- Title page
- Weekly & Nightly Prep worksheet
- Meal Prep Recipes worksheet
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