Hey you guys! I am thrilled to have Annemarie from the blog Real Food Real Deals to this fantastic guest post on meal planning for you!
“Putting together a weekly meal plan is one of the best habits to develop when you transition
to a homemade lifestyle. Having a meal plan in place makes life less stressful and it makes
mealtime healthier. Meal planning will help you to save money and time, too.” – Conquering
Your Kitchen, pp. 41 & 54
It would be nice if healthy, homemade food magically appeared on the table each night, but
unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. One of the most important things you can do for your
sanity is to plan out your meals ahead of time.
Sometimes that’s easier said than done. Most people don’t really like meal planning, so it’s easy
to put it off. I used to plan meals a couple days at a time, and I was constantly anxious about how
to get healthy food on the table for my family. If I didn’t know what we were having for dinner
on a particular night, I would be distracted until I figured it out.
My husband saw how much the dinner situation was grating on me, so he tried to help. We put
together a binder full of all the recipes we liked. He bought me an online meal planning program
for Christmas one year. But nothing seemed to be taking the stress out of it all. After years of
this, things finally changed for me.
I made the commitment to sit down once a week for 15 minutes and plan all our dinners for
the week ahead.
Everything changed when I started doing this. The benefits were immediately clear:
• Less stress: I felt calm and in control when dinnertime came around.
• More free time: I didn’t have to run out to the store 5 times a week. I could make one
shopping list based on the meal plan and go shopping once.
• More money in my wallet: I wasn’t spending extra money with all those extra shopping
How to Meal Plan
Pick a time frame: Some people like to plans their meals for two weeks at a time, or even a
month. Others like to organize their menu for 3 or 4 days at a time. I’m a once-a-week planner,
and this works well for me based on how I shop for groceries. Choose a time frame that makes
sense for you.
Gather your resources: It’s helpful to build a long list of recipes that you’re comfortable
making and that your family will enjoy. You can organize your recipes in a binder or on your
computer. To build up your arsenal of recipes, I recommend trying one new recipe each week.
You can consult magazines and websites, and talk to your friends about what they like to make. I
keep a Pinterest board called “Recipes to Try,” and I consult this board when I’m out of ideas for
my meal plan.
Plug in your meals: Look at your calendar for the week to decide which nights you’ll need
something quick and which nights you’ll have some time to cook. Determine your meals based
on the food you have on hand as well as what’s on sale at the store. You can record your meals
on paper, a chalkboard, or an online calendar like Google Calendar. Try using this template to
write out a plan for a week of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.
Consider theme nights: Some people like to have a particular dinner theme for a given night of
the week. For example, every Tuesday night could be Mexican, and every Friday could be pizza.
Other theme night ideas include pasta, slow cooker, and breakfast for dinner.
Be flexible: I set a meal plan each week, but I don’t think I’ve ever followed it precisely. As
my children have gotten older, more and more conflicts have arisen in our dinnertime schedule.
When a conflict comes up with dinner prep, I roll with it. Tuesday’s dinner can easily be
swapped with Wednesday’s as long as I have the ingredients on hand. I always keep soups and
other complete meals ready to go in the freezer so I can do a quick defrost if that’s all I can
manage one night.
Meal planning is one of the best things you can do to save time and money while minimizing
stress. The hardest part is getting yourself to do it. The rest is easy!
Do you meal plan? We’d love to hear how it works for you in the comments. We could all use
This is a guest post written by Annemarie Rossi. Annemarie is the author of Conquering Your
help families eat real food on a budget. Annemarie’s work has been featured in many places,
including the Non-GMO Cookbook, Edible Boston magazine, Fox News Online, Babble, and