As a mom, it often seems like we’re either planning a meal, or getting asked about whats for dinner. The constant food thoughts & questions can create serious decision-making fatigue.
I don’t know about you– but the weeks I don’t plan are the ones that are the most stressful. Understanding how to meal plan consistently each week may be the biggest sanity & time-saver of all time!
Why meal plan?
IMAGINE IF meal planning saved only 5 minutes worth of thought for each meal– thats 15 extra minutes A DAY that could be used towards something else…a quick workout, some quiet time to yourself, or a shower!
But let me show you how it’s worth SO MUCH MORE than those 15 minutes…
- when you meal plan, grocery shopping is much more efficient
- if shopping is more efficient, you save tons of time by not running into the store 3-4x/week.
- by not making extra trips to the store, you save money and buy healthier things that align with your goals.
- When you save money and eat healthier, you have more energy and feel motivated to do more things. You actually have TIME to get a quick (15-minute at home) workout in.
- You actually have the ENERGY and TIME to play with the kids.
- When your shopping is efficient, you have everything you need for the week which avoids running to the store for random things.
- Good prep makes cooking so much more pleasurable and I come to the table in a MUCH better mood. I’m more likely to invite people over and open our home for hospitality. I’m more likely to ask meaningful questions and engage in conversation as a family.
Taking a few extra minutes to pen a plan is totally worth it.
So how can we simplify this process so we do this consistently?
3 Step Meal Rhythm
These “3 special steps”, help me organize my food thoughts into a weekly rhythm. The 3 step rhythm is:
The plan, purchase, prepare rhythm will each take place once/week. Although you could do all 3 all in 1 day, I find it works best over the course of 2-3 days (ie Plan on Fridays, Purchase on Saturdays, Prep on Sundays).
The key is making space for and designating specific times for each. I’ll go into more detail on specific days & timing in a bit.
The first step of meal planning, makes the last 2 steps much easier.
and more enjoyable.
It is truly the foundation for your week, and a necessary first step.
I have found that the times I haven’t meal planned are the times I’m not making progress towards health goals, not sticking to our budget, or spending too much time worrying about whats for dinner.
How to Meal Plan
There are lots of meal planning apps to help the process–from ones that provide inspiration to ones that do it all for you. But, there is nothing wrong with using good ol’ fashion pen and paper to write down a quick plan.
Personally, if I have pretty & festive meal-planning tablet or paper I’m MUCH more likely to actually meal plan.
I print several of these out at at time, sit down on Friday mornings with my cup of coffee and meal plan for the following week.
When to Meal Plan
Choose a day of the week that is your meal planning day and be as specific as possible— perhaps Friday’s over morning coffee, while the kids are napping, or after dinner.
Which day is best? Decide what your best shopping/grocery ordering day is, then bookend it with your Planning and Preparing times.
- Ordering groceries on Saturday? Plan on Friday and prep Sunday afternoon.
- Picking up groceries on Wednesday? Plan on Tuesday and do some prep work Wednesday afternoon.
Then, schedule it like you would a workout or hair appointment and make it a standing appointment. Consider it an act of love to your future self. Your Wednesday-self with want to hug your Friday-meal-planning-self.
Planning on a Friday for the following Monday-Sunday allows me to hit up the Farmers Market Saturday morning and still have time to place a grocery order for anything I didn’t get there.
Check out my Top 10 meal-planning hacks to help simplify your meal planning time.
This is your SHOPPING DAY! For me, this is the day I order groceries online for pickup the following day (or delivery, if that’s your thing).
Since pantry staples are already restocked during Monthly inventory, week-to-week shopping is usually simplified with fresh produce, meats, kids lunch items, and some frozen items.
With the goal of trying to maximize local/seasonal items I try to visit the Farmers Market first on Saturday morning, then fill in the gaps with grocery ordering later on.
If you’re part of a CSA, you could meal plan (based on what’s in your box) on the day of delivery, and then do the rest of your shopping after that.
I use the term “prepare” loosely.
I don’t mean full-blown meal prep in plastic containers that you see on Instagram.
My meal prep usually looks like washing/chopping up veggies, and making 1-2 recipes for the week. This could be a breakfast casserole and/or a muffin recipe for the kids lunches.
This could also mean pairing ingredients together for easier prep during the week.
For me, it also means putting things away according to my kitchen organization methods, since that makes dinner prep much easier.
Whatever degree of prep you have time for and makes your week go smoother…do that!!
My Weekly Flow
- FRIDAY PLAN (and make grocery list): Over a steaming cup of coffee each Friday morning, I write a meal plan for the following week. This also gives me time to decide what needs to be eaten up over the weekend to clean out the fridge, and what needs to be restocked. On the 3rd Friday of each month I add the Monthly Inventory for staples and order these to make sure staples are stocked before the beginning of the following month.
- SATURDAY PURCHASE: I order groceries Saturday night for grocery pickup on Sunday after church. With a list, doing this online literally takes 15 minutes TOPS. It gives me time to clean out/wipe down the fridge on Saturday morning in preparation for restocking.
- SUNDAY PREPARE: While I don’t have a big chunk of time for full-blown Instagram-worthy #mealprep, my prep time means organizing ingredients in their kitchen zones, preparing any ingredients that will make for simpler cooking, and compiling things for kids lunches. I usually also prepare 1-2 recipes (muffins, power balls, Sunday dinner, etc.) that I chose on Friday.
This weekly flow is truly one of the smallest time investments you can make in making your week go smoothly.
I hope you find freedom in this rhythm and come to the table stress-free and ready to engage with your loves.