What’s for dinner?
Who’s cooking tonight?
What do I need to pick up at the store on my way home?
Do we have any meetings tonight?
Do any of the kids have sports tonight?
If you have a busy family like ours, you know how the end of the day can get crazy fast. From the time school is out until bedtime can be a daily, overwhelming, mishmash of tasks, appointments, and sports schedules. And to top it all off everyone is hungry.
While we can’t always control sports schedules and meeting times, we can certainly do something to make dinner less hectic. Implementing a routine of using a Weekly Meal Plan has saved our family valuable time and money. Afternoons can still get a little hectic from time to time, but having a plan for dinner takes a lot of stress out of the mix.
You’re probably thinking that you don’t have time for weekly meal planning. That’s OK, I used to think that, too. However, after meal planning continuously for the past 3 months I can tell you it has greatly simplified our family’s afternoon and evening routines.
Since we’ve been using a Weekly Meal Plan, our family is
- making less trips to the grocery store,
- eating out less, and
- spending more time together for dinner.
Sound like good reasons to give it a try?
To help you get started I’ve broken the process down into 8 easy-to-follow steps. I challenge your family to try a Weekly Meal Plan for 8 weeks and see how much it benefits you.
8 Steps To Get the Most From A Weekly Meal Plan
1. Print 8-10 Copies of a Weekly Meal Plan Sheet
Start by printing 8-10 copies of a Weekly Meal Plan sheet. You’ll need space to write down a simple menu for each day of the week and space to write your grocery list. You can make your own Weekly Meal Plan or use some I’ve created for free. Having several copies on hand will motivate you to get started and keep up the meal plans for several weeks. Before you know it, meal planning will become a natural part of your routine.
2. Check Your Calendar
Before you even think about food, check your calendar. You don’t need to write out every single detail of your day, but do list afternoon and evening activities that could affect dinner time. Use a bright color of ink to list calendar items on your Weekly Meal Plan. This schedule reminder will help you plan meals that will work for each day and make it easy for everyone in the family to remember where they are supposed to be and when.
3. What’s in the freezer and pantry?
Save yourself some time and money by using what you already have on hand first. If you’ve already got ground beef and chicken breasts in the freezer, then 2 of your meals this week can be planned around those proteins. Same goes for veggies and side dishes. Spending a few minutes checking the freezer and pantry can jumpstart your weekly meal plan.
4. What’s on sale?
Next, check your grocer’s weekly sales ad. Every week grocery stores publish a sales ad listing what items are on sale. Look for items marked BOGO (Buy One Get One Free) and plan some meals around those deals. Flip over to the “meat” section of the ad and get a couple of more dinner ideas there.
Most grocery stores post their sales ads online, so you can search for your favorite store’s website and find their list of weekly sale items. Another way to save even more time and money, is to use a couponing or deal website like TrueCouponing.com. These websites do a lot of the work for you by listing the items on sale and marking the best deals. Plus, you might find a couple of coupons to print while you’re there!
5. Write Down Meals and Create Your Grocery List
By the time you get to this step you’ll probably already have a few dinner ideas on your Weekly Meal Plan. Now it’s time to fill in the rest. What are some of your family’s favorite meals? Did you save a new recipe on Pinterest you’d like to try? If you’re planning to eat out one night, add that to your meal plan, too. Don’t forget to plan a couple of super easy meals into your week like soup and sandwiches or breakfast for dinner. Keeping it simple will help you stick to your plan.
As you fill in your dinners for the week, start compiling your grocery list. Use a Weekly Meal Plan sheet that breaks down your grocery list into sections like produce, meats, refrigerated, frozen, etc. Having your grocery list broken down into categories will save you time in the store. It will be easy to get all the produce items at the same time instead of having to backtrack when you’re halfway done shopping.
6. Don’t Forget Cleaning Supplies, Pet Items, Paper, Lunches, Snacks and Desserts.
Once your meals are planned, take a few minutes to think of other items you will need for the week. Some things to consider are cleaning supplies like laundry detergent, dish soap or multi-purpose cleaners. If you have pets, do they need food or treats? What about paper towels or toilet paper? Do you need anything for packing lunches, snacks or desserts? Add those items to your grocery list.
7. Detach Grocery List and Post Meal Plan
Here’s where you start feeling super organized! Cut the grocery list portion off of your meal plan. Go ahead and put it in your purse or wallet so you’ll have it when you go shopping. Post the menu portion in a place that’s easy for the entire family to see, like on your refrigerator. Now when it’s time to cook dinner, you simply check your Weekly Meal Plan and start cooking! The kids can also check the menu instead of asking that dreaded “What’s for dinner?” question over and over again.
8. Save Your Weekly Meal Plan for Future Dinner Ideas
At the end of the week, instead of throwing out your old menu save it. Keep them handy in a file or drawer so you can access them for future meal ideas. Try to add some new dinners each week, but grab a couple of old favorites as well. Before you know it you’ll have quite a list of meals to choose from that will save you even more time planning meals in future weeks.
So, are you up for the challenge? Try these 8 easy steps for 8 weeks. Download my free Weekly Meal Plan sheets, and get started right away! I’d love for you to let me know how implementing a Weekly Meal Plan impacts your family. Please come back and leave a comment. I can’t wait to hear from you!