A Meal Planning Starter Guide from an Accidental Meal Planner

I am an accidental meal planner. I started meal planning and didn’t even realize it shortly after my husband and I moved in together. Prior to dating, I would randomly go to the store every once in a while to stock up. Most of the time, I made trips to the grocery store for one-off meals. Once we moved in together, I was finally shopping for more than one person. So, before I went to the store I made a list. To figure out what I put on that list of grocery items, I made a list of meals I wanted to make for the week. I thought this was normal behavior – apparently this is what is called “meal planning.”

Meal Planning

Fast forward a few years (ok, eight years), and I can’t function without my weekly meal plan. If we have a crazy week, I don’t get the meal plan and grocery shopping done. We end up blowing our dining out budget for the month in one week by eating way too much fast food or frozen pizza.


Starting Out with Meal Planning:

  • Look at your week. I am old-school, I still keep a written planner. If my husband is traveling that week, I know not to make labor intensive meals on those nights. Or, if I am going to have a late meeting, I know not to make something that will take an hour.
  • Keep a list of your go-to meals. I posted about my 12 favorites awhile back, and I have various ways of storing these. I’ve used apps like Paprika, but most of the time I just refer to a Pinterst board where I save our family favorites.
  • Don’t forget breakfast and lunch. Lunch for my husband and I are usually leftovers. However, if I am making something that doesn’t keep well, I know I need to plug in another (easy) lunch for us.
  • Flexibility is key. The only nights I designate for specific meals are nights when I know there will be challenges, like if my husband is traveling. The rest of the meals just get put on a list. I can make whatever I have energy and a taste for when I get home.
  • Leftovers also help with flexibility. Again – if you know you’re going to have a busy night, double a keep-able meal the night before and use the leftovers the next night for dinner.
  • Always have back-up meals. Sometimes I blow through my energy by Tuesday night and I don’t have it in me to make actual food on Wednesday. I always keep pantry staples on hand as back-ups – eggs, frozen hamburgers, tuna, etc.

After I’ve decided on the meals for the week, I make the list of stuff we need. Be sure to check your pantry so you don’t double up. I am notorious for forgetting to look and end up stock piling things. (I once had six jars of mayonnaise in my cupboard.)

Another tip is to keep track of the staples you need throughout the week. I do this in my planner, but you could also use your cell phone or an app. Things like milk, flour and, ahem, mayo.

I am sure there is a lot more I could be doing to make my lists more efficient and economical. For now, that is all this mama can manage!

What meal planning tips do you have?

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