MY FAMILY MEAL PLANNING PROCESS
What if I told you there was a way to get organised, save money, and reduce your waste when it comes to food? It sounds too good to be true – especially if you have a busy family! However, there is a way and that is through thoughtful family meal planning.
Creating a meal plan can provide so many benefits, including:
- Staying organized – you know exactly what you are cooking for the week.
- Transparency – knowing what you are cooking and what day you are cooking allows you to plan precisely for it.
- Reducing your grocery bill – having a meal plan ensures you buy only what you need.
- Reducing waste – only buying what you need means that there is less to throw away at the end of the week.
Of course, this isn’t an innovative idea at all. Perhaps you already plan your meals, or perhaps you tried it but fell out of it after a few weeks.
This approach is different though. I want to show you the five-step process to family meal planning that keeps me organised for not only my meal plan this week, but for all those to come and in the weeks and months ahead.
STEP ONE – GET ORGANISED
This step takes a little up-front work, but it is so worth it. The first step is all about creating a meal directory. It sounds a little odd, I know, but a little effort in this step will save you stress for months to come. Sometimes there is nothing worse than sitting in front of a blank piece of paper trying to think of seven meals that your family will eat. Therefore, creating a directory of meals that your family has tried and enjoyed means you simply choose from a pre-approved list.
To make this easy, break it down into categories such as beef meals, chicken meals, other meat meals, and meat-free meals. Under each heading, list all the meals you like in that category. For example, under beef, you could list out chili and rice, steak and chips, and a beef cobbler. Under other meat dishes, you could have a pepperoni pizza, pork chops, and mashed potato and sausage casserole. You get the idea.
What that means is that you end up with a directory full of tasty meal ideas that you know your family will enjoy. By keeping them in separate categories, it allows you to try something from each list to mix it up a little each week.
Want to try something new? No problem! Make it, and if it passes the taste test, then add it to the directory. This directory can be in a notebook (like the Recipe Bank), on a spreadsheet, or a list stuck to the side of the fridge. Whatever works for you.
STEP TWO – START PLANNING
Once you have your directory, the next step is easy. All you need to do is transfer seven of those meals into a plan to kick off your family meal planning for the week.
It could be that you’d like to try a meat-free Monday to try and reduce your meat intake. Not a problem; just choose something from the meat-free list. Perhaps you will be out of the house all afternoon on Tuesday. Maybe choose something for the crockpot.
If you are cooking with your crockpot, then you can pour through your cookery books and magazines to find any new recipes you would like to try. Space them out through the week and fill in any gaps from your meal directory. Once they are a success, they can be added to your directory.
STEP THREE – MAKE A LIST
So now you know what your family will be eating for the week, you just need a shopping list. Simply use your meal plan and transfer the ingredient information over into a list of items you will need from the store. Don’t forget breakfasts, lunches, and snacks too if you haven’t already built them into your weekly meal plan. You can write your list on a scrap piece of paper, type it out, or put it all in your Master Grocery List.
STEP FOUR – GET SHOPPING
Here’s where it could all very easily come undone. You have a plan for the week and a shopping list in hand. Now all you must do is stick to it. Resist those buy one, get one half price deals and step away from the 30% off aisle. Instead, ask yourself these three questions:
- Is it on the list?
- Do you really need it?
- Will it keep for another week by freezing it?
If the answer to any of these is yes, then by all means indulge. Keep in mind though, that those deals are often in place to lure us in to buy two of something when we didn’t even want one. Therefore, instead of saving 30%, we’re spending money we never planned to in the first place.
Can’t resist the temptation? Then consider online shopping options such as Amazon’s Prime Pantry. If you find yourself adding lots of little things to your cart as you browse through the grocery store, then maybe what you spend in delivery costs will be offset by the absence of those little unplanned items which all add up.
Some people save a lot of money by shopping around different stores and looking for the best deals. Others benefit from removing the temptation for impulse buying and stick to their online carts. It’s all about finding what works for you and your family.
STEP FIVE – SIT BACK AND ENJOY THE BENEFITS
There we have it: an uncomplicated process from food directory through to a meal plan and shopping list. Now it’s time to sit back and enjoy the benefits.
With a little upfront work with the meal directory, this is a stress-free approach to meal planning. This process should leave you with more time and less stress as well as more money and less waste at the end of the week. Now, what doesn’t sound great about that?