This post may contain affiliate links. Read my whole disclosure here.
If you are a busy mom you probably know how difficult it can sometimes be to prepare healthy meals for the whole family. In a day full of tasks and activities, having something tasty for dinner can be challenging. I know that a lot of moms enjoy spending time cooking but this is certainly not my case! I want my family to eat healthy but I also want to find effective ways to make sure that meal preparation is not taking over too much of my time. This is why in the last few months I wanted to learn more about how to create a family meal plan.
The idea of having a family meal plan sounded great but I was afraid that it would be too difficult for me to put it into practice. I have postponed implementing a meal plan over and over again because of this. But I was only getting more frustrated about the chaos of our meals, so I decided that it’s time for a change! So I’ve started to search for tips and ideas and I’ve found out what works best for us.
Now I can share with you all that I have learned about how to create a family meal plan and I totally encourage you to try this! Meal planning will help you save a lot of time and money! It will also help you plan healthier meals for your family. And it will eliminate all that stress about finding meal ideas every day!
How to create a family meal plan: the first steps
Getting started is the hardest part of meal planning. Here are some tips that were really useful for me and I hope that will help you too!
1. Decide what kind of planner to use
You can either use a printed planner (check out our printable planner at the end of the article) or a digital planner (like Google Calendar). You should also decide if you want to meal plan ahead for one week, or two weeks, or even a whole month. At the beginning, it would be better to keep it simple and start with a weekly meal plan.
2. Set a time each week for meal planning
Be sure to select a day that you will sit down and plan the meals for next week. For example, you can do it on Saturday morning. This way you’ll be sure that you can take care of the grocery shopping according to the list by the end of the week.
3. Create a list of your family’s favorite meals
You will certainly need inspiration for creating the plans. One good way to start is to create a master list with your family’s favorite meals. Involve all the family members in this process and create together a list full of tasty ideas!
4. Create a master recipe list
Besides the favorite meals, you will need inspiration for new ideas to try. The best way to find it is to create a master recipe list. This list will give you a lot of alternatives to choose from when creating the meal plan.
It’s also important to save and organize the recipes. You can do this online by creating a Pinterest board with recipes or by saving the links to the recipes in a Google Document. It helps to have separate boards/documents for breakfast recipes, lunch recipes, and dinner recipes.
How to create a family meal plan: making the weekly plan
Here are 4 simple steps to follow when designing the weekly meal plan.
1. Print the weekly planner and check the family schedule.
The first step is to check the family schedule to see if some of the meals will not be eaten home. You can then cross off those boxes from the planner. Also, take into consideration the busy days when you’ll need some quick recipes. Once you know your family’s schedule, you can plan accordingly.
2. If you have theme dinners, add them to the list.
Theme dinners can ease the meal planning process. It means that you’ll have some specific week days with a particular theme. You can have pizza dinner on Friday, taco dinner on Thursday, or breakfast for dinner on Monday. 🙂 You can also plan a leftovers night or a family pizza night.
3. Check all the ingredients that you already have in the house.
Before deciding the recipes for next week, you need to check your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. It’s easier to plan meals around the food you already have available. This will also help you reduce the grocery bill.
4. Start completing the meal plan.
Start with the meals that can be done from what you have at hand. Then add new meals to the list. Check the master lists for inspiration.
It’s more efficient to try to overlap ingredients for more meals. This will save you money and time at the grocery store. Try to avoid adding to the meal plan different recipes that don’t fit together. This means buying a lot of different ingredients and will only add frustration to the whole process.
5. Write your grocery list.
This is actually not a different step. It should be done while you fill out the meal plan. This way you’ll be sure that you don’t forget something and you’ll not need to go through the list again. Make sure to write down the quantities for each item on the list and to cross off all the ingredients that you already have.
How to create a family meal plan: next steps
Once you have a routine of planning meals, you will begin to feel the benefits! You will be able to save money on groceries, eat healthier, and spend more time with your kids (instead of spending it in the kitchen or in the grocery store).
The hardest part is to be able to create a habit of spending half an hour meal planning every week. But think about the fact that you just spend 30 minutes on planning a week’s worth of meals! In time, it gets really easy and quick!
Here is the last tip that can be used after a couple of months of meal planning. You can create a rotation menu that will make things incredibly easy! Just save all the weekly meal plans and grocery lists. When you’ll have a minimum of 5 plans, you will be able to rotate them every month. Repeating a regular set of meals for 5 weeks will allow you to always have inspiration for family meals without repeating the same meal too often!
It sounds great, isn’t it? 🙂 I am only at the beginning of this process of creating family meal plans but I think that it’s a great idea! If you also want to save money and time and create your own family meal plan, I hope that these tips will help you!
Download our printable meal planner
The printable planner contains the meal plan template, the “Favorite meals” template, the “Master recipe list” template and the grocery list template.
To download the printable you just need to enter your email address below. This will also give you access to the Playful Notes community and our weekly newsletter. You will find there a lot of other ideas and our full printable collection.
If you have any other suggestions regarding meal planning, I will be happy to find them out! I’m sure that I still have a lot to learn about this!
photo credit: Canva.com