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Meal planning is what I’m all about here at Undomestic Mom but I realized I haven’t done a detailed post about how to meal plan for you guys yet. I really want to dive deep into execution today. I want to take you from a blank piece of paper to a completely finished meal plan and grocery list. Meal planning is not hard but it does take a little bit of work.
When you’re ready to learn how to meal plan, print my free Monthly Meal Planning Guide, grab a pencil or my favorite erasable pens, and go into a quiet room. I love playing Spa music while I work; it helps me focus! Then get ready to create a meal plan that will save you hours over the next month.
Weekly or Monthly Meal Planning
I get asked a lot if people should be meal planning weekly or monthly. Ultimately it’s up to you and what works for your schedule. Currently, I meal plan monthly and love it. Monthly meal planning is batching the task so I don’t have to think about it every week. I used to meal plan weekly and it that worked too! If you are new to meal planning, I’d give monthly a try first. Use an erasable pen or pencil so you can move things around, which will happen as things come up.
If you’re using my FREE Monthly Meal Planning Guide, I give you a weekly and monthly calendar to work with. Take the monthly calendar and date it and then mark all the “no dinner” days, days you’ll be eating at a friend’s house, parties or vacation days. Now you have a blank canvas to work with.
Use my 7 Keys of Meal Planning to Fill it In
In my FREEMonthly Meal Planning Guide, I give you the basics of my “7 Keys to Successful Meal Planning”. Read it over and using the strategies, add your meal to your calendar. Start with adding one new recipe a week to each week. Check me out on Pinterest for lots of great ideas! Next add your family meals, about 2 a week.
Remember to think of your weekly schedule when putting them on the calendar. When making a new recipe, choose the days you have more time to cook, maybe that’s the weekend for your family. The days that are more chaotic should contain the simpler meals. So if your kids have swim practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays, those are the days to implement your crockpot meals or 15-minute dinners.
Next, fill in the remaining days with my Meal Helpers. Meal Helpers are things like freezer section freezer meals, breakfast for dinner or rotisserie chicken dinners. (Detailed more in my monthly guide that you can grab HERE!) These are meals that keep you from swinging through the drive-thru multiple times a week. They are easy to make and get on the table quick! Don’t discount them because they are easy. We as busy moms need these things in our arsenal. I make breakfast for dinner once a week in my house. My family loves it! It’s fun, affordable and quick. Use what works in these busy seasons of life and don’t think twice about it.
Write Your Shopping List (Don’t forget lunches, breakfasts and snacks)
Now it’s time to write your list. This is half the battle in all honesty. You cannot go into a store or onto Instacart without an list. First off, you won’t get everything you need. It’s just not possible to remember all the ingredients, things you’ve run out of over the past week and your usual snacks, breakfast and lunch items. I’ve yet to meet a woman (or man) with that super power. I give you a blank shopping list printable in my FREE Monthly Meal Planning guide, so be sure to grab it!
So write your list out! It doesn’t waste time, I promise. It saves time. For my dinners, I like to make what I call meal plan cards. I take an index card and on one side I write the name of the meal. On the other side, I write the ingredients I’ll need to make it. I leave out staples I always have on hand like salt & pepper, seasonings, olive oil, etc.
For example, if I was to make a meal plan card for my Broccoli Alfredo Bake I would write Broccoli Alfredo Pasta on one side. On the other side, I’d write “Penne, heavy cream, bag of parmesan, frozen broccoli, mozzarella block”. When I make my meal plan, I pull my meal planning cards from the stack I have and then I can easily write the needed ingredients on my list.
I don’t have to go rummaging for the recipe while writing my meal plan because if you’re anything like me, you pull your phone out just to look at a recipe on Pinterest and then 30 minutes later you realize you were supposed to be writing your meal plan. LOL!! So keeping a stack of meal planning cards in your meal planning binder eliminates that distraction. Below is an example of my meal planning card.
For daily items, I keep a dry erase board on my fridge and we add things to it as we run out. For lunches and breakfast, I just jot down a few items that we want that week. Sometimes it’s frozen waffles, eggs, mac and cheese and turkey. Other weeks it’s pancake mix, oatmeal, nuggets and PB&J. Even though we get these items weekly, I still write it down because I will forever have #mombrain. Better to write it down and not need it than not write it down and have no clue what to buy.
Getting Your Groceries
Four months ago I became a full-time Instacart user and I never looked back. I’m cheap as all hell so you better believe I priced out using Instacart, Click List, Peapod and compared those figures to going grocery shopping myself. What I found that shopping at Aldi via Instacart was the cheapest option for getting groceries delivered to me so that’s what I went with.
For complete transparency, let me give you the cost breakdown of using Instacart. If you purchased approximately $100 worth of groceries from Aldi yourself, getting the same groceries delivered to you via Instacart would cost $129. Groceries $115 (because they are marked up about 15% from the actual price – this is how Instacart makes money), $5 tip, $4 delivery fee and $5 service fee.
However, I have a yearly membership that costs $99 and that waives my delivery fee and service fee every week. So I pay $115 in groceries, $5 tip and $2 for delivery and service fee ($99 divided by 52 weeks because I use it every week). So I pay approximately $122/week in groceries where I used to pay $100. So I pay $22 a week for that convenience and let me tell you. It’s worth every penny. It saves me time and sanity.
BUT!!! There’s something else that happens when you use a grocery delivery service and it can’t be forgotten. You naturally save money by staying out of the store. NO MORE IMPULSE BUYS! You plug in exactly what you need for the week and that’s what arrives. No more grabbing extra snacks or veggies or random stuff from the home goods aisle. My grocery bill naturally decreased just by using Instacart and it was amazing.
Now, if you don’t have this service available to you or it’s just not something you are into, that’s fine. I just like to mention it because honestly it’s been such a game changer for me. You can certainly have meal planning success without it:)
Write your list and go to the store, preferably without kids in tow, and try to stick to it as best as you can. Get what you need and skip the aisles you don’t need to go down. I’m talking to you Aldi Home Goods aisle! The biggest thing is just getting everything you need so you don’t have any dinner snafus.
Keep Your Plan Visible
Okay so you planned your meals and wrote your list. Then you got your groceries and they are put away, what next? Tape or magnet that meal plan up somewhere visible. This part is extremely important because you need to be reminded everyday what’s on the plan so you can pull out meat to be defrosted in the morning or put something in the crockpot before you start your day.
It can also help with meal prep. Maybe you need diced onions for the next two nights so you chop them both tonight. Or you are planning to use the leftover pulled pork to make tacos so you remind your family not to take leftovers for lunch. Plus, it let’s the rest of the family know what’s for dinner so they can stop asking, lol!
Keep a Few Back-Up Meals on Hand
Best laid plans, amirite?! Sometimes we have our plan set, we got our groceries, we planned a meal that won’t take much time and our family will love. Then life comes in and laughs in your face. Sometimes it’s getting hit with the flu, other times you forgot to throw your dinner in the crockpot before you left for work and then there are times where you forgot to get a key ingredient even though you wrote it down. C’est la vie.
For those reasons, I always keep a backup meal on hand. Something like my Ravioli Lasagna because all the ingredients can be kept on hand for over a month but even something as simple as a frozen pizza will work. You just gotta have a backup on hand at all times in case life happens. That way you don’t end up ordering take-out that wasn’t planned or swinging through the drive-thru.
That’s how to meal plan! It takes a little practice to get into the but it’s easy once you start. You don’t have to be perfect at it! Remember, ambition kills meal planning, keep it simple. If you have any questions, I’d love for you to comment below and I’ll be sure to answer them.
Taran is a self-proclaimed undomestic mom. She thrives as a stay-at-home-mom by consistently carving out time for herself and practicing realistic self-care. As a busy mom of 3, she knows that if mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy! With a focus on how SAHMs can carve out time for themselves everyday, she teaches fellow SAHMs how they can do the same.