A Helpful Step-by-Step Guide to Meal Planning

meal plan, diet plan, eating healthy

Want to start meal planning, but you’re not sure where to start? I know exactly how you feel! This post is going to walk you through the step-by-step process of meal planning.

Don’t let that make you feel overwhelmed. This post is going to do the opposite. I’m going to break it down in simple easy to follow instructions.

Plus… I’ll throw in a few freebies at the bottom. >>> Meal Planning Worksheets + A list of our favorite meals to get you started! (See… I told you this would be a breeze!)

Let’s get started!

meal planning guide

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A Helpful Step-by-Step Guide to Meal Planning

Why Meal Plan?

One reason that I make a meal plan is to save money! Who doesn’t want to save money? Right!? We have 7 people in our home & grocery bills can get high. Let’s not even talk about eating out…. that’s where it hits hard!

With a large family, you can’t even grab a quick meal at McDonald’s for under $30. If you’re eating out 4 times a week or so, it starts to add up pretty quick. $240 every two weeks… that’s a lot of groceries! Spending that money on groceries gets you a lot more food than the 8 meals you got from Mcdonalds.

Here’s a post I wrote on my homeschool blog about how I grocery shop for $400 per month with a 7 person family.

Even when you don’t have a large family, meal planning still saves you plent of $$.

It’s saves you time, too. I hate not knowing what to cook when dinner rolls around.

Meal Planning Step-By-Step

FREE Meal Planning Worksheet

Monthly Meal Planner

Blank Calendar

Meal Planning For Beginners!

  1. Grab a meal planning worksheet or a blank calendar.

    I like to use a monthly meal planning calendar! (There’s a couple free options above.)

  2. Take note of what days you are busy.

    Use a highliter to highlight these days or place a dot next to the day. You’ll want to plan lighter meals on days you have less time for cooking.

  3. Make a list of all the meals you know your family loves to eat. Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner.

    Out of ideas?? Ask everyone in the house for at leas 2 meals they like you to cook. I always get a ton of great ideas from doing this.

  4. Mark down which meals are easy & which ones take more time.

    Crockpot meals, instant pot meals, etc. = easy. Casseroles & anything that takes more than 15-20 minutes including prep = other. Mark your easy meals with a dot or highlight them like you did your busy days.

  5. Start making your plans!

    Fill in your calendar or meal planning worksheet. Start with adding easy meals to busy days & fill in the rest with your remaining meals.

  6. Make a Grocery List.

    Look at your calendar and write down the ingredients you’ll need for each meal. You can also do this as you’re filling out your meal plan.

Tips for Making the Most of Meal Planning

My Favorite Types of Meals >>>

  • Crockpot Meals
  • Instant Pot Meals
  • Skillet Meals
  • Freezer Meals

Why?

All of these meals are super quick and easy. As a homeschool mom blogger of 5 kids, that’s exactly what I need in my life! Even with a meal plan, I like to keep things simple.

Printable List of Our Favorite Meals

Take Inventory

I like to go through my pantry to see what we have already. (Another money saving hack!) It helps me decide which meals I want to make and which ones I want to scratch. This step will help immensely when you make your grocery list.

Eating Out

Make sure to plan a few days for eating out. We like to plan at least 1 day per week for eating out. That keeps me from getting burnt out & gives us grace if someone gets sick or I’m too tired to cook.

Don’t Create Unrealistic Meal Plans

Instead of following a premade meal plan, use meals you know and love. Or use meals that have ingredients you know your family will enjoy.

Create a Master list of Your Favorite Recipes

Start a list of favorite recipes. Fill in tried and true recipes you love. Then add new meals you try & love. Eventually you’ll have a whole bunch of great meals to pick & choose from making meal planning a breeze!

Use Recipes You Want to Try

We all have a Pinterest board or two full of delicious recipes we want to try. Pit those recipes to use and add one or two in each week.

There are times I soley plan our meals from Pinterest. Usually when I’m wanting something new & different.

Choose Easy Lunches & Breakfasts

We homeschool between the hours of 8am to 1 or 2pm each day. So having easy grab-n-go options are so helpful for us.

Examples for breakfast:

  • Toast
  • Eggs
  • Oatmeal
  • Cereal
  • Fruit
  • Freezer Burritos

Examples for lunch:

  • Lunch meat
  • Cheeses
  • Crackers
  • Pretzels
  • Veggies
  • Fruits
  • Wraps

What’s on our meal plan?

Here’s what we put on this month’s dinner meal plans. You can grab the printable version of this here. (Recipes included)

  • Burgers & Fries
  • Stroganoff
  • Tacos
  • Order Pizza
  • Ranch Crusted Pork Chops, Broccoli, & Mac n Cheese
  • White Chicken Enchiladas
  • Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Corn
  • Taco Salad
  • Chicken & Noodles (Similar to Chicken n Dumplings, but with egg noodles)
  • Millon Dollar Spaghetti
  • Crack Chicken Sandwhiches & Loaded Ranch Waffle Fries
  • Brocolli Cheddar Chicken Casserole
  • Chicken n Mushrooms
  • Cajun Kielbasa Stir Fry
  • Lasagna, Salad, & Garlic Bread
  • Chicken Alfredo
  • Ranch Chicken Tacos
  • Spaghetti
  • Chicken n Dumplings
  • Yum Yum Chicken Stir Fry

My meal plan usually leaves out the weekend because we go out to eat or go over to the family’s house a lot on the weekend. So, we play it by ear on the weekend or do grill out foods.

More Meal Ideas

Make Ahead Caseroles for Busy Nights

Freezer Crockpot Family Meals

Slow Cooker Dump Meals

15 Meals you can Make in 15 Minutes

21 Cheap and Easy Dinners

50 Quick and Healthy Lunch Ideas

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