Meal planning. It’s everyone’s solution to making dinner time easier for busy moms. Sounds easy, right? So why are we all still talking about it and not doing it (myself included)? For me it’s because I never really knew where to start or how to maintain this. Time is precious and oh-so limited. Sitting down to write out a meal plan seems daunting, especially if you’re not one who cooks a lot or can just throw a recipe together. It takes research.

So how do you ACTUALLY start meal planning? I think I’ve figured it out. You can break this up into a few days because a couple of steps are prep work to make it easier going forward. Once these steps are done, the rest should be pretty straight forward. Here we go!

1.) Create a SIMPLE Recipe Binder

Photo by Thirty Handmade Days

Photo by Thirty Handmade Days

Do you see how I capitalized simple? I mean SIMPLE! Seriously, sit down and come up with 10-15 recipes or meal ideas in total. Break them down pretty evenly into breakfast, lunch and dinner options. I personally tend to do fewer breakfast and lunch options and give myself a bit more variety with dinner. I also keep the recipes simple and easy to shop for. There is nothing I hate more than trying to find somewhat obscure ingredients at the grocery store when I am there with the kids or in a hurry. One of the biggest mistakes people make when starting out with meal planning is thinking you need a different recipe every day for the rest of your life… You don’t need to start over every week. Creating a small binder of quality recipes that your family likes to eat is a fabulous way to get used to meal planning. Then you can add to your recipe book as you find new things you’d like to try.

Click here to get this great Recipe Binder printable I found from Thirty Handmade Days.

2.) Create Shopping Lists

Each recipe will have ingredients listed with them. I recommend organizing the ingredients in each recipe into a categorized list. That way when you are planning for the week, the recipes you pull will be easy to put into one categorized list which will save you time at the grocery store. You’ll be able to grab everything from one section of the store and move along instead of running back and forth.

3.) Create Theme Nights

The best example of this is Taco Tuesday. Creating a theme for a couple nights of the week will make meal planning that much easier. Perhaps your thing is Pasta on Mondays, or Fish on Fridays. If you do theme a night or two be sure to have two recipes for each theme in your book to start. This lets you change it up a bit and you can always add recipes to your book when you’re more comfortable with the process.

4.) Sit Down for 15 Minutes & Plan

The typical day to do the planning is Sunday, though you can do it whenever it makes sense in your week. Who says you need to plan Sunday through Saturday? Maybe you plan Tuesday through Monday instead. It’s all about making this process work for your schedule. So whenever that day is sit down with go through your simple recipe book. Make a list of the meals you want to plan for the week. Many people just plan dinners, though you can also plan breakfast and lunch as well. Planning all three meals for the day will make shopping much easier as well.

5.) Create Your List & Shop

If you took the time to create categorized shopping lists for your recipes you should be able to easily compile all of your ingredients into one large categorized list rather quickly. You can then add any staples, snacks, or drinks you might need to this list and head to the store. It should hopefully be a pretty easy trip with your nice organized list!


You can also try a service that takes care of all of this for you. There are a few, one that I came across recently is called Healthy Family Meal Plans. This one is geared toward seasonal and Paleo meals. You are sent a variety of recipes based on your profile. You can then drag and drop them into a calendar to create your meal plan for the week and a shopping list is automatically generated for you. So if you find the steps above to still be a bit too much I recommend trying out a service like this.

I’m looking forward to getting the ball rolling in my own household. I will be doing the binder this week. Wish me luck!