Don’t Wanna Meal Plan? Here’s How to do it, Anyway!

Meal plan when you don’t want to? That’s hard, right? I know the feeling! You’re in good company.

Why Meal Plan Anyway?

Sometimes we wonder if planning and preparing dinners each night for our families is really worth it, especially if they eat and are gone again in less than ten minutes, leaving us to spend the next hour cleaning up dinner.

But eating meals at home is so beneficial. It gives you more control over what you eat, it will save you money, and it will encourage eating together as a family, which, especially with kids, can be so detrimental to a healthy family relationship, even if it does only last for ten minutes each night.  

There are many benefits to eating meals at home! But if you’ve struggled with figuring out what to serve for dinner, or how to bring your family closer, then you really could benefit from meal planning.

How many times has dinner time come around and you have no idea what to serve, again?! We’ve all been there! And although the idea of homemade meals at home with your family each night sounds nice, it usually doesn’t sound doable.

So that’s where meal planning comes in. And if you think meal planning sounds like it’s not for you, let me convince you otherwise. 

Change Your Mindset

First, let’s take a step back and change how you view meal planning. It can seem overwhelming at first. But once you realize that meal planning doesn’t have to be as complicated as it might sound and that actually it’s easier than what you’re probably doing now (cause if you’re like me, you’re likely planning your dinners one day at a time and running to the store almost as often).

So just breathe! Trust me, it’s easier than you might think.  

Don’t Keep Searching for the Perfect Meal Planning System

There are always more articles and more ideas of how to meal plan. I know! Sometimes you feel like you need to keep researching and finding out more before you’re really ready to start meal planning.

But Stop!

All you’re really doing is putting off meal planning even longer. Trust yourself and just start.

Start slowly, and if you have questions along the way, go and find answers. The only way to find that perfect meal planning system is to get started and see what works best for you.

You Can Always Tweak Your Meal Plan as You Go

If you think you’ve planned the perfect meal plan but then later in the week something isn’t working, that’s ok! You can make small changes throughout the week as needed and in a week or two you’ll be a pro and you’ll know exactly what works for your family!

But make sure these tweaks don’t include letting already bought ingredients go to waste! If you need to, freeze anything you won’t use this week or make sure to use it next week before it goes bad! 

See the Benefit of What you’re Doing by Meal Planning

When you have a goal in mind it’s easier to stick to the tedious little tasks, even when you have no motivation. But what were those goals?

You might be asking yourself this in the middle of a busy day, when the last thing you want to do is go home and cook, or spend an hour at the store buying groceries for the week.

So write down your goals for meal planning and how meal planning can benefit you, and then stick that list on the fridge or somewhere you’ll see it often. 

Here are a couple of goals and reasons I meal plan (and the reasons you should too!)

  • Meal Planning Saves You Money
  • More time together as a family
  • Healthier eating habits
  • Less stress during the week
  • Not to mention so many other reasons!

So when you’re tempted ***not to stick to your meal planning menu, remind yourself why you’re doing this.

Start by Only Planning Dinner

Many meal planning articles talk about planning not only dinners but lunches, breakfast and snacks in advance. Even though your goal might be to add these meals into your plan eventually, stick with just dinners for now until you get the feel for things.

When you think you’re ready, add on a little more. Slowly add lunches, and then breakfast, and then add snacks over time. But take it slow and at whatever pace you need. 

Start the First Day of Your Meal Planning Week with the Easiest Meal

If you start the week out strong, you’re more likely to continue. So plan an easy, fun meal for your first night and also plan an easy and fun meal for later in the week to keep you motivated and going strong.

Even if you don’t like cooking, try and make the dinners simple and something you look forward to sharing with your family. 

Consider Grocery Delivery Or a Subscription Box Service

So many stores and websites now offer online ordering. All you have to do is plan your meals and order the food online and stores like Walmart offer food pick up.

Some stores also offer food delivery for little or no extra shipping cost. There are also many websites that send you pre-planned meals with all the ingredients and recipes so all you have to do is throw the meals together. You don’t even have to worry about spending time planning which meals to cook. 

Make a Basic Meal Plan

Start with the basics. If you don’t want to plan exactly what you eat each night just come up with five to seven meals you will eat throughout the week.

Also, keep it simple. Don’t add sides or try a new complicated recipes. It’s easier to stick with the basics and then you can add more later if you when you want to. 

Make a Couple of Meal Plans and Rotate Them

After you’ve made your weekly meal plan and your grocery list is all written out, save it! You can then re-use this meal plan and grocery list again in a few weeks and skip the planning process altogether.

After a month of saving menus you’ll have a month of menus you don’t have to plan! Keep saving menus for a couple months and soon you’ll have enough menus to cycle through and you’ll never have to plan again! 

Plan on Getting Take Out the Day You Grocery Shop

Make sure to do something easy for dinner the day that you do your meal planning. After spending a couple of hours planning, shopping and preparing food, you’re going to be done in the kitchen and you’re not going to want to cook dinner that night.

So treat yourself for a job well done and go and grab something with no guilt! 

Have a Few Emergency Meals on Hand

Sometimes life happens and something in the fridge goes bad before it’s due date or dinner gets burnt. Sometimes with busy schedules you can’t get that dinner you originally planned, on the table in time. It happens to all of us! (With two toddlers and a baby on the way I always feel like life is getting the better of me!)

So keep a few emergency meals on hand that you can use on a moment’s notice. Keep a couple frozen dinners on hand. They can be frozen leftovers or a frozen pizza from the store. Also keep boxed macaroni or canned soup in the pantry – anything that you can make for dinner at a moments notice.

Not Everything Has to be Homemade

Just because you’re meal planning doesn’t mean you’re expected to be a culinary chef every night. I remember when I started meal planning I was intimidated because I thought meal planning meant I had to have ‘made-from-scratch’ meal on my table every night of the week or I wasn’t a good meal planner.

Nope! Not at all!

Meal planning is all about knowing what to expect and doing what works best for you. So do what you need. It’s ok to have something frozen on hand to get you through a meal or two from time to time!

Do whatever you need to make meal planning work for you. And some weeks you’ll have more time and more ambition and some weeks you won’t. And that’s ok! 

Learn how to stick to a meal plan when you really don't want to. Not sure about the tacos you planned for Tuesday? See my best tricks for sticking to your meal plan!

Learn to Use the Instant Pot

One of my favorite ways to cook, and definitely one of the easiest, is with the Instant Pot. You can throw your dinner into the Instant Pot, let it cook while you run to and from soccer practice, and dinner will be ready to eat when you get home.

The Instant Pot is great for cooking anything – meats, soups, potatoes, and the list goes on! You can even cook breads and rolls with your Instant Pot!

One of my family’s favorite Instant Pot meals is BBQ ribs! They turn out perfect every time! 

Hire Someone to do it For You

If you really hate cooking every night, try hiring someone to come and cook for you a couple times a week. This could be a professional chef or a college student looking for some extra income.

You could also pay a friend or family member to double their dinner for the night and give you half. Just remember that hiring someone is going to ***add more to your food budget, so make sure you weigh the cost and reward before deciding to go with this option. 

Give Yourself a Reward When You’re Finished

You’ve set yourself some great goals, and you’re trying your best everyday to stick to them. But sometimes you need a little extra motivation.

Reward yourself at the end of the week with a dinner out! You deserve it! And if you’re like me, by the end of the week you’re tired and the last thing you want to do is spend time in the kitchen!

But remember, the reward is only for if you stick to your menu plan. If you ran to McDonalds three times this week instead of making the meals sitting in your fridge, you haven’t earned that nice Saturday night dinner out, and you better cook at least one of those meals still sitting in the fridge!

Make Use of Digital Apps

You can also use meal planning apps like Mealime and Paprika, to help you stay organized. These apps give you space to plan and save recipes and to create grocery lists. They also give you recipe ideas and helpful tips. 

Always Freeze Leftovers and Use Them When You Just Don’t Feel Like Meal Planning

If you have a small family, it’s easy to have leftovers but if you have a bigger family try doubling your recipe to make sure there are enough leftovers to save for another dinner.

Freeze the leftovers and use them for dinner one week when you just don’t want to cook or meal plan. (You could even give yourself an entire week off of cooking!)

Let’s be honest, having two dinners but only having to cook once? Yes please!

Pro tip: The Instant Pot is great for freezer meals too, as you can usually just throw the whole freezer meal inside the instant pot and have it thawed and cooked in less than an hour with no maintenance required. 

Meal Planning Should Be a Help and Not a Hindrance

Last, but not least, remember meal planning is supposed to help you, not stress you out. Do your best to stick to a meal plan, cook as often as you can, but don’t stress about it.

If you can’t (or don’t want too) cook more than two or three times a week just work with that. Try cooking on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and eat leftovers the other days.

Also, remember, that if it’s part of your plan, you don’t have to feel guilty about running out and getting dinner or cooking a frozen pizza. Meal planning is all about working around your schedule so you know what to serve for dinner every night, even if it’s not a home cooked meal.

Use The Meal Planning Binder to Make a Meal Plan You Can Stick To

Meal planning has so many rewards and benefits but sometimes it feels overwhelming because of all the things you have to plan and remember.

So to stay organized trying using The Meal Planning Binder. I use it every week and it makes the whole meal planning process less daunting.

The printable Meal Planning Binder has places not only for your weekly menus and grocery list but a place to list everything in your pantry, fridge and freezer. It also has a spot for your budget and dietary needs, a calendar, so you can keep track of what crazy things are going on during the week, and more!

It really does make things easier to remember and keep track of (and with a third trimester pregnancy brain, I need all the help I can get!)

Other Related Meal Planning Articles:


What keeps you motivated to stick with meal planning each week? Leave me a comment below, I’d love to hear from you!


Learn how to stick to a meal plan when you really don't want to. Not sure about the tacos you planned for Tuesday? See my best tricks for sticking to your meal plan!

How to Meal Plan {Even When You Don’t Want To}