Help! I’m so Overwhelmed by Meal Planning, I Don’t Know What to Do!

Meal planning overwhelm: have you felt it? The thoughts of meal planning can be daunting –  I can’t even begin to think what to make for dinner tonight. 

Wait! You want me to plan a week of meals, breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks? Then you want me to buy everything for those meals and prep as much as possible for all the dinners in one day?!

Are you crazy?

Who has time for that? 

First, Change Your Mindset

Before you freak out too much, 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.

It’s actually easier than what you’re doing now (cuz if your like me, you’re planning your dinners one day at a time and running to the store almost as often). So just breathe for a second.

Let’s break down meal planning and see what it really looks like. Trust me, it’s easier than you might think.   

Make Sure You Find a Good Strategy

Now meal planning is not just sitting down, coming up with six or seven random meals that you want to cook for the week and then calling it good. It does take a little more thought and consideration than that. It takes time, organization and commitment.

But don’t fret, here are a few simple steps to help you on your way.

Meal planning doesn't have to be overwhelming. These helpful tips will make meal planning simple and straightforward.

First, Use the Right Tools to Help You

I’ve got good news! I have come up with the perfect meal planning printable folder called The Meal Planning Binder to help you on your way to meal planning success.

Not only does itI have room your meals for the week, but also your recipes, grocery list, weekly budget, a calendar to keep track of what activities may or may not affect dinner this week and so much more! Go check it out. It’s really helpful for anybody who wants to meal plan, beginner or experienced alike. 

Additionally, you can use your phone and computer to help you organize all your recipes and set timers for yourself, so you know when to start dinner everyday. 

Second, Learn How to Meal Plan the Right Way

Like I said above, meal planning isn’t just picking random recipes that you plan to make later in the week. Try planning similar recipes that have the same ingredients. Don’t forget to check your calendar and see what you have going on this week.

Are there days that you just won’t have time to cook? Meal planning isn’t about having a fancy dinner on the table every night. It’s about knowing what to expect, so you can have at least something on the table every night (or in the car as you head to another soccer game)

Check out my other post Meal planning for beginners for a more detailed list of how to meal plan. 

Third, Give Yourself Enough Time to Meal Plan Properly

Plan one day a week (I recommend Saturdays) Where you can take a few of hours to get everything done. Planning, shopping, prepping, organizing.

That way you aren’t scrambling through the week, trying to follow a meal plan you aren’t ready for. If this is your first week meal planning give yourself even more time to allow for error.

Meal planning is about catering around your schedule. Not adding more stress. 

Remember it Takes Time to Practice and Hone Your Skills

The first week of meal planning might seem daunting. For that matter, the first month might seem confusing or frustrating! But don’t worry, meal planning, like everything, is a skill that needs to be learned. If you get confused feel free to message me!

I would love to help you out! Don’t give up!

One of these days you’ll suddenly get it and you’ll be a meal planning pro. Remember that once you learn how to meal plan it will help save time and stress and may even put a little money back in your pocketbook! 

Start with Very Basic and Familiar Recipes

When I first heard about meal planning I thought it sounded like people were expecting me to put out a fancy dinner with sides and a dessert every night! But that’s not how meal planning works at all! Sure, who wouldn’t love a gourmet meal?

But let’s be honest, no one has time for that! When you plan your menu, start with basic and simple meals. Meals you know your family loves and that you can whip up in no time. Don’t try to be a gourmet cook every night. That will definitely cut through some of the overwhelmed feelings you’re having.

Once you’ve gotten the hang of meal planning, and you feel like you have an evening with a little extra time,  treat yourself to a fancy dinner and dessert! (You could even invite me! Wink wink!! 😉 )

But remember that meal planning is suppose to fit around you and your busy schedule. It shouldn’t be one more thing you have to figure out how to squeeze in. 

Choose Recipes that Fit Your Budget and Your Families Needs

When you plan your menu, remember to  put together an adequate grocery budget. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to stay within that budget once you take the time to plan everything in advance.

Also remember to plan for all your family needs accordingly. Weather it be snacks needed, dietary restrictions, pre-made lunches, or whatever your family might need. Add those items into your meal planning schedule so you don’t have to worry about it again later! 

Don’t Choose Recipes Out of Your Skill Level

One of my favorite things to do is to try new recipes! However, when you’re just starting out with meal planning, it’s a good idea not choose recipes you probably can’t cook or won’t have time to figure out. If you know how to flambé, I envy you!

But for those of us who don’t it’s best not to try it out on a busy school night. 

Keep the Right Ingredients on Hand

After you make your menu plan, check to make sure you have all the spices, oils and other baking equipment you may need. The last thing you want is to have a whole dinner prepared, but isn’t ready until you run to the store to buy butter to go on the bread.

Keep a list of all the staples you typically go though on a weekly basis.

Make Sure You Write Down Your Meal Plan and Keep it Visible

Just having your meal plan in your head isn’t good enough. Being able to see you meal plan frequently will help you stay on target. Make sure to grab The Meal Planning Binder to write down your full weekly menu and keep it on the fridge or somewhere else that’s easy to see! 

I’ve found that having my menu visible helps me stay on track. I glance at it just after dinner and begin to make the necessary preparations for the following day. This has eliminated the many times I would get caught with meat still in the freezer and dinner only minutes away.

Keeping your meal plan visible also helps you mentally prepare. You can make a quick mental note of the next meal’s instructions and plan accordingly.

Once You Have Enough Weekly Meal Plans Made, You Can Reuse Them

If you have a week of meals that seems to be a good combination, fits with your busy schedule, and everyone likes, then by all means, save it! In a couple of weeks pull out that menu and grocery list and use it again, making meal planning even faster and easier than before!

After you’ve done meal planning for a month or two, you’ll have a whole stack of pre-planned menus and grocery lists that you can just grab. Think of how much stress you’ll get rid of. Eventually you’ll have a whole library of meal plans to draw from and your work meal planning will be cut in half.

Always Look Through Your Food Supply Just Before You Grocery Shop

It’s important to know what’s in your fridge and pantry before you go grocery shopping, so that you know what you already have. It This will help you to not over stock on items you don’t use often, decreasing the chances of waste and over spending.

It seems really simple, but before I got in the habit of doing this, I was always buying doubles of things because I was afraid I’d get home and be caught without them.

Checking my inventory first has proved to be very helpful in saving time and money, which makes meal planning way less overwhelming!

Each Night Before Bed, Make Sure You Have Meat Defrosted or the Proper Items Prepped for the Following Day

Some people like to prep most of their dinners on their planning and shopping day. If you’re organized enough for this, then good for you! Whether you decide to do this or not, remember to prepare at least the night before.

Take meat out of the freezer and cut up any vegetables that won’t dry out or turn brown. Make lunches if possible. Do as much as you can, before going to bed, to help prepare for your busy day tomorrow. This will cut your stress level in half. 

Not Every Meal has to be Made from Scratch

It sounds nice to have a hot, delicious, home-made meal every night. But sometimes that’s nothing more than a fairy tale. I have good news! You don’t have to make your grandma’s secret spaghetti sauce from scratch to feel like your feeding you family a real meal.

If all you have time for is spaghetti from a jar, that’s ok! Again, meal planning is about making life easier and more organized for you. It’s not supposed to make you feel like you aren’t doing enough or stress you out even more.

Remember we want to make sure meal planning doesn’t overwhelm you!

Always have a Back-Up Plan for the Times When Things Don’t Go Like You Thought they Would 

Life happens and things change at the last minute all the time. You planned the perfect menu, everything was going according to plan and then something happens!

Your car broke down and you were stranded, your son had a last minute school project you just found out about, the fresh meat you just bought has already spoiled or you were so tired last night that you forgot to take the meat out of the freezer.

The list of things that could happen goes on and on. (Speaking from experience, here!)

The trouble is, these things seem to happen all the time, don’t they? (Or is it just me?) So make sure to be prepared! As long as you’re being diligent to make a meal plan, it’s easy to be prepared, because you will have planned something into your menu that is an easy to grab meal.

Don’t feel guilty about serving your family sandwiches or leftovers or maybe keep a frozen pizza in you freezer for just such occasions. Just make sure there is something you can fall back on.

Use These Tools to Make Your Meal Prep Easier

Other Related Meal Planning Articles:

Wanna start meal planning right away? Download your FREE Meal Planning Binder. It’s quick, free, and easy. Download your copy right away and get started meal planning!

Do you have any other tips about Meal Planning? How can I help you make meal planning less overwhelming? Comment below and let me know! 



{How to Make Sure} Meal Planning Doesn’t Overwhelm You!