How to Get Started Meal Planning

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Do you need help to make a meal plan? I know I once did!

It seems like every time I turn around someone is hungry. Meals come three times a day every day and if your family is anything like mine, they also want snacks in between.

Feeding your family and taking the time to do it well is one of the best ways you can show your family that they are a top priority to you. But you definitely need to plan!

I, for one, feel very overwhelmed if I don’t have a good plan for meal prepping and planning. Since meals are coming whether I’m ready or not, I know I need to do something to prepare in advance.

Thankfully, there are so many good choices.

You can do cooking once a month, (click the link and check to check out Once a Month Meals, for sure! I’ve used their service, and it’s amazing!) batch cooking, weekly meal planning, menu planning services, you name it, it’s out there for you to try.

Why Should You Take the Time to Make a Meal Plan?

Even though meal planning can seem tedious and like a waste of time, making a meal plan can help you so much. Take this from a former impulsive shopper.

Yes, I used to go to the store with no list, and zero idea what I was actually going to make with the food I would buy. I have no idea what I was thinking because…why??? Why would you go to the store and buy a bunch of groceries and have no idea what you’re gonna make with them?

Well, I did! So I feel like I can speak to you about how important it is to take the time to make a menu for the week. First, the obvious happened…I actually began to make meals that my family enjoyed eating! Because I knew what i was gonna make.

Secondly, I began to save money on my grocery bill, which is just an obvious benefit to meal planning. Because everything I bought (buy) was bought with a purpose.

So those two reasons alone – knowing what you’re gonna eat, and saving money on your grocery bill are enough of a reason to meal plan in my book!

Meal Planning and Prepping is Easier on Your Budget

I’ve found that when I fail to plan, we spend waaaaay more money on low-quality food when I go shopping. (I know, I’m not proud of it!)

If, for whatever reason, we’ve had a tough week and I didn’t take the time to meal plan and prep, then our money definitely doesn’t go as far.

However, if I plan and I’m ready with ideas for meals, I can make our money stretch so much further. The grocery budget is the one area of the household finances that I’m in charge of and I want to honor God with it. I have often prayed and asked God for wisdom to manage that money well.

Planning Your Meals Will Help Maximize Your Time

If you don’t have a meal plan, you’ll likely waste time figuring out what to make for dinner (or breakfast/lunch). I know when I failed to plan I would pace back and forth from the fridge/freezer to the pantry, hoping something would jump out at me. Spoiler alert: it never did!!

When you spend time planning your meals ahead of time, the only time you’ll need is enough to actually prep your meals. Actually, much of that can be done ahead of time if you choose to cook in bulk. Also, bonus tip: don’t forget to defrost things ahead of time so they’re ready to go when you need it. You’re welcome! 😉

As you can see, you really maximize your time and can spend it just cooking and not trying to use creative juices to figure out what you’re gonna make. Planning your meals really does make a huge difference in saving you time.

Meal Planning and Prepping Shows Your Family You Care

I’m not sure if you’ve ever thought of it that way or not, but as a mom, feeding your family is one of the most special ways you can show your family that you love them. By taking the time to prepare delicious and healthy meals for them, you’ll show them that you care. After all, “The way to the heart is through the belly.” It just takes thought and preparation and a little bit of time, but I know that the effort is worth it.

Family eating dinner from the weekly meal plan that was created.

It Will Be Easier If You Have a Plan When Life Gets Busy (Which is Almost Always!)

Man, oh, man! We are a busy family even though I try not to jam-pack our schedule! But we have seven kids and that means we have a lot of running to do. (We do try to keep it to a minimum, by only allowing our kids to participate in one sport, but still…)

Anyway, where was I? As I mentioned above, planning your meals will save you time, and that time can be precious when your schedule is tight. If you have just enough time to cook and eat your meals because you’re rushing out the door, then you need to make every minute count.

One trick I found and you should check out too, is Once a Month Meals – LIFESAVER!!

It Helps if Your Diet is Restricted

We have multiple food allergies in our family and if I don’t plan our meals ahead of time, then my allergy people are sunk. There’s no grabbing take-out because they can’t eat it.

So if food allergies are an issue, then you’ll definitely want to plan ahead.

You Can Eat Better Food

Even if your budget is limited, when you plan your meals ahead, you can shop the sales and maximize your budget. That means you get to eat better food!

With a plan, everything is better!

You’ll Cut Back on Waste

When I menu plan, I plan my leftovers right into our menu. This eliminates the back of the refrigerator hairy mass growing leftovers (don’t tell me you don’t know what I’m talking about!)

Menu planning has helped our family see a significant reduction in food waste! YAY!!

Meal Planning 101

I’m going to walk you through the basics of how to make a meal plan. It’s not hard. It does take a little practice and tweaking, but I want you just to start and then adjust a little at a time as you get the hang of it.

Let’s get started!

How Do I Start a Meal Plan?

Follow the simple steps below and I’ll help you develop a meal plan in no time flat! You’re gonna be a pro!

Meal Planning for Lunches

Recently I’ve started making a little extra at supper and using the leftovers for lunch the following day. Our family also has a ton of food allergies, so that makes planning a little more difficult.

But even if you don’t have food restrictions in your home, lunches might just require a little more thinking.

Just remember lunch doesn’t have to be elaborate. Use leftovers or make a simple soup, salad, or sandwich. Or try all three!

My New Favorite Meal Prep Hack

I’ve found a few tricks to help me with getting meals on the table. One of my new-found favorites is called the Hot Logic. (Make sure to click – this thing is amazing!) It’s actually a mini oven. It’s a thermal-insulated case that is big enough to fit a 9-by-13 cake pan.

It also comes in a miniature version. You put food in it in the morning and plug it in and it warms the meal up and holds it at a temperature that is ready to be served.

This has made a ton of difference for me in preparing meals. I can make extra food the night before and when cleaning up for supper, put it in the 9-by-13 pan so it is ready for morning. Then, when I’m cleaning up breakfast, I put it in the Hot Logic and plug it in.

It has been so helpful for me to know that our meal is sitting, warming on the counter and I can do other things that need to be done, like clean up my house!

Use Your Crock Pot for Meal Prepping

I’ve also found my Crock-Pots to be a lifesaver. Stick something in the Crock-Pot in the morning (that you’ve pre-planned, of course) and it’ll be ready for supper and you won’t have to do much thinking!

I know that sounds ridiculously easy, but seriously, it makes all the difference in the world. When I know I’ve taken the time to plan ahead and have something cooking for supper, I’m so much less stressed!

Even though the Instant Pot can function as a slow cooker, I still love my crock pots. They’re an essential part to my kitchen!

The Instant Pot is My Absolute Favorite Meal Prepping Lifesaver

A while back, when I first heard about the Instant Pot, I was intrigued. (definitely click that link to see the exact Instant Pot I use – and LOVE!) I always had a fascination with pressure cookers and anything that could make a meal quick was something I was interested in!

I bought my first IP on a Thanksgiving sale about five years ago, and I’ve never looked back! Notice I said, first??  At the moment, I currently have four Instant Pots! And let me tell you, I use them ALL!!

So if you’re on the sidelines wondering what all the craze is about, jump on the bandwagon! The Instant Pot is AMAZING!!! It has saved me so much time and money, not to mention, it’s awesome for batch cooking (you don’t even have to have four of them to batch cook!)

Instant pot with a hearty recipe from a weekly meal plan.

Here are Some Awesome Instant Pot Recipes to Get You Started:

Try a Meal Planning Service for Managing Your Meals

Just find a plan and use it. And don’t be afraid to change it if it’s not working.

If you’re not sure about the cost, try investing some of your grocery money into a meal plan if it’s a service that really makes menu planning easier for you. Because it’s definitely worth it. The money you save in meal planning (not to mention the time and frustration, will add up to at least the cost of a monthly service.)

But make sure that you actually use the plan and you aren’t just paying a monthly fee for something that’s sitting in your email inbox untouched.

I’ve found that lunches are especially difficult for me to figure out. Partly because, I’m just never sure what to make. We homeschool, so our kids are home, but even if you don’t you might find lunches take more creativity.

Try My FREE Menu Planning Templates

Related Menu Planning Articles:

This video will show you my obsession with the Instant Pot!

What is your favorite way to meal plan? Have you found that meal plan makes a big difference at your house? Share your best meal planning tips below. I’d love to hear! 


Meal planning books to help with making a weekly menu.

Picture of a meal planning binder for making a weekly meal plan.

How To Meal Plan For The Week {Tips to Get Started}