Meal planning and prepping can be a tad bit overwhelming.
The idea of planning out each meal and snack, and pre-cutting all of your meats, vegetables, and fruits can seem like a lot of work! I’ll be honest here, it IS a lot of work!
You might have heard people say that meal planning will save you time.
I am going to disagree and tell you that you will probably spend the same amount of time (maybe even a little bit more)!
So, why then am I telling you that you SHOULD be meal planning?
Why would anyone want to spend more time and more work on making meals that are going to be made anyways?
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Well, let me tell you the difference.
Meal planning isn’t necessarily about saving yourself time or effort. It is about carving out ONE chunk of time to prepare meals. Then when it comes down to meal time, everything is all ready to cook and serve.
No cutting, no measuring, no mixing, no thinking, no fuss!
While meal planning may take a little more time, it will save you the time when you need it!
Still need another reason to meal plan? See my blog post about Why Every Mom Should Meal Plan.
So, how do you do it?
There are several steps to making meal planning a true success, but I promise when it’s all said and done, it will be totally worth it!
Step 1: Plan out Your Meals
Search Pinterest or view my meal plans to get some ideas. Some people enjoy a variety of meals each week, and others prefer to stick to a theme like Meatless Mondays or Taco Tuesdays.
However you choose to do it, write down 5 dinner ideas for the week. I usually only do 5 meals to leave room for leftovers or nights out. Be sure to include your sides when you are writing them down.
Once you have your dinner ideas, write down 3 breakfast options, 3 lunch options, and 3 snack options for the week. Again, include any sides when writing down your meals. Usually this amount of choices is good for the week and you can switch it up the next week.
I know writing all of this down can seem unnecessary but it ensures that you are getting enough for 5 full dinners, breakfast, lunch, and snacks.
Step 2: Make Your Grocery List
Now that you have your meal ideas and snack options written down go through and make a grocery list based off of that plan. I like to organize my grocery list by the type of item it is. This way when I’m at the store, I can see exactly what I need when I’m in a certain area of the store.It will also prevent you from having to make another trip across the store because you forgot something on your list!
Step 3: Grab Your Groceries
Now that you have your list ready and organized, getting through the store should take you no time at all! It almost starts to become enjoyable. Well, almost. I can’t say I ever really enjoyed grocery shopping.
In fact, now that I have two kids and stay at home I usually do online grocery shopping. I still make my list, but rather than dragging my kids through the store I just hop on the Walmart App and order my food to be picked up the next day!
Then I can drive up, with my happy kids, have my groceries delivered to my car, and head home! It has made my life SO much easier!
Step 4: Unload Groceries
As you unload your groceries, go ahead and put away anything that doesn’t need to be cut up or mixed. I usually use this time to also throw out any food that has gone bad.
Step 5: Carve Out Time to Prep Your Food BEFORE the Week Starts
This is where meal planning can save you time and effort down the road.
If you have a lazy day or and hour of your Sunday free, plan to use that time for meal prepping. I have found that if I do this at the same time on the same day each week, I am more likely to get it done. For that reason, I usually get my groceries on Sunday and meal prep on Monday.
However, if you are a working mom, you may want to prep on Sundays.
Take a look at your menu for the week. What things can be cut up ahead of time? I usually cut up my veggies and sort them by meal. Then I cut up a bunch of fruit and make a fruit salad or sort it by type.
Finally, I cut up any meat that will need to be cut.
Sort out all of your meals. If there are veggies that can be mixed, store them together. When you cut up fruit for snacks, store them by serving size in containers or baggies. If you are making lunches for the week go ahead and put it in one container that is easy to grab and go.
Step 6: Organize
I have some bins in my fridge to keep the food organized and readily available.
We have one bin for my husbands lunch foods.
All of the food is prepped and in containers by serving size so he can quickly grab lunch. This is one thing I have started doing for my husband to save him time. It takes him a good chunk of time to prepare his lunch each night.
So, adding this into my meal prep time is my act of service to him. He appreciates it and I enjoy doing it!
I also have bins for all of my kids’ snacks. One is in the fridge (for oranges, cheese sticks, grapes, etc..) and one is in the pantry.
The kids can get in the fridge or pantry and grab a snack when they are hungry. It saves me from searching or naming off all of the available snacks because they know right where they are! Even my one year old knows where to find his snacks. 🙂
Step 7: Enjoy!
Now that you have put the work in ahead of time, you WILL save time throughout the week. When I do food prep, dinner is ready early, I’m less stressed, and so is everyone else! We also have more time throughout the week to spend time with the kids or clean around the house.