On my honeymoon, I made a big confession to my husband.
“I don’t know how to grocery shop or keep a house together and I only know how to cook, like, three things.”
He laughed at the time, and said something about us working it out. But I’m not altogether sure he didn’t at that point wonder what he had gotten himself into.
I like to share that story because we are lightyears away from that conversation (so to speak). Having survived multiple food mishaps, like catching the vinyl floor on fire, and shooting a blender of hot soup all over the kitchen, I’m happy to say I’m in a better place. And that my family eats regularly.
Also I am SO happy to be in a rhythm of planning meals and ordering groceries online. (That’s a blog post for another time.) It makes life a lot simpler, means less trips to the store, saves us money, and helps keep me sane.
Want to streamline your grocery shopping and cooking this year?
Here are my best tips for getting started with meal planning. For more helpful tools, check out my Free Resource Library for the Dinner Planning Helper and the Favorite Meal List. Get access to it by joining the What You Make It email list!
Ahead of Time
- If you can, put together a list of meals that work for you and your family. You know the ones I mean – the ones that don’t leave you crying on the floor in the kitchen. For me, that includes dinners that take about 30 minutes, involve not a lot of hands-on time, and most of my family enjoys. (Here are some of my favorites: quick and healthy meals, and dairy-free meals.) I’m adding a free printable for this list in my Free Resource Library – join my email list for access!
- Keep a notepad on the fridge to keep track of everyday items that need replacing. (It’s one of our 5 habits that make for a more efficient home.) We write down things like milk, pasta, frozen fruit, and cereal. That way when it comes time to order, you’ll already have a bit of an inventory.
The Planning Session
- Pick your time frame. I go one week at a time, but you can go bi-weekly or even monthly if you prefer.
- Start by looking at your schedule. Note what days you’ll be eating out, or days you may be in a time crunch for dinner. Time crunch nights are good for leftovers or pre-made meals, like frozen seasoned fish or rotisserie chicken.
- Plan for 3-4 meals per week (depending on your schedule, family, and available leftovers). Usually one meal will feed my husband and I, with a little for the kids (who tend to end up with sandwiches or pasta for dinner), and enough for a leftover meal for both of us. Play around with it until you find your groove. But 7 nights of dinners a week are a lot and usually don’t need to happen.
- Look in your kitchen and see what you have before you begin. It makes such a difference! You might find some chicken in the freezer or a seasoning mix you forgot you had. It helps you narrow down your ideas. (Check out my review of a planner that helps you attack this in a more detailed and practical way!)
- Choose some general themes for your meals for variety. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like eating the same thing every night. So I like to incorporate different categories, like pasta, tacos or fajitas, Asian food, soup, breakfast, or casserole, to give me ideas and switch it up.
- See how much your meals can stretch. A rotisserie chicken at the beginning of the week can mean enough chicken leftover for a broccoli-chicken casserole at the end of the week. This took some playing around for me, but as I started to process how much food we actually needed in one dinner, it became easier to plan for ingredients I could re-use.
That’s about it for us! I really need to get that online grocery order post up, too. But how do you meal plan, if you do? What helps you?