Is Meal Planning Worth It and How Do You Start?
I have been meal planning since I was in college. Honestly I don't know if I could cook with out some sort of meal plan and I certainly couldn't grocery shop without it.
For me meal planning isn't about being rigid and sticking to a dinner menu, but rather it is a guide so that each night I'm not trying to figure it out. I have enough decision fatigue as it is I do not need add this to my daily list of decisions to make.
Back in college I would meal plan weekly and it would take me about 1 to 2 hours every Sunday because it was simply a chore I dreaded I was constantly trying to come up with the new fabulous recipes.
About three years ago I realized that I was making it way too complicated. My family has 10 to 15 recipes/meals that we all consistently love which is more than enough for us to create a monthly meal plan. Plus a few extra seasonal recipes that only work in the winter or summer and the occasional social media recipe that I want to try.
Now I meal plan monthly and I use the app Plan to Eat. I don't do this because I'm hyper organized, rather I do it this way so that it is a one and done. It still takes me about an hour, but that's only one hour a month instead of for to eight hours a month.
Let's break it down to the nitty-gritty.
Step by Step How to Meal Plan
Create some sort calendar
Use whatever calendar system you like best. I personally love Plan to Eat
- it is digital and I can use it on my phone, Desktop, or tablet
- upload recipes from the Internet
- rank the recipes one to 5 stars
- It will create a shopping list for you
- You can share your recipes with other people who have the app
If you prefer a paper calendar, Marla from Because I Said So Baby has a great one in her Stay at Home Mom Course (affiliate link) as well as a full module on meal planning and kid friendly recipe ideas.
Create a recipe bank
- Collect the recipes that you have save on Pinterest, Instagram, or Tik Tok
- Collect/ make a list of your favorite family dinners that are already a quick win in your house
- This doesn't have to be a huge list, start with 10-15 meals. As you organically find recipes that you want to try add them to your list but don't stress about needing a big list
- I upload all of my Pinterest recipes to my Plan to Eat profile.
- For meals I don't necessarily need a recipe (like spaghetti) I will still find a recipe on Pinterest to upload to Plan To Eat app so that when I go to create my shopping list it will generate all of the ingredients I need. You can also create your own recipe on the app but I think that is more time-consuming then copy and pasting somebody else's link.
- Grab your calendar and write down any events you need to plan around.
- If you have baseball on Wednesdays from 5-6 pm plan a crockpot dinner or if you are going out for a birthday put dinner out on the calendar.
- If you are like us and do pizza every Friday quickly fill up all your Fridays.
- Once you have accounted for all of the special events of the month, start filling in the rest of the month with ideas from your recipe bank.
While I am not rigid with my meal plan, I need it as a guide. We have plenty of nights where we move dinners around because I forgot to take the meat out or we decided we wanted to go out to dinner.
Here's why I meal plan
- Saves me from the what's for dinner game
- Saves me time and money at the grocery store