These healthy meal planning tips for families will help you eat better cook more whole food recipes from scratch, and save money on groceries and eating out. Having a meal plan that isn't overly complicated is a great way to get your family around the dinner table more often.
So what is meal planning exactly? To put it simply, meal planning is writing out all of your family meals for the week, and then creating a grocery list to based on what you plan to cook.
Benefits of Meal Planning
Incorporating a simple menu planning routine in your week, and then sticking to it will save you tons of money at the grocery store. Cut down on food waste and insure that your family is eating nutritious whole foods as much as possible. The benefits of meal planning are endless but here are few.
- Saves money- Knowing what you need to buy at the grocery store before you go eliminates the urge to spend on things that you won't actually cook or use.
- Eliminates stress around meal times- Do you ever think you are going to make something for dinner only to come home and find that you don't have all of the ingredients and then you end up running to the grocery store or just giving up and eating take-out? Efficient meal planning illuminates this inconvenience and it makes cooking meals at home so much less stressful and convenient!
- Allows for healthier eating- When you are making the meals you can control what goes into them and what does not. Cooking from scratch with whole foods will help your family to eat more healthful than you might otherwise.
- Prevents food waste- Again when you know exactly what your making you don't have to buy the extras. I have found that meal planning cuts down on our families food waste tremendously
- Saves time - Meal planning allows you to know exactly what you need to buy at the grocery store you can be in and out so much quicker. The same goes for when you know exactly what you are cooking and you already have all of the ingredients on hand.
Meal Planning Tips for Beginners
Now that you know how much creating a basic menu plan for your family meals each week lets dive into some meal planning tips that will get your family menu planning off on the right foot!
Figure Out What You Like to Cook and What Your Family Likes to Eat
I make a list of all of the items my family likes to eat and I like to cook seasonally. For example in the fall months I know the weather is cooling down and we will be craving comfort foods so I make a list of all of our favorite comfort foods. I typically have about 10 to 15 items on the list. Each week when I create my menu plan I pull from my list. If we get bored or something else sounds good that week, great!! Feel free to switch it up and make it work for your family.
Compile your list and recipes and keep them in a place that you will have no problem accessing when you make your weekly meal plan.
Stock Your Pantry With Staples That You Know You Will Use
Again you can do this seasonally, you may not eat as much hard winter squash or sweet potatoes in the summer as you do in the winter. I like to have my pantry stocked with items that I can easily pull from before I go to the grocery store, this makes planning easier and I always have something in a pinch.
For more on stocking your pantry
Schedule a Meal Planning and Shopping Day
I like to do this on Saturday afternoon, but do whatever works best for your schedule. The goal is to be able to sit down and write out what you want to cook for the week. Look at what you have in your pantry currently and figure out what you need to purchase for the week ahead. If you only grocery shop a few times a month, shop your freezer refrigerator and pantry before you meal plan to see what you have available for the week ahead.
Make Sure You Have the Right Kitchen Tools
Set yourself up for successful home cooking! By equipping your kitchen with the proper tools and equipment you'll make meal planning and cooking from home much more enjoyable for yourself.
For More on Kitchen Tools For Cooking From Scratch
Check the Weather and Your Schedule
This might sound silly, but hear me out. I can't tell you how many times I have planned to make warm soup only to realize the high is 75 degrees it's sunny and warm, and my family is not going to want soup! The simple act of checking the weather before you meal plan can save you a lot of grief. Plan meals according to what the weather forecast says. If it's going to be 90 degrees maybe you want to grill out, if it's rainy and cold soup and sandwiches sound better.
The same goes for your schedule. If you have lots of errand or activities planned for one day make it easier on yourself and pick something that does't take a ton of time, try a crockpot meal or something you can easily prep ahead for.
Allow for Flexibility
Some nights your just not going to want to make what's on the plan, maybe you won't want to make anything at all. Plan for this, I always have a few frozen pizzas or a box of easy pasta in my pantry that I can whip up quickly without much effort and dinner is served!
Giving yourself some grace and allowing your meal plan to be flexible is key to success. If tacos sound terrible tonight make something else that you already have ingredients for and move tacos to a different night. Make it work for you!