Benefits of meal planning, tips, and where to find some of my favorite family-friendly recipes!

My happy grocery assistant!

It’s another hectic afternoon. The kids are starving, the fridge is empty, and you’re plumb tired. I guess it’s time to hit the drive-thru for a quick meal. There goes the budget, the calories, and the picky eaters!

Sound familiar? Yes, it’s an experience we’ve all had multiple times. (Me included!)

Want it to happen less often? Prepare and plan ahead by meal planning! It doesn’t have to be complicated or take very long. You don’t have to be a chef or cook complicated meals. We’ll still have those rushed evenings where things don’t go as planned, but they’ll happen a lot less often.

Benefits of Meal Planning
  1. Gets the family around the table. What??!! All the members of your family together in one place for an extended period of time! With no screens in front of their faces!! It’s like the mythical unicorn, so hard to come by these days, but so magical when it happens!
  2. Saves time and money. Let’s face it. Cooking simple, healthy meals at home is much cheaper than eating dinner out. Also, it you’re meal planning for a week, two weeks, or month at a time, you’re only thinking about what you’re going to eat once rather than every day. You can get everything you need at the store at once instead of making several smaller trips.
  3. Saves brain power…because you’re only thinking about what you’re going to eat once!!
  4. Easier to delegate. When you plan ahead, looking at schedules, you can see who is making or prepping the meal each night. It will be easier to share the load with other members of your household, be that a spouse, a child, a grandparent, a babysitter–whoever!!

Gather a Few Simple Supplies:

  1. Calendar with your appointments for the week/month.
  2. Grocery Ad (optional)
  3. Blank Calendar for writing down meals (could be a white board, month at a glance, whatever you like best)
  4. Recipes or meal ideas. Some suggestions: favorite cookbooks, Pinterest, family favorites, etc.

Simple Steps:

  1. Look at the grocery ad. I always do this first because I like to shop the sales and plan meals around them, if possible.
  2. Look at your calendar for the next week (or month…depends on how far ahead you want to plan). How much time do you have to cook/eat each night the next week? Which days need a crock pot meal, quick fix meal, or when do you have some extra time to prep ahead?
  3. Put a recipe or meal plan on each day!
  4. Add necessary ingredients to your shopping list.
  5. Hit the grocery store! Or order your groceries on line and pick up! **Note: I find my time works best when I meal plan one day and shop the next. I don’t usually have time to do both in one day.

My Favorite Family-Friendly Cookbooks

1. Saving Dinner. Weekly meal plans with grocery lists planned out! Recipes organized by season. Good variety and easy to prepare. The author even suggests sides to go with each meal! 
2. The Pioneer Woman. Dinnertime. I just love all of her step-by-step pictures! And her writing style is so fun to read. I can just do a quick glance of a recipe and see the steps involved and decide if I want to cook that meal. All the recipes are very family friendly and make enough for a large family.
3. From Freezer to Table. I got this one for Christmas. Great variety of foods, simple prep, and healthy choices. I’ve been making one or two recipes from this book every week.