This is my third week making an intentional effort in meal planning for the week. It’s not a natural habit or task for me yet, so I had to force myself earlier this week to actually erase the old menu plan and come up with a new one. When I actually did it, the meal plan for this week was done in about 5 minutes. 5 minutes! Granted, I’m not reinventing the wheel and getting super creative in these weekly meal plans. I’m just planning from the meals that I already know are quick and my family enjoys.
Meal Planning Series
This is the third of a series on meal planning, be sure to check out the other posts too!
Meal Planning for Beginners: Step One
Meal Planning for Beginners: Step Two, Simple Weekly Menu Plan
Meal Planning for Beginners: Step Three, Groceries and Shopping (you are here now!)
Meal Planning for Beginners: Step Four, Essential Pantry Staples
When we talk about stress free meal planning for the busy family, we need to talk about grocery shopping and meal prep.
I’m not sure how shopping goes in your household, but in ours, we are creatures of habit. We buy the same staples every week or month. I’ve noticed that many of the free meal planners have a shopping list section next to the weekly plan. I can see how that could be helpful to some, but I don’t use them.
I personally use two simple ways of using a shopping list for meal planning:
- a small piece of paper that I use to list items we need to buy next time we go shopping. This is a simple way to quickly jot down things I discover we are out of while I’m actually cooking. We have a small pad on the refrigerator that I use for this.
- my iPhone reminders app. I have two lists for the two stores that I do most of my shopping.
- The lists are great because when you purchase an item off of your list, you click the circle and it’s “marked completed.”
- However, when you need that item again in a week or two, you can touch the “show completed” button and “unmark” it and it’s on your active shopping list again. This works great for me because I no longer have to write the items repeatedly.
During the last two weeks I’ve taken three simple steps in meal prep.
- I bought a large bag of pinto beans and used this crockpot recipe. I made several quart bags of refried beans that I’m keeping frozen in the freezer. My husband and son (who loves refried beans) commented on how tasty it was. The cans of refried beans are convenient, but these were SO much tastier, and very simple to make. Thanks to my friend Abby at Winstead Wandering for the encouragement to make this at home.
- I bought several pounds of ground beef and cooked it right after I bought it, let it cool, and put it in freezer bags for future meals. They will most likely be used for tacos or sloppy joes. Having the ground beef will make the actual process of making the meal much faster. One of my readers reminded me of that simple step.
- I bought a large bag of black beans, made those on the stove top, bagged them, and froze them for future meals. I’ve found black beans to be one of the easiest dried beans to make myself.
Next time I get a large batch of chicken breasts I’ll be cooking, shredding, and then freezing for future meals. Cookin’ Mimi has some great tips and recipes for meal prep here.
These two steps are easy, quick, and simple – two steps for stress free meal planning for the busy family!
What kind of meal prep and method of shopping list do you use? I’d love to know!
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Wow, you really are getting it down pat! I love the not having to re-write the list part!
Thanks for linking to my post! Your tip about keeping a static grocery list is brilliant!
My pleasure Abby! I thought the static grocery list might be helpful to others – haven’t seen the idea in any meal planning posts that I’ve read so far.
Nichole aka CuppaGeek says
I love this post! Being a blogger myself, having a full time job, and a family of 6- we are pretty busy! I can see a lot of these tips helping me with my weekly grueling grocery trip. Bless you! 🙂
I’m so glad Nichole! I hope one of the tips will help!
Meal planning is key. I really need to make a better effort to meal plan. Setting a reminder in your iPhone is an excellent idea. I will try that. Thanks for sharing.
I’m finding a basic meal plan is really helpful planning for 6pm. Hope you can find something that works for you Nakeya!
My sister-in-law shared her tip that I now use – She created a list of all the grocery items she usually buys organized by isle/department they are in at the store (and in order down each isle). Each week I print a copy and highlight what we need. It helps me to also read through the list and check to see if we are running low on some items – like coffee creamer that I never use but my husband does. Plus it helps me get in and out of the store faster. It takes time to make in the beginning, but it was been very helpful. We also have an ongoing list on the side of the fridge for when things run out.
That sounds great Lisa! I’m so glad you’ve found a system that works for you! Thank you for sharing
Ester Garcia says
Meal planning is something I struggle with daily. Thanks for this post and your advises!
Your welcome Ester. I’m all about taking baby steps when something is a struggle. Planning one meal a week is progress!
annabelt @ geeks diet says
I like the freezer bags idea – very convenient!
Anna | SheisJoyful says
These are great ideas! I plan on doing meal prep each week & Josh thinks it’s funny — but he wouldn’t think it’s funny if there was no food on the table, haha! Meal prep should keep that from happening 🙂 I especially think cooking ground beef ahead of time will be great — it is so versatile.
That’s a great habit to establish as you start your married life together! That will make it easier to stick with it if/when you add to your family.
I love the idea of preparing batches of chicken and stashing them in the freezer. I’m getting better, but our meal planning is still a bit chaotic and all over the place. The trouble is that I like to try new recipes all the time, and we have so many jars and bits and pieces stashed in the fridge that need to be used up. I should really go through and try to use some of it all up.
I try to mix up recipes from cookbooks with thrown together soups using whatever we’ve got in. On Sundays we usually have a roast of some kind, which usually provides leftovers for a meal in the week. What really bumps the cost up is all the extra trips to the shops to buy another bottle of milk — it’s never just the milk I buy. We’re getting better though. #Sundaysdownunder
Hi Alison! Thanks for reading and commenting! I’m getting into the rhythm of weekly meal planning but there is a bit of chaos still in the mix! That’s great that you love new recipes – I’m pretty boring! My husbands family used to do “must go” soup every week which was a soup full of all the little bits of leftovers.