How to meal plan the right way

For the longest time I was afraid of meal planning. Just the thought of it filled me with dread. Not only has it helped to relieve stress, but I also save money because I plan our meals around what is on sale at our local grocery stores.

In this post I want to share a few tips and tricks for meal planning. I do want to say there are a TON of different methods for meal planning, and I would love to hear some of your tricks and techniques in the comments below.

{Related: How we are cutting down on food costs}

How To Meal Plan The Right Way

How To Meal Plan The Right Way

For the longest time I was afraid of meal planning. Just the thought of it filled me with dread. Not only has it helped to relieve stress, but I also save money because I plan our meals around what is on sale at our local grocery stores.

In this post I want to share a few tips and tricks for meal planning. I do want to say there are a TON of different methods for meal planning, and I would love to hear some of your tricks and techniques in the comments below.

{Related: How we are cutting down on food costs}

How To Meal Plan The Right Way

First of all, creating a meal plan for your family can be beneficial not just for saving time but also money. Another great bonus is that it makes it so much easier for you to stick to healthier food habits. By preparing foods or at least a menu in advance, you’ll find it a lot easier to stick to a plan without falling victim to temptations of bad food choices.

Choose a method that works BEST for your needs.  

The method you choose may not be the method I use. The key is finding what works best for you and your family.

The fact is, no two people are alike, so no two methods will be alike. Consider the involvement with a plan and how it will suit your needs. Weigh pros and cons and try one.

{Related: Meal Planning Worksheet}

If it doesn’t work, then try another method.  There is no perfect method, but there is one that will work better for you.

Common meal plan methods:

  • Simple menu ideas listed on paper or a calendar online as a visual reminder of what you plan to make each evening.
  • Slow cooker freezer meal plans where you prepare meals and freeze them to be used later. Most are simple recipes that you dump into a slow cooker and then serve with simple sides like rice, potatoes, pasta.
  • Freezer meals that are already cooked and in portion sizes for easy reheating when needed.
  • Batch cooking ingredients and dividing into portions to make meal prep in evenings easier to manage.  This is often done with proteins, beans, rice, and sautéed vegetables.  
  • Purchase or download menu plans online that include shopping lists, menu plans, and recipes.  

Start slowly and work your way up.  

Creating a meal plan for a month can be daunting.  Especially if you choose a method that also includes not just choosing the menu, but preparing or cooking the foods ahead of time.  That’s why it is important to do this gradually so you don’t get overwhelmed.  

Start with a one week menu plan. If this works well in the method you choose, then you can easily work your way up to a larger menu plan for a full month.  

There is no obligation with menu planning that means you have to do a larger time period at once. Ultimately, that will bring the best results, but it is not necessary.

Don’t make every meal just because someone else does.  

This is really important in knowing how to meal plan the right way. Just because someone else has a recipe on their meal plan doesn’t mean you have to make it.  

At the end of the day you need to create meals your family will enjoy. Otherwise you will just be wasting money on food that your family won’t eat.

If you need help getting started with a meal plan check out 5 Dollar Meal Plans. You get the first 4 weeks for free and then after that it is only $5 a month and you get meals plans AND shopping lists sent straight to your inbox.

Use the right storage containers.  

We have all opened a freezer and seen containers that at one point actually contained whipped topping, margarine, or even jars of pasta sauce. These containers are handy and free, but they are not great for storing your meals in for future use.  

It costs a bit up front, but a proper storage container system is going to save you money in the long run.  

Freezer burn can definitely change the way something tastes. To prevent that and other flavors from permeating your freezer meals, you need to use the right storage products.

Food Savers or similar systems that allow you to remove air from the packaging may seem pricey at first, but the quality of your meals will be so much better it will be well worth it.  You may also find that you prefer using containers or bags.  

Whatever method you choose, make sure it is made specifically for freezing.  This will ensure your food stays fresh longer.

Label. Label. Label.  

I must repeat this multiple times because it is so important.  

There is nothing like pulling a frozen meal out of the deep freeze and not knowing what it actually is.  While most think they can recognize things, once it has frozen, it is actually a totally different story. Labeling not only keeps you and your family safe, but helps make it easier to manage the weekly meals.

As you begin the journey to meal plan the right way, these tips are some that are much needed.  It’s not just about printing a list of recipes and throwing things into your freezer to use later.  

A meal plan must be truly functional for your family.  What are some of your own meal planning tips?

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. This is the second post about meal planning that I’ve read this week. Hmmm… Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something : ) The area of a budget that is most flexible has got to be food. Meal planning, when we’ve done it well, has allowed us to halve our grocery spending. I’ve been slipping lately. Time to get back on the wagon. Thanks!

  2. This is such a great post! It is definitely worth the initial investment to buy some good, hardy storage containers. I’ve recently transitioned all of our containers from plastic to glass.

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