The Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning

meal planning tips for families on a budget simple recipes simple living a dash of casual blog and boutique shop home decor and gifts online or in store

Have you ever wanted to start having more meals at home? Meal planning can be extremely beneficial in so many ways including saving you time and money, plus eating better overall.

This Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning is the method that I have been using for years with my family. Eating at home together at least a few nights a week is something that is very important to our family. The first thing the kids ask me when they get home late in the afternoon is, “What’s for dinner?” I don’t want to have the stress of trying to figure it out that late in the day with a possible trip to the store, or giving in and going out to eat too much. And let’s just face it, eating out for a family can be very expensive. So having a set plan in place for the nights you know you’ll be home is the way to go.

What is meal planning?

It’s taking some time each week to decide what you’ll have for dinners, getting the ingredients for each meal, and preparing them.  You might be thinking that you don’t have time for this. In my experience, taking a little time one day a week to get this plan down ends up saving time and frustration. 

How do you get started with meal planning? 

The best way to get started is to pick what nights you will be home that week and decide what to make each of those nights. Grab a pen and paper, or make a list on your phone, pick your recipes, see what ingredients you need and pick them up at the store. Then you are all set!

Tips for Success in meal planning:

The key to success is making it a habit each week and sticking with it. You’ll be so glad you did! 

Common Questions/FAQ About Meal Planning:

Why is meal planning important? 

It is important to plan because it can save you time, alleviate the stress of trying to figure out dinner on the spot, and it can save you money. In addition to that, it can get your family around the table at home where you can connect at the end of the day. Some of our best conversations are around the dinner table! 

What are the factors to consider when meal planning? 

The factors to consider are the number of people you are cooking for and their ages. For instance, if you have young kids, then you’ll want to incorporate kid-friendly recipes that aren’t too spicy, or hard for them to eat. Also, any diet restrictions are a factor when meal planning. 

What are the benefits of meal planning? 

We tend to eat healthier overall when we eat at home. I try to make sure to incorporate vegetables that my kids will eat into my meal planning. Another benefit of implementing this is leftovers. We eat them for lunch and I will even heat them up and put leftovers in the kid’s thermoses for them to take to school. So this helps reduce food waste. Just today I heated up a roast and vegetables that I made last night and put them in my daughter’s thermos for her to eat at school. 

simple meal planning tips for families on a budget a dash of casual blog

How do you plan a menu for the week? 

Find recipes that are doable for your time and your family. There are tons of ideas out there to find inspiration. Personally, I use Pinterest a lot in my meal planning and I can pin the recipes to try so they are easy to find. You can also flip through cookbooks or check out food blogs and websites.

Does meal planning save money? 

Having a plan and a menu set each week can save you money at the store. I find that when I have a plan and a list that I spend less money rather than wandering through the grocery store buying this or that aimlessly. Also if a recipe requires a little bit of an ingredient and the rest might go to waste, I try to incorporate that into another meal. For example, I might buy a rotisserie chicken and use it for two recipes such as a casserole and a soup. Check out my two-ingredient slow cooker recipe for a budget-friendly meal.

How do I make meal planning easier? 

Don’t feel pressured to plan every meal. I usually focus on dinners because I have breakfast and lunch items on hand that the kids can choose from each week. Another way to make meal planning easier is to have theme nights. For example, you could have a day of the week for Italian food, Mexican food (my favorite!), breakfast for dinner, soup and sandwich, a crockpot meal, etc. These can all be simple meals to make and sometimes those are the best! 

The last thing you need to know about meal planning is that it is worth your time and effort!

I hope this inspires you to try your hand at meal planning for the week. This can add value to you by having all of your meals thought out and shopped for, which can make your evenings at home run a lot smoother. Customize your meal plan for your family and see what works for you.

For recipe ideas to use in your weekly meal planning, check these out: