Before I discovered meal planning, my grocery shopping and dinner cooking routines were all messed up.
Each week I would go to the store with somewhat of a list and would buy whatever I thought we might need. Throughout the week, I would struggle to think of dinner ideas and inevitably I would always be missing one or two ingredients.
As the week went on, all the fresh produce I had bought would start to go bad and we would throw away way too much food. I never had a plan, and my weeks always felt chaotic. I knew there had to be a better way to organize our family meals.
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That’s when I discovered meal planning.
Meal planning helps me to stay organized, stick to a plan, and save money. When I’m able to plan out our meals in advance, I know exactly what food I need to buy and exactly what to make for dinner. My weeks are so much more efficient and a lot less stressful.
I know how hard it can be to get organized, so I wanted to share with you exactly how I meal plan and grocery shop. When I was trying to get organized, I found it so helpful to see what others were doing and how I could apply their ideas to my meal planning.
Meal planning can be a difficult skill to master. There are so many different methods out there that it can be difficult to narrow down what will work for you and your family. This is just the method that I’ve found works best for me. I hope that you will be able to start feeling less chaotic and more organized!
PS: I only meal plan for dinners, but this method can work if you need to plan out breakfasts and lunches too.
Print Free Meal Planning and Grocery List Printable
The first step to creating an organized meal plan is to print out my all-in-one meal planning and grocery shopping printable. This printable lets me plan for up to two weeks of meals and two grocery trips to the store. You can grab a copy of this free printable for yourself over in the Library.
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When it comes to meal planning, I don’t want to overcomplicate things. That’s why I created this all-in-one printable. I like being able to plan out all of our meals and create my grocery list in one place.
At the top of the sheet, there is a two-week calendar. I’m a visual person, so I find that planning out my meals in a calendar format is the most helpful for me.
At the bottom of the sheet, there are grocery lists for each week. I normally try and go shopping once a week, but since I’m planning two weeks at once on this sheet, I added two separate lists.
Look at the Schedule for the Week
Before I even start thinking about recipes and ingredients, I open up my calendar on my phone. I start by writing down any events we have during those two weeks and I include notes about the events.
For example, maybe one night we have plans to go out somewhere to eat. I’ll mark that on the calendar so I know I don’t need to plan a meal for that night.
Maybe we have a crazy schedule after work one day and won’t be home until later. I’ll write down a note about having leftovers that night or eating a quick dinner. I try to include as much information as possible so that I know everything that’s going on.
It’s so important to look at your weekly plans and see what you have going on before you start planning out tons of meals for the week. While I would love to cook at home every day, that’s just not possible. I need to be realistic so I can make a meal plan that I can stick to and will actually work with my schedule.
This is also why I only plan two weeks at a time. Some people like to plan all the meals for an entire month, but I never seem to be able to stick to that type of plan. That’s because I don’t know our schedule that far in advance. I’ve found that two weeks seems to work best for us and I’m able to create a pretty accurate plan.
Browse Through Paprika and Find Recipes
Once I’ve got everything from my calendar into my meal planning printable, I switch over to my Paprika app and start looking for recipes. Paprika is my favorite recipe management app. It keeps all of my recipes from books, family, websites, Pinterest and more organized in one place.
I have different categories set up in Paprika to organize my recipes. The main category that I use for meal planning is “Entrees.” I keep all my easy dinner recipes in here for quick access.
By having my recipes categorized like this, I avoid having to search through tons of recipes that don’t necessarily fit into normal meal planning (I’m looking at you Gingerbread House recipe!).
Plan Meals and Include Notes
Once I find recipes that I want to make, I start filling in my printable. I look at the schedule that I’ve filled out and try to put meals in where I think they will fit.
The notes that I wrote in from my schedule help me pick which meals should go on certain days. If I know we are going to have leftovers one night because of a crazy schedule, then I try to plan a bigger meal the night before so that we will actually have leftovers.
I also add additional notes for certain recipes, like if I need to defrost meat or prep a slow cooker the night before.
Make Grocery List
After all of my days are filled in, I move on to creating my grocery list.
The grocery list is separated into general sections of the grocery store to help me stay organized while I’m shopping. No one likes to backtrack through the entire store because you forgot one little thing on your list. Having categorized grocery lists is essential!
There are also two lists, one for each week of the meal plan. Looking at my list of meals, I go back into the recipes in Paprika and look at the ingredients list.
Taking into account what I already have on hand in my pantry and freezer, I write down any ingredients that I need to buy on my grocery lists. Once I’ve gone through all the recipes, I’m left with two weeks of grocery lists ready to go.
At this point, I add in any other things that I know I need to buy for each week.
To keep track of food that we need, we always keep a magnetic notepad and magnetic pen on our fridge. As we notice things are running low, we add them to the list. When I’m making my meal plans and grocery lists for the week, I grab this list and add the items to the appropriate sections.
The best part about this printable is that when I am done meal planning, I just cut on the dotted lines and separate the meal plan from the grocery lists. I put the calendar on our fridge and the two grocery lists go into my purse.
And that’s it, I’m done!
My full two-week meal plan is right there in the kitchen so I know what to make each night. My two grocery lists are complete so I knew exactly what to buy at the store. All of the guesswork is gone!
I’m not always perfect at meal planning, but I’ve found that it’s so much better to have some sort of a plan than to have nothing at all. With a meal plan, I feel less stressed around dinner time, I don’t waste food, and I save money grocery shopping. It’s a win all around!
If you have never tried to meal plan before, give it a try. I promise that you will feel more in control and less frantic around meal times.
Let me know in the comments if you give this a try. If you have any other suggestions for how to meal plan, let me know! I’m always looking for ways to improve my method 🙂 .
PS: To make my meal planning even more organized, I created a set of colorful stickers to use with the printable. I used my Cricut Explore to create and cut out these stickers, but you can print them off and cut them out on your own. All the information is over in the post…
I link up at these fun parties!
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