Is meal planning something you always mean to do…but it just does happen? Imagine having your family’s meals all planned out for each night of the week. You’re feeling confident and relaxed because you know you have all the ingredients you need on hand, yummy and ready to go. It’s not just a dream. I promise YOU can make it a reality!
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If just the thought of “meal planning made easy” sounds like a cruel joke or induces a panic attack—it’s OK! No need to freak out!
You, too, can cook up easy dinners that are cheap and healthy, and won’t stress you out. Even if you hate to cook, your family members have seven different allergies and are super-picky, OR if you just don’t know where to start, there’s still a free meal plan that can work for YOU!
If the very suggestion of a meal plan is scary or overwhelming, I want you to visit my meal planning basics post to help calm your fears and help you get an idea of what meal planning looks like.
Why do you need a meal plan?
Because meal planning on a budget offers the highest potential to reduce your monthly expenses! Food bills are both the easiest and the hardest area of your budget to reduce. It requires preparation and learning some life skills you might not feel equipped for, but there’s totally room to make mistakes.
You might try to go gung-ho with meal planning, spending hundreds of dollars on groceries, only to have it all go bad in the fridge, while you spend just as much going out to eat. You might buy things your kids hate. You might plan meals that don’t turn out, take a long time, or just generally make you feel like a hot mess.
It’s okay. If you follow these basic meal planning steps and find a type of meal plan that works for you, you can mitigate all of that disaster right off the bat! You can find a realistic meal plan that works for you and your family. You can even find a diet-friendly meal plan that will help you lose weight, or a meal plan to help you deal with your family’s preferences and allergies, and definitely a meal plan that will save you money and time.
It just requires a little bit of self-examination and getting a handle on what’s out there.
The easiest way to plan meals that I’ve found is a method I call “Simple Meal Planning.”
Here are my step-by-step meal planning instructions to help you get started:
Best for: Busy people with busy weeks!
If you look at your calendar and think there’s no way you can avoid the fast-food line this week, try these types of meals. 15 minute meals are often convenient foods—prepackaged, ready-made, instant solutions. Even though they might not be “Instagram-worthy,” they’re cheaper and less fattening than fast food, yet quick and easy.
If you’re really crunched for time, most of these meals can be eaten off paper towels or paper plates, so you won’t amass a sink full of dishes. They don’t require skills, preparation, or cooking experience. They also don’t require a bunch of pre-planning. These quick meals should be made from “default ingredients” you can just keep on hand or store in your freezer/pantry/fridge.