Real Food Tips: 8 Meal Planning Pointers

A couple of weeks ago we discussed the fact that meal planning is an important part of sticking to a budget. Not only does meal-planning help you stay on track financially, but I personally think it helps keep things interesting as well. If I actually dedicate a little time to planning out our dinners for the upcoming week there’s a much better chance we’ll have something to look forward to. I know a lot of you out there are expert meal planners (military style!) so please share any tips I left out in the comments below.

Our Fridge

  1. Scour your fridge, pantry, & freezer so you can make note of ingredients you have on hand that should be used before they spoil. Also, make note of any staples you could incorporate as well (like rice or beans) to reduce your overall grocery purchases.
  2. Ask your local farmers market if they have an email list or newsletter so you can be notified of what they expect to offer at the next market. If not, figure out what will be in-season so you can plan meals around those items before you go.
  3. Check out your favorite supermarket’s weekly sales ad to see if there’s anything interesting you could incorporate in your meal plan.
  4. Sit down and spend at least 15 minutes planning out your dinners and grocery list for the week ahead based on the food you have on hand, (potential) farmers’ market finds, and grocery store sales. Pick out one brand new recipe to try each week to keep things interesting! Be adventurous and go for at least one meal a week you’ve never made before.
  5. If you have kids get them involved in helping you think of meal ideas for the upcoming week. Pull out some cookbooks, sit down together, and ask for their input. My 6-year-old doesn’t even know it yet, but she is best at motivating me to try those recipes I would have never normally picked on my own!
  6. In-between your weekly meal planning sessions always be on the lookout for inspiring recipes and meal ideas. Keep those recipes handy in a file folder or other reliable spot so you can reference them easily for inspiration.
  7. Only plan to make 4 to 5 different dinners each week – one of which is a new recipe. You can have leftovers, scrounge (breakfast for dinner anyone?), or be spontaneous on the other nights.
  8. Most importantly…be flexible. If something unexpected comes up one evening (like laziness!) just move the planned dinner to the next night.

Reminder: If you really aren’t into meal planning no matter how hard you try, then let our sponsor, The Fresh 20, do it for you!

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  • Comments

    1. |

      Oh my goodness… exactly what I would have said! Such great info! I’m thinking of cutting processed foods this coming new year. Do you have any advice for me? Thanks again for the great info!

    2. |

      I voted! I visit your site several times a week for inspiration and ideas. You have made my meal planning a lot easier, because I get so many great recipes from your site. I keep my freezer stocked with your whole wheat tortillas and whole wheat muffins, and am always looking forward to the next great idea! Thanks so much what you do…I pray God blesses your work and your home :)

    3. |

      What a great post – wonderful tips. I am a firm believer in meal planning – you save money, time and you’ll eat better for sure! In fact, I enjoy it so much I added a meal planning session to my health coaching business where I’ll teach my clients how to plan their own menus – perfect for those who don’t want to sit down and figure out how to do it on their own. I’ve found some people just like a little hand holding!

    4. Dawn |

      I have recently been intrigued by reading blogs for craft tips, recipes, small diy ideas and came across yours. I have to say I LOVE LOVE LOVE IT!!!!! Your lunch ideas are the best because I have been in that sandwich,fruit,snack and drink rut, and your blog has given me healthier, more fun alternatives for my girls! Thank you and keep up the great work!

    5. |

      Just discovered your blog and am a huge fan! I aspire to consistently meal plan, especially since I have two small children and my husband has Celiacs Disease so eating out can be expensive and/or stressful. I’ve tried many different “systems” like binders, cute printables, menu planning websites, etc but I’m not the most organized person in the world and have never been able to be consistently successful until I started using

      At first it just looks like a place to discover new recipes using my social network (which is great), but my favorite part is that I can click and drag my recipes onto my menu and then in one click create my shopping list to print or send to my phone. Love that!

    6. Ali |

      What does CSA mean?

      • Bethany |

        Ali, CSA: Community Support Agriculture. Typically, you pay a participating farmer an upfront fee, then each week, you pick up a specified amount of produce that he or she has grown. It’s a great way to get local, often organic produce, as long as you can afford the up-front amount! Google search CSAs for your area and see what’s available!

    7. Carla Hankins |

      Love your post, thanks for all the great ideas and meal planning that’s the hardest thing for me.

    8. Nicole D. |

      I write my meals on post-it notes that fit well in the boxes of my family ‘s calendar. I can easily move the meal to another day this way, and I often go back to previous months and peel off the post-it and put it on an upcoming day. This saves me lots of time. Thanks for the post, 100 Days!

      • Sonia McDowell |

        The post its are a great idea for the calendar!

    9. Penny Graham |

      I made myself an Excel spreadsheet on my home laptop a while back to ensure I incorporate vegetables and fruit into every supper. I plug the different elements of each meal – protein, carb, vegetables, good fat, dairy and fruit into the slots to ensure I have them all, even if it’s a one-dish meal. But it also helps to ensure I use different proteins, grains and vegetables throughout the week. Plus, it’s easy to move things around if something pops up (like laziness) and even to carry over a planned meal to then next week.

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