Figuring out how to meal plan? Once you’ve been meal planning for a while, it’s time to recycle your plans and learn how to organize meal planning in a way that works for you (and your family).
Learning how to become more organized, like creating meal plans with simple dinners that my family will actually eat, has made my life so much easier, and I know it will to yours, too.
Meal planning will help you get dinners on the table faster every night, without complaints from your entire family, including the dog.
However, the steps it takes to eat dinner as a family have changed, and the old meal planning techniques aren’t effective now.
For example, when we were growing up, families didn’t have the crazy schedules that they do now. And if there’s anything that COVID has helped us do, it’s spend time together as a family.
But now that we’re back to constantly running the kids here, there, and everywhere, it’s time to rethink our process for eating together as a family.
Let’s make getting dinner on the table feel almost effortless! Sound good?
Organize your Recipes
You don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel every week or month. Meal planning can be super easy, and you don’t even have to eat the same things every week (unless you WANT to have taco Tuesday every week! 😋🌮)
That’s why brainstorming a list of your family’s favorite recipes (and where you store them) is so important.
In my meal planner, I keep a list of all my family’s favorite recipes.
To make my list, I spent about 15 minutes listing all our favorite slow cooker recipes, Instant Pot meals, skillet dishes, and even our favorite carry-out foods, like roasted chicken that I grab on my way through the checkout line in the grocery store.
As you’re creating your list, just do a “brain dump.” Don’t worry about being messy – you can organize your list later.
Once you’ve listed EVERYTHING that your family likes, grab a new sheet of paper and get organized.
I like to organize my list by cooking style and then by meal type, like listing all slow cooker recipes together, or even making a list of our favorite ground beef recipes, chicken recipes, etc.
You can also group meals by cooking time, so you have a go-to list for nights when you need a simple, easy to prepare dinner.
If you have a ton of recipes and cookbooks all over the place, use this opportunity to declutter your kitchen and only save your favorite recipes (your kitchen will thank you, and you’ll also make future meal planning easier).
Use a Meal Planning Template
Now that you have your recipes organized, are you ready to create your meal plans and actually get them written out for the whole family to see?
Start by using a meal planning template. Following a template ensures that you’ll quickly create a meal plan every week or month, based on what your family will actually eat and how much time you have to cook each night.
Once you decide whether to use a weekly or monthly meal planner, add your schedule to the planner. For example, if you have to take your kids to baseball practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays and gymnastics on Wednesdays, mark a B or G in the corner of each day so you can see that you’ll need to make simple, fast recipes on those nights when you have something planned.
Then, fill in your meal planner based on your organized list of recipes.
If you want to go the really simple route, get a done-for-you meal plan from MyFreezEasy. She makes simple, easy to follow recipes based on your family’s dietary preferences as well as the type of cooking that you want to do.
Meal Planning Tips to make getting organized even easier
Reuse your meal plans
To make future meal planning even easier, SAVE your meal plans. Make sure you label the meal plan with the date, especially if you have a similar schedule from year-to-year (or even month-to-month).
Organize your meal plans in a binder
As you save and reuse your meal planning, use this opportunity to take your organization to the next level.
Get my Organized Kitchen Binder for a done-for-you organization and meal planning system.
You’ll get over 50 slow cooker recipes and Instant Pot meal ideas (and a place to store your favorite recipes), pantry, freezer, and grocery lists to stay organized, cooking cheatsheets, and a substitute list – perfect if anyone in your family has food allergies.
Plan designated leftover nights
Don’t feel obligated to plan meals every night of the week. Create some “space” in your meal plan to eat leftovers or occasionally order takeout.
This will also help to reduce the amount of waste you produce in your kitchen, which will save you money. 💰
Theme your meal plans
Create a theme, like Taco Tuesday, Pizza Friday, or Slow Cooker Saturday to simplify your meal planning.
If you have a regular schedule, organizing your meal plans around theme nights is so helpful. Schedule the easiest meals (like quick Instant Pot recipes or slow cooker “set it and forget it” meals) on nights when you’re busy.
Happy meal planning!