Get meal planning tips and free meal planning printables!
Have you ever gone to the store because you needed toilet paper… or laundry detergent… or milk… or [insert your own essential for the day], only to spend 45 minutes (and all your energy) and to come home and realize that you forgot the one thing you went to buy?
I’ve never done that, naturally… 😉
In truth, I’ve done it so many times, I could be the expert. Life is busy. Keeping track of shopping – much less cooking and eating – well for your family can be so very difficult. If you follow me on Instagram, then you know my family has been doing Whole 30, a special paleo-style diet meant to reset your system and your cravings as well as encourage better overall eating habits and health. And while I do recommend it (I won’t say it’s easy, but it’s good!), that’s not the purpose of today’s post. Today’s post is about how I’ve managed to completely change my family’s eating habits, cook all fresh, wholesome food for every single meal, and still keep up with homeschooling, blogging, and life.
Excuse me while I go change into my super hero costume in a phone booth.
No really, it’s not at all about super powers; it’s about planning. As good ol’ Ben Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” So without further ado, here are my 5 meal planning tips (and don’t forget the free printables at the bottom!).
1. Use a weekly calendar (and actually write it down!) – calendar printable below!
The biggest reason I need this is to remember what I planned. I’m the queen of planning 5-7 meals for my family, shopping, filling the fridge, and then forgetting what I was going to cook. As a result, the zucchini sits at the bottom of the hydrator until it goes bad, and we end up eating out because I can’t think of anything to cook.
2. Double up your meats
Mr. Pax is awesome, in so many ways, but he doesn’t really like leftovers. He will eat them, but they are one of his least favorite things. Enter the
sneaky ingenuitive side of my brain: make something at the beginning of the week and use the leftover meat for a different meal. For example, I might make a bunch of balsamic chicken in the crockpot one night and serve it with roasted veggies and a salad. Two or three nights later, I sauté a few onions and tomatoes, throw in the leftover chicken, and put it all on top of pasta (or zucchini noodles while we’re doing Whole 30). Presto. He’ll never know they’re leftovers. 😉
3. Use your calendar and stand in your kitchen when you make your shopping list – shopping list printable below!
It’s SO easy to forget things. I make my list with my calendar in hand and I wander my kitchen while I do so. This ensures I don’t buy too much fresh fruits or vegetables and have to throw some out. Eating fresh, healthy food is wonderful, but it can be expensive; I don’t want to waste any. Oh, and bonus tip of the day, don’t try to photography gorgeous, fresh fruit when you’re hungry… It’s dangerous. 😉
4. Prep in bulk – prep printable below!
Using my calendar, I make a list of everything I can get ready ahead of time. It takes almost no more time to chop 4 onions than it does 1 onion, and it saves the set up and clean up time.
5. Make daily notes
Please tell me I’m not the only one who has wonderful, labor-free crock pot meals planned and then remembers at 4pm that I never set it up!! Slow cookers work wonders, but not in 2 hours. This also works great for remembering to thaw or marinade things.
And that, my friends, is how I’ve survived so far. And here are the printables to help you do so, too! The calendar has places for each meal (and, for the record, breakfast and lunch are often eggs and leftovers, respectively – I don’t want you to have the false impression that I’m cooking that much!), plus a spot at the bottom to figure out what you can make ahead.
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The shopping list is divided by general category. I know every grocery store is set up differently, but I have been going to three different ones since we started Whole 30, and these categories seem to work for all of them. I hope it’s helpful for you!
And, finally, the prep page. Using my calendar, I condense my prep here. It makes healthy, wholesome, homemade meals much more manageable for me! Plus, it has the daily notes section I mentioned.
I hope this helps in some way. I’m not claiming these are the best meal planning tips or printables out there, but I can assure you that they’ve helped me enormously. I hope they help you, too!
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