Meal planning is easy once you find your grove. My Ultimate Meal Planning Guide free printables will help you get organized. This guide includes a print out of your family’s favorite meals, a master grocery list with over 250 popular items you purchase at the grocery store, a weekly meal planner and monthly meal planners for the 2018 calendar year.
How to use this Guide
To get the best use out of your free guide, use the printables accordingly:
Family Favorites: Have your family write down their favorite foods. This is an easy way for everyone to get their favorite meals included on the menu.
Master Grocery List: Print the Master Grocery List and keep it on the fridge. Highlight items as you run out, or as you need new ingredients.
Weekly Menu Plan: The Weekly Menu Plan is used to elaborate on the Monthly Menu Plan. In addition, you can plan for breakfast and lunch. This is the perfect place to add weekly sale items to the menu.
Monthly Menu Plan: A monthly menu plan is used by filling in designated meals for the month. Mainly the big one: dinner. Schedule easy meals and leftovers on your busy days.
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Meal Planning, Saving Time
Meal planning is a great way to save you tons of time and tons of money. As Chief of Household Management by creating a monthly menu you are able to set expectations for the family.
By “set expectations,” I mean one of two things. First, your family will know what’s for dinner.
Often when I am “planning on the fly,” i.e. it’s 4:30 and I have no idea what’s for dinner, the conversation goes like this:
“Do you want, this…? ‘No’… What about this?… ‘No’…. Yeah, I’m not in the mood for that either… ‘Buffalo Wild Wings?/Olgas?/Panera?’ Yeah, let’s do that!
Then we end up with a carry out order and $30 dollars less in our pockets. Having a monthly meal plan is like the school cafeteria menu.
You know what to expect when it’s time for lunch. “Yay! It’s Nacho day,” or “I can’t wait for Pizza Friday’s.” This same concept at home will make your life much easier.
Meal Planning, Saving Money
Secondly, when you “set expectations,” you are going to save money.
Meal planning helps avoid purchasing ingredients on a whim. There have been many times I have gone to the grocery store and purchase “what sounds good.” Only to realize when it’s time to make something, I’m missing x, y, or z.
As a result, my purchased ingredients spoil before I get back to the store and I throw them away.
Planning to eat at home and implementing a plan, means less waste and less eating out. Both of which will save lots of money.
Meal Planning for Success
Successful meal planning takes preparation and commitment. Every family’s meal planning system is going to be a little different, because each family is different. Tailor the menus to work best with your family’s busy schedule. Here are some top tips for meal planning success:
Have your recipes accessible
Keeping your recipes accessible eliminates the burden of a Pinterest scavenger hunt when you should be cooking.
When you stumble across a new recipe, print it off. If you prefer paperless, then create a Pinterest Board for your “Meal Planning Menu.”
When using a cookbook recipe, write the cookbook and page number on your monthly planner. If you need some cookbook ideas for quick & easy weeknight dinners, then check out:
Get your family involved in the process
Having your family pick their favorite recipes encourages them to be onboard for the new changes. Have them list their favorite meals so they can be incorporated into the monthly menus.
Take inventory of your ingredients
After making your monthly menu, take inventory of pantry items and kitchen staples. It’s not usually the fresh items that are forgotten when meal planning. It’s usually the pantry items and kitchen staples, such as canned goods, spices and freezer bags. Use the Master Grocery List to highlight items that are getting low.
Stock up on the essentials
Invest in Kitchen Tools
Invest in quality kitchen tools that will help make your life in the kitchen easier. My favorite kitchen essentials are a programable slow cooker, my kitchen-aid mixer, and my pancake griddle. Having a slow-cooker with a timer makes it easier to pre-program your meals so you do not over cook them. This is a great kitchen essential if you will be away from the house. After it finishes its cooking settings, it switches over to the “warm” setting. A kitchen-aid mixer is the diamond of kitchen counter appliances. It’s the gem that outshines them all. Not only is it great for making frostings, mixes, and butter, but I love to use it to effortlessly shred chicken (place cooked chicken in the bowl and turn it on low). My pancake griddle is a life saver when I need to cook in larger quantities. I can cook a whole pack of bacon, a stack of pancakes, or multiple chicken quesadillas. The large size is much better then using a small pan on the stove. I also like to use it for fried rice. These appliances will make your life much easier in the kitchen.
Pretty Meal Planning Displays (Optional)
After you have created a weekly menu, you may want to transfer it somewhere pretty(optional). You can always post your weekly menu, but if yours is like mine it will be full of your plans and notes. You may like this decorative menu chalkboard here. Have fun with seasonal menus by decorating with colorful chalkboard markers that are available here.
If there are more Printables or Meal Planning items you would like to see, please leave it in the comments 🙂 Thanks again!