As a busy Mama, one of my biggest challenges is trying to juggle all of my responsibilities. It seems like there are never enough hours in the day to get EVERYTHING done. I’ve discovered that one of the best ways to save time (and money!) is to create a Weekly Family Meal Plan.
Meal Planning: Mama’s Little Helper
Having a detailed Weekly Meal Plan REALLY lightens my load:
- Conscious Cooking—Instead of just throwing something together because it’s easy and quick, I put real thought into every meal and snack. I get to choose tasty and nutritious meals that go beyond tired stressed-for-time Mama standbys like frozen chicken nuggets and hot dogs.
- Streamlining Shopping—No more wandering through grocery store aisles without a plan. Better yet, meal planning puts an end to ordering yet another pizza because I forgot to shop.
- Managing My Money—If I pay attention to local grocery store flyers, I can plan meals around what’s on sale that week, buy in bulk, and even use coupons (before they expire!).
- Reduce Cooking Time—Perhaps the best part about making a Weekly Family Meal Plan is saving a TON of prepping and cooking time.
Healthier food, more time and money, and less stress—what’s not to love?
The Secret to My Success: Apps to the Rescue
My go-to tool for finding the grocery deals near me is the Flipp app, which brings all my local supermarket flyers together in one place. You would be amazed at how much money I save by building my Weekly Family Meal Plan around what’s currently on sale.
If I am stumped about what to make and need inspiration, Yummly is my meal planning partner because it lets me search by individual ingredients or specific recipes. I can create meal plans based on my family’s preferences, and then the app automatically creates a shopping list for me. Best of all, I can order grocery delivery right from the app.
Planning Means Prep
The second secret to successful meal planning is bulk preparation. After my groceries are delivered, I set aside some time to do most of the meal prep for the week all at once.
For example, I can chop up some carrots for Sunday’s stew, slice a few up for a side dish on Wednesday, and peel some for snacks throughout the week, all at once. Or I can brown the ground beef I will need for Spaghetti Bolognese on Monday and Taco Tuesday at the same time.
In fact, because we usually have tacos EVERY Tuesday, I save a tremendous amount of time by cooking enough taco meat for several meals, portioning a meal’s worth into individual containers, and popping them into the freezer until I’m ready to use them. I do this with everything I can—meats, chicken, vegetables, soups, and herbs. If I prepare it now, in bulk, then I don’t have to do it later.
Saving money and saving time are the advantages of weekly family meal planning and bulk food preparation.
The Philosophy of Meal Planning
Every task involved in meal planning is designed to make meal preparation faster, easier, more nutritious, more cost-effective, or all of the above. If you can keep that in mind, it becomes a lot easier to stay disciplined.
Start developing good habits that will make the entire process easier. Pick one specific day of the week to plan the week’s menu and order groceries and another day to do your bulk meal preparation.
Start choosing ingredients and recipes for their cost-effectiveness, simplicity, and versatility. Look for ingredients that can be used in multiple ways, and try to pick simple recipes that don’t require a lot of prep or cooking time.
A big part of meal planning is reducing food waste, so look for ways to repurpose leftovers. As you will see in my meal plan, I am a big fan of turning tonight’s dinner into tomorrow’s lunch.
A Weekly Family Meal Plan in Action
Let’s take a look at a sample Weekly Meal Plan that I’ve used for MY family. Obviously, your family’s likes and dislikes, dietary needs, budget, and time commitments differ from ours, but you can still use my plan as inspiration to create your own.
French Toast and Sausage (using leftover sourdough bread from Saturday’s dinner)
Chicken Quesadillas (using bulk-prepared chicken breast from my freezer)
Spaghetti with Meat Sauce (30 minutes)
Because I do most of my bulk meal prep for the week on Sundays, dinner tends to be some sort of pasta dish—simple and quick, but still nutritious and filling.
Breakfast Burritos (using flour tortillas from Sunday’s lunch)
Weekday mornings tend to be hectic, so I concentrate on light meals that can be on the table in just a few minutes.
Spaghetti Grilled Cheese Sandwiches—Absolutely kiddo-approved!
Roast Chicken and Steamed Broccoli (5 minutes prep, 90 minutes in the oven)
Roast chicken is one of the simplest and most versatile dishes on my dinner rotation. If I change even just a few ingredients, I create an entirely different meal.
Cereal with sliced bananas and milk
Chicken and Vegetable Stir-Fry (using Monday’s leftovers)
Crispy Tacos and Refried Beans (using bulk-prepared ground beef) (15 minutes)
English Muffin Breakfast Sandwiches
Bean and Cheese Nachos (using leftovers from Taco Tuesday)
Roast Pork with Apples (5 minutes prep, 6-8 hours in a slow cooker)
I am a HUGE fan of slow cookers. All I have to do is throw a few ingredients in the pot after breakfast and leave it alone until it’s time for dinner.
Cereal with Berries and Milk
Sloppy Joes (using the leftover pork and apples from Wednesday’s dinner)
Ham Steak and Pineapple (18 minutes)
My meal plans use a lot of ham. I have recipes that are sweet and others that are savory. It works as a main dish, a sandwich, and even a seasoning.
Oatmeal and Cinnamon Toast
Ham and Pineapple Mini Pizza Bagels (using leftovers from Thursday’s dinner)
Tuna Casserole (15 minutes prep, 20 minutes in the oven)
A good casserole is a busy Mama’s best friend—a few minutes of prep, then pop everything into the oven. Plus, it is hard to beat a one-pot cleanup.
Three-Ingredient Banana Pancakes—Another kiddo-approved favorite!
Tuna Melt Sandwiches and Potato Wedges (using leftovers from Friday’s dinner)
Honey Chicken (using bulk-prepared chicken from my freezer) (30 minutes)
When I prepare chicken in bulk, I always have nearly-instant meals on hand. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are incredibly versatile and are always a hit with my kiddos.
As you can see, sticking to a Weekly Family Meal Plan keeps ME in control of what my family eats—no junk or heavily-processed foods go on my table. I know for a fact that I am serving nutritious foods made with the best ingredients.
Yes, it takes organization and discipline to plan meals a week ahead. But the more time I save in the kitchen, the more time I have to spend with my family.
And THAT is a good Mama Goal.