Mama Heart to Hearts

Sharing my experiences and thoughts as I live the stay at home mom life!

Meal Planning 101

It’s late Monday afternoon.  You’ve had a long day at work or at home taking care of the kids and are counting down the hours until bedtime.  But wait… what about dinner?  Ugh!  Now you have to figure out what you’re going to make, somehow navigate traffic to get to the grocery store, AND actually cook the meal with a child clinging to your leg.  Not exactly the most appealing, right?

That’s why I’m passionate about meal planning.  Yes, it takes a little bit of work on the front end, BUT it saves a ton of time during the week!  I want to share with you my tips for meal planning and getting dinner on the table.

Step 1: Dedicate one day each week to plan meals for the next seven days. I do my meal planning on Sundays and grocery shopping on Mondays.  My planning session consists of the following:

  • Determine how many meals to make
    • I typically make 3 meals a week and we eat leftovers from the freezer the other days (we always have a lot leftover since there’s just three of us!)
  • Determine which recipes to make
    • My recipe sources: cookbooks, my mom’s recipes, magazines (Food Network), and Pinterest
    • Reach out to me if you’d like any recipe or cookbook recommendations!
    • Try to incorporate at least one crockpot meal into the week (they are just so easy and delicious!)
    • Focus on variety. For example, don’t have a chicken dish for every meal that week.  Or if you are making pasta for a meal, stay away from Italian for the others
    • Have fun with it! Try making something new and adventurous
  • Make grocery shopping list
    • My preference: I use a notebook and pen. Call me old fashioned!  There are also a lot of great apps out there for making grocery lists!
    • ALWAYS cross check your list against your fridge, freezer, and pantry. I am notorious for storing 5 bottles of balsamic vinegar and 4 bottles of olive oil at a time because I used to not cross check!

Step 2: Dedicate one day each week to go grocery shopping

  • My preference: Mondays at Hyvee!  I’m actually kind of obsessed with Hyvee… it’s amazing

Step 3: Cook meals on days that are less hectic and busy

  • Meal prep the day of if you can in the morning before work or in the afternoon while the littles are napping. It helps make the actual cooking process in the evening go SO faster
  • Meal prep for me consists of doing all of the tedious jobs like the following:
    • Gather and set out all ingredients that aren’t refrigerated
    • Set out all cooking utensils that will be needed (i.e. pots, pans, bowls, etc.)
    • Do all of the cutting, chopping, and peeling. These are the tasks that can be the most time consuming!
    • Determine how long the cooking process will take so you know what time you should start. Then dinner will be ready on time instead of when the kids are going to bed (guilty of underestimating and eating two hours later than intended!)

Do you like to meal plan?  I’d love to hear your tips and tricks!


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  1. I plan on Sundays too. I do 7 meals a week because we eat leftovers for lunch the next day! I almost always use Pinterest for ideas and move pins into a “this week” board so I can quickly find what I’m cooking.

  2. It has been difficult for me to stay consistent with meal planning. I know that I am so thankful during the week when I do it all on a Sunday. With school starting back up and all of the various activities, I really need to get back into doing this again!

  3. I really need to start doing this. The way I’m going, meals are so hectic and I could easily alleviate that stress by planning and preparing them on a less hectic day of the week. Great tips!

  4. I’m such a huge fan of meal planning! It just makes life so much easier especially for my work lunches.

  5. I always meal plan for the week before grocery shopping, but I don’t cook th m in advanced. When I try to thaw out frozen left overs, they always taste funky. Do you have this issue?

  6. This is a great outline!! Thanks so much for the ideas! I think it’s the prep that gets me, but I just pretend I am a pro and using all the little dishes makes it more fun! A little music helps me too!

  7. Making a grocery list and a meal list in general even before I go to the store are life- savers for me. Whenever I skip this step, I always forget things and end up spending way to much money.

  8. Kiley

    Freezer meals are the best! I’m so bad at meal planning but when I do it makes life so much easier!

  9. Dana

    Yes! Meal planning and prepping has made my life sooo much easier! I also started print or writing out recipes instead of looking at my phone- so much better!

  10. We started saving a lot of money with meal planning. These are some great tips! I always make sure to clean out the fridge before I head to the store, so it’s ready for the new ingredients when I get home. I recommend Jamie Oliver’s Meals in Minutes for a cookbook. The recipes are slightly fancy and adventurous, but great for getting dinner done fast.

  11. I don’t plan all our meals but the ones I do, I do on paper as well 😀

  12. Just perfect and in-time. Meal planning is he biggest task for a mom. thanks for helpful pointers.

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