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Meal Planning for Beginners | Meal Planning on a Budget | Meal Planning Family | Meal Planning on a Budget Family

Meal Planning for Beginners: Even If You Have Failed in the Past

I know first hand that meal planning is tough.  I remember the day I decided I needed to meal plan and I remember going through the process of meal planning for the very first time.  I HATED IT!  I thought it was such a waste of time and it took me hours to figure out what we were going to eat for one week.  It was such a painful process, but fortunately I have learned from my mistakes and I can help you if you have tried to meal plan and failed or if you are new at this- I can teach you the steps I teach other meal planning for beginners.

You can watch the video if you prefer.  In it, I talk about The Busy Mom’s Guide to Meal Planning which is a guide I created for meal planning for beginners or those who have failed at meal planning in the past.

 

What is Meal Planning?: Meal Planning for Beginners

Let’s start at the very beginning and talk about what meal planning is.  Meal planning is when you sit down and come up with ideas of what to eat throughout the week (or longer) so you have food available to eat at home and you have a plan of what to make. You decide what you will make for each meal- breakfast, lunch and dinner.  You can even plan out snacks if you like.  It is a system that you have that prevents you from eating out at restaurants so you are organized and can save money in the process.

 

How Do I Plan Meals for My Family?: Meal Planning for Beginners

 

There are a lot of different ways to plan meals for your family if you are a meal planning beginner.  If you are just learning how to meal plan, you can use a cheap meal planning service or you can make meals to freeze and throw in the crock pot.  I have found these 2 methods to be the easiest for meal planning for beginners.  When I started meal planning and I was struggling to keep my head above water, I used a cheap meal planning service for 6 months to get an idea of what to make.

It was so fun getting emails once a week of recipes and grocery lists.  It took the planning out of it for me which was awesome!

If you know how to cook and you have a lot of ideas of what to make, The Busy Mom’s Guide to Meal Planning may be for you.  It is a meal planning system you can use to plan meals that you family will eat and you will spend just minutes per month meal planning.

 

Why Is It Important to Have a Meal Plan?

There are a lot of benefits to meal planning and there are a lot of important reasons why Moms choose to meal plan.  The most common ones are:

  • To lose weight
  • To save money

But there are a bunch of other reasons you might want to meal plan:

  • You want to feel organized and under control at home
  • You want to learn how to cook
  • You want to cut down on food wast
  • probably others that I am forgetting…

The biggest reason I wanted to learn how to meal plan was because we wanted to save money to pay off debt.  I wanted to be home with my kiddos more.  My job was pretty demanding and stressful and I really disliked working 10 hour days because I would be mentally exhausted by the time I got home and I felt like I couldn’t give much more to my family.  Don’t get me wrong, I like what I do and I loved the poeple I worked with, but the job was intense and I in my heart I knew I wanted to be more available to my kids.

Also, my little guy had some pretty tough stuff going on.  He was diagnosed with several food allergies, hypotonia and he wasn’t gaining weight.  That meant trips to the dietician, allergist, physical therapy at least once a week and a mountain of stress.

I knew we had to pay off debt in order for me to be more available to take him to these appointments.  This was the only way for me to cut back my hours at work and as Moms we will often do whatever we have to do to take care of our kiddos so we started our war on debt.

So we started paying off debt so I could be home more and it worked.

One of the biggest areas we had to control was our grocery budget.  We were easily spending over $200 per week on food, paper towels, makeup etc and I knew I had to get that under control because we could save a lot of money if I did.

So I had to face the dreaded meal planning demon.  I had to learn how to meal plan on a budget!

Having said all of that, there are several struggles that Moms face when meal planning.

Common Struggles Moms Face with Meal Planning:

After talking with lots of moms about how to meal plan, I have found that these are the common struggles in regards to meal planning:

  • I don’t know where to start
  • It takes too much time and it is so overwhelming
  • I can’t stick to a meal plan
  • My family is full of picky eaters
  • I want to change my eating habits but it is too hard to change
  • It doesn’t work for me

 

I get all of these struggles because I have faced them all before too.  Let’s walk through each one of these and let me tell you how I moved past each one, but first, let’s talk about the benefits of meal planning.

 

 

How to Overcome Common Struggles to Meal Planning

Above, I mentioned the common struggles that Moms face with meal planning.  These struggles can be so overwhelming that they either force us to quit meal planning or they prevent us from beginning in the first place.  Here is the list again:

  • I don’t know where to start
  • It takes too much time and it is so overwhelming
  • I can’t stick to a meal plan
  • My family is full of picky eaters
  • I want to change my eating habits but it is too hard to change
  • It doesn’t work for me

Struggle #1:  I don’t know where to start with meal planning.  It seems so overwhelming and it takes so long

 

One of the biggest misconceptions I had when I started meal planning was that I had to find all new recipes.  I would literally be on Pinterest for an hour and I would search through my favorite cookbooks for an hour to find meals for 7 days.  It was awful!  I had this big epiphany that I was making things way to hard.

 

I also thought that I had to meal prep for hours each Sunday to make things work….Nope.  Not even close.

 

Meal prepping one day a week is a valid way to prep your meals.  I know a lot of people who do this, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea.  I didn’t like spending all day cooking.  I wanted something simpler.

What Does It Mean to Meal Prep?

If you aren’t familiar with the term “meal prep” it just means that you spend some time getting the food ready that you want to eat for that week.  For example, if you are planning on having sloppy joes that week, you may cook the meat and make the sloppy joes on a Sunday and plan on eating them on Tuesday.  You also may cook chicken in a crock pot to shred it for chicken enchiladas. It basically means that you spend some time getting food ready ahead of time

Lots of Moms do this and I tried it, but that method was not for me.

 

I ended up abandoning that method and I started thinking about meals I knew how to make well.  I wrote those down and when I would plan meals for the week, I chose meals based on what I knew how to make well.  Such a simple concept but it was life changing when it came to how to meal plan.  I had all the meal ideas in one place with recipes or a page number of where to find the recipes so it would speed up the time it took to make dinner.

 

If you are just getting started with meal planning, the biggest piece of advice I can give you is to start where you are.  Make meals you know how to make well.  You don’t need a bunch of new recipes.  You can learn to make new recipes when you have time.

 

I learned that I didn’t need to make all new meals or make meals from scratch….  I needed a plan and make meals that I knew how to make well first.  Then, I started adding in 1-2 meals per week that I wanted to try (when I had time).  It was a lightbulb moment!

 

I can’t stress this enough- start where you are right now.

 

If you know how to make grilled cheese really well and you know how to make tuna casserole really well, start there.  Start with meals you know how to make very well and then we can add in other meals once or twice a week when you have time.

 

Plus you can make a ton of variations of grilled cheese.  You can do grilled swiss and ham, grilled provolone with tomato and basil, grilled cheese pizza (mozzarella cheese, a little sauce and pepperoni).  See, this can work!

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If you have a picky eater (or family) include them in the meal planning process.  This will increase your chances of everyone in your family eating the meals you make.  I have meal planning template that I use and a binder for all of my meal planning recipes so I stay super organized.  I would recommend you use this if you are a beginner and struggle with meal planning.

 

To set a foundation (and save a ton of time when you meal plan), sit down with your family and ask them what they like to eat.  Ask them what their favorite meals are that you currently make and if you have ideas of meals you want to try, ask them if they would eat it.

 

Write these down on the meal planning template and refer to it when you plan your meals.  This will drastically reduce the time you spend planning your meals.  You can also speed up the process of creating a grocery list if you notice there are things you buy a lot when you grocery shop. I go into this in my ebook, The Busy Mom’s Guide to Meal Planning (available until Friday short time at a reduced price).

Let’s recap the steps so far.  If you are a meal planning beginner, follow these steps:

  • Start where you are at with meals you know how to make
  • Ask your family what they like to eat and write it down on these templates
  • Get a binder and keep the templates and any recipes you have in the binder

 

Struggle #2: I have trouble sticking to a meal plan

I asked a bunch of Mommas what they struggle with in regards to meal planning and one thing that came up time and time again was that they struggled with actually sticking to a meal plan once they created it.  If you are just learning how to meal plan, follow the beginner steps I mentioned above and follow the next steps closely.

 

If you struggle with sticking to a meal plan, is it because the plan is too rigid?  Do you forget to take something out of the freezer?  Would it work better if you planned every meal out and posted it on the fridge?  Is it the cooking method you are using that maybe isn’t working?

 

For me, I used to create a meal plan for one week at a time and I had the calendar on the fridge, but it hated that system.  It was too rigid and sometimes I just didn’t feel like making the meal I had planned.  Now, I write out my list of dinner ideas on a sheet of paper and stick it on the fridge.  I ask my husband  in the morning what he would like me to make for dinner that evening (based on our schedule that evening) and we decide then what we will have.  It is less complicated and less rigid which is what I like.

 

I don’t like having everything super planned out.  My brain just doesn’t work that way.  You may be the opposite where you need to plan everything out and that is ok.  Know which type of person you are and go with it.

 

Also, start planning the meal that stresses you out the most.   Is it breakfast, lunch or dinner?  Is it school lunches?

 

Which meal stresses you out the most and start planning that meal first.  Make it as simple as possible and you will be more likely to stick to the meal plan.  Also, pay attention to your schedule so you aren’t making something complicated on an evening where you have a bunch of stuff going on.  In case you forget to take something out of the freezer, I have 10 recipes of meals you can make quickly in the meal planning ebook.

 

For me it is definitely dinner.  I started there and planned those meals first and I decided that I would keep things very easy for breakfast and lunch.  Breakfast is limited to fruit, toast, or yogurt during the week and lunch would be leftovers or a few cold lunch options and that is it.

 

Limiting your options for a couple meals will help you feel less stressed.  If you struggle with packing lunches, there is a bonus section of 70 school lunch ideas for kids in The Busy Mom’s Guide to Meal Planning.  I give you lunch ideas for kids because I know it is stressful to pack healthy lunches that kids will actually eat.

Struggle #3:  I have picky eaters in my family.

Every family has one.  Ours is Logan.  He has food allergies and he is a picky eater so that makes it fun at dinner time.  I know what you are going through if you have a picky eater and there are a few things you can do at dinner time to help them eat other foods.

 

Keep Trying Different Foods

Just because they have tried something in the past and hated it, keep trying. On average, kids need to try new foods 10 or more times before they decide if they like it.  We keep giving Logan peaches even though he has refused to eat them in the past.  Now he eats about 1/2 a cup of the peaches in 100% fruit juice.  It isn’t perfect, but it is progress.  Is he going to clean his plate every night?  Nope.  But I am not going to give up on him trying new foods.

 

Is it a Texture Thing

Some kids refuse to try new things based on the texture of the food.  Logan has this problem too.  He won’t eat apples because of the texture.  What you can do in this case is try shredded apple and even consider warming it up with a little cinnamon on top.  It softens the apple but it isn’t applesauce.  It is a different texture, but isn’t like a cold apple. Trying different textures of foods you want your kids to eat may help them get over being picky.  Next time, don’t warm up the apple, but give them shredded apple that is cold.  Keep trying Momma.  Don’t give up.

 

Try Bargaining

We don’t let our kids have snacks if they don’t eat their dinner.  That is a house rule.  We use snacks as bargaining tools.  If they don’t eat the food they are given snacks are taken away.  Snacks are a priviledge and not a must.  Consider this with your kiddo.  It works in our house.  We help Logan eat his food and tell him he will get a snack later in the evening if he eats his food.  About 90% of the time it works.  If he doesn’t eat his dinner, he won’t get snacks and we stand firm with this.

Click on the Image below to download your FREE Meal Planning Templates

Struggle #4: I Want to Change My Eating Habits, but It Seems Complicated to Change How I Meal Plan

Losing weight is a very popular reason to learn how to meal plan.  A lot of people want to lose weight, but they have no idea where to start with meal planning to lose weight.  I used to be a Health Coach for a small group of patients for a Cardiology practice several years ago and it was such an awesome experience.

 

After having my first son, I took a Health Coaching course and read tons of books on weight loss and healthy eating.  I implemented the information in my own life and I lost 55 pounds.  I gained 40 pounds during the pregnancy so I ended up losing extra weight based upon the changes I made in my eating and the exercise regimen.  I ended up sharing the tips with several of my patients and many of them came up to me and told me that it helped and they lost weight or lowered their cholesterol based on the info I shared.  That is all in the bonus section of The Busy Mom’s Guide to Meal Planning.

 

It was such an amazing experience to be able to help people.

 

If you are trying to lose weight, my recommendation would be to start where you are and add in healthy foods.  For example, make snacks mostly fruits and veggies.  Add a veggie at lunch and dinner.  Substitute whole wheat for white bread.

 

Make small changes that add up in the long run and you will notice a huge difference.  Exercise is also good to speed up your metabolism.  I get into this more in the bonus section of The Busy Mom’s Guide to Meal Planning because I know there are Mommas who want to eat a little healthier and maybe lose some weight.

 

I go over the eating structure I gave my patients because your diet is the biggest factor involved in losing weight.  Exercise is important, but if you don’t watch the quality of foods you are eating, your metabolism can’t keep up.

 

If you want to eat healthier though, start making small changes and be patient.  Small changes over time will make a big impact.

I know that meal planning is hard and it can be so time consuming.  My goal is to help you get it under control and develop a system that works for your family no matter what you are facing right now.  If you implement the steps in The Busy Mom’s Guide to Meal Planning, I know you will be successful in reducing the time it takes to meal plan, saving money on your groceries and creating a system that works well for your family’s needs.

 

I want you to succeed in all of your goals.  This is just one step towards becoming a little more organized and taking some of the stress of daily life away.   I give you as much information and as many ideas as I can in this ebook because I want to help spend less time on the day to day tasks and spending more time with your family and pursuing your passion and goals.

 

If you like you have failed at meal planning in the past, take a step back and figure out why you feel that way.  What was the biggest struggle and then start there in the ebook.  Don’t think of it as failure.  Think of it as a learning experience to move forward.  Things start to change when you think of failure as an opportunity to learn rather than a life defining moment of something you didn’t do well.

 

Struggle #5: Meal Planning Just Doesn’t Work for Me.  I’ve Tried But I Can’t Seem to do It

Even if you have tried meal planning in the past and have fallen off the wagon so to speak, it can still work for you.  The Busy Mom’s Guide to Meal Planning breaks down how to meal plan into very small steps that way the process isn’t overwhelming.

Most of the time this happens because something you are doing just doesn’t work for your lifestyle.  For me, I used to plan meals on a calendar and that system was way too rigid.  Once I had a system that was a little more flexible, it seemed to work for me.

Also, I hated meal prepping one day a week because it took so much time!  I know that works for a lot of Moms, but it didn’t for me. Once I stepped back and figured out what I liked to make and what my family liked to eat I realized that I was making this meal planning thing way too hard.  Meal planning for beginners does not have to be hard.  Take a little time to figure out which cooking style works for you and you will be successful at meal planning.

Change feels uncomfortable and hard sometimes, but when you actually move past the initial discomfort and you create a system that works, it can make your life so much easier.  My goal is to help you create a meal planning system that requires a little work upfront, but will save you so much time in the long run.

You got this Momma!

 

Favorite Resources:

 I am an affiliate for MyFreezeEasy, $5 Meal Plan and Ibotta because I believe in them.  I also use/have used them myself and trust them. 

The Busy Mom’s Guide to Meal Planning– An all in one resource for how to set up a meal planning binder, how to set up a meal planning system that will literally take you just minutes per month to meal plan and how to get over the obstacles commonly faced with meal planning in families (picky eaters, how to stick to a meal plan)

MyFreezeEasy– If you are interested in getting started with freezer cooking, this is the perfect meal planning system to get started without feeling overwhelmed.  I have used MyFreezeEasy to help me with meal planning and prep and it was  a life saver.

$5 Meal Plan– I used $5 Meal Plan for 6 months and I saved all the recipes which are now in my meal planning binder.  It works super well if you are looking for someone to give you quick recipes to make for dinner.  

 Ibotta– my favorite way to save money on groceries.  It is a free app you install on your phone.  Look for deals before you shop and redeem the savings by scanning the item and the receipt.  Money is automatically added to PayPal.  So easy!

 

Related Posts:

Meal Planning Comparison:  $5 Meal Plan vs. MyFreezeEasy
My Super Simple Trick on How to Meal Plan Quickly and Save Tons of Time
45 Healthy and Quick Lunch Ideas for Kids That They Will Actually Eat
10 Quick and Easy Dinner Recipes for When You Have No Time
100 Cheap Clean Eating Snack Ideas