5 Tips to make Meal Planning Achievable!

How many times have you looked in your fridge with no idea where to start when thinking about what to cook for dinner? Or perhaps strolling up and down the aisle at the grocery store unsure what to buy for dinners through the week. Each week I like to plan ahead and create a weekly meal plan.  I have been meal planning for as long as I can remember, it not only saves my sanity, but it helps to save money at the checkout.

I share my family’s weekly meal plan on the blog each Monday, and am thrilled that some members of the community share theirs too. You can view all my past weekly meal plans here.

Benefits of Meal Planning

  • Saves Time: By having a plan that is easy to see, easy to read, and easy to follow, I can glance in the morning to see what I will need put in the slow cooker or know what I need to get out of the freezer and place in the fridge.
  • Saves Money: The day before I go food shopping I check the pantry, fridge and freezer to see what is left over to save buying the same thing. Take a moment to check through your supermarket catalogue to see what is on special for the week.
  • Eliminates Waste: I only buy what is needed from the supermarket, therefore there’s less food waste at the end of the week.
  • Create Healthy Meals: Planning ahead allows me to cover a variety of food groups throughout the week with a healthy balance of red meat, fish, chicken, carbs and veggies.
  • No Excuse For Helpers: Place your meal plan on the fridge for everybody in your household to see (my magnetised meal planners are perfect for this!). Not only will this stop the constant question of what’s for dinner, but if you are late home or unwell and have children old enough to help or a partner home, they can cook dinner for you!

I was on Channel 9 News a while ago, they called me the ‘Meal Planning Master’, sharing some of my planning tips. You can view the segment below.

I put my magnetic meal planner on my fridge (or you can frame and put on display on your kitchen bench) and then use a whiteboard marker pen which can easily be wiped off each week.

5 Tips to make Meal Planning easier

I only go to the grocery store once a week and I credit this to meal planning and using a shopping list. When planning my meals I consider the use by dates for fresh meat, what meat I have in the freezer, or canned fish to see me through to the following week.

1. CREATE A LIST OF YOUR FAMILIES FAVOURITE MEALS – Trying to come up with something new every week can be difficult and at times I get frustrated, especially when I’m in a hurry. Instead create a list of your family’s favourite meals which you can then refer to for ideas on what to put on your meal plan. I like to make one of my family’s favourites at least once a week. You can also find inspiration in the recipe section of my blog, in magazines and cookbooks.

FAMILY FAVOURITES DINNER IDEAS PRINTABLE – available as an instant download here. 

2. DEDICATE TIME – Sit down with a coffee while you’re watching TV, or waiting for the kids at after school sport, and use that time to write down seven meals you want to cook during the week. Don’t leave it to chance because it won’t happen, you’ll end up buying unnecessary items, spending more money at the checkout and then need to go back to the shop during the week.

3. ASSESS YOUR WEEKLY ROUTINE – Review your schedule and afternoon commitments, then take these into account when planning the evening meals ie. if you’re at soccer training till 5.30pm, don’t choose a meal that may take up to an hour to prep and cook. Perhaps consider a slow cooker meal, something that’s quick and easy, or make a double batch the night before so you can easily reheat it.

This A4 Weekly Planner Notepad is the perfect tool for helping you stay organised throughout your weeks.

4. LOOK THROUGH GROCERY STORE CATALOGUES – Glance through the local grocery store catalogue, see what’s on special and buy your meals based the specials, from fresh meat to bottled sauces.

5. WRITE YOUR SHOPPING LIST – This is where you will save time and money. Use your meal plan to write your shopping list to make sure you have all you need for the week. I have a full blog post here 7 reasons why you should use a grocery list. You can use my adorable Confetti Shopping List Notepad. The list is cleverly designed into easy-to-understand categories that will prevent you running up and down the supermarket aisles.

BONUS TIP – MAKE IT WORK FOR YOU –  if you find meal planning overwhelming consider only planning meals for 5 days rather than 7.  Stick with it for a few weeks then once you have a good collection of meal plans you can use these again and continue to rotate them each month.  Remember you can check out my meal plans here for inspiration.

What do you struggle with when Meal Planning?

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Melanie August 23, 2017 - 6:20 PM

I aways love reading your tips, I read a post you wrote a few years ago about meal planning and you would be proud I have been meal planning ever since. When you say saves your sanity it is an understatement, I can’t imagine not having a meal plan ready before I go grocery shopping. Thanks Kat, ooh and I love your plans you share each week too, thank you for taking the time, I love your blog.

Tracy August 24, 2017 - 7:01 AM

I have been meal planning (and kept all those plans) since …. 1999!!!!!! I was probably doing it before that, but I’ve kept all those calendar pages that have been faithfully printed from Word’s template bank. When I get stuck I flick back to see what we were eating in the same month in previous years.
The other thing I’ve heard people say, is that they think they have to eat what they planned on the day they planned it. You don’t! It doesn’t matter what night you eat what’s on your plan. The point is you’ve planned and shopped for those meals, so everything’s there if you need switch things about through the week.
If you have older kids who do cook for you, bring them into the planning phase. Asking my kids what they want to cook has increased their participation rate.
Lastly the saving money. Oh my goodness, YES. Between planning and shopping at Aldi, my family of five adult people eats for around $100-$150/week. Some weeks less, some more, but it all kind evens out.

Trina August 27, 2021 - 10:45 AM

I keep my meal plans too! It definitely helps with seasonal cooking ideas as well as those special occasions that occur at the same time every year to know what I cooked in the past (noting what worked and what didn’t!).

Tina G August 13, 2019 - 8:12 AM

I love meal planning! It make life easier and cheaper.
Being a working mum of 4, I plan one bulk cooked freezable meal on the weekend (ie; 6 family meals worth of bolognese sauce, loaded vegetable sausage rolls, meatballs, burger patties, chilli con carne, quiche etc).
Then, on my 3 work days, hubby can cook the rice/pasta/vegetables that are going with that meal, and reheat the frozen portion.
We save so much money, time and effort doing this, and have less waste. Meal planning and shopping is easier too, as there are less meals we are planning for.

Katrina - The Organised Housewife August 13, 2019 - 2:04 PM

I love it Tina! Sounds like you are all over your meal planning 🙂 Thanks for sharing! Kat x


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