Simplify Family Meal Planning | 6 Tips for Meal Planning Success

Picture this scenario. It’s 5pm. You’ve had a full day of work, taxi-ing kids around, and all the other things that surround your life. You’re exhausted. You know you’ve still got homework to get through, those three loads of laundry to fold, sports practice, and don’t even get me started on bedtime. Forget about dinner. You head straight for the drive-through knowing that your brain just cannot handle one more task today. Dinnertime can be overwhelming. But as a HUGE advocate for nightly family dinners, I know there’s got to be a better way. You can simplify family meal planning and give up the nightly rat race.

Simplify Family Meal Planning
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Simplify Family Meal Planning

If you’re constantly struggling with the “What’s for Dinner?” question every night, then you should definitely be meal planning. However, sometimes just the thought of sitting down to plan just a weeks worth of meals can be overwhelming. Between notecards, printed recipes, and Pinterest, your recipes are scattered everywhere. Trying to remember recipes your family likes is challenging. And making something completely new is out of the question.

But there are a few things you can do to help you simplify the process of meal planning. These tips will help you meal planner faster, plan quick and easy meals for your family, and actually enjoy cooking again!

1. Simplify Your Meals

You really don’t have to recreate the wheel every time you plan out your dinners. Start by making a list of your family’s 15-25 favorite meals. These are probably dinners you can make with little to no help from the recipe! You can make them in your sleep.

I use the Family Favorite Recipes form (you can download one for FREE here!) to list out all of the meals I can make quickly! These are meals I can pretty much make without even looking at the recipe (or maybe just a few glances to check measurements! ? ) I stick with these meals at least 5-6 nights a week. They require very little brain power so it’s not stressful for me to go into my kitchen for 30 minutes to get started.

Simplify Family Meal Planning with a list of your family's favorite recipes
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I limit myself to trying a new recipe no more than 1 every week or two. In really busy seasons, I won’t try any new recipes at all for awhile. Did you know that trying new recipes requires more brain power? Even if it turns out to be a simple recipe, it causes us stress because it’s not a regular routine we are used to following. So limiting new recipes is key to simplify family meal planning in your home.

If you can only think of 10-12 recipes your family loves, that’s great! Put those recipes on a 2 week rotation. Then slowly begin to try a new recipe from time to time to expand your list. But don’t feel like you have to have 60 different gourmet meals in your back pocket ready at the drop of a hat. You don’t! We like to keep it simple around here. ?

2. Organize Your Recipes

Having disorganized recipes can be the straw that broke the camel’s back when it’s 5pm and you already don’t want to fix dinner! But instead of picking up the phone to order pizza for delivery, spend a bit of time organizing your recipes.

I like to organize my recipes by the meat used. So I have sections for Chicken, Beef, and Pork. You might also want to include Vegetarian, Venison, or Fish to your binder. This helps me as I’m planning my meals.

Create a recipe binder
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The most important thing you can do when organizing your recipes is LIMIT what you put in your binder. If you’ve never made the recipe, don’t give it a permanent home in your binder. If you’re family doesn’t actually LOVE the recipe, don’t give it a home in your binder. Only store those recipes that make your Family Favorite Recipes list!

I like to store any recipe I’ve found that I plan to try in the coming weeks in the front pocket of my binder so it’s easy to find. If we end up loving that recipe, I’ll file it away in it’s appropriate category. If not, it hits the recycling bin.

Psst…You can grab my {NEW} 2020 Meal Planning + Recipe Organization Kit here!

Similar: How to Organize Your Recipes with a Recipe Binder

3. Shop Your Pantry, Fridge, and Freezer FIRST!

Before making your meal plan, the best thing you can do is shop your pantry, fridge, and freezer first! Use up ingredients you already have on hand. This will eliminate food waste, reduce your grocery budget, and alleviate the frustration of lack of food storage. When we only keep on hand what we will realistically use in the coming week or two, we don’t actually have to store that much food.

Shop your pantry first
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I’ve really learned over the past few years that I just really don’t need to keep so much food on hand. Things get wasted or go bad before I can use them up when I have more than I really need.

Instead, I try to shop for two weeks at a time. When planning my meals, I use up any ingredients I have leftover from the past two weeks first. Then I plan the rest of my meals from our family favorite recipes list.

4. Make a List of Your Family’s Staples

When making out my grocery list, one of my biggest struggles was remembering to get all of the basics. I generally have my recipe binder in front of me. But I always seemed to forget one of those items I buy every time I’m at the grocery store.

Simplify Family Meal Planning
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So I created a list of our grocery staples. (You can find this printable in the Meal Planning & Recipe Organization Kit here.) This helps me remember all those items like milk, bread, eggs, yogurt, fruit, and veggies. Since every family is different, we likely all have different grocery staples. So I recommend just creating a list of your own and adding it to your recipe binder.

5. Take Advantage of Grocery Pick-up or Delivery

If you are short on time, then grocery pick-up or delivery can be a lifesaver! I personally LOVE the Walmart grocer pick up. While I’m a huge Aldi fan, I just can’t get everything I need there. I can get in and out of Aldi in 20 minutes or less even with a long list! So I usually will go to Aldi for as much as I can and then put in a Walmart order for the rest.

Meal Planning with Walmart grocery pickup
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Walmart grocery delivery has been fantastic for us. You only need a minimum order of $30. My personal experience has been great as far as the produce and meat items they pick for our family. Plus, I LOVE that if they are out of a product you want, they will try and substitute for a nicer brand or even larger size for the SAME price as the item you originally requested. You always get the lowest price.

If you’ve never used Walmart grocery pick up, you can give it a try and get $10 off your first order by clicking here and using my referral link.

I have several friends who love using Instacart and have their groceries delivered to their door within an hour or two. I think that’s also a great option.

If either of these are available in your area, I highly recommend giving them a try. They will definitely help you simplify family meal planning and grocery shopping!

6. Utilize Leftovers

The 6th and final way you can simplify family meal planning is by utilizing leftovers. This is something that our family has struggled with over the years. Things can easily get shoved to the back of the refrigerator and forgotten about only to spoil before they can be used up. However, leftovers can be a secret tool in your back pocket to simplify family meal planning.

Instead of cooking every night, try cooking only 3 nights a week and eating leftovers every other night. Make an extra large batch of each meal so your family has plenty to use up over two days. Or you can use leftovers to save on lunches and eat those the next day instead of going out to eat or purchasing additional lunch items at the grocery store (this is what our family does).

If you aren’t a fan of leftovers, then this can be a hard pill to swallow. If you live in a part of the world where you have access to the internet and can read this article, then you probably also have more than enough food to eat. While we often have an abundance of food and, sadly, even food wasted quite frequently, there are others in the world who have none. And while leftovers might not be the most glamorous of things to eat, it’s food. And food is a blessing. So learning to love leftovers can not only simplify family meal planning, but also reduce your grocery budget and help to eliminate food waste. Remember, having food to eat every single day is a blessing. One we should never take for granted.


Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be sharing all about how I’ve simplified our kitchen to make cooking each night much easier and more enjoyable. But until then, I encourage you to simplify family meal planning in your home. Eliminate the nightly frustration of, “What’s for Dinner?” Reduce the inventory of food you store in your home. And organize your recipes to everything is easy to find and use when you need it.

What’s your biggest challenge when it comes to meal planning?

The post Simplify Family Meal Planning | 6 Tips for Meal Planning Success appeared first on The Simply Organized Home.

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