Meal Planning 101

Tomorrow night I have put together an activity for the ladies in my church on “Home Management 101” where we will attend 3 “Mini Classes” on Couponing, Meal Planning and Household Cleaning Tips.

Seriously, I know sometimes we don’t mind it and then sometimes we can’t stand it, but shopping, cooking and cleaning are things we can never get away from. Doesn’t matter if we are stay at home moms, if we work outside the home, if we are empty nesters or have 5 kids under 10. We all do those three things! So why not learn how to do them more effectively and learn tips from each-other? That is my plan for the night.

I am also TEACHING the Meal Planning Class (basically because I couldn’t get anyone else to say yes! ha ha) and thought instead of posting a recipe today like I had planned, I’ll share with you what I am planning on teaching.

#1 My Meal Planning 101 Brochure: In the brochure I have listed all the different “types” of meal planning so they can first choose the one that will work for them. Then I’ll talk about several things: setting a set time and date to do planning, how to organize your grocery shopping list, tips on keeping produce fresh, tips on involving your kids, the benefits of meal planning and lastly all the different ways you can collect recipes to use for meal planning. You can find all of these notes listed on the brochure below:

#2 Then I’ll go into more detail on different types of planning with these notes:

Set “Type of Meal”

This plan is based on having a set number of days or a set weekday that has an assigned “type of meal.” Brainstorm for a few days on what your family’s favorites are in each of the categories. Having this list will make meal planning a cinch.

  • 5-6 Dinners: Two Fish, Two Meatless, Two Meat; Planned Breakfasts, Lunches, 1 Dessert & Two Homemade Snacks
  • One Crockpot (on busy day of the week), One Leftover, “Quick & Easy” Night
  • Give yourself a “free day” to eat out or to do an easy “breakfast meal.” Or make a day for your husband to cook/grill. Also include leftover days
  • Mexican Night, Pasta Night, Rice Night (stir fry or Indian), Sandwich Night, American Night, Homemade “Fast Food” Night, Fancy Meal Night, Soup & Salad Night or a Food Storage Night
  • Try a new Recipe Night!

3×5 Cards

Have your family’s favorite recipes all on 3×5  cards with the recipes on one side and the grocery list on the other side. Involve your kids by letting them go through the cards to choose what they would like to eat during the week. You can have the cards divided into “types of meals” as well.

6 Week Rotating Plan

Write out six weeks worth (or four or eight) of your family’s favorite meals. Also type up a shopping list to correspond with each week. Rotate through these meals during the year. This cuts WAY down on time because you are only meal planning once a year! You also could switch it up during the year and have a“Fall Plan” “Winter Plan” “Summer Plan” “Spring Plan” so you can eat differently based on the seasons and certain produce that is available during those times.

Meal Planning Binder

I am just printing out three blogger’s examples on their personal meal planning binder: Red Head Recipes, The Domestic Diva and Families with a Purpose.

Weekly Chart with List of Favorite Meals

Have a weekly meal chart that hangs in your home. You can use a white board, make one up on your own, order a “wood” one or download and print a free template. Have a long, long list of your family’s favorite meals. Then each week pick what you feel like from that list!

You can download my favorite free template here. Have it laminated so you can use a dry erase marker on it and use it week after week!

Freezer Meals

You can do this the whole year through to cut down on time or during certain times of your life (when you know you are going in for surgery, having a baby, etc.). Either plan 1-2 days during the month where you can spend the whole day cooking OR make a large “batch” of each meal you cook for awhile and freeze the other portion of it. You could also just make enough meals to have a certain day of the week be a “Freezer Meal” day.

For a guide on what you CAN freeze, what freezes well and how long it lasts you can go to And learn how to thaw safely as well at

Resources for Freezer Meal Ideas:

The Book 30 Day Gourmet’s BIG Book of Freezer Cooking,,, and

Make sure that you label your meals very well!

Free Meal Plans from Bloggers

Many bloggers love to share their weekly meal plans with their readers. Some go as far as to post every single recipe and even a shopping list. If you find a blogger that seems to have recipes and meal plans you enjoy, you could just take their work and use it for your own home!


Cooking 1 Day for 3 Days Worth

Cook the meat once, chop the veggies once, have everything ready to go for 3 meals worth! Turn a Sunday Pork Roast dinner into Spicy Pork Tostadas the next day and then the next day some Pork Fried Rice. You don’t let cilantro or other fresh produce go to waste when you use this option.

When picking meals choose meals that have the same meat, same produce, etc. so you can prep three meals worth on one day and make things stretch.

Here is my favorite place to go (also favorite show to watch) to get specific ideas and recipes to cook this way:

TV Show Quick Fix Meals with Robin Miller

You can simply google Meal Planning Blogs or ask around to your friends to see which ones they enjoy.

Cooking 1 Day a Week for Whole Week

Pick one day where you cook, maybe even cook together as a family. You will probably have to freeze some of the meals to keep them fresh and then have others ready to go in the fridge.

Weightwatchers did a whole series on how to do this and they have extremely healthy recipes as examples.

Refer to the freezer and thawing guide in the freezer meal section to make sure no one gets sick!

Online Planning Resources

They are many free and paid membership sites where they offer to do your meal planning for you!

#1 Food Nanny from BYUTV you put in your two week meal plan from her recipes and a shopping list is created for you all for free!

#2 is run by Nestle and is a free meal planning service

You can also simply google meal planning membership sites to see more that are out there.

Neighbor Dinner Swap

I have had many friends who work a full time job do this and they have LOVED doing it. It saves them time grocery shopping and cooking daily.

Determine how many days a week you would like to have dinners brought to you by other people in your dinner swap group. Then find that many families (4 or 5 or 6) that would like to participate. Put together a schedule of everyone’s set days to be in charge and meet together to talk about allergies or people’s likes and dislikes. You could also assign the day a “type” of meal so you don’t have too many pastas or meat dinners during the week. Have a set time that the meal is to be delivered to everyone’s home. This way, once a week you are making 4-6 meals that are exactly the same and delivering them to your friends and neighbors. Most people skip the weekends and just do this on weekdays.

Having it Revolve Around Sales & Coupons

Clip your coupons and check out the ads BEFORE meal planning. On your list of favorite meals write the 3-4 main ingredients. That way you can quickly scan your meal ideas and see which ones match up to the ads or coupons you have at the moment.

Having it Revolve Around Fresh Produce

With Bountiful Baskets you don’t have control over what you are getting so you could create your meal plan right after you go to pick up your produce. Or if you like to shop local farmers markets you can go there looking for certain items or pick up what looks good and make your meal plan with those items. Same with your garden: whatever is ready to harvest, center your meal plans around that!

I would suggest buying or checking out cookbooks that revolve around PRODUCE for example:

In Season and also The Garden Cookbook by Sarah Raven

Or search online for recipes that contain the produce you have for that week.

#3 Lastly I will bring a long, long list of meal ideas.

Phew, putting this class together was more work that I thought! But it is a nice resource to have. Feel free to use it for you as well. You can use the handouts and notes as long as you credit who they are from. Vanessa Brown of

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