My Easy Meal Planning Tips | Day 13: 30 Days to Less of a Hot Mess

Learn how to stay on top of the dreaded dinner-time blues with easy meal planning tips!

Ahhh, the dreaded meal planning. Well, let’s just say that I used to dread it a whole lot more than I do now!

The once hated task that at one point had me planning a whole month in advance so that I only had to do it 12 times per year is now something that I don’t even hate a little. I’ll show you why!

Welcome to the 30 Days to Less of a Hot Mess Challenge! We’re decluttering, reorganizing and taking a breath of fresh air to create a home we love. If this is your first time at the challenge, you may want to start here at the beginning

I have been a firm believer in meal planning since I first got married, but I haven’t always had an easy time with it. I used to sit down with my 3-4 cookbooks and look over them trying to decide which meals we felt like eating that week. Then I would lug the cookbook around the house checking to see if I already had ingredients on hand or not.

It was s cumbersome task that took me a couple of hours (at best!) each week and I hated it!!!! I hated it so much that I would avoid it altogether and just grocery shop without a plan and try to wing it. That meant more nights eating out because I couldn’t figure out what I had. It also meant a lot of frustration and stress.

Then one day I realized that honestly, we only ate a handful of the recipes that were in my cookbooks. And that if I could narrow my list down even more and simplify it, then my meal planning days would be much easier.

If these struggles sound familiar at all, then you’re going to love this new, easy, simplified meal planning solution!

My Easy Meal Planning Tips

For a 30-minute (or less) meal planning session, you will need:

  1. A Family Favorites Meal Planning page (which I’ve created for you for FREE – see below)
  2. 12-14 recipes of your family’s favorite meals
  3. A Weekly Menu Plan (find free versions online via Google or Pinterest)
  4. Grocery List or online grocery service

That’s it!

Here’s how I meal plan now …

What you’ll want to do first is collect 12-14 (or more!) of your family’s favorite meals. For me, these are simple, quick meals that my family loves. It can sometimes be the most challenging part – finding something everyone loves – but do your best. 😀 I’m not a short order cook at my house and my oldest can be kind of picky, but she sometimes has to eat things she doesn’t particularly like and that’s OK.

Now, grab my free family printable below and write down all of the meals and their ingredients. You don’t need to write the actual recipes, just the ingredients and how much of each one.

Meal Planning Made Simple! | 30 Days to Less of a Hot Mess

I keep mine in my Home Organizational Binder along with my weekly meal plan sheets. (My weekly meal plan sheets come with my binder from Emily Ley, but there are plenty of free weekly meal plan printables out there. Just do a Pinterest or Google search.)

I do my meal planning on Sunday evenings, so when it’s my time to plan, I grab my Home Organizational Binder and that’s all I need! I don’t need my recipe books or anything else, just my binder. I grab a blank weekly meal plan sheet and look through my family’s favorite meals and choose 5-6 meals based on when we’ll be home that week. Then I make my grocery list based on the items next to each favorite meal (and take into account what I already have in my pantry and fridge).

Meal Planning Made Simple! | 30 Days to Less of a Hot Mess

Personally, I use the free Walmart pick up grocery service, so I don’t even write my grocery list down. If you have a service like this in your community, I highly recommend using it! I even do the Walmart+ service so that we can get free deliveries (and other great benefits)! I’ve used that when I’ve been sick and needed groceries and it’s amazing!

OK, so I sit at the computer and find everything I need online and add it to my cart. I then schedule my pick up time for the next morning after I drop my youngest off at preschool and then pick them up! I love, Love, LOVE this service!!

Of course you can also write your list down and go to the grocery store like more people do. 😊 I know some people enjoy grocery shopping, but in this season of my life it saves a ton of time for me to just pick them up!

That’s it!!

Once you get the hang of it, meal planning takes less than 30 minutes and is not even hard or slightly unenjoyable!

If your family likes more variety, you may want to plan more meals, but my family doesn’t mind eating the same thing every 2-3 weeks, so we’re good with 12-14 meals.

You can find several of my family’s favorite recipes HERE.

And learn how I keep track of food items we run out of on a daily basis here. I grab that list, too, when it’s time to make my grocery list!

Favorite Family Meals FREE Printable!

Favorite Family Meals FREE printable! | 30 Days to Less of a Hot Mess
Favorite Family Meals FREE printable! | 30 Days to Less of a Hot Mess

What’s your favorite way to meal plan? Do you have any tips or tricks for the rest of us? Please share!

The Messy Work: Compile a list of 12-14 of your family’s favorite meals today!

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  1. This is a great post for meal planning tools! I really appreciate you sharing with us at Full Plate Thursday, hope you have a great day and hope to see you again soon!
    Miz Helen

  2. This is a great post for people with organizational issues who have trouble planning their meals! Thanks for sharing it here at FF!

  3. We eat the same types of meals 3-5 times every week because my children love it and it keeps things simple! I’ve just started writing down meals this past year and it’s been super helpful in keeping us from eating out – which is a definite budget buster. I try to make something “fancier” over the weekends when I have more time. Your printable looks great – I have something similar on my site too! It makes it so much easier when things are listed out.

  4. Yes, yes, yes! I used to be pretty faithful with meal planning but it just took SO MUCH TIME! Figuring out what meals for the week and all that was a chore, because I wanted to make new and exciting things all the time. This “family favourite” list is such a great strategy to use! I’ll definitely have to make one of my own. The list may be long, but at least it will be narrower than the whole of my cookbook recipes! Thanks so much!

    1. Yes! Simplifying the cookbooks with a “favorite” list has worked so well for us! I’m glad you found it helpful!!

      xo, Laura

  5. Laura, I tend to go from one extreme to the other on meal planning – all or nothing! This sounds like a great plan.

  6. I use a similar idea – this is great! Thanks for sharing on the What’s for Dinner link up!

  7. Thanks for sharing tips Laura. Meal planning is one of those things that alot of people think they should try, but don’t implement. Join us again at Family Joy Blog linkup.

  8. Hmmm. I enjoy meal planning, and we really like a LOT of variety and trying new recipes, so I was thinking maybe this one wasn’t for me, but seeing your printable made me realize how much easier it would be if I DID have a list of 10-15 favorites, made it a point to keep the ingredients on hand, and could work from that anytime things got hectic. Much as we love something different on the table, it seems like a winning plan to have guaranteed success on hand. : ) Thanks! I’m off to print your planning sheet!

    P.S. Thank you for all the work you’ve put into this whole 30 day project. I’m getting a lot out of it.

    1. Thank you Becky for following along with the challenge! It means so much! And I also love to try new recipes. I really love to cook and bake, but this season of life doesn’t allow for much time in that department. I will say that we have some “special” recipes that are more labor intensive that I’ll pull out maybe once a month. And then I’ll probably try a new recipe 1-2 times a month. We definitely don’t just eat the same things, but it’s nice to have them on hand for our average night at home for family dinner. I’m glad you’ve found the printable helpful!

      xo, Laura

  9. I hate meal planning to. I hope this will help me learn to not dread it.
    I did have a quick question on the pick up service. We have a couple stores in my area that do it, but I am really picky about produce and meat and dairy and ok just about everything. Do you find the quality is still good when someone else chooses the items for you?
    Thanks for all your great tips. I have loved participating in this challenge.
    I am still a hot mess but hopefully after I tackle my “room” this weekend, it will be a little bit less.

    1. Hey Tasha! I hope your decluttering weekend went well. 🙂 I’ve learned what I’m ok with someone else picking out and what I’m not. It’s just depends on the type of meat or vegetable or fruit and it’s been a trial and error experience. For me, the chicken and ground beef have been fine and some veggies, but I go to Publix and pick out my fruits and steaks. I’d say it’s probably different at every store. Sorry that’s not more helpful!

      xo, Laura

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