I’ve decided this summer should be the summer of family organization. First Up: Meal Planning
I usually keep track of meals, grocery lists, and weekly reminders on the giant chalkboard in my breakfast nook, but since it’s a little difficult to share a whole chalkboard for you to use, I decided to create a one-page printable meal planner.
I don’t know about you but my family is going a little stir-crazy. It’s only the beginning of summer, but we’ve already all been home together for three months, thanks to the pandemic, and our state’s strict stay-at-home orders.
Not usually one to over-organize, I’ve realized that this is the time to get my ducks in a row and establish some order in the household, or we’ll all be complete slobs by the end of the summer.
I’ve already gotten the kids back on track with their chores. (That’s the first thing to slide when life gets busy, but with all this free time, I’ve put them back to work.)
Now it’s time to take back control of our eating habits.
Meal Planning Made Easy
I confess, we’ve fallen into some perfectly natural junk food habits over the last few weeks as we navigate boredom and stress eating. Our swiss cake roll budget has increased significantly.
But whenever I’m trying to gain control of my eating habits, the first thing I do is start a meal plan. Without a plan, I have no hope of making better choices.
With all the apps available on my phone, there is no shortage of meal plan organizing options, but I prefer good old handwriting when I’m brainstorming, which is essentially what meal planning is.
This meal planning worksheet does three things:
- It prompts you to write a goal for the week
- It gives you a grid for planning meals
- It includes a convenient grocery list space
(Wanna skip the how-to’s and get started with your printable? Scroll to the end of this post for download instructions.)
I think it’s helpful to be a little mindful when planning for the week. Meals are a great way to touch base and take a break, either with your family, or just with yourself.
Here are a few ideas for weekly goals related to meal planning:
“I will eat a veggie with every meal.”
“We will have family dinner together (no phones) on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday this week.”
“I will eat lunch mindfully – no TV, phone scrolling, or standing at the counter, inhaling the leftovers of my kids’ nuggets and fries.”
“We will work on using our napkins, not our t-shirts, at meals this week.”
I’ve labeled B, L, D, S on the left side of the planner, for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. I find that when I plan all my meals, even my snacks, I do much better sticking to my diet.
When I have freedom of choice in the moment of hunger, when my self-control is lowest and my secret love of fat, salt, and sugar is highest, then bad things happen.
Less immediate choice = better long term decisions
Usually when I plan meals for the week, I sit down with my pencil and paper, and my phone. This is the time to look up new recipes, daydream about trying something fancy, and remember back to what meals we liked last week.
For me this usually happens on Sunday night while watching TV. I have just enough brain power left to make some plans, but not enough motivation to actually do anything about them. So writing them down is the perfect combination of planning and procrastinating.
Has anyone else noticed your grocery bill skyrocket while spending more time at home? I’m convinced that my kids are hungrier now than ever before.
Surely they were eating as much food before, when they were packing their lunches for school, and coming home ravenous for snacks? The numbers should match up, but I promise you our grocery bill gives me heart palpitations every time right now. Tell me I’m not alone.
The best way I know to keep grocery spending under control (besides ramen noodles) is to go in with a plan, and go in alone. When my youngest daughter grocery shops with me, the bill is always higher because she’s a sucker for end caps.
(If you don’t know what an end cap is, you probably never worked in retail, lucky you. It’s the display at the end of the aisle, prime real estate for promotions and product placement.)
She loves shiny objects, and by that I mean anything that catches her eye as new or different. She wants to try everything that looks interesting, and she’s a marketer’s dream.
So I try to stick to my list, and leave her home whenever possible.
I also try to never grocery shop on an empty stomach. That’s just a no-brainer.
Meal Planner Notes and Tips
I haven’t labeled the days on this planner because some people start their weeks on Sunday and some on Monday. I usually think of my week as starting on Sunday, but somehow that ends up being the day I make plans for the week ahead, so the meal plan starts on Monday. You can choose whatever works for you.
I set the grocery list at the edge of the page so you can simply cut or tear it off and take it with you to the store. Of course, you could always snap a photo too if it’s easier to just bring your phone.
Try to frame your goals in a positive light. It’s more encouraging to read “I will eat a veggie at every meal” than it is to see “eat less candy” at the top of your page all week long.
Use your notes section to make your meal plan even better for next week. Kids loved your new healthy spaghetti recipe? Write it down. Found a new favorite snack? Make a note to put it on next week’s grocery list. Hit your goal for the week? Write down why, or how it made you feel.
The Best Planner is the One You’ll Use
I hope this meal planner helps you get organized, at least in this area of your life. Let me know if you’d make any tweaks or changes to it. And if you’re already organized about it, tell me how you plan your meals. I need some great ideas!
Next time, I’ll be sharing more family organizing ideas, so be sure to stick around for that. Also, don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter so you can access all my free printables, including this meal planner!