It’s Monday after work and you’re dreading the question…“So, what’s for dinner tonight?”

You’re secretly hoping that someone else has the answer but as Mom, aka Director of Operations, it’s all on you.

Almost two years ago I discovered the art of Meal Planning and ever since then, I love it and cannot do without it. For me, meal planning looks ahead and determines what we as a family can expect which removes the usual panic and confusion.

Having an organized meal plan has saved us time and money.
I can confidently shop knowing exactly what I need and what I do not.

Over time, I have been able to perfect my system so that even if I am away, my husband can refer to the plan and cook what I have listed or find an alternative. Either way, we’re covered! Yippee!

How to Create a Meal Plan

Many websites and blogs have meal plan templates that you can download or purchase. While this is a great place to start, I advise creating your own plan based on your personal food preferences. It’s really simple! Using a spreadsheet tool like Excel, or a word processing tool such as Word, I added a few columns and rows to get me started. Each column represents the major food categories–Fruits, Vegetables, Dairy, Meats, Staples, and Personals.

Like this:

Excel sample

Then I went wild listing my regular and normal purchases under each category. The key words, regular and normal. I found that I typically buy the same items week to week although my recipes are different.

Tilapia this week is for soft tacos. Tilapia next week is for a quick fillet sandwich.

A bit of advise here, please don’t get frustrated if your list is not complete the first few times. It could take a few weeks to make sure that all of your regular purchases are included. I admit that I was a little annoyed initially…I would think to myself, how did I forget that!? But to deal with such riffs, just add 5-8 blank lines in each category so that you can easily write them in. Just keep moving!

SuperCharge Your Meal Plan

Now that your grocery list is defined, take it up a notch by adding your most frequently cooked meals. This synergy allows you to place your meals alongside your grocery list! This required that I decrease the size of the grocery list but adding 2-3 columns for the meals is a major timesaver. So over the weekend while I’m preparing for the week ahead, I can select 4-5 meals and simultaneously check which items I need to purchase so that everything is ready to go! Another major timesaver is to print several copies of these worksheets and place them in your kitchen. When it’s time for a grocery run, simply pull one out and began planning your next few meals saving you both time and money! I love automating and simplifying routines that I follow on a regular basis–hope you feel the same. Create a cute calendar or pin board in your kitchen or pantry so that you can display your dinner plans for each week. If there are any objections to your meal choices, close the kitchen and make reservations–you have done your part!

Because this is a sharing community, check out my latest Meal Planner:

CommonCentsToday Meal and Grocery List

Use it as is or use it to get ideas for creating your own! If you like it, please leave me a comment or sign-up to receive future posts and special offerings! The goal is to just get going saving time and money!