This post may contain affiliate links. This means if you click on these links and make a purchase, I receive a commission. This doesn't affect your purchase at all. You can read my full disclosure policy here .
If you’re like me, you just love meal planning right? Hell no! Not one of my favorite things to do, especially when you’re trying to stick with healthy meal plans. But, you gotta do it right? I mean, the kids gotta eat. But, what if you’re a busy mom like me and have almost zero time to plan out your weekly meals, let alone ensure they’re healthy?
Don’t worry, I’m here to help. 🙂
This healthy meal planning guide should help narrow things down a little and make your meal planning a little more organized. I’ve even included some printables and meal planning ideas for you.
Why You Need a Healthy Meal Plan?
There are several reasons why healthy meal planning is important, especially when you’re a busy mom.
It Saves you Time
When you plan out your meals, you don’t have to come up with a dinner idea every day. You’ll already have each night planned out. Plus you’ll know exactly what you need to buy so your grocery shopping trip will go much faster and you need to wander up and down the aisles trying to figure out what you think “looks good” for that day. You’ll already have a shopping list and a plan in place.
It Saves you Money
Family meal planning will allow you to plan your weekly breakfasts, lunches and dinners around what’s in season, around sales and around inexpensive healthy whole foods. By using a meal plan, you won’t buy as many costly convenience foods and you’ll cut back on how often you’re eating out or spending on delivery. Planning your meals also helps you cut back on the amount of food you waste because you’ll know what you have in your fridge and when you plan on using it.
It Makes Your Life Simpler
Healthy meal planning makes your life simpler because you won’t be scrambling around at the last minute trying to whip up dinner for everyone. You’ll free up the daily mental space of having to think about what to eat tonight. You’ll no longer have to run to the grocery store at the last minute to pick up an item you need for dinner that you don’t have. And, you don’t have to worry anymore about leftover food spoiling in your fridge.
Other Posts You May Be Interested In:
Healthy Meal Planning Tips
If you can create the habit of planning out your meals, you’ll be amazed at how much that could change your life. Seriously. So, when it comes to meal planning, you need a…well…plan. Here are some meal planning tips to help you get started.
1. Check Your Fridge
Typically, I’ll check my fridge on Sundays for leftovers. What you’re really aiming for is to know what you’ll be doing with leftovers before you hit the grocery store for the following week’s shopping. And, in my opinion, Sundays are the perfect time to do some inventory and throw together leftover beef, chicken and vegetables into a pasta dish, breakfast hash or stir fry.
Once you’ve done this, you’ll now want to sit down and take about 15 to 20 minutes or so to come up with some meal ideas that you plan to make during the following week. Come up with several meal ideas and rotate them so you won’t become bored. Also, when you’re planning out your meals, don’t forget about your child’s (and husbands) lunch boxes for the week. Here are some great easy lunch box ideas for the family.
3. Gather Up a Few of your Favorite Recipes
My favorite healthy meal planner is $5 Meal Plan. Basically, it’s a monthly subscription program that does all the meal planning for you. Each week you’re sent an email that provides you with a link to different breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert menus you can print out.
Oh, and don’t forget Pinterest. AWESOME tool for meal planning ideas. I’m always on Pinterest finding new dinner recipes and meal ideas. I have a special bookmark on my computer with tons of recipe ideas just from Pinterest alone.
Choose simple healthy recipes, since you’re a busy mom and all and your main goal is to plan your meals so you can be more efficient and save time during your busy days.
4. Think Rainbow
When family meal planning, think “rainbow.” This means you’ll want to go for colorful foods throughout your week. For each meal, make sure you have a colorful food with it. I’m talking, veggies and fruits here. But, think variety here. You also don’t want to eat all green foods and forget the yellows. You’d be missing out on the vitamins each has to offer, not to mention eating the same veg every day can get boring.
Perhaps a couple of days you can add in some corn or yellow squash and another couple days you can go for beans and peas or broccoli. Then maybe carrots or cauliflower. You get the point.
Here are some simple ways of doing this:
- Send your kids to school with some cut up veggies and fruit for snacks
- Add some vegetables into your casseroles, pasta sauces and mac and cheese
- Add some veggies to your eggs in the morning
- Turn your veggies into chips
Also, remember that corn and potatoes are both starches, therefore, if you’re serving a starch, you’ll want to balance it out with a green vegetable. If you haven’t already transitioned to “eating healthy,” here’s a great post I came upon that will help you make that transition to a healthy diet.
5. Take Notes
When you find meals that work, keep track of them by taking notes. Jot down your favorite recipes that are simple to cook and that your family likes eating. This way you’re not having to recreate the wheel each week. Regularly rotate your favorite meals, which will make meal planning easier each week.
6. Fill Out your Healthy Meal Planning Ideas
Write down your healthy meal plan. You can do this either on an Excel spreadsheet or on a simple piece of paper. Or, print out some copies of my family meal planning printable to organize your mealtime and post it up on your fridge each week.
7. Make the Grocery List
Once you have your family meal plan in place, you now can sit down and make your grocery list. And, yes, you DO need a grocery list. Going shopping with no list is a huge mistake because you’ll just end up spending way more than what you planned on. So, check out which ingredients you already have and add those that you don’t on your list.
Here’s a grocery list printable to write your list on.
8. Go Shopping
After you compile your ingredient list and other items you want to buy, it’s time to go shopping. I find shopping early in the morning to be the best time. It’s usually not very busy then. But, if you can’t, late-night shopping will work too. Also, Wednesdays are good days to shop since for most grocery stores, that’s when weekly sales fliers come out for the week and bargains are usually presented in the very early hours or around an hour or two before they lock up for the night.
Here’s a tip: Stock up your cupboards or pantry with basic things.
I like to browse through the bargain fliers and see what’s on sale each week and stock up my shelves with basic things like condiments, canned goods, boxed foods, etc. This way, when it comes down to ingredients for my healthy meal planning, I already have most of them and I don’t need to shop for as much. Plus, I got them on sale so it’s a win-win.
9. Do Some Advanced Family Meal Planning
Having to come home after a stressful day at work or a day filled with screaming children can make the thought of having to sit down each day to prepare ingredients almost unbearable. So, I like to prepare my meal ingredients ahead of time like the slicing, dicing, marinating and dividing up portions.
This way when it comes time to make dinner, I don’t have to worry about the prepping, it’s already done. Have you actually thought about why baby carrots are so expensive? It’s because they’re already pre-cut for you. You can basically use them as is. And, doesn’t it feel great when you can just take any pre-cut fruit, veggie or other types of food out of the bag and just toss them in your recipe without having to cut them up? Yeah, I thought so. So, when you have a little extra time or when you come home from the grocery store, take a little time to do your prep work. Trust me, it makes making dinner so much easier.
10. Join a Healthy Meal Planning Service
You spend a lot of time making lists, gathering recipes and thinking of what you’re going to eat the following week and what you need to buy. That’s a job in itself. You might want to consider spending a few bucks on a meal planning service. And, when I say a few bucks, I literally mean it.
Again, I like $5 Meal Plan and it’s really cheap. It’s only $5 a month and you get 14 days free to try the service out.
$5 Meal Plan comes up with all the meal planning ideas for you. Here’s what $5 Meal Plan does for you:
- They provide you with ready-to-go meal plans: You won’t have to search, think or fill out a calendar with what you want to eat next week. You simply print out their ready-for-you menu for that week and you’re done.
- They provide you with pre-made shopping lists: You not only get recipes that are ready to go, but you also get a grocery shopping list already prepared for you. So, you simply just jot down the ingredients you don’t already have and off you go to do your shopping.
- Variety: I got stuck in that rut where we were basically eating the same thing every week and it got pretty boring. $5 Meal Plan provides you with variety so you’re not eating the same thing or spending hours on Pinterest to find something new. Each week you’re provided with a variety of meal ideas without the work.
- Simple-to-make Meals: The meals provided to you are simple. It’s not like when you’re looking up recipes online and you come across one you like, but there are a ton of ingredients and steps to prepare it, so you skip over it and search for an easier recipe. With $5 Meal Plan every meal idea they give you is easy with only a few steps to make it and a reasonable number of ingredients needed. Plus, less ingredients means saving money on groceries.
- They’re affordable: It can be well worth forking out a little money to have things done for you, right? With $5 Meal Plan, all your healthy meal planning is done for you. And, it only costs $5 a month and everything is delivered to you via email. I have a folder in my Gmail strictly for $5 Meal Plan recipes. To me, paying $5 a month is so worth it since I don’t have to plan my meals out anymore.
- Specialty menus: Don’t worry if you have specific food preferences or restrictions. $5 Meal Plan has your back. You can find recipes that will fit a variety of diets. Plus, instead of the classic plan, you can choose the gluten-free plan (or both for $1 more each month). There’s also their recipe archives for specific recipe types.
- Detailed information: The printable recipes feature symbols at the top to provide more info. You’ll see things like symbols for 20-minute meals, freezer-friendly meals, one-dish dinners and recipes you can make ahead. That helps you choose the specific meals you want to make on a given night.
Try it out for yourself.
If you don’t want to use the $5 Meal Plan or any other healthy meal plan service, I’ve compiled a list of some awesome and affordable recipe ideas below you may be interested in.
Healthy Meal Ideas
Here’s a round-up of my favorite healthy meal ideas:
Healthy Breakfast Ideas
1. Healthy Smoothies. Smoothie with lots of greens.
Healthy Lunch Ideas
Healthy Dinner Ideas
Healthy Snack Ideas
5. Apple Chips
Healthy meal planning and prepping don’t need to be complicated. If you’re like me, you’re way too busy and having to come up with meal ideas every day is challenging. So, rather than giving in and ordering take out or going through the drive-thru several times a week, try planning and prepping your meals ahead of time. I promise you, it makes life so much easier. Or, go the lazy way like I do now and join $5 Meal Plan – totally worth it.
Other Posts You May Be Interested In: