The Busy Mom’s Guide to Meal Planning in a Jif

Start meal planning in a jif.  Learn the secret that will save you time while you meal plan

Hey everyone, I want to introduce you to my good friend Elizabeth Dall, she runs a blog over at FueledFit.com and she is the girl you go to about meal planning, getting in and out of the grocery store in no time at all.

Elizabeth was nice enough to help you all out.  Since this is something that I don't talk about much on the blog, I thought that you'd enjoy learning her tips and tricks about how to meal plan in a jif.

If you'd like to check out here blog, I will link it here for you.  Check out Elizabeth at FueledFit.com

I love the way she can make meal planning a quick and painless chore, so I will hand the reins over to Elizabeth so she can dish her secrets with you!

Take it away Elizabeth!

Mealtime always seems to come at a bad time. Mornings are filled with rushing everyone out the door for school and work. You spend your lunch break trying to get the things done you didn’t have time for earlier, and the afternoon and evenings are filled with running errands, dropping off kids at practice, or wondering how your kids end up with so much homework every night! It’s easy for your meals to get pushed to the back burner (and I don’t mean the burner on the stove).

Maybe you and your wallet are sick of constantly eating out.

Or maybe you crave a dinner around the table, or better nutrition for your family.

Whatever is it for you, I’m here to show you how meal planning can be simple, efficient, and not the time-sucker that everyone thinks it is. In fact, meal planning can SAVE you time.   Yep I said it.  And today I'm going to prove it.

Let's say you take the traditional method of planning your meals each day according to how the day goes. At about 4:30 PM, you decide to start thinking about dinner.  It takes you maybe 10-15 minutes to decide the menu after googling different recipes.  Then you realize you need to grab a few things from the store for the recipe so you stop by after you drop your kid off at practice.

Depending on how well you know the grocery store and how busy it is at the time, let’s say it takes you 15-20 minutes to grab everything. By the way, you pay full price for the items while you’re there.You head back to practice, gather up the kiddos and finally head home.

Once home, you have to chop the veggies, cut up the meat, and then assemble it together to get ready to cook. This could take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour depending on how much prep and cook time there is. Then you realize your kitchen is a disaster zone and spend time clearing off the table so you can eat on it. But, homework, it’s always homework. Everyone seems to need you at the same time, so your meal prep is likely interrupted as you go along. At this point, you wonder if running out and grabbing a pizza is a better option.

Does this scenario sound familiar?

Following a traditional meal-plan-every-night method can take anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. That’s almost 7 hours per week. I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t have time for that!

Let's take a look at another method.

Oh, and before we do, I have a lovely cheat sheet for you to follow along with. It guides you through step by step from start to finish on how to meal plan & prep easily and in less than 2 hours TOTAL per week. It’s packed with every step you need to follow to become a meal planning pro. Grab it and then we’ll move on!

Ok, now that you have your checklist (it should be arriving to your inbox shortly), let's take a look at another scenario.

You spend 30 minutes per week planning your weekly meals including writing down all necessary ingredients, head to the grocery store for one shopping trip that takes you about 30 minutes, and then come home and spend 30-45 minutes washing, chopping, and prepping everything to have ready to throw together to cook or grab and go.

Each night you spend a few minutes throwing everything together to cook. Yes, it’s a bit of a chunk in one day, but overall, that’s less than 2 hours total per week. Don’t you like that scenario better? What could you do with an extra 5 hours per week?!

Let’s talk about how you achieve that kind of meal prep efficiency! I’m going to highlight some of the steps that are absolutely essential to meal planning in less time and with less effort.

THE 4 ESSENTIAL STEPS TO EFFICIENT MEAL PLANNING

STEP 1 - CREATE AN ORGANIZED RECIPE STORAGE DATABASE

It’s so hard to create a meal plan when your recipes are scattered in binders, recipe books, and all over folders and websites on your computer.

The best thing you can do to set yourself up for success is to make sure you have an organized recipe system.

Your 3 options for doing so include printed in a binder or stored in files on your computer, Pinterest, and meal planning apps that store the information for you. Because there are so many options out there, it may take a little time to figure out what you like best.

I wrote a blog post all about how I love and use Pinterest to store my recipes. I love it because it’s free, easily accessible anywhere, and there are literally millions of recipes to search from. It’s likely you’ll find what you’re looking for very quickly! Plus, you can keep it organized according to how your organizational brain works. You can check out that post here, if you'd like.

Step 2 - START WITH A CLEAN KITCHEN

Have you ever tried to work in a room or at a desk with clutter all around? It’s easy for that physical clutter to creep in and turn into mental clutter. This is the same with your kitchen. If you come home from the grocery store with a bunch of bags and your counters are messy and your fridge is stuffed with old food, you’re probably more likely to just shove the bags in there and vow to get to it later. We all know that doesn’t happen and out goes that spoiled food and the money you spent on it.

Spend 10-15 minutes before you meal plan to clean out the fridge (I’m not talking a deep clean here, just a quick sweep), get dishes in dishwasher, and clear all surfaces. This will help you see what ingredients you need and what you already have as you clean out the fridge and will also make meal prep quicker and much more enjoyable when you get home with bags of groceries.

STEP 3 - KNOW THE INS AND OUTS OF YOUR GROCERY STORE

Ugh! The grocery store! Does anyone really like it? The goal is to get in and out as quickly as possible without too many things being added to the cart unawares. In fact, try to go to the grocery store alone if possible. It will go quicker and be much more enjoyable. But, I understand that’s not always an option.

Either way, it’s so important to get to know your grocery store layout. This ensures that when you are there, you don’t end up going back and forth throughout the aisles trying to find one missing ingredient.

I highly recommend setting a time goal for yourself. Set a timer to remind you when you have about 5 minutes left. This may take some practice to set your time goal, but it’s a great way to get in and out quickly. I also recommend starting with the cold items first. This ensures you must move efficiently so nothing spoils.

The best way to navigate the grocery store is to start with the perimeter (that's most of the food you want anyway.  It's where the fruits, veggies, dairy, and meats are) and then end with a few aisles (such as freezer fruits and veggies, beans and other canned goods, whole grains, etc).  As you shop, get familiar with the layout so it becomes easier over time.  In fact, set up your grocery list in order of they layout you want to follow.  Easy as pie!

Step 4 - Prep as much as possible in one day

The last and most important step. There’s not much good to meal planning if the food doesn’t actually get eaten (yes, I know you’ve been there sooo many times). Choose a day (I recommend it being the same day as grocery shopping if possible) to prep for about 30-60 minutes depending on how you want it done.

If you have a smaller family or are extremely busy during the weeknights, then you can prepare everything in one day including cooking. This essentially gives you grab and go meals. If you prefer having food freshly cooked the night of, then just prep everything up until cooking. Wash and chop veggies, trim meat, and store in containers that make it easy to just assemble and cook! The step by step checklist I made for you will give you every step to follow to prep quickly and efficiently. If you didn’t grab it before, here’s the link again.

Well, there you have it. A way to make your life just a little easier and you know I’m all for that. In fact, that’s my goal - to make you feel like you can feed your family (and yourself) a healthy, balanced meal while saving money and still being able to spend time enjoying the things you love. Mealtime doesn’t have to be frantic or stressful. It can be organized, efficient, and simple.  If you want more meal planning information or resources head on over to FueledFit.com.  Oh, and don't forget to grab your checklist, it can't be found on my website.