Meal Planning as the Backbone of Your Day

ORGANIZING_meals

Meal planning is the backbone of your day as a stay at home mom.  Without it, you never feel in control or on top of things.  You always feel like you are scrambling, hurried, stressed.  In fact, I feel so strongly about this that I would encourage you to take a look at your meal planning FIRST if you are feeling overwhelmed by your life right now.  Get the backbone in place and work from there.

Over the years I’ve followed many different methods of meal planning.

Once a Month shopping

I really like to shop once a month and plan an entire month’s worth of meals at once, but sometimes that isn’t feasible.  Sometimes a rotating list of meals needs to be put in play in order to simplify your life.  Sometimes you need to only plan a week at a time.  Sometimes you are lucky to get a few days done and send your husband to the store for those items!

Recently, I decided to change from my old method of a grab-n-go meal list to a more formal meal plan.  (See an example HERE – the photo below is also an example of that list.)

menu list

My grab-n-go list was easy to plan and convenient to use.  I could choose a meal based on what kind of day I was having.  However, it did not allow for any meal forethought, so if I hadn’t thawed the chicken or put the roast in the slow cooker, I was up a creek.  In a large family, this doesn’t work out so well.  I also ended up only choosing the easy, no-prep meals and left the other (potentially more healthy) meals for “another day” – a day that never seemed to come.

While visiting a friend, I noticed her weekly menu plan posted on her refrigerator.

weekly meal planner

Lo and behold, they were from my friend Jamerill’s blog!  They were exactly what I needed!  As a homeschool mom, I need breakfast, lunch AND dinner planned.  And it helps tremendously to have snacks in place as well.

So, let me give you some tips on meal planning that will help you pull together one that provides a great backbone to your day:

1.  Choose where you will get your recipes from.  Sometimes I use cookbooks I have on hand, sometimes recipes from my recipe binder, but lately, I find most of my recipes are coming from my Pinterest boards!

Pinterest recipe collage

Sometimes I can knock out a menu in an afternoon.  When planning several weeks, it can take me several days to get the whole thing finished.  I never wait until I’m out of food and desperately needing to head to the store.  Start early and avoid the stress!

2.  Write in pencil!  Your meals will change due to unforeseen circumstances.  Our stove stopped working a couple of weeks ago, so I had to revamp our menu to reflect this.  Also, any meal you don’t end up using can be erased from its day and written in a new day or at the bottom of the page to carry over to another time if so desired.

3.  Make notes as you go.

notes on menu plan

Remember, I said this is the backbone of your day.  Your meals are a direct reflection of your life.  Write in notes about your day on the menu plan itself.  I have piano lessons and my Weight Watchers meetings marked.  I also have notes like “order Azure” and “make ranch dressing” noted at the top of my page.  But also mark down things like “thaw hamburger” and “soak beans” in the appropriate places.  For instance, say I want to serve beans on Wednesday night.  I need to soak them overnight on Tuesday.  I make a note to myself off to the side of the Tuesday Dinner box so I remember to do this.  Having these little notes is KEY to making your meal plan work.

4.  Make your grocery list as you go.  Don’t wait until you are finished with your menu to go back and input all you need.  Do it together.  Find a meal, list it in a good spot on your planner, scan ingredients and mark down what you need.  I use a Master Grocery List that helps me keep track of staple items as well as new things needed to make the meals on my list.  (Note:  You can find my Master Grocery List HERE, but be aware that your list will probably be different.  In fact, this list is 5 years old and is VERY different from our current list!  Use it as a guide to create your own!)

5.  Plan everything!  Plan your sides, your snacks, even your beverages!  Put Special Night on there and Potluck on there.  Do your very best to pull together a “backbone” that can withstand the pressure of your day.

6.  Look at your menu plan every day several times a day.  Mine is on my refrigerator.  It has to be in a prominent location where you will be able to glance at it over the course of the day to be sure you are on track.  (Mine is next to the Table Chores list and my At-a-Glance Schedule.)  Do you need to get something out of the freezer for tonight?  It’s on there!  Need to prepare for a coming birthday?  It’s on there!  Again, this is your backbone for the day.  Using it to its full advantage is necessary!

Looking for more meal planning related links? Try these:
Large Family Recipes
Once a Month Shopping Series
Menu Planning ebooks from Sheri Graham – I love her stuff and yes, that’s my affiliate link!
My ebook 10 Days to a Peaceful Home has a section on meal planning too!

Click here for more ideas from other bloggers:
ORGANIZING_meals…and here’s a FANTASTIC giveaway for you from a company that has made meal time at our house SO much easier!

DrinkBands

That’s right!

DrinkBands!

This Giveaway is over.

You can win a set of 18 DrinkBands (9 large, 9 small). This is a quick giveaway (today and tomorrow), so enter to win now! {if you are reading via email, click here to enter!}
a Rafflecopter giveaway

140 Comments

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140 thoughts on “Meal Planning as the Backbone of Your Day

  1. Thanks so much for this! I was just telling my husband last night that I need to do better with our meal planning and grocery shopping- especially since we will be going back to one income in a few weeks and baby #5 will be arriving in a few months. It will be nice to have some kind of menu planning in place before the little guy gets here! And those drink bands are fabulous, Our youngest 3 are just starting to change from sippies to “big girl cups” and there is a lot of arguing about which cup belongs to which one as the sippies were color coded but the other cups are not! Have a great day!

  2. I would really only need 4 drinks bands right now for my family, but these are perfect solution to a dinner party with friends! We are constantly trying to figure out whose glass it whose. Definitely beats the red Solo cups with names written in Sharpie.

  3. Well, I guess for our family we’d need a minimum of 8 drinkbands in appropriate sizes, because that’s how many of us there are. (Well, soon will be, #8 is due in about 10 more weeks! And she’ll grow up way to quickly and need a drink band of her own in a flash! ) Thanks for the chance!

  4. I’ve been using colored rubber bands on my kids cups, but thinking about getting some drinkbands as a more permanent solution!

  5. Been working on meal planning myself. Revamping my pinterest boards. My recipe binder is a MESS! As for the drink bands, I have been thinking about those things for over a month now. Have been so tempted to order them, but we’ve been working on our savings so I haven’t bit the bullet. YET. We have 4 kids and a perpetually empty glass cabiniet and full sink. Drives me CRAZy!

  6. I enjoy seeing how other people plan their meals. I’ve always wondered how those who shop once a month buy produce? There’s no way most fresh produce can last that long. :-) do you shop weekly for fresh produce?

    We rely on fresh produce for snacks, most sides for all meals, and sometimes as meals in and of themselves, especially using hummus as a dip for veggies. I’m amazed that your lunches look like dinner meals. They sound good. Do you ever do simple lunches from leftovers or have meatless lunches, or even sandwiches with fresh fruit and veggies as a side? Just curious. :-)

    Enjoy reading your blog everyday!

    Take JOY!

    • We shop bimonthly, which has been perfect as far as minimizing grocery trips/planning but giving us fresh fruits and veggies. Most things last that long for us, but sometimes I’ll have my husband pick us up a loaf of bread or gal of milk if we run out.

    • That is an old meal plan (from about 5 years ago), so yes, my lunch meals now are pretty simple. I do get fresh produce every week, but other families choose to do the fresh first and then move to canned and frozen. If we were really in a budget crunch, that’s what I would do.

  7. When I had 3 littles I planned meals just to get through the dinner prep without too much drama;) But as we went into home schooling I thought planning school was more important than having the detailed plans…

    and I’ve been feeling the “meal stress” this year:( Thanks for the reminder and how to implement!!

  8. We have 5 people in our family and we use glass glasses so this would be so great. We often have the problem of losing track of whose glass is whose. However, we also regularly host a home church in our home using the same glass glasses and that is REALLY difficult to keep track of whose glass is whose. It would be just fantastic to win these. How ingenious! And how simple! Thanks for having the giveaway.

  9. Very timely… your once a month series started me on monthly planning, but we are in a slump and I need to revamp. Trying to help health by doing more ‘Real’ food.

  10. We need at least 7. This post is very helpful to me! I struggle with meal planning…probably because the devil knows that it’s the backbone of my day! Thanks for sharing your tips!

  11. I so want to win these! I have seen them around the web. I am imagining what I’ll do with all the time I save searching for cups.

  12. I love this post – meals truly are the backbone and the more our family grows the greater the need for me to be on top of what really is in the fridge and just how we are supposed to eat it! I would love to try the drink bands – what a great way to cut back on dishes and eliminate the “that’s my cup” conversations multiple times/day. Thanks!

  13. It is such a great reminder on how helpful it truly is when we are a little more disciplined life seems to move a little more simply. When we take the time to plan, life moves more smoothly. I was just doing my menu for last night and have tried the once a month, 2 weeks, but I like 1x a week because it helps me stick to a budget a little better. Thanks for sharing.

  14. We would need 10 drink bands right now and that doesn’t account for any guests. I like to make my notes for what I need to do for food prep on my kitchen white board. I need to get back to menu planning, it is usually one of the first things to go by the wayside when we get busy.

  15. These would be great! We’re never quite sure whose glass is whose and end up with a million dirty ones at the end of the day. We’d use 10 every day and it would be great to have extras for guests!

  16. I have wanted a set of these since I first saw them I don’t know how long ago!! I think we end up with at least twice the amount of cups at the end of each day:) We are a family of 5, but my mom spends a lot of time with us. I’d love to have a set of 6, so that when my mom is here she would be able to use one too:) Thanks for doing this!

  17. I’ve tried once a month meal planning before and failed but I just didn’t know what do to or where to start. I’ve been thinking about having a go at it again so this post is timely :) love the drink bands, we use little glass stickers when we have company over but these would be great for the kids.

  18. I have received so much encouragement from your blog! As a first-time homeschool mom this year you have provided a wealth of resources and have helped with my confidence as we move forward. Thank you so much and please continue to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)

  19. I love meal planning. I also have it posted on my fridge so I can see it often. I have a dry-erase board so it makes it easy to erase or plug in reminders as needed. We always have leftovers for lunch, and rotate between the same 4 things for breakfast, so I don’t really plan those, but planning dinners and snacks have been a lifesaver! As for thawing/prep, I have spot in my morning to-do-list reminding me to look over the needs of tonight’s dinner so nothing gets forgotten! Thanks for the encouragement, Amy!

  20. We have a 4 week rotating menu for breakfast and lunch. I find it very helpful. I also love I don’t have to answer “what’s for lunch?” questions all day.

  21. We would love some Drink bands. We would need 11 for our family.
    I love meal planning! It is what keeps me sane. The Donnayoung.org.
    Web site has great meal plan and shopping list printables .
    I enjoy reading your posts!

  22. I’m a big fan of the Cozi app. It allows my husband and I to have access to shopping lists and has a menu planner and calendar. We use the free version and love it.

  23. Menu planning is what makes our day go smooth in our house! And yeah, not having to wash 20 glasses every 2 hours because all 7 children have no clue who just took a sip from someone elses cup so they NEED a new one and sheesh…I need those drink bands! lol

  24. Our family needs 7 drink bands :) been wanting to try them to cut down on the number of unclaimed cups I find on the counter each day!

  25. Thanks for the give-away….looks like a very useful thing to have in the cupboard! :) Love this post about meal planning as well….it does help, a great deal! :)

  26. I used to make menus, though now I am now more at the mercy of what is on sale. But my biggest problem is finding time to make these plans?

  27. Our family of 7 (and hopefully more to come!) is constantly trying to keep track of which drink belongs to which kid/adult! These look wonderful!

  28. Thank you for this! I have recently started planning by the month, but shopping every two weeks (due to pay schedule) and it has helped SO much! Now, to figure out how to keep the children from going thru so much food! :)

  29. What a wonderful giveaway. With six precious blessings, these drinkbands would go over well in our home and ease some of the dish pile up, as none of them want to run the risk of drinking after someone else!

  30. Do you use an excel spreadsheet to make your meal planner or did you purchase a calendar somewhere? Love to know. Thanks : )
    Halannah Hartman

  31. 6 for our family… but we often have quite a few guests, so total around 16 or so. :) I usually take the tacky “name on a piece of tape” route… but these are way cuter.

  32. I would need at least 3 for everyday use, but I really want them for our regular family BBQs where I would need at least 16!

  33. What perfect timing for this post. I’ve done once-a-month and weekly menu plans before, but lately menu planning has fallen to the wayside and I’m not thinking about meals till I’m in desperate need to go to the store! Thanks for the post!

  34. With four young kids graduating to non-sippie cups, these color coded bands would be awesome!! We’d need at least six, but more would help with guests.

  35. My hubby wants me to start planning weekly meals.. The drink bands would come in handy when the kids, hubby or me are sick so no one drinks out of our cups

  36. I’ve been thinking of graduating our little kids to some large water bottles and using drink bands so that we don’t need to find several different colored bottles. Keeping everyone’s little cups filled through the day is getting to be pretty demanding!

  37. I’m currently re-working how I do menu planning, so this post is timely. Thanks for the reminder to use a pencil so I can be more flexible. :) Using Drink Bands would also be a sanity saver.

  38. We would need 11 drink bands! Wow. I know! We are a large family indeed, but love almost (LOL) every minute of it! Jeanette

  39. I was just discussing this with someone today! When I have a plan I usually can follow it, when I don’t . . . everything’s a mess! I’m encouraged to plan now!

  40. OH this is great~ I’ve seen these before used for toddler sippy cups but not for glasses for the whole family! Brilliant! I’d need 5 of each size!

  41. I have a list of some of our favorite meals. I also have a weekly meal plan. I made 6 different ones. They are numbered 1-6. I typed each up with grids for the days and a meal in each one. Then on the bottom I typed all of the ingredients for all of the meals. I put this in a sheet protector. Put them all on a key ring and hung it on a peg in my kitchen. I flip to the meal plan for the week. I can write on the sheet protector and erase if needed. Don’t forget to plan by season though. Or have something you can fall back on. You don’t want it to be 100 degrees outside and meal plan is roast chicken in the oven. <—nope wasn't me!! :)

  42. Thanks SO much for the time you put into your blog. It is such a great encouragement and practical help when I don’t have anywhere else to turn for advice on “running” a large family! God bless you and help you continue in this ministry. We would need 8-10 drinkbands if we got some. Thanks so much!

  43. I would love to have 9 drink bands for my husband and I and our 7 kids. I have tried buying colored cups but we seem to break or lose them so quickly, this looks like a great tool to put around our mason jars which is our current glass of choice.
    Blessings,
    Jennifer

  44. I would need 7 so each of my kids and me and my husband had one. The baby and toddler don’t quite need one yet but soon enough they will.

  45. I love your blog! I am a homeschooling mom of 5 kiddos and find your posts very encouraging! The drink bands are such a great idea! I would need 7, but would love 8 because I am hoping for one more child. :-)

  46. I have heard so much about these drinkbands, I think they would make any mom’s life easier. Small family or big family, we all use a lot of cups :)

  47. The drink bands are a brilliant idea. We would love to win some of them. It would save me countless hours washing glasses. Love, love, love this idea!!!