The Ultimate Guide to Meal Planning (for Families)


How to dish devise and classify a genuine food selling list around your dish plan

Meal formulation creates a vast disproportion when it comes to adhering to a dietary change. It’s easy to prepare a discerning preference food or conduct to a grill when everybody is inspired and zero is defrosted, yet a tiny formulation can forestall this!

If we have kids, we can let them be concerned in a formulation as well, that will assistance them get vehement about a healthy dishes we are cooking and be some-more peaceful to try them. Our family uses this module for easy dish planning but we can simply emanate your possess complement regulating my routine below.

The Benefits of Meal Planning

Meal formulation is a critical partial of eating a healthy diet and there are many advantages of dish planning. Even if you’re a healthy eating veteran, I’d frequency inspire we to take half an hour a week to dish devise healthy dishes for your family that week.

There are many advantages of dish planning, including:

1. Save Money

There are many times that income has been parsimonious for us and I’ve had to widen a food budget. One year, my father lost/had to quit his pursuit a month before a birth of a third child. That birth finished adult being an (expensive) puncture c-section to save my life and my son’s life. Our son also had a stay in a NICU, that we found out costs some-more per day that we’d ever paid for a vacation. Needless to say, income was parsimonious for a while as we worked to find a pursuit and compensate off bills. At a same time, we was recuperating from medicine and blood detriment and eventually, he was eating plain dishes yet we both indispensable to concentration on unequivocally nutritive foods. Even during this time, a family ate a genuine food diet that we managed to means by unequivocally clever budgeting and dish planning.

2. Eat Real Food

Consuming a nutrient-dense genuine food diet is critical for so many aspects of health, yet it also takes some allege planning. Meal formulation lets we confirm before we ever go to a grocery store what healthy dishes your family is going to eat during a given week so that we can customarily squeeze healthy dishes and know that we will use them. If you’re switching to a healthier diet, dish formulation is generally critical to assistance we hang to it while we learn a ropes.

3. Don’t Waste Food

One of my biggest pet peeves is anticipating a enclosure of food in a behind of a fridge and realizing that a essence resemble a scholarship examination some-more than they do food. We concentration on a healthy real-food lifestyle and partial of that is being a good valet of a resources we have. With dish planning, we know how we are going to use all of a food for that week before we even go to a store to buy it. we have a weekly diversion devise that even takes leftovers in to comment so that food is frequency wasted.

4. Less Stress

7 Easy Meal Planning Basic TipsStress is bad. we satisfied that a vital source of highlight for me was realizing during 4 p.m. that a kids would be inspired shortly and that zero was designed or defrosted for dinner. Just a ubiquitous “what am we going to prepare tonight” that was always in a behind of my mind was holding adult mental appetite that we indispensable to use in improved ways (like parenting 5 children). Just as with anything, carrying a created devise takes a doubt and highlight out of a conditions and we was astounded how many it reduced my highlight customarily to have a devise and know what and when we would be cooking.

See my weekly template next that we use for stress-free dish planning.

5. Save Time

Another good advantage of dish formulation is a time it saves. Planning forward allows me to prepare things in bulk and solidify for a destiny dish or make additional of a protein to use in a discerning dish after in a week. In a winter, we prepare a lot of delayed cooker dishes or Instant Pot dishes and pre-make many of these to keep in a freezer so that we can customarily hang one in a crockpot and go in a morning on bustling days.

6. Add Variety

It competence seem that dish formulation is firm and boring, yet statistically, families are some-more expected to eat a same dishes over and over if they don’t dish plan. Meal formulation allows we to safeguard accumulation and equivocate descending in to a trap of eating a same 5 dishes over and over. A sundry diet is good for a digestive health and exposes us to a wider operation of nutrients.

How to Meal Plan: 7 Tips for Foolproof Meal Planning

Meal formulation isn’t tough once we have a complement in place, yet there are a few things to keep in mind when starting out that will make a make a routine easier for we and your family:

1. Have a Daily Template

Rather than starting from blemish any week, we have a template of a ubiquitous forms of dishes we prepare any day of a week and a series of times we use any categorical food. In other disproportion any week we cook:

  • 1-2 stir frys
  • 1 salad
  • 1 delayed cooker/Instant Pot or soup meal
  • 1 fish/seafood meal
  • 1-2 dishes from a opposite cuisine from around a world
  • 1-2 prepare-ahead oven meals

I try to use no beef some-more than twice so in a given week we competence have 2 beef meals, 2 duck meals, 1 fish dish and 2 pig or egg meals.

2. Focus on Core Recipes

As we find recipes your family enjoys, make them core recipes that get re-used any few weeks. Try to build adult about 20 of these and we won’t ever be wearied with your meals. Each week, use these core dishes for 5 of your dinners and try something new for 2 dinners. If we get unequivocally motivated, build these 20 core dishes for any deteriorate regulating anniversary furnish and stagger with a seasons. This will also save income on produce.

3. Stretch Your Protein

Protein is typically a many costly partial of a dish so if we can use reduction costly cuts of beef and widen them, it competence concede we to buy organic and grass-fed rather than compulsory meats. If we can’t find these from a internal farm, there are now ways to get peculiarity beef shipped to your door.

Another reason we adore stir frys and casseroles — we can supplement some-more veggies and widen a beef some-more than if we were customarily portion baked chicken. The delayed cooker and Instant Pot are also good ways to make tougher, cheaper cuts of beef some-more tender.

4. Mix It Up With Spices

A elementary easy recipe (like Chicken Squash Stir Fry or Pakistani Kima) can ambience totally opposite customarily by changing a spices. Add some cumin and chili powder and we have a Mexican flavor, or some curry for an Indian flavor. Basil, thyme, oregano, and garlic give an Italian deteriorate while, Chinese Five Spice gives an Asian flair. we try to buy all my spices in bulk given it saves income and gives me a accumulate for creation DIY herbal remedies.

5. Travel a World In Your Kitchen

One of my dreams is to transport a universe and try a opposite cuisines in any country. Even if roving isn’t on your to-do list right now, it’s fun to emanate a tiny square of a knowledge in your kitchen. With a tiny investigate and some healthy adjustments, we can emanate recipes from around a world. You competence be astounded to find that your kids suffer a flavors of Indian or Thai food or that we have a passion for French flavors.

6. Don’t Be a Short Order Cook

Want to lift a picky eater? Let your child eat whatever he/she wants and support to his or her food preferences.

Want to not lift a picky eater? Expose your children to healthy and different dishes from a immature age and don’t make any specific dishes for them. My toddler gladly ate curries, baked vegetables, liver, and avocado given she’d never had crackers, toast, duck nuggets, or juice. This post has all of my best tips for winning over a picky eater (while staying sane).

We have dual manners in a house:

  1. Kids are compulsory to try one punch of all baked before they can have some-more of any one food (I customarily put one punch on their image during first)
  2. If they are truly not inspired they are not compulsory to eat BUT afterwards can NOT protest about a food or miscarry a dish with a bad attitude.

Certainly, there are times when my kids are not happy with these manners or a dishes they are served, yet as with other areas of parenting, infrequently a best choice for children is not always a one they suffer most!

This competence sound like tough love, yet it will unequivocally be a advantage to them in a prolonged run. Don’t trust me? Check out a book Deep Nutrition.

7. Eat Leftovers for Breakfast and Lunch

It can be tough to mangle a cereal and sandwich mindset yet an easy, time-saving approach to eat healthy is to make additional of dishes and offer them again for breakfast and lunch. Most dishes (except soups) can also be combined to an omelet for breakfast or put with a salad for lunch. Cold meatza or leftover grill indeed creates a tasty breakfast or lunch (together with a vast raise of veggies, of course).

Another easy pretence is to make salads or store leftovers in mason jars (liquid mixture during a bottom for salads, afterwards meat/toppings, afterwards lettuce) and store in a fridge. Then, a dish can be re-heated simply or dumped onto a image to serve.

How to Organize Your Shopping List for Efficiency

I now use an online use and app to dish devise and beget my selling lists. This lets me grocery emporium in many reduction time and simplifies my week. If we aren’t regulating a dish formulation service (though I’d frequency suggest it), we can accomplish a same thing by organizing your selling list before we get to a store.

I started by formulating a rotating list of dish skeleton that use anniversary furnish and analogous selling lists that are orderly by a partial of a store a food is in.

To facilitate a process, we write my recipes on 3×5 index cards with a mixture on a back. For any ingredient, we write a volume indispensable per chairman for that singular recipe (not total!)

This allows me to easy adjust a recipe adult or down if we are carrying association or if some of a kids won’t be home for a certain meal. In other words, a behind of one of my recipe cards competence have:

  • 1 duck breast
  • 1/4 bruise broccoli, fresh
  • 1 honeyed potato
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • etc

To make a selling list for a week, we customarily greaten a per-person series by a series I’m portion for that dish and supplement to a list.

How to Create Seasonal Meal Plans

Seasonal eating is another elementary approach to save income and boost a nutritious calm of food. Foods enclose a top volume of nutrients when they are in season. Local anniversary vegetables enclose some-more nutrients given they are authorised to grow until developed and aren’t shipped median around a universe before we eat them.

Seasonal dish formulation is as elementary as focusing on cabbage when it is in deteriorate and underneath a dollar a bruise or selecting some-more zucchini and cucumbers in a summer when they are widely available. For easy reference, here are anniversary dish skeleton by deteriorate that we can use.

A representation dish devise for spring

Spring Meal Plan Recipes

Monday: Stuffed Chicken Breast with installed cauliflower and salad

Tuesday: Tacos served on Romaine Lettuce with salsa or chopped tomatoes, onions (optional) and green cream, cheese and prohibited salsa (all optional) – Can also customarily eat as a vast taco salad

Wednesday: Honey Glazed Pork Chops with stir grill veggies (Just supplement sugar to recipe)

Thursday: Butter Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

Friday: Bacon Rolled Salmon Patties with Asparagus and Squash

Saturday: Sausage Stuffed Winter Squash With Salad

Sunday: Leftover Chicken Vegetable Soup (Or other leftovers of choice)

Spring Meal Plan Shopping List

Note: This list and a recipes above are for 2-3 people. If we are a family of 4, 5, or 9, greaten accordingly. For us (family of 5) we double a list below, yet it is easier to double than subtract. We also customarily try to make adequate to have leftovers to chuck in omelets for breakfast or eat for lunch.


  • 1 whole duck (preferably organic and giveaway range)
  • 2 pounds of belligerent beef or turkey
  • 2 vast pig chops (or some-more if we wish leftovers)
  • 2 vast duck breasts (or some-more if we wish leftovers)
  • 1 bruise of salmon, fresh, solidified or canned- make certain furious caught
  • 1-2 lbs sausage of choice (I use duck apple nitrite giveaway or object dusty tomato)-make certain no combined grains or fillers)
  • 2 packages nitrite giveaway bacon
  • 1 tiny package nitrite giveaway ham

I buy beef from internal farms and fill in sold cuts we need some-more of with my ButcherBox subscription. Most of my seafood we get from Vital Choice.


  • 1 vast bag carrots
  • 3 lb bag onions
  • Celery- during slightest one head
  • Lettuce- adequate for lunches and 5 dinners
  • Spinach-enough for lunches and 5 dinners
  • 1 bag of apples
  • 1 conduct of garlic (optional)
  • 4 middle honeyed potatoes
  • 2 or some-more avocados
  • 1 or some-more tomatoes
  • 2 or some-more bell peppers (any color)
  • 2 or some-more cucumbers
  • a garland of uninformed cilantro (optional)
  • 2 vast garland of asparagus
  • 2 middle distance zucchini or yellow squash
  • 1-2 acorn squash
  • Brussels Sprouts (or can get frozen)
  • Package of mushrooms (optional yet good)


  • 2 lbs solidified cauliflower
  • 2 lbs churned veggies of choice (make certain no corn or beans!)
  • 1 vast bag Brussels Sprouts (or get fresh)


  • 1 bruise butter (organic is best)-or more
  • Cheese (optional)
  • Sour cream (optional)
  • 3 dozen eggs (not dairy, we know, yet in a same area)
  • Parmesan or feta cheese (optional)


  • Snack dishes of choice
  • Ingredients for cookies (optional)- Fresh almond butter, cocoa powder, almost honeyed chocolate chips, honey, vanilla, etc
  • Olive oil for salad dressings if desired

Snack Options: Nuts of choice, some-more eggs for deviled eggs, avocado or guacamole (highly recommend), tuna, canned furious held salmon, almond butter, celery, apples, cream cheese, cucumbers, etc.

Other Notes

All butter in a above recipes can be transposed with coconut oil.

I don’t have specific measurements for many spices given they are improved if we adjust to your possess taste.

Consider creation your possess salad dressings– this is a quick and elementary approach to save income and get good servings of fat.

Summer Meal Plan

Summer Meal Plan

I’m certain summer conjures adult visions of family vacations, beach time, and poolside lounging… not dish formulation and grocery shopping. But it’s definite that dish formulation saves time and income to put toward other things.

Monday: Stuffed Bell Peppers with Guacamole

Tuesday: Simple Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry

Wednesday: Stuffed Zucchini (a child favorite!)

Thursday: Slow Cooker Boston Butt BBQ with Cucumber Salad

Friday: Fish Taco Salad

Saturday: Greek Meatballs with Tzatziki Sauce

Sunday: Steak Fajita Salad

I customarily make a outrageous collection of chocolate coconut clusters (with 90% cocoa chocolate) for a kids to have for snacks on a go. We also offer watermelon, uninformed fruits, and cut-up veggies and cucumbers with drop or homemade dressings for snacks.

I try to buy mixture from internal sources whenever possible, yet when we can’t, we sequence them from devoted sources. My full list of sources is accessible on this page.

Fall Meal Plan

Simple dish devise for FallIn Fall we concentration on base vegetables, squashes, cabbage, and apples. The delayed cooker and Instant Pot are always out on a opposite as well!

Day 1: Mini Meatloaf Cupcakes ( a child favorite during a house!)

Day 2: Easy Chicken Soup (great recipe anytime anyone is ill too)

Day 3: Simple Beef and Cabbage Stir Fry

Day 4: Pumpkin Chili

Day 5: Parsnip Shrimp Lo-Mein

Day 6: Bacon Apple Crock Pot Chicken Recipe

Day 7: Sausage and Sweet Potato Hash

To abate adult complicated dishes, we supplement fall-friendly sides like fermented sauerkraut, pickles, roasted vegetables, or kale salad.

Winter Meal Plan

Seasonal eating- a winter dish planFor winter, we try to change dishes that we know are easy to find this time of year with dishes that we know we will have recorded or stored from a summer additional (like okra).

I also concentration some-more on comfortable dishes like soups and stews in a winter dish plan, given these recipes are generally appealing in a cold winter months.

One of a weeks in a winter dish devise competence demeanour like this:

Monday: Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli Casserole

Tuesday: Cajun Gumbo Jumbalaya

Wednesday: Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef Burgundy) with salad

Thursday: Chinese Chicken and Cabbage Stir Fry

Friday: Homemade Tuna and Apple Salad with Walnuts

Saturday: Skillet Steak with Sweet Potato or Butternut Latkes and Roasted Vegetables of Choice

Sunday: Leftovers or soup done from leftovers

Winter Meal Plan Shopping List

Note: This selling list is designed for 2-3 people so double or triple accordingly!


  • 6-8 duck breasts (or some-more for lunch/leftovers)
  • 1 lb sausage of choice (spicy works well)
  • 1 lb solidified or uninformed shrimp (optional)
  • 4 lbs beef (roast, round, steak, etc.) get what is cheapest, yet not belligerent beef
  • 1 lb skillet or side steak


  • 1 vast conduct of cabbage
  • 3-4 bell peppers, tone of choice
  • Small bag of onions
  • Lettuce and spinach (enough for salads and dishes all week)
  • Tomatoes (optional)
  • Cucumber (optional)
  • Small package of mushrooms
  • Bag of carrots
  • 2-3 middle honeyed potatoes or 1 vast butternut squash
  • Bag of apples
  • Other fruits of choice


  • 2 bags solidified broccoli
  • 3 bags solidified cauliflower
  • 1 bag churned veggies, no corn
  • 1 bag unbreaded okra


  • 1 bruise butter (organic is best)-or more
  • 1 lb cheese (optional)
  • 3 dozen eggs (not dairy, we know, yet in a same area)
  • Sour cream (optional)
  • Parmesan (optional)


  • Snack dishes of choice
  • 1 can or jar diced tomatoes
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste
  • Dill weed (optional)
  • Honey or molasses
  • 1 vast or 2 tiny cans tuna
  • Pecans or walnuts (optional)

Want an Easier Way to Meal Plan?

I’ve partnered with Real Plans to make my dish skeleton easier than ever to use. You can emanate a tradition dish devise for summer or for any deteriorate formed on your family’s distance and preferences. Avoiding certain foods? Real Plans can filter them out in seconds. You can also beget a selling list formed on a dishes we select and check off equipment on your phone while we shop.

There are good over 2000 recipes to select from … and all are (of course) kid-tested and family-approved!

Check out Wellness Mama Meals + Real Plans here. we wish it helps we to flog behind and suffer a healthy summer meaningful your dish devise is set!

Do we dish plan? What tips do we have that have helped you? Share below!

Meal formulation creates a vast disproportion in adhering to a healthy diet. These tips can assistance we and your family hang to it!


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