Having Trouble with Meal Planning? (Meal Planning 101)

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I understand that meal planning can be a huge undertaking.

Maybe you meal planned years ago and recently decided to start back…. and for some reason it is just not working out.

Maybe this was your first try at meal planning and you are struggling.

First, take a deep breath and understand that you do not have to master meal planning all in a day. Or even a week. Take one baby step at a time.

Let’s identify the problem. Ask yourself…

Are the recipes you’re making just not jiving with your schedule or lifestyle?

If this is the case you should likely take a deeper look at your recipe criteria.

The next time you make a dinner that landed on your table seamlessly, ask yourself what made this meal easy? Was it the fact that it required little preparation from you? Maybe tonight’s dinner was so awesome because you were just glad you had all the ingredients on hand.

If tonight’s dinner was dreadful ask yourself why. Is it because you felt like you were babysitting at the stove constantly stirring and supervising? Maybe you dodged the kitchen and opted for take out- why?

When you answer the whys this can help you modify your recipe criteria list. Maybe you’ve not identified all the things needed to make dinner easy for you.

Are you just not happy with the recipes your making?

If this is the case, don’t give up. Try as hard as you can to find 21 recipes that meet your criteria, but give yourself some time to do this. You do not have to identify a heap of recipes all in a few hours, or even a day. Take your time. Add to the list over weeks and months. But clearly, unless you’ve been eating out every single night for the last 15 years, you’ve got some recipes up your sleeve already. You’ve been feeding your family something.

The idea of meal planning is not to come up with 21 *new* recipes, it is to come up with 21 recipes that work for you. And, the reason I suggest 21 recipes on your list, is so you do not have to repeat a meal for 3 weeks. But if you want to make the same seven meals week after week- go for it.

Does dinner time arrive and you do not have everything on hand to make what you’d planned?

This is why a grocery list is so important, as menial as it sounds.

  • Write out your meal plan.
  • Then make your grocery list.
  • Then go to the store.
  • Then cook.

Having a hard time keeping up with what to cook each night?

You’ve got to write your plan down. Do it on a simple sheet of notebook paper and post it with a magnet on your fridge, or get fancy and crafty and make an awesome display board. Either way, display your menu.

. . . . . . . .

Remember, one small step at a time if that is what you need. Take a week to develop your criteria, take another week to find recipes, no rush.

Keep it real. If you know your family is going to eat out on the weekends, then only meal plan for five days and not seven.

Is it overwhelming to plan your meals out for a month? Then don’t- just do one week at a time. Feel like a failure when you were supposed to make a crockpot chicken dish on Monday and you switched it at the last minute for Thursday nights homemade pizza? No worries. Maybe you should consider not assigning days of the week to each meal.

Here are some more awesome meal planning resources:

Eat at Home has a list of 25 meals in 20 minutes. If you need quick dinners, this is a must read list!

Here are 10 Easy Dinner Ideas I found over on Tip Junkie.

Read everything I ‘ve covered on meal planning and you’re still in a pinch? Here are more tips on what to do when you have the dinner blues.

Repeat this five times:

I know I can. I know I can. I know I can. I know I can. I know I can.


  1. Gina @ MoneywiseMoms says:

    These are great tips for beginners! One thing that can help, too, is to think backwards–what are you already cooking that is working for you (and your family).

  2. squishsmom says:

    Great tips…people underestimate how important meal planning is to budgets and sanity…lol

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