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How to meal plan and why it’s good!

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The ULTIMATE guide to meal planning! We’ll show you how to meal plan in an easy way that suits you and your family. From creating a meal plan, to different ways to plan and how to come up with delicious dinner ideas.

Meal Planning 101

Consider this your MEAL PLANNING 101.

We’ll run through all the different ways to meal plan.

We’re super confident that you’ll find the best way for you right here and it’ll make your life easier!

And everyone wants their life to be easier, right? Especially if you’re a busy mum with a whole lot of stuff to get through!

In short as a super busy mum, I find meal planning is a great way to keep organised and SAVE TIME AND MONEY.

Generally there’s a few different ways you can organise meal planning.

Also there’s a variety of places to get INSPIRATION for meal ideas.

Above all you just need to work out the best one for you and your family.

So then, some people like to meal plan every single meal and snack, I like to keep it a little more LAID BACK.

FirstIy I stock up on a selection of breakfast and packed lunch food.

Then I properly plan the family dinners.

This way works best for me. 

How To Meal Plan

So, we’ll start with a little run through of the different ways to meal plan.

We’ll look at how each of them work and more importantly how to do them and fit them into your lifestyle and budget.

Meal Planning – Dinner Theme Days

list of dinner theme days for meal planning inspiration - pasta, slow cooker, soup and sandwich, casserole, roast, meat free, one pot, kids fave, fish, breakfast for dinner, mexican, quick and easy, freezer dinner, homemade take away, Italian. Text overlaid on image of vegetarian fajitas

Generally this is a great way to meal plan. In fact it’s one of my favourites.

So then, when sitting down to meal plan just choose a dinner theme for each day of the week and then pick a dinner that suits the theme.

Above all this way seems to make it so much easier and quicker to plan meals.

If you like you can even ask each member of the family to pick a theme or meal too just to get a little added input from the family.

Weekly Meal Plan

weekly family meal plan with image of baked bean wraps with salad and a bowl of melon - Text - Monday - slow cooker shawarma chicken, Tuesday - mediterranean grazing platter, Wednesday - pulled ham salad, Thursday - burgers and sweet potato fries, Friday - baked bean wraps, Saturday - spicy sausage pasta, Sunday - grilled salmon salad

Ordinarily, this is the meal planning method I tend to stick with.

However, I make super sure to look through the cupboards, fridge and freezer to check what needs using up and incorporate it into my dinner ideas for the week ahead.

With this in mind, if you’re struggling for dinner inspiration or just need a little kick-start with your meal planning, you can check out our online meal plans right here.

4 Week Seasonal Meal Plans

Above all I totally get that sometimes you’re just too busy, or just don’t enjoy meal planning.

So, with this in mind a 4 week rolling meal plan might be just the thing for you!

The 4 week meal plan method involves planning a whole month of meals in advance.

So meal planning is just one monthly session, you can set aside an hour and plan the full month of meals and write the weekly shopping lists in one go, which saves time over the month ahead.

We also kinda like the smugness of being THIS ORGANISED and knowing that meal planning is all taken care of and doesn’t need thinking about again for another four weeks! Awesome!

However, if the thought of writing a month of dinners is overwhelming, you might like to download our monthly meal plans here to get you started! We’ve split them seasonally so that dinnertime doesn’t get dull.

Get more family life organisation tips here

(just click on the image to get the free printable)

spring meal plan - 4 weeks of family dinners
summer meal plan - 4 weeks of family dinners
autumn meal plan - 4 weeks of family dinners
winter meal plan - 4 weeks of family dinners

Get our blank 4 week monthly meal plan template here and write your own meal plan.

How to meal plan on a budget

baked bean fajitas served with salad, chopped tomatoes and grated cheese, bowl of melon slices alongside

If you need to save money and spend less on meals then meal planning can really help you to focus and do that, whilst still cooking up healthy meals.

When meal planning on a budget look at meal and food swaps which will cost less money.

Budget Cooking Tips

  • Add in 2-3 pasta based meals a week – you can make up simple pasta sauces to serve with them and pasta is a cheap way of filling up.
  • Cook meals that can be easily bulked out with extra vegetables or pulses rather than needing to add more meat.
  • So for example – cooking up a chilli con carne and adding in extra beans, onions and peppers to stretch the meal further.
tuna pasta bolognese served in white bowls
  • Cook meals that will do two nights – or even freeze half for another day.
  • Look at where you shop! Smaller supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl are often much cheaper and it’s quicker and easier to pick up those bargains.
  • Look out for the weekly offers on fruit and vegetables or meat and plan your meals around what you know is going to be cheaper that week.
  • Fill up on mashed potatoes, add a side of bread or serve meals with rice mixed with tinned lentils – this is filling and adds in more protein and vegetables.
  • Frozen and tinned vegetables are a low cost way to bulk up meals and to still eat your 5 a day.
  • Use a slow cooker – you can use slow cookers to cook cheaper, tougher cuts of meat and they’ll come out beautifully tender – stews, casseroles, curries and soups are all cheap and delicious when done in the slow cooker.

How do you make a meal plan and stick to it?

Well… be strict with yourself.

Think about why it is you want a meal plan, is it to be more organised? Is it to save money? Maybe you want to eat healthier dinners?

By not sticking to your plans – think about what you’re losing out on!

It could be a few pounds extra in your purse a week or shifting that final 1lb weight loss on your diet.

If you know you struggle to stick to a full meal plan then when you create your plan be sure to add in a day off.

This means you get the benefit of a plan but the flexibility of a day off, best of both worlds.

Need some dinner inspiration?

homemade puff pastry pizzas topped with sun dried tomatoes, chopped ham, cheese and olives on a serving platter with fresh salad, cucumbers , tomatoes and herbs

Sometimes you just get stuck in a rut, cooking and eating the same old thing week in, week out.

If you fancy MIXING UP YOUR MEALTIMES then here’s our favourite places to get some food inspiration.

Check out hundreds of pre-filled meal plans and recipes here on Daisies & Pie. 

Browse on-line meal plans

Browse all our meal plans here

How to make meal planning even easier!

Another way to make meal planning easier is to keep a good stock of basics at home.

Store cupboard ingredients and freezer essentials that just make family cooking a whole lot easier.

Come and chat meal planning with us!

Head over to Facebook and join our ever growing family food & housework group for ideas, support, tips and lot’s more.

We’d love you to share your own meal plans over there and help others with food inspiration too! 

Loads more family meal plan ideas here

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Free Printable Meal Planner Templates

Grab our free printable meal planner templates here and get busy organizing your meal ideas!

Print the pink and blue meal planner template here

free printable meal planner template

Print the yellow and green meal planner template here

meal planner template - free printable

Save our meal planning tips to Pinterest for later!

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Get more delicious meal ideas and easy recipes here