7 Days of Easy Meal Planning


Sweet friend, I think you’ll agree with me that easy meal planning sounds wonderful. Like a dream. And planning anything is setting yourself up for success, right? So why should planning our meals be an exception? Why is it such a foreign concept to so many of us? 

I finally jumped on the bandwagon when the frustration of trying to decide what to eat at the last minute and lacking the ingredients became a thorn in my flesh. And since then, easy meal planning has been a part of our lives.





By not creating a habit of easy meal planning, I was making my week just that much harder. Why put ourselves through that unnecessary torture?! Why not just pick a few main recipes, have the right ingredients on hand, and cut out all that guesswork? 




The Benefits of Meal Planning

Meal Planning…

    1. saves you time. But don’t forget that it also… 
    2. saves you money. Yes. It does. 
    3. helps you eat healthier because you’re planning ahead and choosing what you should eat verses defaulting to whatever’s available, which might not be so healthy.
    4. makes your life less stressful. 
    5. creates a routine so that the whole family knows what to expect, something they can take with them into adulthood as they start their own family years from now. (I know, let’s not think about that right now.) Lastly it…
    6. frees you up to do more of what you really want to do.



Let’s Begin With A Core List



1. Creating Your Core Meal Plan

We’re not gonna make this complicated. Remember it’s “easy meal planning”,  so don’t overwhelm yourself with too many options, being too gourmet, and using too many resources. 

  1. Pick 7-9 core recipes for dinner.

Your family doesn’t have to love them, but I did ask for their opinions and if it was realistic and mostly healthy then I added it to the list. Believe it or not, I don’t own any cookbooks. With Pinterest, All Recipes, even Instagram- we have so many options at our fingertips and without the bulkiness of cookbooks taking up precious real estate in our kitchens. 

Here’s another thought that might inspire you. Try picking a daily theme such as Soup Day, Italian, Mexican, Salad, Slow Cooker Saturday, Seafood Sunday, Whatever Wednesday…you get the idea. Remember, we have so many other important things to do. Let’s make this easy meal planning. 

    1. Lasagna or Pasta
    2. Tacos (beef, fish, or chicken)
    3. Chili or soup
    4. Chicken 
    5. Pizza 
    6. Something grilled (burgers or veggies)
    7. Seafood


“I love routine because everything else is so unpredictable” -Jordana Brewster 


So let’s make mealtime predictable and cut out that guesswork. 




2. Now elaborate on your core list and mix it up.

  • Dinners: 

    1. Lasagna- with garlic bread and salad. Once in a while, I make zucchini lasagna because it tastes almost the same and I like to sneak in healthier alternatives. Or cook pasta with sauteed veggies and garlic bread.
    2. Tacos- alternate between ground beef, ground turkey, chicken, fish, or even vegetarian (when my husband is at work). 
    3. Chili (or soup)- with rice, cornbread, and honey butter. I alternate between a white chicken chili that my kids also really love. 
    4. Chicken- I usually find something on Pinterest and try something new. Some ideas are lemon chicken with asparagus and mashed cauliflower (which tastes just like mashed taters). Or Fettuccine with chicken, mushroom, and broccoli in a garlicky cream sauce. A healthy alternative would be to use spiralized zucchini instead of pasta. 
    5. Pizza- store-bought or homemade. I used to think that making homemade pizza was too much trouble, but it’s not so. Buying pizza yeast makes for no rising time and easy to roll out. Or you can throw some marinara sauce, shredded mozzarella, and toppings on premade crusts, naan bread, or bagels. 
    6. Something grilled- cheeseburgers with tater tots, pickles, corn on the cob, and baked beans. My kids love this dinner. I wrap my burgers in lettuce and have my kids slowly following suit. Or we’ll grill fish and veggies. Or steak and veggies.
    7. Seafood- we’ll bake Furikake Wasabi Salmon with rice and broccoli. Or fresh ahi with capers and cream sauce. Or white fish dipped in coconut flour. So delicious! 

Side note- on nights when my husband isn’t home, we’ll substitute some of the meals for rice & bean bowls or burritos (amongst other ideas) topped with cheese and sour cream. My kids really love this meal and it’s so easy and cheap. 


  • Breakfast: 

If you homeschool, you might as well put together a simple breakfast and lunch plan to make your life that much easier. This way my kids can look at the menu for breakfast and serve themselves if I haven’t already made it. Basically, my brain doesn’t have to be utilized here. For breakfast we usually have:

  • Eggs & bacon or sausage with avocado & toast
  • Overnight oats
  • Bagels & smoothie
  • Buckwheat pancakes or waffles
  • Fried rice (if there’s leftover rice)
  • Breakfast burritos 


  • Lunch: 

  • Beans & rice topped with cheese and sour cream (for those who follow Dave Ramsey, he’s big on beans & rice and rice & beans. It’s cheap and good and cheap).
  • Tuna lettuce wraps w/cheese
  • Chili topped w/cheese & sour cream
  • Bean & cheese burritos
  • Butter noodles w/broccoli
  • Leftovers. 
  • Almond butter & honey sandwiches made from homemade bread. They don’t care for store-bought bread (which is a blessing since it’s so expensive here in Hawaii).





3. Plan Your Weekly Meal Schedule

Now that you have your basic meal plan, take about 10 minutes to plan your week. I normally do this on Sunday evenings. This is a habit that will make your life even better. It’s only 7 days of planning which isn’t hard and doesn’t take long. 

Decide which meals you’ll for dinner for the next 7 days. If your spouse or kids aren’t home then it might make a difference what you make. Plus, you may be eating out or having guests over as well. Using the dry erase board that hangs on our fridge and the family calendar on the information wall, I note the nights my husband will be working and other important events.

On the nights it’s just the kids and me, we make butter, veggie pasta with broccoli instead of lasagna; healthier pizza instead of DiGiorno’s and a vegetarian chili instead of a beef recipe. Then I write these meals on the dry erase board located right on the fridge. Bing-a-bang-a-boom! Done! 


4. The Shopping List

I try to stick to a budget that includes all consumables; food, toiletries, cleaning supplies, pet food, paper products, and other household items that we use up during the month. 

We keep an ongoing “master” grocery list I’ve typed up in a spreadsheet on our fridge where we highlight the ingredients we run out of. This way I can easily print it out weekly. You could simply write out what you need but I’m a “systems” girl. I love cutting out that one extra step. 

I’ve even organized this list according to the aisles in our store. I know this might sound crazy, but it prevents backtracking. If you’re not sure about the layout of your store, then write down the aisles as you go shopping next time or look online if it’s available. Too O.C.D.?

Now find a grocery shopping app to make your shopping experience even better. I use a free app called GroceryPal. Input all the items you need into the app with their prices (some apps will do this for you or you can scan the items). Then add everything you currently need into your app’s shopping cart. It will total it up for you so you’ll have your total before you even leave the house. Brilliant! 


5. Shopping Prep

  1. Clean out your fridge so you can have a clean space to put all your groceries and so you can see what you need and don’t need. 
  2. Fill your grocery app shopping cart and make sure the device you use is charged.
  3. Eat. Make sure you don’t shop hungry. 
  4. Pack your reusable bags. I even like to reuse my plastic veggie bags or buy veggie bags online.


Important tips to remember

  1. Your meal plan is not final. It will change. So don’t look for the perfect meal plan or system. 
  2. Make your easiest recipe at the beginning of the week. A slow cooker and Instant Pot will change your life if you’re not already using one. 
  3. Shop only once a week and no more. This will help you stick to your budget. Check out my post on 5Top Tips for Sticking to a Budget.
  4. Don’t reinvent the wheel every night. Systems are meant to work for you and cut out the guesswork.
  5. Use your grocery app, master grocery list, and even calculator while shopping. Check out my post on 5 Tips for Smart Grocery Shopping
  6. Keep your meal plan posted in the kitchen for all to see.
  7. If your kids complain, tell them calmly and with a smile on your face that they don’t have to eat it… or anything else until the next meal. 


Dealing with Kids

If you want your children to be picky, then cater to them. Ask them what they want to eat every day and make that for them. And if they don’t like it, make them something else. Yikes. That sounds exhausting. 

Instead, talk about your expectations with the family and be consistent. Create boundaries and rules to keep the peace and prevent strife. Our main mealtime rules are: 

    1. My kids have to take at least one polite bite of everything on their plate. I only give them one bite if I know they most likely will not like it. I also give smaller “kid-sized” portions (children don’t have big stomachs) to avoid the “eat your plate clean” battle. 
    2. They are not allowed to complain. At all. Years ago I told them that if they complained I would simply and calmly remove their plate and they would have nothing else to eat until the next meal. I’ve done that once to each of my children (yes, it was emotional and hard for me), but I’ve never had to do it since. 
    3. Each child is required to help with dinner prep once per week. This way they learn life skills such as; math (if measuring), performing a certain order of steps (logic), and best of all…serving their family.  
    4. No snacks allowed within an hour of mealtime. Snacks that we usually have on hand are:


      • seaweed packs
      • plain graham crackers w/almond milk
      • veggie straws
      • nuts
      • healthy granola bars
      • bananas
      • apples
      • oranges
      • fresh blueberries
      • string cheese
      • tortilla chips and salsa
      • Apple sauce
      • Carrot sticks
      • Pickles
      • Beef jerky
      • homemade energy bites




The whole meal dilemma does not need to ruin our lives and make us miserable. Let’s cut out the guesswork, make a plan, and create a system that works for us so we can have the time to do what we really love and not be burdened down with mealtime. Easy meal planning will make your life better if you let it. 


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