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Trying This Family Meal Planning Thing


In 2020 I aspired to get more organized with my work-from-home and homeschool life. No more juggling some schedule that didn’t work and shook around as much as my legs do when I have anxiety or consumed way too much coffee!

I’d had enough.

I was ready to take on a more balanced life.

I was going to say no more often, and only have freelance work that fit my values, morals, and schedule.

Other things had to come first again, such as my family.

So, in walked the year 2021 and while the world is crumbling down, I’m trying to control the things I can; my household routine and habits.

I’ve decided to dabble in family meal planning.

Now, I’m going to share my free meal planning routine with y’all. It might sound like total chaos, but I’m in week two and pretty confident this is going to work!

pinterest image with words simpel steps for family meal planning on orange background

My Meal Planning Ideas

First, I fell in love with this website for recipe ideas on day one of week one. They have a good variety that I can play with and use in my weekly family meal planning.

screenshot of a word document showing my Trying This Family Meal Planning Thing

The above screenshot is an example of a two-column document I use to draft up four weekly family meals. I only plan 4 days of family meal ideas because my husband typically cooks on Saturday & Sunday nights, and Friday is always pizza night in this house.

I just add the title of the recipe and a few things I might need to buy when we hit the grocery store in my Word document.

You might enjoy using a magnetic family meal planner with a shopping list.

It’s important that you figure out a method for family meal planning that works for you! I have tried many meal planning options in the past, and so far, my Word document with the below tips is what’s working for me.

photo of a purple background with hands on keyboard about to type

Step 1 Select the Recipes

The first step in this madness of selecting recipes that everyone will eat is just searching a lot. I bookmark some of the best recipe sites in a “meal planning” folder on my bookmarks toolbar in Chrome for quick access.

These are a few things I take into consideration prior to committing to a recipe for the week:

  • consider what you have on hand
  • consider what meats/veggies everyone will try or eat
  • consider making one day a fun meal that everyone will LOVE
  • consider using a recipe that everyone ate w/out complaints before

These are just a few things that I try to consider. My mission with family meal planning is to try to get my picky eater to love from-scratch meals more than processed meals.

You might have another goal in mind. My number one advice is to always make sure you’re planning recipes based on whatever your main goal is for family meal planning.

photo of a table with breakfast sandwich on it and tulips off to the right.

Step 2 – Commit to the Recipes

I usually have 5-9 tabs open with various recipes while I determine which ones I want to include in this week’s meal plan. For example, I may find a baked ziti recipe but not sure if it’s something I want to try just yet.

Remember, I’m mostly doing this family meal planning to get more ‘real food’ into my youngest son who otherwise would live in boxed mac n cheese, hotdogs, and chicken nuggets. These recipes, for me, must be something I’m confident he will at least tolerate.

Once you have your recipes figured out, make a shopping list of items you will need to buy. After that, you may print the recipes or save them in your browser’s bookmarks or favorites section for quick access later.

photo of family meal planning homemade pizza for pizza friday night. a sausage pizza.

Step 3 – Get Ready!

If you’re opting for family meal planning that includes freezer meals, then take one weekend day to prepare everything. Get the meals ready according to the recipe instructions and seal them up to stay in the freezer until dinnertime this week.

I typically print the Word document with attached recipes behind it and place it on our family bullet board in the kitchen for quick access. This is the board we have in our kitchen.

photo of Brandy Ellen's meal planning word document setup.

The above meal plan is for the week of January 18 -21 with Friday being our pizza day so no need to put it on the Word document.

I’d love to share more about how our first week with meal planning went, but that will have to be for another day! For now, I do hope sharing a little about how I started making family meal planning a priority in 2021 and how I plan my meals will help you develop a solid plan at home too!

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What is the best meal planner app?

I’ve been researching some family meal planner apps and so far, I haven’t found one I want to use. I like the old Word document and printing my recipes. I even use Excel to create a shopping list and a formula in the sheet to estimate my costs with each meal plan.

With that being said, I know many of you are all about using that technology to make life easier, so here are the best meal planner apps of 2021:

In conclusion, family meal planning can save you time, and help that picky eater of yours try new foods. I can’t wait to tell y’all what our youngest tried and liked, hated, tolerated last week! More to come. 

How do I make a family meal plan?

The bst way to make a family meal plan is to start small. Don’t schedule time-consuming from-scratch meals on a day when you have a busy schedule. Alternate meal ideas to figure out which meals are your family’s favorites. Create each family meal plan one week in advance on your day off.

Which meal delivery service is best for families?

Family meal planning is easier when you use a meal delivery service. At this moment it seems HelloFresh is the best for families with Home Chef and Sunbasket coming in next.

How do I make my weekly family meal plan?

The best way to make a weekly family meal plan is to use a meal planning worksheet or a Word document with 2-3 column setup. Look for family-friendly recipes online, print the recipes and save them paper clipped to each weekly meal plan. Create a grocery list and shop at least one week in advance.

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