Meal Prep and Planning Basics

Inside: Step by step tips for family meal prep and planning basics. We share how to make a list of your favourite meals, collect recipes, check what you have on hand, check sales, pick meals, shop, and prep ahead.

We always function so much better as a family when I take the time to meal plan and meal prep. It cuts down on the morning rush, the suppertime “what are we having” and the all-around chaos that sometimes happens in a busy family.

By doing some meal planning and prep, it frees you up to connect and be more present with your family before school or at suppertime. Whether you’re a parent, half of a couple, or single, taking time once a week or even once a month to prep meals in advance can be life-changing. 

Today we are sharing our top tips and some recipes for quick, frugal and satisfying family meals you can plan ahead and prep.

Let’s Get Started

Make A List Of Your Favourite Meals (Breakfast, Lunch & Supper)

Starting to meal prep and plan can seem very overwhelming at first. You do not need to try new recipes or try anything overly fancy, start by creating meal plans based on your family favourites. The first step to meal planning is to make a list of 10-15 meals your family currently enjoys. I would suggest you begin with planning for supper meals as a start. This will allow you to focus on one type of meal the first week. Then you can think of adding lunch and breakfast options the following week.

Collect Recipes Together By Similar Ingredients

As you make your list of meals, create an ingredient list for each recipe. This allows you to create a shopping list in detail and quicker once you review what you have on hand.

Here are some of our go-to picks:

Start Planning Based On What You Have In Your House

Take some time to check your pantry, cupboards, fridge, and freezer and find ingredients that fit some of your favourite recipes. You may find that you have enough ingredients to make a couple of your meals already.

If you want to create an inventory, that will become even more helpful the second week you are planning your meals. Keeping an inventory of what you have on hand in your home prevents you from buying too much, letting food spoil or ending up with 10 cans of the same pasta sauce!

Check The Flyers For Sales

Using the sales flyers to check prices is another great way to help keep your meal planning budget down. Planning your meals around the items that are on sale is fairly easy if you have your recipes organized by type of protein or main ingredient. That way, when chicken is on sale, you haul out your stack of chicken recipes and compare other ingredients to see if you have any items on hand, or if they are on sale. 

I love paper flyers, but I usually use my apps when searching for ingredients on sale. Some flyer apps that are useful are Reebee, Flyerify, Flipp, etc…

Pick Your Meals For The Week

Going back to your family’s favourites, pick 6-7 of each supper, lunch and breakfast meals or options for the week. If you have some meals prepped in the freezer, be sure to add one or two of those to your list. They are there to make your planning easier. Keep in mind that supper leftovers make for great lunch options.

How you lay out your meals is up to you. Here are a few options on how to plan your weekly meals, Amanda’s Meal Planning Board and here is my easy meal plan printable.

Pictured are a few freezer meals we have prepped in the past. Single-serve (thermos size) Chili Cups, 2 types of Chicken Freezer meals, Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin, Meat Loaf and Shepherd’s Pie.

Now, let’s get shopping!

Make A Shopping List & Shop For What You Need

Shopping is next on the agenda. Whether at your local farm, grocery store or big box store, remember to watch for ways to save. Miscut chicken at the local butcher can be cheaper than sales, clearance sections may yield a great deal, rewards programs and points offers, cash back apps, etc…
Use a template for your Shopping List, like this one, to keep track of stores, price matches, coupons and app offers.

Prep Food When You Come Home

A huge time saver when meal planning is to allow yourself about an hour when you get home from grocery shopping. Throw a few chicken breast in the oven for salads or casseroles later in the week, or put them into a freezer bag with the other ingredients for a freezer meal. Chop up your veggies for salads, snacks, and meals. If you are planning to have rice or pasta, cook it now, and portion out to either store in the fridge or freezer. 

Freeze Items That You Can Make Ahead

I freeze more than most people, including some sandwiches for the kid’s lunches, homemade pizza pockets, cooked pasta, and even quesadillas. You can find more tips for what to freeze and prep ahead here.

Give Yourself A Break!

The biggest thing to remember in all of this is, it takes time to get good at anything, and you will become more efficient the more you practice. Do not give up, it is worth the few hours on the weekend or a weeknight to plan and prep. You will feel more prepared for the week ahead and trust me, your family will notice!

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