Making a meal plan can save you so much money! I’ve got a super-easy guide that will help you make easy meal plans for free – saving you even more!
As moms, our lives are literally insane. Run here, run there, clean this, chase after that, fix everything.
Figuring out dinners for the week is just another thing on your never-ending to-do list. It’s so tempting to just pay for a meal-planning service that can do it for you.
I get it. But, doing it yourself can save you money and you’ll be able to make meals that your family loves. I cracked the “meal-planning code” and figured out a really easy way to create your own meal plans, for free. I can’t wait to share it with you!
Easy Meal Plans Hacks and How to Make Your Own Meal Plan for FREE
Check this out: you really can plan all of your own meals full of your family’s favorites in no time at all. I’ll break it down and show you how to do it with ease.
If, even after reading through these tips, you still don’t have time, that’s understandable. This is a no-judgment zone! I’m also going to share some meal plans other bloggers created for free. You can simply visit their sites and print their free plans off.
The only negative thing is that when you use their pre-made plans, you might make something your family doesn’t like. You can switch out the recipes but that will mean re-writing the ingredient list and amounts of food to make. Doable but it can almost be easier to make your own meal plan!
So first, let’s look at how to make a custom (and free) meal plan for your family.
Make A Complete List of Everyone’s All-Time Favorite Meals
The first thing you’ll want to do is to ask everyone in the family for a list of their favorite meals. Ask them to tell you as many of their favorite meals as they can. Keep this master list somewhere safe, like a notebook or your planner.
Just having this master list will save you a ton of time when you go to create your weekly meal plan. Sometimes one of the most stressful and time-consuming parts of meal-planning is trying to think of meals that people like.
Plus, you may be surprised (and so thankful!) at what your kids say their favorite meals are. Who knew they loved your beans and rice burritos that much? 🙂
Easy Meal Plans Hack (for free!)
If your family doesn’t cooperate or your kiddos are too little to know their favorite meals, here’s another really easy meal-planning hack.
- Take 3 pages in a notebook.
- On one page, write down a list of meat or protein recipes. For example, you can write down baked chicken legs, grilled pork chops, pot roast, and things like that. Use Pinterest and come up with as many ideas as you can!
- Then on the second page, write down as many side dishes as you can think of. These can be things like mashed potatoes, french fries, rice, rolls, and even veggie sides. You don’t always need to have a starch for a side dish, but they’re filling and the kids tend to love them.
- Finally, on the third page, write down as many vegetable ideas as you can. If you are really pressed on time, you can even grab a steamable bag of frozen veggies. They really do work great in a pinch.
Then, when it’s time to plan your meals, just pick one item from each page.
Want to make it even easier? Create a 4th page of one-pan dinners. Some people call them “sheet pan dinners” or “one-pot dinners.” Whatever they are called, these are things like cheesy chicken broccoli and rice casserole, where everything is made in one dish. Other ideas you can put on this list include:
- Slow cooker pot roast with veggies
- Sheet pan pork chops with potatoes and carrots
- One-pot chicken with a rainbow of vegetables
Then, all you have to do is make everything for dinner in one pan. This 4th page can be your “I don’t have time for this” page. It will have tons of recipes that you can make when you don’t have time.
Can’t think of anything to make? Reuse leftovers!
As you make put together your easy meal plan, look at a recipe you might have used on an earlier day. Try to find ways to reuse leftovers from those meals into other dishes later in the week. Not only will this save you money, but it will save you time in the kitchen too.
For example, on one day, you could make garlic roasted chicken breasts with steamed veggies. Then, the next day, you can make chicken fried rice. Using the same protein in two different dishes make it easier to meal prep.
Create One “Fun” Meal
Some people only plan 5 or 6 days worth of meals because they allow themselves to have one day when they go out to eat. Other families call one night the “forage the leftovers” dinner night where everyone picks out something from the leftovers to eat.
No matter which way you choose to do it, giving yourself one night a week where you don’t have to cook will be a treat!
Find The Perfect Free Meal Plan Online
If you really don’t have time for meal planning, don’t sweat it! There are still tons of free ways to do it online. So many food bloggers have these resources already for you. I found some of my favorites and I’m sharing them with you below.
Easy Family Recipes
Easy Family Recipes creates a 5-day meal plan complete with recipes. All you have to do is to just print them out and create your grocery list!
Tastes Better From Scratch
On Tastes Better From Scratch, they have at least a year’s worth of weekly menu plans here. Just click through and each weekly meal-plan also has a printable shopping list that is already filled out for you. Think of it as another Monday-Friday list.
10 Meals In One Hour
Living Well Spending Less has a printable menu where you can do all your cooking for 10 days in just ONE hour. They even explain how to prep the food and store it safely. And yes, it’s all free!
Pocket Change Gourmet
Here’s an entire month of meal planning in one printable package, and it’s all kid-approved. You can even print this out and just reuse it every single month by rearranging it a bit. Find the entire month’s meal plan on Pocket Change Gourmet.
Don’t Waste the Crumbs
Here’s an entire month’s worth of meals all planned out, courtesy of Don’t Waste The Crumbs! This meal plan even includes recipes for all three meal times – breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Simple Meal Prep Tips
Choose One Day To Your Meal Prep Day
The best way to meal prep is to do it all in one day. You’ll see and hear many people talking about meal prep Sunday since it’s the day before a normal work week starts.
Go through all of your recipes and pick out which ones need veggies chopped and meats marinated. Do as much ahead of time so that when you cook meals all you have to do is cook it.
Repurposing leftovers in multiple meals saves you from food prep and even cooking meat. Try to plan as many recipes as you can that use meats and sides from other recipes.
Plan Simple Recipes
Finally, try to plan simple recipes. It’s not necessary to go all out, especially during a busy week. One-pot meals, slow cooker meals, or things that don’t require a lot of food prep and are all really great ideas that will save you time.
Another time-saving tip is to plan meals that use rotisserie chickens from the grocery store. Sometimes cooking the meat is what takes the most time!
Easy Meal Plans For Free
There you have it! Even though those meal planning services are tempting, once you learn how to make your own meal plans for free, you can save yourself lots of money. Plus, you’ll be able to make your family’s favorite meals too.
Want to learn how to do this
Check out these 20 REAL meal plans on a budget:
Confessions of a Fit Foodie
Hip 2 Save
The Girl on the Bloor
Brit + Co
Any Mom Can Organize
The Little Frugal House
Surviving the stores
Pennies Into Pearls
Healthy Wealthy Skinny
Mommy Can’t Afford That
The Frugal Farm Girl
Queen of Free
Thrifty Frugal Mom
The Chirping Moms
Life and a Budget
Not Getting Off This Train