If there was ever a time to simplify meal planning, this is it. Do you avoid meal planning like my kids avoid zucchini? Even if you don’t scream in horror at the sight of a cookbook, I’m willing to bet it’s not your easiest task of the week. 

What if I told you there was a way to simplify the process?

Let me give you some fast and easy tips that you can implement right now to make meal planning more successful and less painful.

1. Take inventory of what you already have.

Check your pantry, your freezer, your fridge, and anywhere else you keep food. Plan to use proteins and perishable veggies in the first couple of days that you’re planning for. Once you know what you have, you’re ready to start meal planning.

I often forget what’s in the second freezer and I need a visual reminder of what’s available to cook. Consider using fridge bins to organize upcoming meals so all components are together.   

simplify meal planning cookbook

2. Pick one cookbook to work from.

I see some people create a meal plan using recipes from multiple websites/bloggers and chefs. Or they use too many cookbooks. One of the easiest tips I can share is to use one cookbook if you are trying some new recipes.

Each recipe in a cookbook tends to be formatted in a similar way. The more you use a cookbook, the easier it is to follow the recipe. I used to use more than one book, and then I tried this tactic. Such a game-changer! Plus, it’s one cookbook to keep on your counter for the week. Reducing visual clutter in the kitchen helps to make cooking more enjoyable.

I have a huge cookbook collection, but I know I work more efficiently when I only focus on a couple of them seasonally. I might use the weekend to dive into a different book, so don’t worry that the rest of your cookbook collection won’t get enough love.

3. Break up your meal prep.

You’ve probably heard the advice to prep for the week on Sunday night by chopping up a week’s worth of veggies, making all of your smoothies, and putting your kids’ lunches together. (I’m hopeful for packing lunches again in the fall!) I agree that prepping helps with the weekday meal chaos, but I suggest you split your prep over two days. This will make the prep less arduous and time-consuming, but it will still give you the slight edge you need when you’re being pulled in eight different directions on just another Thursday.

simplify meal planning meal prep

Wondering what is “preppable”? Glad you asked! You can:

4. Write your meal plan down

There’s plenty of ways to keep track of your meal plan, but I have found that writing it down in your own handwriting has been the most successful.

I think it’s for two reasons. One, we remember more of what we write with our own hands. It’s scientifically proven that the physical act of writing makes a bigger imprint in our brain/memory than typing.

Second, if we write it down on paper, we have a physical object to tape in a visual spot. Whereas a digital write up can get lost in our sea of digital clutter.

5. Create a list of Family Favorite Meals

This is the #1 way to help you save time each time you sit down to meal plan. It takes a little time investment to put it together, but the benefits are huge.

I want you to write down a list of those dinner ideas that you make on a regular rotation. These can be kid’s favorites, those dinners you don’t need recipes for, and even things that make not be “dinner” but totally count like “breakfast-for-dinner.” I’m giving you permission to plan for these types of nights…or just use them as a back-up option.

Having a list of favorites to start with, and then sprinkle in some new recipes will help simplify the meal planning process so much. Then you won’t feel like you are starting from scratch each week.

Here’s a gift for making it to the end of this post. I want to give you this simple, customizable template that you can use to:

  • Create a list of family favorite meals.
  • Use my list of dinner ideas to help get you started.
  • Write out a few meals in the meal plan template.

Simplify Meal Planning Template Printable

Apply these tips to simplify your meal planning practice this week, and I know you’ll feel an immediate difference. And this is just the beginning! I’ve got more for you…but in the meantime, enter your info in the form below to get your cheat sheet!

I hope you enjoyed these tips to help simplify your meal planning this week. Don’t forget to grab your free template. Even if you don’t create your own, you can use mine that’s included. Enjoy!  

How to simplify meal planning