I am so excited to have Michelle Pfennighaus of Find Your Balance sharing how you can make a family meal plan!  She is a Nutrition Coach and mom of 2.  She suffered for years with debilitating IBS and anxiety, until finally healing herself through changes in diet and lifestyle.  Since then, she has used food as a catalyst to transform the lives of thousands of clients worldwide.  Her life’s reinvention has been documented in the movie “Lemonade” and she’s been featured on ABC, NBC and NPR with her inspiring story.

I am so excited to have Michelle share ways we can all get ourselves organized when it comes to meal planning!  And, she has a FREE downloadable meal planner for you!!  Who doesn’t love freebies, right?!?!

How To Make A Family Meal Plan

Before I had kids, I spent leisurely afternoons at the grocery store and farmer’s markets.  Strolling through the aisles, I picked up whatever looked good.  During the week, if I needed a few more items to complete dinner, I made a quick trip.

No big deal, right?

These days, grocery shopping is a full­ contact sport.  If I’m lucky, my husband watches our two boys while I sprint to the store and attempt to fill my cart with food that strikes the balance between healthy, fast and my ­kids­ will­ actually ­eat.  And since we’ve just bought a new home, I’m trying to do it all on a tight budget.

This is the story of how “meal plan” became a regular part of my vocabulary.

And by the end of this article, I hope to make it part of yours.  You’ll save yourself the dinnertime scramble that up­ends your kitchen while the kids complain they’re starving.  And you’ll save yourself the money that often goes to the takeout delivery guy.

When I started meal planning, I thought I needed to have a cute, Pinterest­-worthy meal planning board complete with polka dot ribbon.  This is false.  Most of my meal plans happen on the back of an envelope or random sheet of construction paper.  You can also download my Family Meal Planning Worksheet to help you get into the swing of things.

Cook Books

Start With What You Have

First things first.  What do you already have in the house?  A pound of ground beef in the freezer?  A bunch of tomatoes from the garden?  Making use of what you have saves money and gives you a starting place for your meal plan.

Check Your Calendar

The next important step is to check your calendar for any important dates.  For example, if it’s your husband’s birthday next week you might want to make a special meal.  Or maybe you’ll go out to dinner – that’s one less meal to plan for.

Pick 2 Easy Favorites

It’s tempting to dive headfirst into your cookbooks.  But let’s be realistic.  We all need easy, quick meals during the week.  Pick a couple easy favorites that don’t require a recipe.  Think scrambled eggs, spaghetti, hamburgers or whatever you like to make.

Add Variety

Now’s your chance to add some variety.  Already serving beef?  Add chicken, fish and vegetarian meals to your plan.  Find yourself making a lot of broccoli?  Try cauliflower one night instead.  You can also vary the flavors.  For example, if you make a lot of Italian food, try a Chinese dish.  Pinterest is a really useful tool for finding new ideas.  You can see the recipes I’m using in my own meal plans right here.

Double (Or Triple) Recipes

Choose a few recipes that you can easily double, like chili or tacos.  Leftovers can be built into your plan for another night of the week or for lunches to make things easy and more manageable.

Make Your List

Finally, go through each meal and note the ingredients you’ll need on a shopping list.  Make sure to shop your own pantry first!  Otherwise you might buy yet another jar of cinnamon because you forgot you already had some!

Erasable Meal Planner

There are meal planning services and done­-for­-you meal plans available online.  But WE are the experts in our own families.  Only YOU know that your son is allergic to eggplant, your husband hates beets and you guys just had lasagna last week.  That’s why I like creating my own meal plans.  Plus…you might think I’m crazy, but…it’s kind of fun!

Be sure to download my free Family Meal Planning Worksheet to get started.  When you hit the store, you’ll be in and out with no wasted time.  Woohoo!  Hang that meal plan on the refrigerator and refer to it each morning so you know exactly what’s happening later in the day.

Know what I call that? Winning.

Thank you so much Michelle!  Check out her 1 Meal Mom Community for more amazing information, tips, and support!  I am loving all the tips for how to get yourself organized when it comes to meal planning.  I actually find it easier to meal plan in the summer because we do a ton of things on the grill!  It allows our family more time outside while we are getting dinner ready.  I cannot wait to get my meal plan on!