In my opinion meal planning is the backbone of meal prepping. If you don’t have a excellent plan laid out there are a million places for things to go wrong during your meal prep journey. Heck, even if you do have a fantastic meal plan there’s still room for error, but in my experience it’s less likely that something will go wrong. So, how do you make an great meal plan?! I’ll share with you some things that I do to make meal planning work for me.
First, it’s important to decide how detailed you want to be in your meal planning efforts. Do you want to just plan out dinners or do you want to plan out every meal and every snack? Do you want to plan for all seven days of the week or do you want to plan just the weekdays? Do you want to plan for one week at a time, two weeks at a time, one month at a time, or three months at a time? Once you’ve got the answers to those questions figured out you’ll hopefully feel less overwhelmed.
Next, you’ll want to decide which meals you’d like to make. If you’re stumped on what to make check out our extensive list of recipes. Once you’ve decided on your list of meals you’ll want to plug them into your calendar. I’m a whiteboard type of girl when it comes to meal planning. We have a big family planning center in our house and part of that is meal planning. You could easily use a monthly family calendar, a personal planner (I LOVE Plum Paper), a digital planning method like GoogleCalendar or Notes. If you use GoogleCalendar you can input it as a task and include the cooking instructions as well. That makes it super easy when it comes time to cook dinner so you don’t have to search the internet high and low in order to find out how to cook the meal you planned.
After you have the meals scheduled out you’ll want to get the recipes. I love to use GoogleSheets for this next part. I like this because I can digitally save all my hard work for future meal planning. So what I do is I make a list of everything I need to buy for all the recipes I’ll be making on a GoogleSheets document. When you’re doing this you want to make sure your ingredients are all in the same unit of measurement. You can easily use an online converter tool to make sure you’re getting the right amount of each ingredient.
I then go through and highlight the things that are the same ingredients. My eyes have failed me SO many times so I just clicked both the “Command” and “F” keys on my Mac computer (“Control” & “F” on a Windows computer) to trigger the shortcut to the “Find” feature that computers have. I then use this feature to search for all the black pepper, onions, etc. across my different meals that I’ll be making. In the pictures below I did this with black pepper so I’ll explain that process with black pepper as my ingredient. On my Mac I clicked “Command” & “F” and then typed “black” into the search bar that appears on the top right corner. That automatically highlighted in green all the times “Black Pepper” appeared across my recipes.
Make sure to double, triple, quadruple check that you have the same unit of measurement for the ingredients that your recipes share. This will make your math so much easier. You can use this handy tool online or this awesome chart that I use regularly. After checking my unit of measurement one more time I wrote “teaspoons” in Column H and “Black Pepper” in Column I on my GoogleSheets.
Then you’ll want to use this function (which basically means mathematic equation in Google Suite lingo) on your GoogleSheets. In the cell where you’re wanting to write the TOTAL amount of a certain ingredient you’ll need Type the following (colon & parentheses not included): “=sum( “
Then you’ll click on all the numbers associated with that specific ingredient in each of your recipes. You can see the numbers I clicked are associated with black pepper and outlined in orange and purple dotted lines below. They are also appearing on the right side of the screen in the cell where I want to see the TOTAL amount of black pepper.
After you’ve clicked on all the numbers associated with your specific ingredient you’ll then type this (colon & parentheses not included): “)”
In the end it your function in that cell will look something like this “=sum(B8,B22,B35,B52)” The letters and numbers on your GoogleSheets will be different than what’s in my example and will correspond with the quantity of the ingredient you’re calculating. After you have something that looks like the function above press “Enter”. If everything worked out you should have a 1-2 digit quantity remaining in the cell. You can see in Column G below.
You repeat this process for each of your ingredients. Some ingredients may only appear once across all of your recipes and that’s normal. At the end of your grocery list you can add any additional items your family may need (i.e. toilet paper, napkins, freezer bags, etc.)
You can use those three columns as your grocery list in the store (either digitally or printed), to fill up your grocery cart for a grocery pick up order, or to send to your spouse to pick up on the way home from work. It makes grocery shopping easy and organized which will get you started on the right track for your meal prepping. Happy Planning!