How Meal Planning Can Simplify Your Life (Plus the Resources to Make it Easy)

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The rewards of meal planning far exceed the effort.

How many times have I found myself at the dinner hour scrounging through the freezer and pantry, trying to make some sort of meal?


I end up feeling stressed, working with less than ideal ingredients, getting dinner on the table late, and serving my family way more frozen pizza than I care to admit.

This type of planning is what I term survival mode. It is a reactive, unorganized way of providing for my family that yields inconsistent results. Not all bad. But definitely inconsistent.

Meal planning, on the other hand, allows me to take control and be proactive. It ultimately requires less effort, saves money, and gives me the peace of mind of knowing I have a plan in place for every day of the week. It allows me to grocery shop accordingly and feed my family great food.

If your dinner preparation feels chaotic, let me urge to try meal planning. With a little discipline, this can change your life.

Here’s how I do it.

How I Meal Plan

Plan for one week at a time

There is a certain day of the week when we grocery shop as a family.

Prior to this outing, I plan our meals. Once a week works well because it’s easier to be systematic with a designated shopping/planning day, and most produce will last at least on week.

Look at your calendar

When it’s time to meal plan, I do it with my calendar in front of me. If I know my husband won’t be home for dinner, I’ll plan something easy. If I know we’re going to be busy in the afternoon, I plan a crock pot meal.

Meal plan one meal per day

Because life is crazy at this stage and my family is not too particular, I only plan one meal per day –dinner. This keeps it simple.

For breakfast we stock eggs, sausage, cereal and oatmeal. For lunch we stock sandwich makings, fruit and yogurt. We also like to eat leftovers for our lunches. These items are always on our shopping list as staples.

For my dinner planning, I use an online service called Build-A-Menu.

Build-A-Menu already contains recipes. I can also input my own recipes, which I have done some. I then select and drag them onto my Build-A-Menu calendar.

When I’m done, I can print the menu, an automatically generated shopping list, and all my recipes!


It’s helped me try new things with great success! (AND They’re running a big sale this week only. Read more about Build-A-Menu below.)

You can also use a Home Management Binder to meal plan, or even a simple notebook, which is what I’ve done in the past.

Create a grocery list

Based on your recipes and current inventory, create your recipe list. Build-A-Menu does this automatically for me based on my recipes, which is a huge time-saver.

Write the menu out on a chalkboard

I am enjoying this extra touch, and so is my family!


I recently purchased an inexpensive chalkboard and hung it up in between my kitchen and dining room. Each week, I write our menu on the board. This keeps me on track, all while letting my family know exactly what to expect.

Plus it has a fun “cafe vibe.” 🙂


I’ve tried a couple of different online meal planning services over the past year, and Build-A-Menu is the most user-friendly one I’ve found.

PLUS, November 13th-21st, they’re running a great sale!

For this week only, when you purchase the “Classic Plan” for $35/year, you will also get the “Done-4-You Plan” with coupon code BAM12for35. That’s an $82.95 value!

I’ve been waiting for this sale to try that one out! Build-A-Menu will put together dinner menus and shopping lists four you in your choice of these five categories:

  • Family Friendly
  • Trim Healthy Mama Friendly
  • Gluten Free
  • Paleo
  • Low Carb
  • Clean Eating

Each week you will receive an email of the menu to print-and-go!

I see several advantages of using a web service like Build-A-Menu. They are:

  1. It saves a lot of time, especially as I get more accustomed to the interface. Over time, I’m adding some of my favorite recipes to the system and marking favorites for future reference. I especially love the automatically generated shopping list.
  2. It helps me try new recipes. I get stuck in a rut a little too easily when it comes to dinners. With Build-A-Menu I print all my recipes for the week with one click. Oh, and recipes change weekly to keep it interesting!
  3. It helps me to keep costs down. Build-A-Menu estimates the cost of my menu based on current food prices at the store of my choice. This helps with budgeting.
  4. Proceeds support orphans. The founders of Build-A-Menu are committed to raising money for orphan care. When you register, you get to select an orphan charity to receive a portion of your subscription fee. I love that.

To find out so much more and see how it all works, watch this:


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  1. Holly Hooper says:

    I have that cheese book! Sadly, I haven’t had time to make anything from it but the recipes are spelled out simply and it seems really approachable. I’d recommend it … if just for the pictures of cheese.
    Holly Hooper

  2. Elsie says:

    I love the chalkboard! And I’ve heard great things about Build-A-Menu!

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