I am an unorganized, scatterbrained, and overwhelmed stay at home mom. Well, at least most of the time. I do have those shining moments when I feel like I have it together. Usually though, life seems to get in the way of my perfect planning.
My lack of organizational skills became so painfully obvious when it came to figuring out what to serve my family for dinner. When I read and heard about people who Meal Plan, I cringed and ran away. There is of course a great value to planning – my mother was always a meal planner. She always put a lot of time and effort into it; looking at several sale ads and planning her grocery shopping trips accordingly. This didn’t seem like something I ever wanted to have to do, so I refused for a very long time! I knew I had to find a way to meal plan for an unorganized mom!
An Unorganized Mom Can Do It!
Now, here I am as a mom trying to save money as well as have a plan. When dinner time rolls around each day I don’t want to be in a panic! I finally put away my expectations to be super organized, and I have settled into a meal planning groove that works for this unorganized mom!! Meal planning doesn’t have to be stressful once you get real with what works for your daily habits and life schedule. I’m going to share the planning routine that works for me and maybe it will bring a little ease for you as well!
Make A Master List
To begin, you’ll benefit from taking the time to make a master meal list. This is the go-to list of your family favorites. When making mine, I temporarily ignored all of my many Pinterest ‘dream’ pins and concentrated on the meals that I know I can and will prepare regularly. I grabbed some paper and formed categories such as chicken, fish, pasta, etc.. Next, I placed each main dish favorite under its appropriate category. (To help myself, I noted some optional sides that could go with the main dish.) Make sure you leave some space to add the new favorite dishes you come across!
Find A Calendar
The next step is to find a calendar that works for you. I have come to love the monthly calendar I found at the local dollar store. The best time to get a calendar it seems is around back-to-school time and they seem to go fast. I prefer to see the whole month at one time, however you may prefer otherwise. Using your calendar, you’ll know how many meals you need to shop for and you’ll be able to assign meals based on a days’ activities if need be. I’m not quite that organized, so I just jot down meal ideas to fill in a couple of weeks, including leftover days – knowing they will all get mixed up and tossed around!
Filling Your Calendar With Meals
When you are filling in your calendar – you can easily go back and look at your master list for dinner ideas. I try to rotate the usual meals around to avoid boring repeats every week. I also look at my saved Pinterest pins and try to incorporate one new option once every week or two. Some are good enough to keep and some won’t make a repeat performance, but I’m slowly going through them all and you can too! I also don’t burden myself with big meals every night. I know myself well enough to know that will burn me out, so – yep! we have breakfast for dinner, and frozen fish sticks or grilled cheese. I’m also unashamed that hot dogs and mac & cheese are a staple in my home! Like I said – do what works for you!!!
After having my list of meals, I inspect my refrigerator, freezer and pantry to see what ingredients I already have and then add my needs to my shopping list. There’s always the goal of saving money, so I like to check for any cash back or saving opportunities. I have looked at store ads and they can be helpful when I have time for comparison. Now that Walmart Savings Catcher is gone, Ibotta is my cash-back friend. You can create an account and look for money back deals at each of the stores you shop at frequently. Ibotta hosts many items I already have on my shopping list and many I add due to being a great cash back deal. Many times there are quick meal options such as a yummy frozen pizza that can serve as a back-up meal option. (Keep in mind, Ibotta requires a receipt for upload so pickup shopping without a receipt won’t be an option. I do a quick run into the store for Ibotta items as well as other things such as produce I would like to select for myself)
Save Some Time
I also take advantage of grocery pickup at Walmart (there are MANY pick up options; Walmart is easiest for me) to save time and money. With online shopping I am able to look at my list and tweak what I need or don’t need to keep my price point where I want it to be. That’s definitely my favorite part of grocery pickup – not being surprised by a large grand total at the register! I’m also a fan of not needing to add prices as I walk down the grocery aisles while herding a 4-year-old!
As I said, this is the meal planning process that has worked for me. It is still time consuming and waiting until the day before I need to shop has proved to be a stressful situation for me! I’ve learned to spread the planning over a period of a few days so it’s not as overwhelming. Don’t make yourself crazy with too many ideas and options. Get down to simple plan and add some variety as you go! Best of luck from one unorganized mom to another!