FREE PRINTABLE + The Ultimate Meal Planning Guide for 2021
If you’re not feeling very “new year, new you,” about your time in the kitchen, that’s okay. Pandemic fatigue is real, and flipping a page on a calendar doesn’t mean you suddenly feel ready to take on the world.
To find a little inspiration, you can call in reinforcements. That’s why this post is here.
We’ve put together the ultimate meal planning guide (with a FREE printable) to help you breathe some life back into your cooking routine in 2021.
And if new life isn’t a possibility, at least the energy to keep feeding your family day after day. Check it out!
*Disclaimer: Some of the links you see may be affiliate links. All that means is if you click through and end up making a purchase, I’ll earn a commission.
Get Back to Basics
One of the best ways to approach meal planning is to make a master list of your family’s favorite recipes or things to eat. You can separate it into categories if you like; for example:
You may also have no energy or time for that. Just sit down and make a quick list without categories or organization, on a piece of paper or in a note on your phone. Include things you eat regularly and things you love or think fondly of. You want to have everything available to you on one sheet.
Next time you sit down to meal plan, don’t try to think of ideas off the top of your head. Use the list you made and choose meals that you:
Have ingredients for already
Haven’t eaten lately
Your master list can also be a Pinterest board, if that’s easier for you. Just make sure you make a separate board for the recipes you’ve made and love.
Keep it distinct from a board of recipes you want to try, so that you don’t fall down the rabbit hole of reading and scrolling while you’re trying to decide on a tangible plan. Scroll through ideas later when you have more time.
Have the Right Tools
Working in the kitchen is a drag if you don’t have the right equipment. Whether you got some fancy new appliances for Christmas like an Instant Pot or an air fryer, you still might not have what you need. It can be as simple as pretty dishcloth or a new rubber spatula.
Start a shopping list that you keep handy so you can keep track of what you need. Hard to open that jar of pasta sauce? Order a jar opener to make dinner a breeze next time. When you’re cooking, it’s easy to get distracted, though, so make sure you keep that list close in the kitchen.
Using the right tools can make your dinner prep more manageable and less of a chore.
The Ultimate Meal Planning Guide with Free Printable
You know it wouldn’t be the ultimate guide if it didn’t include some recipes. Sometimes what you need is someone just to tell you what to make. Here are some of the new favorites we’ve tried in the last few weeks!
Curry Shrimp with Rice and Veggies
Creamy Paprika Pork with Spaghetti Squash “Noodles”
Grilled Mozzarella Sandwich (like a caprese grilled cheese!) - can serve with sweet potato fries
Ratatouille Stew over Quinoa
Beef Stir Fry over Rice with Green Beans
We liked every single one of these recipes above. I will say the Easy Hamburger Casserole warms up really well as leftovers. I made the Slow Cooker Chicken Pot Pie on the stove instead, and it worked well. The Lad made the Beef Stir Fry and it was more like Orange Chicken (well, beef) but very delicious.
Getting Motivated (and a FREE Printable!)
Sometimes the hardest part of meal planning is getting motivated. Honestly, the method can be what needs changing. I was meal planning on a digital calendar for a while and it worked for a season. Yet I also had really good luck with my own meal planning sheet that I designed. You have to figure out what works for you!
Here is the free printable that you can download for yourself. It has a week’s worth of space for meals, and a space to write the ingredients you need next to it. When you’re done with your meal plan, tear off the shopping list and go to the store!
If you want to be more green, you can laminate the printed copy and use a dry erase marker to meal plan every week instead, then wipe clean! Please note, this printable is free for personal use only. Please do not share or redistribute without permission.
I meal plan and grocery shop on Thursdays or Fridays, so it starts on Friday. If you want another day, the printable is available with all the different start days in my Etsy shop. These are available both as an instant download or as a physical laminated copy of the meal plan that I mail to you, and all the days are there (except Friday, of course, which is listed above, for FREE!).
Maybe the meal planning method isn’t your motivation problem. Are you in a rut with dinner and just don’t feel like cooking? Maybe subscribe to a cooking magazine or check a few back issues out from the library. You may find your mouth watering and discover some inspiration after all.
Ask your family for help. Find out what they’re craving and start adding those meals to your list.
Hopefully this meal planning guide with free printable helps you kickstart your kitchen goals for 2021. What are some of your favorite dinners to cook? Do you have any cooking goals for the year?
Don’t forget to follow A Wild Lass on Twitter and Instagram for more bonus material! I also share recipes and kitchen ideas in my What’s for Dinner? Facebook group regularly, so meet us there to find continual inspiration.
For more posts about meal planning and cooking, check these out: