Simplify with a master meal planning list

Who wants to start from scratch and think up new meal ideas every single week?

Certainly not me!  I have always said that the key to eating well on a budget is to keep it simple.  Simple ingredients.  Simple meals.  Simple planning.

A meal plan is one of the key factors in staying within budget and ensuring that you will indeed eat at home instead of grabbing fast food in a drive through.  I for one do not like to spend a ton of time making my meal plans.  I just don’t have time to browse through a million different blogs or search Pinterest for great ideas, only to have my family wrinkle their noses at my latest experiments.

Sure branching out is fun every once in a while, but what my family likes best is our tried and true family staples. I call this our master list.

Once you have your master list, meal planning is easy.  Plug in from your master list to your categories (ex. Mon: chicken, Tues:  slow cooker Wed: soup, Thurs: meatless, Fri: pizza night, Sat:  beef, Sun: leftovers)   and you are done.  Sometimes it is hard to remember what your family’s favorites are.  With the master list, it is right there in front of you.  Give your mom brain a break!


How to create a master list

  1. Get input from your family.  Want your family to eat dinner?  Make things that they like!  Everyone likes to have a voice and this is one simple way to give that to them.  Have them each tell you 3-5 favorite dinner ideas.  Just with this information alone, you have a good start to a list.
  2. What meals can you make without a recipe?  Put that on your list.  
  3. Think of a variety of types of meals:  slow cooker, quick 30 minute meals, weekend meals that take a little longer.
  4. What meals do you generally always have the ingredients on hand?  Those would be good meals for the master list.
  5. I like to have about 20 meals on my master list, but even if you can only think of less than ten right now, it’s a start.  As you build your cooking skills and get used to meal planning, you will become more confident and I guarantee more meals will make their way to the master list.
  6. It’s helpful to actually type your master list and have it in a handy place where you can access it while meal planning.  


On My Master List

  1. Roasted chicken
  2. Chicken pot pie
  3. Salmon patties
  4. Burgers
  5. Tacos
  6. Spaghetti
  7. Beef stroganoff
  8. Gyros
  9. Chicken fingers
  10. Chili
  11. Meatloaf
  12. Pork chops with mushrooms and onions
  13. Pizza
  14. Roast, potatoes, carrots
  15. Chicken fried rice
  16. Cheeseburger macaroni
  17. Cheeseburger pie
  18. Ranch chicken, potatoes, leeks
  19. Sausages, potatoes, onions, and cabbage
  20. Chicken soup

I would love to know.  Do you have a master meal planning list?  What is on it?


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  1. Sara February 1, 2017 at 1:26 pm - Reply

    We have a few different from your list but much is the same. Beef stew, enchiladas, baked ziti, potato soup, chicken parmesan, sloppy joes, oven fried chicken and fish sticks are big faves in our house.

  2. Wilma Balla March 21, 2017 at 11:41 am - Reply

    Thank you for the nutritious and frugal ideas! (I use them at home and at the rehab facility where I cook lunches) I use the following in addition: Chicken curry (can use potatoes in there to stretch the chicken) with rice or flat bread such as naan, or whole wheat tortillas. Lentil/Vegetable/Barley soup. Grain bowl salads. Rice with Chinese tofu and veggies. Pasta with Kale, Garbanzo beans and Hot Italian sausage, Butternut Squash Soup, Rice and Dal (Indian spiced lentils) Minestrone Soup

    • Tara Buss March 21, 2017 at 7:12 pm - Reply

      What a blessing you are to the rehab facility to cook such wonderful food for them! Keep up the good work! Your additions sound fantastic.

  3. […] anyone will even like?  You know what your family likes, so gather them together and create a family favorite list.  Pull mostly from that list when putting your meal plan together.  Keep the staple items […]

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