This is super dorky, but it's one of the few areas I have felt pretty organized in a way that works for me. When I follow my own steps for a process I am more likely to do it well and put better quality of thought into the kind of food we eat. It also saves me from too much impulse shopping and healthier/ planned snacking. Here it is, in case it might helps someone else.
Meal Planning Steps
1) Create/ print blank copies of a meal planing grid. I got this idea from my friend Erin. See a sample here. Or email me and I can send you my blank grid (firstname.lastname@example.org).
2) Make a list of all the meals you can think of your family likes to eat (one column for each meal of the day). Sometimes I peek on food blogs for new ideas to add of as friends what they tend to make to generate more ideas for my lists. Place this list and the blank meal grids in a manila folder and keep it somewhere easily accessable.
Breakfast: oatmeal, pb waffles, eggs + fruit, cereal + toast
Lunch: grilled cheese + broccoli, scrambled eggs + toast, pb&j + fruit
Dinner: Enchiladas +spanish rice, fajitas, spaghetti + salad, stir fry, chicken noodle soup
Snacks: yogurt, grapes, popcorn, chips + salsa, cheese and crackers
3) On scrap paper make a current inventory of food you have to plan meals around. Take note of what might expire soon (dairy, veggies, etc).
4) Pick one day every week to sit down and plan your meals- ideally before grocery shopping. I target the weekend for this task. Use your current inventory of food to choose your meals, then make a grocery list filled with all other needed ingredients.
5) Place the meal grid on the fridge so you don't feel too tempted to stray from it and use ingredients for something totally different and find yourself short on something you wanted to make later in the week. I am forgetful, so I need that kind of constant reminder.
6) Here are some food blogs to give you some ideas for meals (cookbooks are also helpful to thumb through to add ideas to your master list):
What I Made for Dinner
kill the gluten
NOTE: This meal planning process has helped me stray from the usual hot dogs or canned soup in a crunch too many days in a week. It has also cut down on the amount of fast food we consume and has inspired me to plan healthier meals and ensure I am putting veggies on the table for at least one meal of every day of the week (a good start for us). And behold! They are eating it! We are all eating better because of this kind of order and the 30 minutes or so I make once a week saves me a lot of time and wasted money on crappy fast food later in the week. And less trips to the store. I am getting better at being on top of and more in control of what we are eating instead of allowing for an unmanaged diet for my family. I'm not perfectly following this every week, but am working toward making it a more concrete routine as I love the results.