What is Meal Planning? Plus Tips for Successful Meal Planning

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Meal planning is a great way to simplify your life in the kitchen and improve your overall well-being. Planning your own meals can save you time and money while also helping you make healthier food choices.

a picture of a meal plan book

Meal planning is deciding what meals to eat during a certain period, usually a week or two, but it can be extended to a month once you get into the habit of it. The main concept behind meal planning is simplifying your shopping and cooking process. It can be helpful in keeping you organized in the kitchen, but it is important to make a realistic plan that takes into account your schedule and preferences so that you can stick to it without wasting time or food.

When you have a weekly meal plan, grocery list and recipes, you can go through your week stress-free. Here are the top benefits of meal planning.

  • Saves time – With a detailed plan, you don’t have to worry about what to eat daily. This frees up the amount of time you might spend making an unnecessary trip to the grocery store or wondering what to make for dinner.
  • Encourages healthy eating habits – You can select healthy meals you like in advance and avoid last-minute choices or take-out.
  • Saves money and reduces food waste – When you have a plan and a list, you will avoid buying items you don’t need or won’t use. Making your own food is also less costly than going out to eat.
a picture of tow hands holding a grocery list outside of a pantry

Efficient meal planning begins with a few essential steps; a kitchen inventory, schedules, meal selection, and a shopping list. With these strategies in place, you will be on your way to being an efficient meal planner.

Take inventory

Taking inventory is an important step in meal planning. Knowing what ingredients you already have allows you to figure out what you can cook without buying any additional items. This approach will help you save money and minimize food waste. If you plan your meals around the ingredients you already have in your kitchen, you will only be buying items that will hold value in your weekly meal plan. Knowing what’s in your kitchen will allow you to create delicious meals without overspending or wasting food.

It is always a good idea to keep some essential food items in your pantry, such as whole grains, brown rice, beans, peanut butter, honey, soy sauce, and your favorite spices. Additionally, a well-stocked freezer with frozen vegetables, and ground meat can come in handy for an easy meal. You can read more about taking inventory in your kitchen here.

Take the time to review your family members schedule for the upcoming week which will be helpful when creating realistic weekly menu plans that you can stick to for each day of the week. On the days that you have a busy schedule, choose simple meals or leftovers and save the more complicated meals for nights when you have more time.

After you have a clear idea of your family’s schedule and the food items you have in your kitchen, it’s time to decide what you are going to eat. You can make your own meal plan with dinners only or plan out all three meals.

As you plan meals, consider the ingredients and food preferences, as well as what you can reuse for other meals during the week. This can make meal preparation a lot easier. As you select recipes, take note of the ingredients needed to make the meals, which will be helpful when writing your grocery list.

a picture of a meal plan sheet

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Get your free pantry checklist & meal planner here!

Stay organized with a pantry inventory and a weekly meal planner.

Now that you know what items are available in your kitchen and have planned your meals, it’s time to create a grocery shopping list. Refer to your weekly meal plan and your kitchen inventory to come up with your weekly list. To avoid any unnecessary trips to the store, don’t forget to include seasonal produce which will last at least a week!

One of the best ways to stay organized is to make a list that follows the store’s layout. This will help speed up your shopping trip and avoid making impulsive purchases. You can check with your local supermarket to see if they have a shopping list app, which can make the process a lot easier!

When it comes to meal planning, having the right tools can make all the difference. Some people prefer a good old-fashioned paper planner or binder to jot down their meal ideas, while others prefer to use a meal planning app and other online resources to streamline the process. Whatever your preference may be, the key is to find a great tool that makes it easy and enjoyable for you to plan your meals.

If you’re new to meal planning, starting small is best. Begin by planning just two or three meals in a week. Once you get the hang of it and realize the benefits of planning your meals, you can move on to planning your meals for the whole week. Eventually, it will become a habit.

Remember that there will be weeks when everything goes smoothly and others when sticking to your plan is difficult, and that’s okay. Once you’re in the habit of meal planning, you can try batch cooking and meal prepping and making use of your appliances, such as a slow cooker or pressure cooker, to make things even more accessible.

Tips to make meal planning easy

  • Ask your family for dinner suggestions, involving everyone in meal planning can be a fun way to bond and get everyone excited about spending time together around the dinner table.
  • Plan theme nights for a fun way to mix things up and add some excitement to your meal-planning routine. Some suggestions are Taco Tuesday, Meatless Monday, or Italian night.
  • Think seasonally and plan your meals around seasonal foods such as fresh veggies and salads in the summer and more hearty stews, and soups during the winter.
  • Use a meal planning matrix to provide more structre for your meal plans. Try assigning a theme for each day of the week such as Meatless Mondays, Taco Tuesday, Leftover Wednesday, Pasta Thursday, etc. You can switch up the specifics of the meals each week but this will give you a jump start to your planning.

Meal Planning FAQs

How do I choose meals for my meal plan?

When meal planning, consider taste, dietary needs, and ingredients. Mix up flavors and organize recipes into categories such as new recipes, healthy recipes, and old favorites.

Can I still benefit from meal planning if I’m not a good cook?

You can benefit from planning simple, healthy meals even if you are not a confident cook. Plenty of resources are available, such as cookbooks, magazines, websites, and cooking classes, that can help you improve your cooking skills over time.

How can I make meal planning a habit?

Try to set aside a specific time each week to plan out your meals and make a grocery list. Try to incorporate it into your weekly routine, and as you start to see the benefits of the simple steps of meal planning, it will become easier to stick with.

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