Meal planning is one of those things we know we need to do because it’ll be a huge help, but getting around to it is a whole different story. You’ve got to be organised! Take it from me though; once you get over the initial hurdle of meal planning for beginners, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start a weekly meal planner sooner!
The benefits of meal planning
If you’re wondering what is meal planning, it’s a way to plan ahead for the meals you (or your family) will make and eat that week. You choose the meals you’re going to make and know exactly what ingredients you’ll need in advance.
A study of a large group of adults published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that meal planning is associated with a healthier diet and less obesity due to the quality and variety of food consumed. Having easy meal plans on hand also means fewer unhealthy takeaway meals when you don’t know what to have for dinner!
How many times have you found yourself staring into the fridge or pantry wondering what on earth you’re going to make for dinner? Having a weekly meal planner removes this problem as well as the stress that goes with it. Plus, creating a groceries shopping list according to a simple weekly meal plan means your grocery shop can be done in no time!
It’s often thought that meal planning costs more money, but, meal planning done right will help you save because:
- you’re only buying the groceries you need
- it limits your temptation to spend on takeaway
- you waste less food and,
- you can buy in bulk.
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Less food wastage
It can be downright disheartening cleaning out the fridge and throwing away food. Having a meal plan reduces this waste because you know what you’re going to use when you buy it.
How to start meal planning
It’s easy. Just pick a weekend and get started. I recommend starting the meal planning process on the weekend (or whenever your weekend is) because it gets you ready for the upcoming week, and you’re in the right mindset.
Set aside some time on a Friday evening to create your meal plan, spend time on Saturday writing up your shopping list and then do a grocery shop and food preparation. Once you follow this routine a few times, you’ll find yourself set into a good routine.
How to make a weekly meal plan
When learning how to meal plan, remember that it is a matter of trial and error. Not everyone’s method will be the same; it’s about what works for you and your family.
Remember, just because you meal plan doesn’t mean you don’t get a night off cooking, you can still treat yourself to takeaway, just don’t forget to put it on the plan!
1. Use a meal planner
Print out my free one-week meal plan template and shopping list. This meal plan planner is a lot more practical than a sheet of paper because it is split into the days of the week, and it has a shopping list on the side. The printable planner can be stuck to the fridge for the whole family to see what’s on the menu, so hopefully, you don’t get, ‘Mum, what’s for dinner?’. You can get access to it here:
2. Check the family schedule
Pull out your family planner, calendar or diary and check to see who’s doing what during the week. Is there anyone working late? Do the kids have lessons after school? Mark which days you have these activities on the planner, so you know when to make quick or slow cooker meals or have leftovers; This is especially helpful with large family meal planning!
3. Pick your meals
When you start meal planning for the first time, start with dinners only until you get the hang of it and then add other meals like lunches.
Consider the recipes carefully; Can they be cooked in bulk and frozen? Are they quick and easy to make? Will the recipe make enough leftovers?
Try to select recipes that use the same ingredients, so you have the opportunity to buy in bulk and, pick recipes you’ll want to eat. There’s nothing worse than checking the meal planner and not wanting to eat what’s on the menu!
Keep a list of your faves in a recipes list.
TIP: If you’re preparing meals with fresh ingredients, particularly veggies you can’t freeze, add these meals at the beginning of the week.
4. Write the shopping list and go shopping!
Write down the groceries you’ll need to buy on a separate piece of paper or use my free printable shopping list stickers. Don’t’ forget to shop your pantry and fridge first and use up what you already have.
Even more meal planning tips
By now you might feel a tad overwhelmed, but I’m here to say, trust me, it gets easier. Here are a few extra meal planning tips that will help you build consistency and make it a whole lot easier and less like a chore.
- Use your Sunday (or whichever day suits) to bulk cook meals that can be frozen and to chop up ingredients ready for cooking.
- Stick to a routine. Meal plan on the same day every week, grocery shop on the same day every week.
- Take note of winning meals your family loves, so you always have tried and tested recipes to refer back to.
- Start a master ingredients list for your pantry and check them off once you’ve used them. Having this list will make it easier to take stock of your pantry.
- Don’t forget to factor in takeaway leftovers if you’re giving yourself a takeaway break.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to meal planning for beginners is that there’s no right or wrong way to meal plan.
If you want to plan for a week, that’s great. If you’d prefer to plan for a fortnight, go for it. If the only thing you want to plan for are dinners and plan lunches on the fly, there’s nothing wrong with that either. It’s the planning aspect that makes things easier, healthier, cheaper, and all you have to do is start.
Remember, you can download my free meal plan creator here:
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This guide to meal planning for beginners was originally published on July 22nd 2019.