Meal planning may seem elusive or difficult to those who are unfamiliar with it, but this is typically because we approach it from the conclusion, after all the recipes have been chosen, all the supplies have been purchased, and a week’s worth of dinners have been successfully prepared. A novice’s eyes widen when presented with all the facts and their resounding inquiry is, “But how do I do it?”
Selecting recipes, purchasing materials, and preparing your meals are the three main stages that make up the simplest, most efficient method for meal planning. These steps may seem fairly clear, and for the most part they are, but each one contains a crucial tactic. Creating a meal plan for a week habitually saves time and money while keeping track of what you are consuming.
But First, What Is Meal Planning?
Meal planning, in its most basic form, entails making a rough schedule of your meals for the entire week. You can determine the products and ingredients you’ll need to create your meals by making a meal plan. Then you can make a shopping list to use as a guide in the supermarket. The simplest way to approach meal planning is with three steps.
- Decide your dinners and check their recipes, if needed.
- Shop for ingredients.
- Prepare those ingredients.
Start on a Friday: We’re big proponents of implementing this technique throughout the weekend, starting the planning on Friday, shopping on Saturday morning (or night – less people in the stores), and then setting aside about an hour on Sunday for dinner preparation.
Some concepts about meal planning:
- Write it in your planner, on a paper you stick to the front of the fridge, in a Google doc, or on a whiteboard you hang in the kitchen. Just put it somewhere you’re going to see it.
- Meal planning doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, quite the opposite: meal planning needs to be easy. It’s about doing what works for you—otherwise, you simply wouldn’t do it.
- Additionally, meal preparation doesn’t have to be restrictive. You don’t have to prepare every meal from scratch or always consume “healthy” food. To keep the habit sustainable, switch things up. That means you can continue to enjoy your Saturday night pizza party, Sunday brunch at your preferred neighborhood eatery, or any other traditions you may have.
- Meal planning is for everyone and there are different strategies to employ depending on the number of people you’re planning for.
- There’s so much room for experimentation, quick revisions, and customization in meal planning.
Why Do You Need to Make a Meal Plan for a Week?
Now, we’re not asking you to do deep soul searching, just a bit self-assessment. In fact, the easiest way to answer the what do you need question is to consider why you’re interested in meal planning at all. From there we can hone in on how to get there.
- To save money?
- Eat better?
- Prevent food waste?
- Are you looking for variety?
- Or to have a ready answer to the daily question from your partner or kids of what’s for dinner?
Meal planning is one of those circumstances when you can have it all, but take it slowly at first. Burnout is real, so if you’re just starting out, pick just two or three of the most important things to you and keep them in mind as you move on to the next step of selecting recipes.
Choose Your Recipes
Choosing your recipes puts your meal planning philosophy and the reasons why you’re doing it into action. In fact, we believe it is the most important phase because it initiates the entire process. However, you shouldn’t just pick a lot of recipes and hope for the best. Start thinking about your meal plan at least three days ahead of time so you have enough time to go through the entire process of preparing a shopping list, shopping, and then prepping.
- Cook recipes you know and try one new recipe: Make a list of recipes you know by heart — the ones you make week after week and know what you or your family enjoys. Then add one or two new recipes each week, but only if you want.
- Pick recipes based on common ingredients: It starts with looking at what you already have in your fridge, freezer, and pantry. Shopping your home kitchen can help you decide on recipes and avoid wasted food. This is one of the money-saving aspect of meal planning.
- Cook things you really want to eat: It may take some extra effort to find recipes that are suitable for you. So, we’ll state the obvious: only cook the food you want to eat.
Make a Smarter Grocery List in Two Steps
Now that you have picked the recipes for your meal plan for the week we move on to the next step. Creating an ingredient list and a grocery list, to make sure you will be able to get the stuff you need from the store without missing anything and not buying what you may already have in your refrigerator.
Make a master ingredient list: This is not your grocery list, but it is the starting point for one while also assisting you in taking inventory of what you have in your kitchen. Begin by going over the ingredient list for each recipe to create a comprehensive list of everything you’ll need for the week. Then, going around your kitchen with a keen eye, cross off anything you already have. You now have a pretty accurate list that you can transform into a grocery list.
Make the grocery list: Of course, you could take your pared-down ingredient list to the grocery store and easily pick up everything you need, but there’s a better way! For one thing, rewriting the recipe allows you to double-check the ingredients, but it also allows you to organize it for easier purchasing.
Before you go to the store, remember to bring your reusable bags.
Spend an Hour on Prepping
You choose your recipe, created a shopping list, went grocery shopping for the meals, and now it’s time to put your plan into action for supper. There is one more step, though, and it will help you get through the week without getting sick of cooking. You must make some preparations. Setting aside a time for batch cooking and cutting beforehand will help in advance for your meal plan for the week.
Depending on the recipes for the week, what you should do may vary, but slicing garlic, chopping vegetables, cleaning lettuce and herbs, and even cooking some chicken thighs in advance is always a huge help.