A Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning

Meal planning is the simple act of planning and writing down any of your meals for the week ahead of time. It can be as flexible or rigid as you want it to be. You can plan for your family. You can arrange to eat wholesome meals and plan every snack and meal, or simply plan your dinners, so you don’t spend money on restaurant food during the week. Meal planning is excellent for parents to save time and money, especially when you have a lot of things to do all at once! One less thing to worry about will be a big help.

It doesn’t really matter what you plan, as long as you think about it. There are many reasons why many people and families do meal planning now, but let’s fit it into three main categories. 

It saves time. When you start meal planning, try to identify one meal where you really need a time-saver, and then plan your meals with that in mind. Save yourself time on your busiest days by having meals already prepared or by planning super simple and quick meals. 

Meal planning also saves you time by reducing your grocery store trips and time wandering at the grocery store. 

It saves you money. When you plan and cook your own meals, you are most likely saving money on each meal compared to purchasing the same type of meal in a restaurant. 

Planning meals can also help reduce food waste, saving you money on your grocery bill in the long run. Eating leftovers or planning a day to eat portions is good for reducing food waste.

It gives you more control over food. Everyone is different, and everyone’s needs are different. When you plan ahead, you can make smart choices related to your own personal nutrition and fitness needs instead of grabbing something at the last minute.

Here are also some more tips from parents who are practicing meal planning:

  • Meal plan once a week (or once a month).
  • While meal planning, check on what you have and create a grocery list.
  • Keep a list of meals you’ve made that your family likes. Also, keep a list of recipes you want to try.
  • Cook large meals two or three times a week, and plan to eat leftovers.
  • Keep a couple of easy items on hand, like a spaghetti sauce and pasta jar or peanut butter and jelly box. Also, get many fruits and vegetables to add to meals as sides and desserts. 
  • Try to batch cook and put them into family-size servings in the freezer.
  • Prepare common ingredients in bulk and then mix and match for assembly.
  • If you want to include your kids in the meal planning, you can let each person in the family pick one thing for that week, post it on the fridge, and let everyone know the menu for the week.
  • As a family, you can also plan by having a theme for each day of the week: Monday is meat day, Tuesday is pizza or pasta, and the list goes on!

Meal planning is not complex, but it’s not a walk in the park either — especially when you’re new. Every time you go through meal planning, you learn what not to do, where to improve next week, what you can skip, and how to customize the entire plan to fit your needs. Continuing to do it will only make you better.