How to Meal Plan: The Beginner's Guide

Meal planning is a great tool and is essential for a healthy lifestyle. It makes sure there are healthy, ready-to-eat options, saves money, decreases stress, saves time, and reduces waste. Check out Why You Should Meal Plan for more detail on all the great benefits.

I know the idea of meal planning can be a little overwhelming at first. It can seem a little tedious and time consuming, but once you have a couple goes under your belt, it will feel like nothing! Here are my 4 easy steps to becoming a Meal Planning Master, plus a few sample days with examples of what I cooked this week!

How to Meal Plan in 4 Steps

Step 1: Choose your recipes

Choosing recipes is simple. Look for recipes full of protein, vegetables, healthy fats, and complex carbs. Each recipe doesn’t have to contain ALL of those things, but try and think about your day as a whole and how you can combine different recipes to get all of those in there.

For example, I love to make this slow cooker pulled pork and cole slaw recipe. It is super simple and tasty and I can make a big batch all at once in my crock pot. But this recipe only lasts my husband and me a couple of days and only covers the protein and some veggies. I also like to bake up some sweet potatoes to add with it for a great post workout meal!

Step 2: Make your grocery list

Once you have your recipes, the grocery list basically writes itself. Take the list of recipes you’re going to make and decide if you’re going to keep the quantities the same or maybe even double them to make extras (maybe you have a big family or just a hungry husband like me). Once you have decided the sizes of each recipe, start writing your grocery list based on the foods you’ll need.

You will also want to take into consideration the things you won’t necessarily need to prep. For example, eggs, fresh fruits and veggies, avocados, nut butters, etc – things that you can keep on hand and add in to a quick and delicious snack or meal.

Another tip is to get items you can throw in the freezer for just in case situations. I like to keep frozen fish, meat, and vegetables in the freezer. These are great for that Plan B situation!

Step 3: Grocery shopping

This part is really important – it can make or break your food prep process. Pick a time where you can mindfully shop. The last thing you want is to make the shopping process even more stressful than it already can be. I personally like to pick a time when I can go when it is not busy and I can take my time without feeling rushed (aka Saturday morning bright and early).

Also make sure you leave yourself enough time in case you have to go to multiple stores. I like to make a quick trip to Costco to pick up my bulk items and then another stop at my local grocery store or farmers market.

Step 4: Food prep!

Now to the good stuff … food prep! This is probably the part that some of you love and some of you despise. It can take a couple hours to put everything together. But don’t worry, it gets easier and faster with practice! Plus, if you think about out, a couple of hours here will save you TONS of time in the long run. Trust me.

Compile all of your recipes and look at their prep times, cook times, and cooking methods. This is important so you don’t start two things at once that use the same cook method that you can’t cook at the same time (for example two things use the oven but one recipe calls for 350F and the other 425F). I like to try and organize my things in a way that I start the longer recipes first so I can get those started and multitask with other recipes. Once you have an idea of what you need and how long different recipes take, try and organize them in the order you plan to do them. Then … it is time to start cooking! After you have everything cooked, pull out your Tupperware of choice and start putting it all away. And then, you are set!

Consider this a labor of love – for yourself and your family. You are ensuring that you are properly preparing and nourishing your family (and if you have kids, you are setting a great example for them).

Examples: What I cooked this week

Cooking is one of my favorite things to do so it comes as no surprise that meal planning is my jam (no pun intended!). I love meal planning because it allows me to pick out new and exciting recipes to try each week, and sometimes even come up with my own. On this week’s menu I decided to keep it simple yet flavorful.

  • Proteins
  • Crock pot shredded green chili chicken
  • Lime cilantro grilled shrimp
  • Grass fed beef sliders
  • Eggs
  • Complex Carbs
  • Japanese yams
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Veggies
  • Shredded cabbage (kept raw for salads and slaw)
  • Grilled peppers and onions
  • Roasted brussel sprouts
  • Healthy fats
  • Avocados
  • Raw nuts
  • Nut butters

With these items, I could easy mix and match items depending on what I was in the mood for. And even options to add to taco Tuesday with the quick batch of paleo tortillas!

We know this is a lot of steps – if you want to make this a lot easier, consider our meal planning service where we do it all for you. All you have to do is cook!