How To Create the Perfect Meal Plan: in 4 Easy Steps
If you haven’t tried to create the perfect meal plan, what is stopping you?!
It’s not complicated or expensive like you might be thinking. In fact, the perfect meal plan can actually save you time and money. Want to get started creating your perfect meal plan? Follow these 4 simple steps below and get started today!
Are you sitting here kind of confused on why you even should be meal planning? Start here first, it’s an intro all about why you should be meal planning your weeks!
Here’s even a freebie for planning your weeks! Simply click, save, and print as many times as you need! Make sure to tag me on Instagram with the hashtag #PlanWithLa!
Step 1: Why are you meal planning?
Once you take some time to figure out why you want to start meal planning, you can create a plan on how to get there!
Ask yourself some of these questions if you are having a hard time figuring out why you should be meal planning:
- Are you looking for more variety in what you typically eat?
- Is it part of a plan to start eating healthier?
- Do you want to start preventing how much money you waste on food?
- Does the fact that meal planning can save you money play a factor into it?
- Are you simply tired of always having to figure out what’s for dinner?
Not gonna lie, all of the answers to those questions for me are YES.
However, creating a meal plan that can satisfy all of those situations can get overwhelming. If you are a beginner, simply pick two or maybe even three reasons.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of meal planning and created a guide for yourself and your family, you can add more to your plate! (pun obviously intended)
Until then, try keeping a few goals in mind when you move onto the next step. Aka my favorite part.
Step 2: Recipe Time
Oh I love this step. I like to keep a running list of foods I want to try (shoutout to Facebook and Pinterest) on my phone.
About once a week or so Brad and I like to try something new, so this is where recipes come in to play. For beginners, I also recommend limiting the number of new meals you cook in the beginning of your meal planning journey.
This is the step of meal planning that starts to put motion behind your idea. I like to plan out meals that are kind of simple and easy to cook for the busier days of our weeks. On the weekend or Friday I might mix it up with a random new recipe. Whatever works best for you and your family!
There are three things I like to keep in mind when choosing our week’s meals:
1. The amount of meals I need to plan for:
Quite self explanatory. I always have my planner on me, and I like to look at my weekly calendar. We will typically have a good idea of what our weeks are going to look like. So we plan accordingly.
You can start with planning three meals and then slowly upgrade to five, then seven. I started with three when I first started out. It was a good way to ease myself into meal planning and not get overwhelmed. From there I break my lists down even further.
2. What do I need the meals to do:
Am I cooking 5 dinners? Do I need to make any lunches? Am I going to want some kind of cake or a dozen cupcakes at the end of the week? (YES)
If I know Wednesday we have to be up early and will be gone until late, that is the day I plan slow cooker meals. On the days we have a lot of work to do, I like to reserve easier meals for those days. You know the ones you can throw in the oven and forget about it.
When I take my meal planning lists and break them down into day specific meals, I can get a better idea of what my week will look like. Since everything is in my planner, I know what days we won’t have time to cook, and what days we can spend the evenings cooking together.
3. How do I find the perfect recipes?
I like to also keep in mind the type of food and recipes that I will need for the week.
For example I like to cook meals that end up with a lot of leftovers. This means we get a meal essentially two different times. For busier days, cooking a big meal the night before means we won’t have to worry about lunch or dinner for the following day.
Basing your recipes off of common ingredients is also a great way to get the most out of your meal plan.
Before you head out to the store, take a look in your fridge and pantry. Is there anything that will expire soon that you want to use? Shopping your home kitchen for meal ideas and ingredients can save you money and time while grocery shopping!
Finally, make sure you are picking recipes and meals that you actually want to eat.
For recipes that you aren’t as excited about, you probably won’t want to spend time cooking it. Also who wants to eat something they don’t want to? Gross.
Meal planning should be an enjoyable and simplifying process. Don’t make it harder on yourself than it needs to be!
Step 3: Grocery List & Shopping
Once you have decided on your recipes and meals for each day of the week you will need to start creating your shopping list. I actually use a 2-step process when creating my grocery lists.
Don’t worry, I can see how that can sound intimidating. It’s actually just another way to simplify the shopping process!
My Master Ingredient List
This is the first list I create. By taking all of the recipes and meals I have decided on, I make a master list of every ingredient that is necessary. After that, I take the time and look over my list to see what I already have in my pantry.
From there I can cross off anything I don’t need and I now have a far more accurate grocery list. This is my key tip for myself!
Since I have started shopping this way, I no longer buy bags of shredded cheese before I finish the other one!
The Actual Grocery List
What’s remaining on your list, is now your grocery list! Obviously make sure you keep things on your grocery list that you regularly use. Even if you don’t have recipes that need milk, you might still use milk all the time. Make sure to list items that you use and can stock your pantry with.
All that is left now is to go grocery shopping! You can even go a step further and reorganize your list to group ingredients in terms of their department in the grocery store. While this might just be because I like to live an extremely organized life, I’ve found it actually saves a lot of time too!
Step 4: Time to Prep
Congrats! You made it back from the grocery store in one piece, and now it’s time to start preparing any food you can for the week.
For people just starting out, this might seem like an overwhelming part of the meal planning process. Don’t let it scare you! Think of it as a time saver for every day for the rest of the week!
Ever heard of cooking fatigue? It’s what I like to call it when it’s the middle of the week and the last thing I want to do is cook. Since I have started meal planning and prepping every Sunday, I don’t have that experience, hardly at all! (I mean sometimes, but come on I’m human)
Every Sunday is typically our meal prepping day. Sometimes we might have to do some more later in the week, but that’s just to get caught up for the weekend. You can prep as much or as little as you would like!
What you need to prep will depend on the recipes for the upcoming week. Sometimes I like to pre-cut up some things that I will need chopped for a future meal. I like to also wash and dry any kind of produce or vegetable that we will need later on too. If we have a few meals that involve shredded chicken, sometimes we even like to cook those in advance. Then when it comes time to cook, we just have to shred and rewarm.
See, meal planning really isn’t that difficult. When you look at the benefits to meal planning, it’s kind of hard to find a reason not to do it. Just like most things, it’s probably going to take a few weeks to get your perfect system down. Each week I learn something I want to cook, prepare, or simply do differently.