Learning how to meal plan using my tried-and-true EASY method may be one of the best things you can do for your health AND your wallet. Bold statement, I know, but true.
If you’ve been on the fence about meal planning or think it’s something only super-organized people do (NOT me), this post is just what you need! But before we dig into the “how” of meal planning, let’s chat about the “why.”
5 Benefits of Meal Planning
No. 1 Save Time
Yes. You’ll have to spend time to save time. But, by taking a little time each week to put your plan together, you’ll avoid last-minute trips to the grocery store, and, most importantly, you’ll save MENTAL time not thinking about what to make for dinner each night.
No. 2 Spend Less (Save $$$!)
Another significant benefit is all the money you save by not eating out as much and not buying groceries you don’t need. This leads me to benefit #3…
No. 3 Be Kinder to the Environment
It’s a great way to cut back on food, waste-something I’m working on. When I plan my meals around what I already have in my fridge, I throw out less food each week. The upside? Reduced methane emissions and conservation of energy and resources. Win, win!
No. 4 Stress Less:
This goes hand in hand with #1. Saving mental time not thinking about what to make/eat for dinner each night is a huge one for me!
No. 5 Eat Healthier (BE Healthier!)
Naturally, being a dietitian, I couldn’t leave out this significant benefit—wink, wink. While I’m sure you’ve heard this before, there’s a lot of good research on the health benefits of preparing more meals at home.
This includes eating smaller portions (and fewer calories), having control over ingredient quality, eating more fruits and vegetables, and eating less sugar and salt.
I don’t know about you, but I’m much more likely to succumb to French Fries (or a glass of wine) when eating out. You too???
Now that you know all the reasons for meal planning let’s talk about the logistics of it. I’ve got some great ideas I think you’re going to love!
How to Meal Plan (The Easy Way)
EASY MEAL PLANNING TIPS
- Decide if you will plan all meals or dinners only.
This first step is totally up to you! I like to plan my dinners only. For breakfast, I have a few basic meals I stick with, and I try and eat leftovers for lunch, so all I need to plan are our dinners.
You may be different. If you struggle with eating a nourishing (i.e., high protein) breakfast or snacking in-between meals because you don’t eat lunch, you may decide to plan all your meals out.
Not sure where to start? Try it both ways and see what you like best!
- Pick one day each week (or month) to meal plan.
Schedule one day each week to plan your meals. This should take anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours, depending on whether you prepare for the week or the entire month.
Schedule time in your planner & be consistent each week to get all the benefits of meal planning: saving money and time; stressing less; being kinder to the environment; and eating healthier.
- Review what food (and equipment) you have on hand.
Before you plan your meals or dinners for the week, reviewing all the food you already have on hand is essential. This includes food in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer.
In addition, know what kitchen equipment you have on hand. For example, it’s no fun planning a delicious sheet pan dinner only to discover your sheet pan is missing at 7:00 at night!
- Decide How May Dinners You Need to Plan Each Week
If you’re planning dinners only like I do, decide how many meals you will prepare and how many you will eat out (or order in). My goal each week is to prepare five dinners at home. What’s yours?
- Find Inspiration for Your Weekly Meal Plan
You may already have some tried and true “no recipe” dinner ideas. However, I try and include at least one SUPER easy dinner each week.
For other meal ideas, consult your favorite cookbooks, Pinterest, and recipes you’ve torn out of magazines. You can also keep some healthy ready-to-eat meals in your freezer-fast food can be healthy too! (Related: 45 Healthy Freezer Meals to Help You Reclaim Dinner Time)
- Try and plan a variety of dinners/meals each week.
For inspiration, I keep my Easy Guide to Meal Planning sheet (available below) on the inside of my pantry. On it, I’ve listed different cuisines (i.e., Asian, Italian, etc.) along with varying themes of meals (i.e., Taco Tuesday, Soup and Salad Night, Stir Fry Night, etc.).
This is a fun and easy way to find dinner inspiration each week!
- Make a list of “5 Easy Meals Everyone Loves.”
Last but not least, write down 5 (or more) easy meals everyone in your family loves.
For my family, this includes grilled cheese and tomato soup; pasta with pesto (homemade or store-bought) & fresh fruit; lentil tacos with avocado feta guacamole; a big ol’ salad with my Best Ever Cheese Rolls; and breakfast for dinner! What are yours???
- Make your list and go grocery shopping!
Last but not least, once you’ve perused your pantry and created your meal plan, it’s time to make a grocery list and go to the store. Or, you can always order your groceries. The choice is yours!
Become a Meal Planning Pro!
Are you ready to save money, stress less, and eat healthier? The “How to Meal Plan (The Easy Way) will show you exactly how! What’s included:
- Easy Guide to Meal Planning Worksheet
- Healthy Pantry Staples Shopping List
- Blank Weekly Meal Plan Template
- Blank Dinner Meal Plan Template
- 42 Easy Dinner Ideas Recipe Book
- Bonus: 20 Simple Healthy Snacks