Need a handy guide to meal planning for beginners? You are in the right place! I used to struggle with deciding what to cook for my family. My husband would make 3-4 stops at the grocery store during the week, on top of our weekly grocery run.
It was disastrous – scattered and so costly (time and money). Once I decided to really give meal planning a go, we were both amazed at how easy it was! We were still able to have our favorite foods, and we weren’t spending so much time at the store or in the kitchen.
Plus, we were saving money because we were only buying what we needed. And nothing was going to waste (okay, confession – sometimes leftovers don’t get finished. But sometimes, I just get burned out!).
If you are ready to venture into the wonderful world of meal planning, read on for the step-by-step approach!
The Ultimate Guide to Meal Planning for Beginners
Start by making a list of your favorite recipes.
Write down all of the meals you and your family currently enjoy. Even if it’s something you haven’t made in a while, it needs to be on the list. This will be the starting point of where you will pull your meal ideas for your planning each week.
Find new recipes for your family to try.
Browse Pinterest and food blogs to find new dishes your family may like. These can be added to the favorite recipes list, providing some variety to prevent boredom. Print or save the recipes on your computer so you can refer back to them easily, when it’s time to make the meal.
Consider quick meals that you can make on busy weeknights to avoid hitting a fast food drive-thru. Slow cooker and one-pot meals are perfect for days when things are a little crazy and hectic!
Print out a handy meal planning printable.
This will be where your final plans are laid out. This can be used for your grocery shopping too. Once you have everything bought, put your print out on the fridge to remind you what meal to make each day. It also eliminates everyone from asking, “Mom, what’s for dinner?!”
I have a great roundup of free meal planning printables for you to choose from!
Take a look in the kitchen.
With your list of potential recipes, inventory your fridge, freezer, and pantry. See what meals you can already prepare without going to the store. Make these dishes first, so you don’t let any of the ingredient go bad. Make note of the recipes on your printable, along with any extra items you may need to buy in order to go with the meals.
It’s helpful to keep a running inventory of the foods in your kitchen, so you always know what you have on hand. If you don’t have one of those fancy cameras that can show you the interior of the fridge, you can always use a spreadsheet or good old pen and paper to keep the inventory up to date.
Complete your plan.
Use the recipe list to fill in the rest of your meal plan for the week. If you are a beginner, you may want to just start with planning out the week’s dinners before moving on to doing breakfasts and lunches too. Just to see how it goes. If you want it all done right away, however, you can certainly go ahead and plan for each meal every day.
An important tip here: Make sure you STICK to the plan. Meal planning for beginners may seem difficult or not worth the time, but if you follow your plan once it’s created you will see that it is very beneficial to help you save time and money in the kitchen.
Another note: If saving money is extremely important to you, you can also refer to sales ads for local grocery stores before you finish out your plan. Find out what you can stock up on and use during the week that may be more costly to have another week. Choose recipes that center around the sales items so you stay within your budget.
Shop for your ingredients.
Head to your favorite supermarket to grab the foods you need for your weekly meal plan. This trip should be faster and less expensive than it probably was in the past, assuming you stick to your shopping list that coordinates with your meal plan. Only buy what you need on your list and see how much money you can save!
Prepare as much as you can in advance.
Once you are back home, put away all the items and start meal prepping as much as you can. If you shop on the weekend, you can go ahead and chop veggies, marinate meat, or prepare and freeze soup ingredients for the day they are to be cooked.
Meal planning may take some time to get used to in the beginning, but you will find that as you get used to the process, things get easier. And less time consuming. You’ll be able to whip up a new plan each week (or maybe even, each month!) and shop for and prepare the meals in a lot less time than before.