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Meal Planning Tips For Beginners

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If you are brand new to meal planning, this one is for you! Meal planning can be a lifesaver for busy individuals and families, but it can seem overwhelming when you are first starting out.

top view of a bowl of noodles with shrimp, and other dishes

The good news is that with a few simple tips and tricks, you can master the art of meal planning and it will become second nature in no time! 

Here are some beginner-friendly meal-planning tips to help you save time, money, and stress in the kitchen.

1. Start Simple!

Meal planning doesn’t mean you have to plan for the entire week. In the beginning, it may be easier to just plan for 2-3 days and that is okay.

Once you make it through the first few meal plans, you’ll have the confidence to plan for every night of the week. Some pros will plan for an entire month.

Start with a meal planning template. If you need a template, visit our post on Meal Planning for Beginners and download the free template. There is also a step-by-step guide on how to meal plan for one week.

Focus on simple, nutritious meals that you and your family enjoy. Save the fancy recipes for special occasions and keep your weekday meals fuss-free. 

One of the best ways to get started is to use the simple equation below (if healthy meals are important, use whole grains and fresh veggies):

1 Starch + 1 Protein + 1-2 Vegetables = One Meal

Examples:

  • Brown rice + Grilled Chicken + Roasted Broccoli                 

  • Baked Potato + Grilled Pork chop + Corn                 

  • Pasta + Shrimp sauteed in butter + Roasted Broccoli                 

  • Chickpea noodles  + Ground Beef + Tomato Sauce​

a list of different proteins, vegetables and starches to mix and match

2. Create A Master List of Go-To Recipes

Even seasoned meal planners have weeks where they just can’t think of what to make for dinner. Some weeks there just isn’t time much time to go through the whole process. This is where having a master list will save a lot of time. 

Make a list of easy meals that are quick and easy to prepare. This will serve as your go-to list when you’re short on time or inspiration. Include meals that use similar ingredients to minimize waste.

Here are a few that are on my Go To List:

  • Tacos
  • Spaghetti
  • Teriyaki Chicken and rice
  • Frozen soups
  • Stir Fry
  • Fried Rice

Prior meal plans that you have used should also be saved for times like these. Then you can pull out your own meal plan and use it a second time. Amazon sells meal planning books just for this purpose. 

Meal planning apps are also an excellent way to keep track of new recipes and prior meal plans. Often times they’ll also create a grocery list for you too (I use the Plan to Eat app).

3. Shop With A List

Once you plan your meals, it’s time to go shopping. Always shop with a list to avoid impulse purchases and to ensure you have everything you need for the week, including any crucial ingredient. Organize your list by section of the grocery store to make shopping quick and efficient. You’ll also be more likely to stick to your grocery budget. 

picture of a shopping list that says potatoes, cucumbers, and other items

If you have it in your budget, consider online grocery shopping. It’s easier to stick to your list and can be done on your lunch break. It’s great for anyone with a busy schedule. 

4. Embrace Leftovers

Always plan for leftovers. Cook extra portions to enjoy for lunch or dinner the next day, or freeze them for later use. Leftovers can be a lifesaver on busy nights when you don’t feel like cooking.

Embracing batch cooking is the easiest way to get a jump start on meal prepping.

For example, take oven-baked chicken breast. Just add salt, pepper and your favorite herbs to the chicken breasts and bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes. Make 2-3 times the amount of chicken breast you can eat in one serving. Then save the rest for another night, or freeze the leftovers to enjoy home-cooked meals in the following weeks. 

This also works for grains. Make a big batch of quinoa or rice over the weekend and enjoy it all week long! They both freeze well too so any leftovers can even be frozen for the following week. 

Just Get Started! 

Even if you only plan one meal in the upcoming week, menu planning will save you so much time and energy. Imagine coming home after a long day and not having to think about what dinner will be. This will keep you from grabbing fast food too (which is no longer a cheaper option!). 

Here are some easy recipes to get you started:

By on February 16th, 2024

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