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How to Meal Plan in 6 Easy Steps

Food storage container with rice, corn, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, and beans

Grocery shopping has become so much easier since I’ve started meal planning. If you’ve never done it before, meal planning can seem intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be. Meal planning is simply deciding what’s for dinner for the whole week at once, instead of choosing each night. 

It saves you time and can make dinner enjoyable, not stressful. If you have a busy schedule (and who doesn’t!?), meal planning takes one thing off your plate. It also helps you avoid eating the same few meals each week. Not only that, but meal planning can also help you eat healthier because you have a plan before you get to the grocery store. Keep reading to learn how to meal plan in six easy steps.

Step 1: Set aside time to meal plan

Find a few minutes each week that works for you and stick to it, so it becomes a habit. I recommend scheduling time before you go shopping for the week, so you’re not trying to figure out your meals and go shopping all in one day. For me, grocery shopping is a chore, so trying to do everything at once would be too draining. I do all my meal planning on Thursday evening because I go grocery shopping Friday morning.

Step 2: Think about your schedule

When you sit down to make your weekly meal plan, think about everything you have going on in the upcoming week. If you’re going to be working late, you might not have the time (or energy) to cook, so you’ll want to schedule something you can make in the crockpot. If you’ve been invited to a friend or family’s house for dinner, you don’t want to plan a meal for that night at all. Thinking about your schedule while meal planning can help prevent you from planning meals you won’t have time to eat. This will save you money because you won’t buy food that will just go bad.

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Step 3: Figure out how many meals you need to make

Now that you know what’s on your schedule, you need to decide how many meals you need to cook. Don’t forget to consider when you’ll be eating at a friend or family’s house or a restaurant. 

While you’re doing this, don’t forget about lunches and breakfasts. I don’t plan these meals (but you can!), but I want to make sure I have things on hand for each day. You don’t want to pour a bowl of cereal only to learn you’re out of milk.

Step 4: Look at what you have on hand

No matter how much we try to avoid it, we all seem to end up with extra ingredients from abandoned or forgotten meals. So, look in your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry to see what you have available. Then, plan a meal or two around those ingredients. Since I use ButcherBox, I tend to base my meals around what meat I still have in the freezer. Not only does planning around existing ingredients reduce food waste, but it will also save you money at the grocery store because you don’t have to buy things you don’t need.

Step 5: Ask for input from others in your household

If you live and cook for anyone else besides yourself, ask them if they have any special requests for dinner next week. This can take a lot of pressure off you because you don’t have to think of every meal. It will also stop you from getting stuck in a rut because you’ll have feedback from someone else.

Listen: Meal Planning for Two

Step 6: Write down your meals

This one might seem obvious, but now it’s time to start filling out your calendar with meals for the week. Even if you think you’ll remember what you plan to make, you won’t (or at least you won’t remember every meal). This will also help you make your grocery list, so you don’t forget any ingredients.

Read also: 15 Grocery Shopping Tips We Live By

Food storage container with rice, corn, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, and beans