Want to learn to meal plan but don’t know where to start?  In this meal planning for beginners guide, you will gain a better understanding and appreciation for meal planning, why you should care, and how do you approach it.

Though meal planning can take time and energy to set up, once you’ve invested in the upfront work, you’ll reap its benefits over and over again

Easy meal planning for beginners with step-by-step how to.

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What is meal planning

Before diving into the weeds of how you can do meal planning, let’s make sure we know the basics of a meal plan. 

Meal planning is the plan for the week or month that you and your family will eat. Instead of every night, you get to ask about dinner once for the whole week. Here are the three basic steps to consider in your meal plan:

  • Selecting the dinner recipe 
  • Shopping for the ingredient and
  • Preparing those accordingly. 

Why should you do meal planning?

Meal Planning for Beginners x433

Meal planning may appear daunting at first glance, but there are so many benefits to this way of life:

Nutrition Improvement 

Meal planning in advance provides you nutritionally well-balanced meals during the week. By doing so, you can make sure that you have enough vegetables, proteins, and grains for all of your dinners.

Ultimately, planning your meals helps you to take care of your personal nutrition needs.

I personally find that I tend to regain weight when I stop meal planning as I end up eating what is convenient, which usually tends to be unhealthy processed foods.

Eating clean with whole foods that are minimally processed is an effective way to eat healthily and to lose weight without dieting.

For a detailed clean eating grocery list to take with you on your next shopping trip, sign up below to get a FREE printable version!

Balanced Eating 

When you’re starving, your blood sugar level drops, which results in you more likely to eat whatever you can find. That’s one reason you settle for unhealthy snacks or fast food. Meal planning prevents this issue!

Meal planning provides you with easy access to healthy, pre-planned snacks and meals, so you don’t have to make a decision at the moment on what to eat when you are hungry or “hangry”.

The nutritional decisions you make using your pre-frontal cortex (the planning part of the brain) to meal plan are usually healthier and better for your body.

Reduce Waste

Having a meal plan prevents you from tossing out the ingredients you forgot you had in the refrigerator.  

When you take the time to plan your meals, you take into consideration everything you already have in your refrigerator or kitchen shelves.

Save Money 

Reduced food waste equals reduced money waste.

You can also create your grocery list exclusively with only the necessary things to purchase.

Also, the meal plan would save you money by keeping you from consuming pricey last-minute takeouts or restaurant meals. 

Related Post: 9 Easy Hacks for Grocery Shopping on a Budget

Reduce Stress 

Meal plans will prevent you from feeling the constant pressure of ‘what’s for dinner’

It’s utterly frustrating when you are hungry and find that you have nothing prepared to eat. Instead of wondering in front of your fridge, meal planning will help you have a nutritious meal ready in minutes. 

Save Time

The best part of meal planning is that once you planned out your meals for the week, you can reuse the same weekly meal plan every few weeks or even on a yearly rotation with seasonal meals!

We are creatures of habit, and many of us already have meals that we enjoy over and over. 

Save your time and free your brain energy on what to eat for each meal, and think of all the other fun activities you can now plan with your family from all that time saved with meal planning! 

You can also save even more time by adding meal prep to your meal planning process.

How to get started with meal planning for beginners?

Taking on a new challenge is exciting and learning a new skill can take some time.  Here is a step-by-step guide to help you get started with meal planning. 

1. Check your calendar 

check calendar to meal plan

Your schedule can change every week. That’s why it is essential to look throughout the week for parties, meetings, or family gathering events.

Events can come up from time to time, so you don’t need to plan every meal. Leave some days open to be spontaneous or to prevent over-planning if anything pops up.

You’ll also want to schedule time blocks to grocery shop, meal prep, and cook.

2. Check the items you already have 

Saving money will not be challenging anymore! Before you head out to buy what you think is needed, thoroughly check your pantry or refrigerator.

Reduce food waste and save money with just the absolute necessities. 

3. Recipe selection

This part is the most enjoyable but requires more time. However, the recipes you choose should be relevant to your lifestyle and health goal.

Try to plan quick and easy meals that take 30 minutes or less on a weekday. Nonetheless, you can always select recipes with slow cookers to enjoy a hot meal after finishing work.

4. Get creative 

A straightforward way to create the week’s menus is to make themes that recur on a weekly basis.  Popular examples are Meatless Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, and Stir-fry Sundays.

You can also consider using a new cooking method, including recipes for a crockpot or instant pot.

Try a different recipe each week, making a new change to the weekly schedule. If it worked out, you could add it to a new weekly meal plan rotation. 

5. Productive grocery listing and shopping 

Grocery list for meal planning for beginners

It is very easy to lose track of grocery expenses. However, you can avoid this with weekly meal planning and a corresponding grocery list based on the chosen meal recipes.

Use Google Sheets, Bring!, AnyList, or any other grocery related apps to make your life easier.

I find planning and writing out the grocery list with my kids to be fun and time well spent together.

6. Backup plans

You never know when life happens and things come up and you don’t have the time to plan or cook your upcoming meals.

One way to prevent you from slipping off of your healthy planned meals is to have backup meals ready to go.

An easy way to prepare backup meals without spending extra time is to batch cook your meals for an extra week or two and store the extras in the freezer.

Remember that the primary goal of meal planning is to alleviate stress, save time, and save money. So, think ahead and make extra freezer “TV dinners” that you can microwave in minutes. 

7. Meal planner 

Though we are living in the tech era, printable planners are still useful. If you write your plans by hand, you will mostly remember them rather than have a digital notification.  

Displaying your printed meal planner in the kitchen will also serve as a reminder and motivation to follow through.

There you have it!  Your step-by-step guide to meal planning for beginners.

If the process sounds overwhelming, start small by meal planning just one meal a day (i.e. breakfasts for a week), then incrementally add one more meal per week. 

Don’t worry if you miss a meal – it’s going to happen.  Just get right back on the meal plan the same way you would if you had fallen off a bike.  Beware of all or nothing thinking.

Take your time and incrementally improve your abilities to prepare two weeks of meals or even a month’s worth of menus. 

Remember once you put in the initial work, you can reap the benefits and reuse it again.

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