You’ve probably heard about meal planning as a strategy to eat well, save time or even lose weight. But it’s tough to get started. We’ll explain what meal planning is, what it entails and exactly how you can build a healthy weekly meal plan.
What Is Meal Planning?
It simply means deciding what you’d like to eat for the next week, breaking down the exact ingredients that you’ll need to cook those meals, and then going out to buy food. It sounds much less daunting when you break it down into steps! You can even start with a ready-made meal plan. Meal planning can be a great way to stick to a budget, follow a certain diet (like gluten-free, vegetarian, etc.), work toward losing weight or simply eat a healthier diet.
How Do I Meal Plan for the Week?
The first step is deciding which meals you’re going to plan for and what recipes you’re going to make for each meal. It could be easiest to only plan for one or two meals of the day because you eat leftovers for lunch or have the same simple breakfast every day. For three meals a day of healthy eating, use this recipe collection as a jumping-off point.
Next, you want to break down your recipes by each ingredient that you’ll need to shop for. Once you’ve done this for all your recipes, you can combine the amounts of each like ingredient to make shopping easier.
The last step is to make your shopping list. Just add a handful of snacks and pantry staples, and you’re ready to go shopping and start making your meals!
Helpful Tips for Every Meal Plan Goal
Start by bookmarking our guide to meal planning and signing up for our weekly meal planning newsletter. Here are some other helpful tips while meal planning, depending on what you’re hoping to accomplish:
- Plan with fresh fruits and vegetables in mind. By focusing on produce-heavy dishes you’ll be well on your way to healthy eating.
- If you have an allergy or are following a specific diet (like vegan or dairy-free), meal planning will help you navigate the grocery store before you even get there. You’ll know exactly what ingredients you’re looking for and are able to eat. If you’re not sure whether specific ingredients contain your allergens, you can look it up online beforehand or scour the label once you’re there.
- Try meal prep! You can prep all your produce, protein foods and other ingredients you’ll use throughout the week (think chopping, peeling, even roasting and sauteing) so that when it’s time to eat you can throw everything together and enjoy! Here are 50 meal prep recipes to get you started.
- Get the slow cooker out. Throw everything in there the night before or morning of and you’ll have a hot, delicious meal waiting for you after a long work day.
- Meal plan with a theme. By having one ingredient tying all your dishes together (for example roasted chicken or vegetables) you can save time by using the same chicken or vegetables all week long.
Lose or Maintain Weight
- Meal planning can be so effective when trying to lose weight because it pushes you to figure out exactly what you’re eating for the next week. This gives you the opportunity to figure out portion sizes and calorie counts, if that’s how you’re approaching the change.
- By writing out exactly what you’re going to purchase during your next grocery store trip, you can focus only on that list and resist the temptation of all the grocery story has to offer.
Stick to a Budget
- Low-sodium canned and frozen foods are your friend with meal planning! Not only are they inexpensive, but they last for months in case they don’t get used as planned for the week.
- Repurpose your leftovers. Use your leftovers as either lunch for the next day or freeze them for meals to come to get the most bang for your buck.
- Here’s a great recipe collection for meal planning on a budget.
Meal planning can be a huge lifesaver in so many ways. With the steps, tips and recipes here you should be well on your way to becoming a meal planning pro!