Set yourself up for mealtime success all week long with this guide to meal planning for beginners from a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist!
Hey, we all lead busy lives. After a long day of getting sh*t done, the last thing we want to do is think about what’s for dinner. Enter: my top meal planning tips! These tips will help you:
- get organized
- save time and money
- reduce food waste
- enjoy nourishing meals all week long!
Now, before we learn how to meal plan, we have to answer the question: what is meal planning?
What is meal planning and why is it important?
Meal planning is the act of thinking ahead and getting prepared for the meals you’re going to eat.
It can be as simple as writing down what you’re going to have for dinner each day. Or, it can be as complex as planning out all of your meals and snacks for the week.
Meal planning is important because the effort you put in ahead of time pays you back throughout the week. Meal planning benefits you by:
- Saving precious time and energy that you’d spend thinking about what to eat each day
- Saving money that you’d spend on ordering in or buying groceries that you don’t know what to do with
- Reducing food waste, because the food you buy will have a purpose
- Encouraging to you prepare meals at home, which is good for your health
- Getting you excited about preparing and enjoying delicious meals at home!
Now that you know why meal planning is good for you, let’s talk about how to meal plan.
Meal Planning for Beginners:
Check Your Schedule
Before deciding what to eat it’s important to check your schedule for the week. First, open your calendar and peek at what you have coming up. How does your week look? How do your days look? Busy? Laid back? A little bit of both?
Getting an idea of how busy you’ll be helps you decide how much time and energy you’ll have to prepare meals each day. This will inform the types of meals you choose to plan. If your week looks crazy, you’ll want to plan quick, no-fuss meals. Meanwhile, if your week is going to be more chill, you can plan to spend a little more time in the kitchen if you want to.
If certain days look busier than others, you can plan to cook extra on the laid-back days so you’ll have leftovers on the ones where you don’t have much time.
Shop Your Pantry
Next up, shop your kitchen!
What I mean by this is to take inventory of what you already have in your refrigerator, freezer and pantry. This helps you remember what ingredients you already have. In an effort to save on money and food waste, you can plan some of your meals around the foods you have on hand. Have on frozen shrimp in the freezer? A shrimp pasta or stir fry would be great! See a box of quinoa in the pantry? Now you know you don’t have to buy any!
See what I’m saying? The foods already existing in your pantry can provide you with inspiration and information for upcoming meals.
Seek Out Meal Ideas
Once you’ve done this, the next step is to decide what meals to plan. Coming up with meal ideas is hard, especially if you’re new to this. However, there are so many places to find meal ideas and inspiration so don’t fret. The world is your oyster here! Here are some places to seek out meal ideas for the week:
- Cookbooks and magazines
- Pinterest (search up “easy dinner ideas” or something similar)
- Food blogs (check out my Recipe Index here!)
- Social media (think Instagram and TikTok)
- Google search (type “30-minute vegetarian meals” or whatever you’re looking for!)
Remember, your schedule will determine how many/the types of meals you’re looking for. Are you going to make something new each day? Or are you going to batch-cook a different recipe on Monday and Wednesday night only? This is up to you and the amount of time you have!
Write Your Meal Plan
Now that we have meal ideas for the week, it’s time to write it down! Write your meal plan somewhere convenient for you. This could be:
- In the ‘Notes’ app on your phone
- On the calendar on your fridge
- In your day planner or scheduler
- Google Calendar or iCal
- On a sticky note in the kitchen
Also keep in mind that hey, things change! There are days where our schedules get jumbled, things come up, or you’re just not feeling the meal that you planned. No sweat! Meal planning shouldn’t be rigid or put pressure on you. It’s a tool to help you. Remember to be flexible when you need to be!
Purchase Your Groceries
Lastly, you need to get groceries!
Refer back to the meals you wrote down and figure out what groceries you need to acquire in order to make them. Jot these down down in a list (can be on your phone, piece of paper, etc.) and head to the grocery store!
It is helpful to purchase all your groceries for the week at once in order to save time and money too. Get going!
When you have your groceries purchased, do some prep if you can! If you have the extra time, wash and chop fruits and veggies or cook a batch of grains that you’ll need for one of your meals. This will save you even more time during the week!
Check out the TikTok video below to see how I meal plan for the week!
Meal Planning for Beginners to Meal Planning Pro
You can do it! Although it takes effort, spending time meal planning and getting groceries at the start of the week will benefit you greatly in the long run. Remember, no one is perfect, and some weeks you will feel more organized than others. You’re only human after all!
Look out for your future self and start implementing some of these meal planning for beginners tips today! I promise you won’t regret it.
I hope this post helped you learn how to meal plan like a pro! If you liked this article or have questions about meal planning, leave me a comment below! I love to hear from you. 🙂 Finally, don’t forget to follow me on Instagram for more tips!