Meal Planning Essentials
Meal Planning Essentials

How To Start Meal Planning: Tips For Beginners

How To Start Meal Planning: Tips For Beginners

The summer is usually a very hectic time for me. I lose all control. Of my kids! Of my house! Of my weight! AHHHHH! Well, this year, I decided that I wanted to give meal planning a try and so I did quite a bit of research around how to start meal planning! I am a list maker by nature and so I thought that if I can have a firm grasp on what we’re all going to eat before I head out to the supermarket it will ease my stress a bit … at least that’s the plan.

I have to be honest with you, it’s going great so far! I’m really excited about the essentials I picked up from the Dollar Store. If you are trying to figure out how to start meal planning, I have to say that organization is KEY. All in, my organization kit set me back under $5. I only use THREE of the items I mention in the video above. So, technically, my little set up was created for $3 BUCKS, Y’all! Not a bad price for sanity and bliss. AMMIRIGHT?

Check out the How to Start Meal Planning: Meal Planning Essentials video so you can get an idea of what you can use to create your own meal planning system at home. You don’t need to spend a million dollars to get started. Literally, I even show an option that is ONE dollar and covers most of the bases. The full-blown planners are great, but if you are coming right out of the gate and don’t know if you will fully commit to meal planning, start here. No use in spending $40 on bells and whistles just to have it sit in your junk drawer.

How To Start Meal Planning: Meal Planning Week One

Here is a look at my first week of meal planning. I linked the recipes I decided to test out below. You will notice that I tend to eat a lot of chicken… LOL! My husband hates me.

Recipes Mentioned In Meal Planning Video

  1. Honey Hoisin Chicken
  2. BibimBap
  3. Crockpot Creamy Chicken

Are you looking for some meal planning tips? Look,  I’m just getting started myself, but I can already tell that I’ve made some mistakes during my first few days of planning.  Here’s what I’ve learned so far in case you are trying to figure out how to start meal planning yourself.

How To Start Meal Planning

  1. Organize your recipes: If you use Pinterest, create a private board for the recipes that you actually EAT. Not the ones that you sort of wish that you would like to eat. This board is for the ones that you plan on COOKING. This way, it will be easy for you to reference should you want to pull them up again. You can always print these recipes and keep them somewhere, but my papers usually end up with tomato sauce and oil on them when I am done making a meal.
  2. Cook extra: Think about making extra protein or vegetables and then reuse them for another recipe on another day. I didn’t think this through when planning out my week. For example, if you are making grilled chicken on Monday, plan to make tacos on Tuesday using the leftover chicken you have already made. This will save you TIME. And we all know that time is money.
  3. Nightly themes help: Taco Tuesday, Meatless Monday, Fusilli Friday… whatever is your pleasure. At least you can start filling in the blanks. Get the kids involved!
  4. Leftover night right in the middle: When you start cooking actual meals like this, you will have a ton of leftovers. I made the crockpot chicken last night and had a TON of leftovers because I never usually make a whole chicken for my family. We have to eat leftovers tonight to clear out my fridge because of it. Make sure you account for a day like this.
  5. Keep your pantry well stocked: You will need lots of seasoning and oil and cooking spray. The usual suspects! When things go on sale, stock up. The last thing you are going to want to worry about is running out of cornstarch (me last night) when you are right in the middle of cooking a brand new recipe you found online.
  6. Don’t go crazy – you are not a chef: I know it’s fun to look on Pinterest and to try to bring in new flavors into your house. But let’s take it easy. Souffles on Monday. Lava chocolate cake on Tuesday. Burnt out on Wednesday! Keep it simple. This is a marathon and not a sprint.
  7. It’s just a plan. You aren’t a failure if you don’t follow it every single day: My husband has to write up a review of this BBQ joint that opened up near us and so today he needs to make ribs. I had this whole plan that I would make this Korean dish tonight and it’s just not going to happen. I’m LEGIT upset about it. I really wanted to make it. He literally using all my supplies and putting them on his ribs. I can’t let it go because he’s messing up my meal plan … plan. But I have to get over it. This isn’t a quiz. I won’t get 100 if I get all my dates right. It’s just a guide. If it doesn’t all work out according to plan, life will go on. It will be ok. It’s about taking away stress… not adding to it. Don’t be like me. Be normal and well adjusted.
  8. Find the sales and work around them – yeah I said it: Check those circulars and see what’s on sale. If there is a great deal on Pot Roast… guess who is having Pot Roast on Friday? My kids! That’s right. Old school mentality. Shop the circular.
  9. Check out meal planning apps: If you don’t feel equipped to do it on your own, there are plenty of online website and apps that can help you. Most charge a fee and honestly, I don’t think you need to spend money on something like this. You don’t need an app to teach you how to start meal planning. You are pretty much already doing it if you think about it!! But if you don’t feel comfortable, then head to Google and do a search. But before you do, give it a shot on your own.
  10. Food Prep: You can try to food prep everything when you get home from the grocery store. In fact, I’ve done quite a bit of reading and most say that it’s quite helpful if you do. I don’t know how I feel about this just yet. I’m someone who likes my Sundays and I don’t want to spend them in the kitchen getting ready for the week. Instead, I much rather spend the 30 minutes prepping right before cooking dinner every night.
  11. BONUS — Your meals don’t have to be recipes: This is the last thing I want to say. Before I actually started to meal prep, I would just choose a vegetable, a protein and a starch for my meals. That’s how everyone thinks about cooking, right? It’s pretty much as simple as that. Well, it can still be as simple as that. You don’t have to look up creative recipes. The point of meal planning is to just know what you are going to cook ahead of time so you have your grocery list in check and so you know what you are making for dinner before dinner comes. Plain and simple.

How To Start Meal Planning: Tips For Beginners

If you just want to keep track of your carbs, veggies, and proteins – write them in using this form. Before meal planning, I would just say – white rice, grilled chicken, and broccoli – Monday. You can still absolutely get prepared for the week this way. It doesn’t have to be a specific recipe you found on Pinterest. We all don’t have to get CRAZY NOW. This is reality!! So, use this form if you want to forget everything else and just get organized.

You can download it for free!

Though if I am REALLY being honest with you … I ADORE the set up I got from the Dollar Store. I am OBSESSED with it. In a MAJOR way. Be sure to watch the FIRST video to see.

Do you meal plan? Do you have a specific website that you love to reference when deciding how to plan out your weeks? Would love some recommendations!

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How to Start Meal Planning

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About the author
Vera Sweeney, mom, blogger, social media influencer and New York resident, is the founder of LadyAndTheBlog.com. She is considered one of the top female digital influencers in today’s social media space. Her lifestyle and parenting brand helps busy women stay on top of the latest trends in fashion, food, family and travel.