Why and How to Start Meal Planning

I’ve been meal planning for years now, and I can’t imagine going back to how it was before. Just like most types of awareness and intention, meal planning allows you to think ahead and purposefully choose your meals and the ingredients required. This comes with many benefits, and it is a simple process to implement. Here is why and how to start meal planning plus a special freebie at the end of the post.

Why and How to Start Meal Planning

Why You Should Start Meal Planning

Save Money

First, you will always be using up what you already have on hand keeping costs down. Plus, you’re in charge of what ingredients you use. Choose meals that incorporate ingredients that are in season or on sale. By having meals already planned out for each night, this can also prevent last minute decisions to eat out.


Waste Less Food

By meal planning you will be using up what you already have the house before it can go bad. You will also be basing your grocery list off of the meals planned, so your new purchases are guaranteed to be used in the coming week as well. For other tips on reducing food waste check out the 7 Simple Ways to Reduce Food Waste post.


Save Time

You can save time with meal planning by prepping different parts of the meal ahead of time. For example, if I’m making rice one night and I know I’ll need it again in a few days, I’ll double the batch. I also make a week or two worth of beans at one time (for you that may be meat or another protein) and store it in the freezer.


Eat Healthy

You choose the meals and ingredients which means you can choose healthier options. Ensure you’re getting your daily amount of fruits and vegetables or different nutrients you may be concerned about. Meal planning also prevents impulse purchases of junk food, last minute runs for convenience products, or decisions to eat out.

Meal planning allows you to save money, waste less food, save time, and eat healthy. Here's how! Click To Tweet


How to Start Meal Planning

I like to go through this process on Sunday to be prepared for the week ahead.


1. Go through your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. Take note of what ingredients you already have, especially anything that needs to be used up before it spoils.

2. Take a look at your personal calendar. Look for any days that you’re going to be busy in the evening, having company over, or already plan on eating out.

3. Scan over any relevant store flyers (often you can do this online now) or promotions to see what food items are the best value this week.

4. Look through cookbooks or websites like Pinterest or Yummly for inspiration, and find recipes that fit your needs for that week. Think about the ingredients you already have in the house, what is in season, and what is on sale.

5. Write out each meal you are going to make on each day of the week. Make a grocery list to match these needs.


To get you started off on the right foot, I’ve created a two page template that takes you through the meal planning process. You can get it now for free!

Weekly Meal Planning Template

Do you meal plan? What is your process?

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15 Comment

  1. Reply
    liz n.
    February 12, 2016 at 10:47 am

    I don’t plan as extensively as I did when we still had a house full of children. Now that all of them are grown and moved on to adulthood, I simply have less cooking to do.

    However, it took me rather a long time to stop doing so much batch-cooking and to learn how NOT to buy in bulk! I still make and portion batches of sauces, grains, and soups and such, but it was interesting (and sometimes frustrating) to learn meal planning for two people after so many years of planning meals for seven!

    One thing I still do is a habit learned from years in restaurants, and that’s keeping par sheets. People who’ve never worked in restaurants think it’s an overly-meticulous way to keep track of what you have in your fridge, freezer, and pantry, but we’re so used to doing it, and it really is very efficient. It certainly helps us buy more smartly and waste far less.

    1. Reply
      February 12, 2016 at 11:42 am

      Wow, I can see how cooking for 7 to cooking for 2 would certainly be an adjustment. I love the par sheets idea. I don’t keep a running tally, but I always go through the fridge, freezer, and pantry each Sunday before I plan my meals for the week. You’re so right that it enables smart buying and less waste.

  2. Reply
    Karen Hopkins
    February 15, 2016 at 2:00 pm

    These are great tips! I am starting to eat healthier so this is perfect. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Reply
      February 15, 2016 at 3:09 pm

      That’s awesome. I hope you’ll find this helpful and effective. 🙂

  3. Reply
    February 15, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    Awesome job! I love meal planning, too! Its such a life saver!

    1. Reply
      February 15, 2016 at 3:09 pm

      Thanks! It definitely is. I can’t even imagine how much money it’s saved me over the years.

  4. Reply
    February 18, 2016 at 7:15 am

    You are so right about planning and the benefits! If I don’t plan ahead, many times we end up full, but not satisfied, if you know what I mean. I hate how I feel after eating fast food, so I try my best to plan each week, and not fail (like last week when I forgot to thaw my roast). I like the template, thanks!

    1. Reply
      February 18, 2016 at 9:45 am

      Oh yeah, I know exactly what you mean about full but not satisfied. Oh no, the frozen roast! I’m vegetarian, so I don’t have to worry about thawing meat, but my issue is always remembered to soak the beans overnight before I cook them, haha. I’m glad you like the template, I hope it helps!

  5. Reply
    February 18, 2016 at 11:36 am

    My husband and I try to meal plan as much as we can… Saves money and time! Thanks for sharing st Thursday Favorite Things Blog Hop!

    1. Reply
      February 18, 2016 at 12:20 pm

      That’s awesome to hear. Meal planning definitely has its benefits!

  6. Reply
    February 19, 2016 at 7:11 pm

    Thanks for this post. I used to meal plan, but now that I’ve been away from a full kitchen, I stopped. I will need to pick this back up again because it really does help out in terms of knowing what to cook as well as saving money.

    1. Reply
      February 20, 2016 at 4:44 pm

      Oh yeah, that would be difficult without a full kitchen!

  7. Reply
    Kim Cunningham
    February 24, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    I try to be intentional with this and do well most weeks and fall of the wagon others. I’m definitely a fan!

  8. Reply
    March 2, 2016 at 12:13 pm

    Planning it’s easy! Getting started is another thing..Many people say ” I will” but they really mean “I want someone else to do that for me”.They don’t really take the responsibility. Thank you for your article,is inspiring ..Kisses from Greece!

    1. Reply
      March 2, 2016 at 1:01 pm

      So true that implementation is the hardest part. I hope that the template will help you and any others move from “just wanting to” into action.

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