I know that there are tons of resources out there for meal planning. For planning a month’s worth of meals to fix in one day. To have 7 meals on hand for cooking at anytime.

While these are great ideas, for many young moms, or just women who didn’t get the training when they were younger, the thought of meal planning is scary and overwhelming.

In reality, even if you CAN cook decently, there are an overwhelming number of choices of WHAT you can cook, and then you actually have to have the ingredients on hand to do so, or else you are running out the door at 5:00 to see what you can grab at the corner market.

Your lack of planning is STILL planning, it is just waiting til the last minute while walking through the grocery store! Let me help you plan a little more in advance to save you some unneeded stress.

I want to break this down very simply for those who are just beginning with meal planning. If this post seems a bit too elementary for you, click over to The Dreaded Question “MOM, what’s for dinner?”.

meal planning 101

Meal Planning for Beginners

To keep it simple, I am going to show you how to plan for just 4 meals. That shouldn’t be too overwhelming for you newbies. In a nutshell, meal planning is deciding what you are going to cook for the upcoming days, making a corresponding list, and then shopping for the needed items.

1. The first thing you will need to do is set aside a time for meal planning. Many women do this on Saturday or Sunday for the following week. Pop a movie in for the kids or get hubby to take his turn at childcare duty. Say you don’t have time to plan? This planning session will save you LOTS of time and money in the weeks to come!

2. Gather the things below for your meal planning session:

  • A piece of paper or a printed meal plan template
  • Any recipes or cookbooks you want to try
  • Your store’s weekly ad (most are online now)
  • Your laptop
  • A beverage of your choice 🙂
3. Before you sit down, do a quick scan of your fridge/freezer/pantry. Is there something in there that needs to used up? IE: a big bag of white rice, frozen chicken breasts, or a head of cabbage. Make note of those things.

4. Scan your grocery store ads to see what is on a good sale this week. Usually the meats that are on the front page are a good deal (a loss leader). Consider making your meals from items that are on sale to help get more bang for your buck.

5. Decide what meats you will be basing your meals upon. Let’s say you have a 3 lb bag of boneless chicken breasts in the freezer already, and that ground beef is on sale this week. And you can plan to use the cabbage in your fridge as well. You could do 2 chicken dishes and 2 beef dishes.

6. Find 4 recipes based upon the meats you chose. This can be the fun part, or very overwhelming! Below are some choices for finding recipes:
7. When choosing your recipes keep in mind these things:
  • How much time will you have for prep?
  • Which nights this week will we be home for dinner?
  • Do I want to cook enough so that I have leftovers for lunch or another meal?
  • Choose a variety of dishes. Don’t have all dishes Italian, or Mexican, etc. Mix it up some.
  • Don’t forget about your crockpot!
8. Make your grocery list. With each recipe, add each ingredient to your grocery list. If you already have the item, then you can mark it accordingly. For items that are in multiple ingredients, such as shredded cheese, add the total that you need for all you recipes. For other things you can just make tally marks for an additional item.

9. Go grocery shopping! Before you go, add the other items that you know you need on your list. Head to the store and conquer that list!

10. Implementing your meal plan*. Either print or electronically tag the recipes you are planning for the week. Each evening, look at your meals and consider what the next day holds. Choose a meal accordingly and take a meat out to thaw if necessary. The great thing about this is that you are not “locked into” having certain meals each night. You decide what will work best the next day.

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

*Online Meal Planning

For those of you looking to really jump in to meal planning, can I suggest you look at Plan to Eat. You can import recipes from hundreds of websites with the click of a button. Then you just drag-and-drop the desired recipe to the day you want it on. The ingredients are automagically added to your online shopping list! You can also go and alter the shopping list based upon what you have in your pantry. It is REALLY an awesome tool! And you can access on your mobile phone so you don’t have to worry about leaving your list at home (not that I’ve ever done that, lol!)

The folks at Plan to Eat believe that you will love their program once you try it, so they offer a 30 day free trial. So what do you have to lose? Plan to Eat can make meal planning SO much easier for you!


*affiliate links