meal planning tips

Tips For Meal Planning - A Beginner’s Guide to Effortless Eating

Easy meal planning for beginners that saves money, time, and your sanity. Discover our tips for meal planning - a beginner’s guide to effortless eating.

The words ‘meal planning’ often seem scarier than simply ‘making lunch,’ and many people find planning their meals to be a daunting prospect. After all, who has the extra time to be so strategic with their meals? However, when done correctly, the reality is that meal planning is far simpler than you might expect and can actually save you tons of time and energy, along with a range of other benefits.

Life seems to get busier and busier these days, which can lead to unwise choices when it comes to mealtimes. How many times have you picked up a takeaway or ‘quick’ meal option from the store on your way home from a busy day at work, with the nagging feeling that you’ve settled for something that is not only more expensive but also not the healthiest or most sustainable choice for you and your family?

Creating a simple meal plan can cut out these snap decisions, helping save money, reduce food waste, and guarantee that your meals are nutritious, delicious, and made from responsibly sourced ingredients. We’re here today to take the mystery and fear out of meal planning for beginners, so let’s go!

What is Meal Planning?

Let’s start by looking at what meal planning isn’t. Creating a meal plan for the week does not require endless lists, stacks of cookbooks full of meal ideas, and careful calculations about the quantities of ingredients you need to buy. In contrast, one of the main benefits of meal planning is that it simplifies your lifestyle, something we all need from time to time.

Meal planning simply means deciding on your meals in advance – a few days at a time, a whole week, or a fortnight. You might choose to focus only on the evening meal, or decide to incorporate breakfast and lunch as well. In deciding what you’ll eat for this period, you can create a basic plan of the dishes you’ll prepare and the ingredients needed. A meal plan doesn’t need to be any more complex than a list of meals that helps you plan your grocery shopping– it is as simple as that!

creating a meal plan

Why Create a Meal Plan? 

Creating a meal plan is a practical strategy that brings a sense of order and ease into your daily life. A simple meal plan creates a streamlined decision-making process for grocery shopping. You know in advance exactly what you need, reducing impulse purchases and food waste. It enables you to use time and resources more efficiently and saves you from the daily dilemma of figuring out what to cook, reducing stress and decision fatigue.

In addition, meal planning helps to embed healthier and more consistent eating habits into our lives, keeping the focus on balanced and nutritious meals made from high-quality seasonal ingredients. A personalized meal helps structure your culinary choices, saving time, money, and mental energy in the process.

How to Create a Meal Plan

Struggling to know where to start with meal planning? Follow these four simple steps:

1. Know your needs

Start by taking stock of what you actually require - consider the number of people you're cooking for and whether they have any dietary preferences or restrictions. Other aspects to factor in are budgeting requirements, seasonal availability of ingredients, and the time you’ll have available each day to prepare meals.

2. Gather your tools

As we’ve said, you don’t have to overcomplicate meal planning – if a kitchen noticeboard with a list of meals for the week works for you, go for it! Make sure to keep a shopping list handy and jot down pantry ingredients as they start to run low.

Many useful tools are also available to help with meal planning, such as smartphone apps or online templates. Different recipe sources, such as websites (like Foodness Gracious!), magazines, or cookbooks, can also help with inspiration and variety in your meal planning. 

3. Map out your meals

When it comes to meal planning, you’re not trying to reinvent the wheel – keep it simple by starting with those old faithful recipes that you cook time and time again. Think about what leftovers these dinners create and how you can use these the following day. For example, leftovers from a pot roast cooked at the weekend can easily be turned into roast beef sandwiches, a breakfast hash or add shreds to quesadillas. 

To minimize meal prep and ease time constraints, incorporate convenient options like one-pot meals, sheet pan dinners, or slow cooker recipes into your meal plan. On busier days, stick to meals that take 30 minutes or less to prepare or have something stashed in the freezer that can be quickly reheated. Smaller portions of leftovers can be frozen for workday lunches, reducing food waste and adding variety to your diet.

meal planning grocery shopping

4. Enjoy grocery shopping

No more wandering the aisles aimlessly, filling your cart with things you don’t need, and getting a nice surprise at the checkout. Armed with your meal plan and shopping list, you know exactly what ingredients you need to prepare an array of delicious meals for the week ahead. The simple act of meal planning makes grocery shopping far more manageable and enjoyable while also cutting out any expensive impulse purchases. 

Tips for Meal Planning

Follow these savvy tips to guarantee success with your meal plan:

  • Buy in bulk: Save money by purchasing staple items in bulk, minimizing the need for frequent store visits, and ensuring a well-stocked kitchen.
  • Prep ingredients in advance: Spend some time prepping ingredients in advance to speed up meal preparation during the week.
  • Utilize kitchen gadgets: Invest in time-saving kitchen gadgets such as a slow cooker, Instant Pot, or food processor to make meal preparation a breeze.
  • Explore different cuisines: Keep your meals exciting and diverse by introducing new flavors and cooking techniques to your weekly plan.
  • Embrace leftovers: Transform leftovers into something new and exciting by adding fresh ingredients or presenting them in a different way.
  • Improvise with expiring food: Get creative and find inventive ways to use food nearing its expiry date, turning potential waste into delicious creations.
  • Hunt for bargains: Take advantage of grocery sales and promotions, planning your meals based on discounted items to save money without compromising on quality.
  • Harness the power of your freezer: Maximize the usefulness of your freezer by batch cooking and freezing meals to provide convenient, ready-to-eat options on busy days.
meal planning tips

Is Meal Planning More Healthy?

Meal planning can contribute to a healthier lifestyle by allowing for a thoughtful balance of meals incorporating various food groups. Deciding your meals in advance reduces reliance on highly processed and fast food options – no more unhealthy midweek takeaways because you’re too frazzled to cook! In addition, meal planning helps to promote better portion control and mindful eating habits. When creating your meal plan, include nutritious recipes supporting your overall well-being for maximum health-boosting benefits.

Does Meal Planning Help Save Money?

Meal planning is a budget-friendly approach that helps to save money in various ways. By planning food consumption, leftovers are fully utilized to create additional meals, minimizing food waste. Batch cooking saves energy by yielding multiple meals from a single cooking session, creating quick ‘ready meals’ that reduce the need for expensive takeaway dinners on busier days.

Implement These Meal Planning Tips

Meal planning is a fun and empowering way to streamline your culinary experience – there are no strict rules here, so embrace the process and don’t be afraid to experiment with new ideas and flavors. Remember that this new way of thinking involves the whole family, so get them involved with meal planning and preparation and let the joy of cooking be a delightful part of your everyday life. Happy planning, and bon appétit!