Meal planning can be a great way to save money, reduce stress, and make sure that you and your family are getting the most nutrition out of your meals. But if you’re just starting out, the process can seem overwhelming. Here are some of my favorite meal planning tips for beginners that will help you get started.
7 of the Best Meal Planning Tips for Beginners
You don't have to spend a lot of time doing your weekly meal planning with these tips! The benefits of meal planning will far outweigh the time it takes to do it, anyway.
These beginners' tips will get you started off right and then you'll end up an expert meal planner in no time. You'll quickly learn from experience even more ways to make a weekly menu plan for you and your family that works best for your life.
1. Make a list of staple ingredients
Having a list of staple ingredients that you can buy in bulk and use in a variety of dishes is the foundation of a successful meal plan. Think about the types of meals you like to make and the ingredients that you use most often. This could include things like rice, pasta, beans, nuts, and spices. This is especially helpful if you have picky eaters that require specific foods regularly.
2. Set aside time for meal planning
Meal planning can easily be put off, so it’s important to set aside a specific time each week to do it. This could be Sunday evening, Monday morning, or whatever works best for you. Having a designated meal planning time will help you stay organized and on track.
3. Choose recipes that use similar ingredients
This is a great tip if you have a food budget. The best way to save money while meal planning is to try to choose recipes that use similar ingredients. This will also help you save time and energy.
For example, you can use the same type of beans for chili, burritos, and tacos. Or, you can use the same type of cheese and vegetables for a quesadilla, pizza, and pasta.
4. Make a shopping list
Once you’ve chosen your recipes, make a grocery list of the ingredients you need. This is a good idea to help you stay organized and make sure you don’t forget anything.
Be sure to include items that you already have on hand, as this can help you save money and reduce food waste. Heading to your local grocery store with your list in hand will also help you stay on track and not overspend on your grocery budget.
5. Prep ahead of time
Meal prepping is a great way to save time and energy during the week. You can chop vegetables, cook grains, and assemble meals ahead of time so they’re ready to go when you need them. This can help you make quick and healthy meals during the week and not ditch the idea of cooking and choose fast food instead.
6. Get creative with leftovers
Leftovers can be a great way to save time and money, so don’t be afraid to get creative. For example, for a simple meal, you can use leftover chicken in a new dish, or turn yesterday’s dinner into a sandwich or wrap for lunch. You could also use leftover vegetables in soups.
You can also save so much time by batch-cooking things like whole grains, pasta, or brown rice while you're cooking a meal. For example, if you're having baked potatoes with dinner one night, make extra and serve them with dinner the next night.
You can even mash them to switch things up a little. If you're having a pasta dish, make a little extra to throw into your lunch the next day. Leftovers are great for spending less money on groceries weekly.
7. Plan meals according to your schedule
Remember to check your schedule before meal planning and plan easy meals for busy nights. Any night of the week that you already know will be chaotic should not be a night you're spending extra time cooking. Instead, save the complicated or time-consuming recipes for the end of the week or nights you have plenty of free time.
Meal planning can seem intimidating, but with a little planning and organization, it can be a great way to save time and money. The first couple of weeks will involve some trial and error, but don't give up! With these tips for beginners, you’ll be well on your way to creating nutritious and delicious meals for you and your family.