How to Make a Meal Plan

Learn how to make a meal plan and why you should! These basic steps will show you what a meal plan is and how to make one, with some tips and tricks along the way. As a bonus, I’ve included a printable daily meal plan for you to customize. Look for the printable at the end of this post!

Notebooks, pen, and coffee cup displayed on a knit blanket. A favorite way to cozy up to meal planning. How to Make a Meal Plan.

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What is Meal Planning?

Meal planning or menu planning, as it is sometimes called, is a great way to make the most of your time and save your sanity.

If you are not someone who loves to cook, meal planning helps to streamline that process and reduce your time in the kitchen.

A meal plan is scheduling out what you will be making each day. It can be only dinners or every meal. You can schedule a week, 2 weeks, or a month ahead.

If you have a collection of standard recipes, you won’t have any surprises when it comes to your grocery list or budget.

Even if you do love cooking, I bet you still feel like a majority of your day is spent in the kitchen. Especially if you mostly cook from scratch. Maybe you don’t love cooking and so it takes even longer. Maybe you want to love cooking but you are still learning how.

Having a plan helps you know what to expect. A plan eliminates the times where you start to make something and realize you are missing one crucial ingredient.

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Maximize Your Time With a Meal Plan

A meal plan condenses the time spent preparing meals and can even maximize what you do make, if you utilize things like batch cooking or freezer meals.

You will have a clearer idea of what your family eats, what you spend on groceries, and how much time you actually need in the kitchen.

This will free up more time for you because there isn’t the waste of not knowing what to make, not having what you need, and scrambling around the kitchen looking for everything.

Eventually every meal made can be reduced to a process that can be fine tuned and easily reproducible. No more guess work. No more 5pm panic. More joy.

Coffee pot, mug, cloth napkin, silverware, and a plate with an egg, avocado toast and a fig placed on a wooden table. Breakfast should be included in your meal plan too. How to Make a Meal Plan.

Why should you meal plan?

I know, it sounds like one more thing to do. Prior to kids I was a free spirit that could not stand planning anything ahead of time. And I will be perfectly honest, there are times where I forget all about meal planning and i’m just winging it.

But I have realized that 5 o’ clock panic when you don’t know what to make, was stressing me out. I also know myself well enough to know that if I’m stressed out, then I’m probably stressing out my family too.

Old me would have laughed at meal planning. Current me has realized that when you can utilize the margins of your day and plan things out, it actually makes your day easier.

The upfront work prevents the 4pm mad dash to figure out “what’s for dinner?”

As the resident chef, you might even be able to sit down and enjoy the meals you prepare, instead of scurrying around trying to get all of the things done.

All of the fixing for a homemade hamburger placed in individual bowls on top of a wooden cutting board. From top left there is a golden brown hamburger bun, sliced tomatoes, two uncooked hamburger patties, chopped onions, mushrooms, mayo, mustard, coleslaw, pickles, shredded cheese, and lettuce. Meal prep is an important part of meal planning.
Ingredients for dinner.

How to meal plan?

There are so many different ways to approach meal planning, and it is completely customizable.

I will share my system with you and hopefully it will help or spark ideas that will work best for you. Don’t be afraid to customize this.

There are no hard and fast rules here. You just want a system that will work for your family and hopefully make planning meals more efficient.

I first compile a list of “meals” that my family loves best. This list can even be broken down into quick meals versus meals that require more preparation.

Then I take those meals, and collect all of the recipes for them. Once I have collected the recipes, I make a grocery list of ingredients.

Here’s What I Do To Meal Plan

A good way to make a meal plan is to get some of the larger index card and transfer your recipe to one side.

Then you can put a list of required ingredients on the back, including any side dishes you typically have with it.

The easy part is figuring out which days to have which meals. I try to plan the quick, easy meals for busy days, or even plan ahead with a freezer meal.

I like to have at least 2 weeks planned out ahead of time. Ideally, you want to make your planning day right before your grocery shopping day.

Once you have this down to a routine, you will also have a bank of meals that you regularly pull from. Having that collection of tried and true recipes also makes grocery shopping and budgeting easier.

Pasta on a fork with a leaf of basil. Below is a plate full of pasta, sundried tomatoes, and herbs. Dinner prep is an important step in your meal plan. How to Make a Meal Plan.
Weeknight meals.

Helpful Hints

There are so many ways to further maximize your time when it comes to meal preparation. Below is a list of some tips and tricks that might help!

  • Freezer Meals
  • Batch Cooking – You can make double of the meal you are currently preparing and freeze it
  • Meal Prep – As little as chopping your onions ahead of time, to making a large batch of rice or beans at beginning of the week. Sometimes I even make a double or triple batch of the chicken or beef I am cooking and utilize it in different meals throughout the week. Leftovers that don’t feel like leftovers.

Meal prep goes a long way in making from scratch meals feel more manageable. If you have little ones, then nap time is perfect for this.

I try to use that time to cut up any fresh ingredients. This is a great way to utilize the margins of your day. I hope you have found this helpful!

If you already utilize meal planning, share some of your tips in the comments below.

If you don’t yet use a meal plan, what do you feel is your biggest mealtime struggle? Let me know in the comments below! Until next time, stay cozy!

one last thing…

I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below! If you loved this article, I would love it if you gave it 5 stars!

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Two handmade pizzas arranged on a table. How to Make a Meal Plan.

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  1. This is something I need to do more often! Great helpful hints!!

    1. I’m so glad you found this helpful! Thank you for stopping by!

  2. I try to do my meal plan every week & go for groceries the next day but have been considering longer plans, maybe monthly? Thanks for sharing your insight.

    1. I think a monthly plan is so smart! Any time you get ahead with planning saves so much time! So good to hear from you!

  3. Yes, I definitely need to work on my meal planning thank you for these helpful tips.

    1. It’s definitely a process! You are most welcome! Thank you for stopping by!

  4. Meal planning and I have a love-hate relationship. This post is inspiring and reminds me of why it’s so important to make a meal plan. Thank you!

    1. I understand completely! Thank you so much, I am glad it has inspired you!