Guest Post: How to Meal Plan

Hey you guys!  I am thrilled to have Annemarie from the blog Real Food Real Deals to this fantastic guest post on meal planning for you!



“Putting together a weekly meal plan is one of the best habits to develop when you transition

to a homemade lifestyle. Having a meal plan in place makes life less stressful and it makes

mealtime healthier. Meal planning will help you to save money and time, too.” – Conquering

Your Kitchen, pp. 41 & 54

It would be nice if healthy, homemade food magically appeared on the table each night, but

unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. One of the most important things you can do for your

sanity is to plan out your meals ahead of time.

Sometimes that’s easier said than done. Most people don’t really like meal planning, so it’s easy

to put it off. I used to plan meals a couple days at a time, and I was constantly anxious about how

to get healthy food on the table for my family. If I didn’t know what we were having for dinner

on a particular night, I would be distracted until I figured it out.

My husband saw how much the dinner situation was grating on me, so he tried to help. We put

together a binder full of all the recipes we liked. He bought me an online meal planning program

for Christmas one year. But nothing seemed to be taking the stress out of it all. After years of

this, things finally changed for me.

I made the commitment to sit down once a week for 15 minutes and plan all our dinners for

the week ahead.

Everything changed when I started doing this. The benefits were immediately clear:

Less stress: I felt calm and in control when dinnertime came around.

More free time: I didn’t have to run out to the store 5 times a week. I could make one

shopping list based on the meal plan and go shopping once.

More money in my wallet: I wasn’t spending extra money with all those extra shopping


How to Meal Plan

Pick a time frame: Some people like to plans their meals for two weeks at a time, or even a

month. Others like to organize their menu for 3 or 4 days at a time. I’m a once-a-week planner,

and this works well for me based on how I shop for groceries. Choose a time frame that makes

sense for you.

Gather your resources: It’s helpful to build a long list of recipes that you’re comfortable

making and that your family will enjoy. You can organize your recipes in a binder or on your

computer. To build up your arsenal of recipes, I recommend trying one new recipe each week.

You can consult magazines and websites, and talk to your friends about what they like to make. I

keep a Pinterest board called “Recipes to Try,” and I consult this board when I’m out of ideas for

my meal plan.

Plug in your meals: Look at your calendar for the week to decide which nights you’ll need

something quick and which nights you’ll have some time to cook. Determine your meals based

on the food you have on hand as well as what’s on sale at the store. You can record your meals

on paper, a chalkboard, or an online calendar like Google Calendar. Try using this template to

write out a plan for a week of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

Consider theme nights: Some people like to have a particular dinner theme for a given night of

the week. For example, every Tuesday night could be Mexican, and every Friday could be pizza.

Other theme night ideas include pasta, slow cooker, and breakfast for dinner.

Be flexible: I set a meal plan each week, but I don’t think I’ve ever followed it precisely. As

my children have gotten older, more and more conflicts have arisen in our dinnertime schedule.

When a conflict comes up with dinner prep, I roll with it. Tuesday’s dinner can easily be

swapped with Wednesday’s as long as I have the ingredients on hand. I always keep soups and

other complete meals ready to go in the freezer so I can do a quick defrost if that’s all I can

manage one night.

Meal planning is one of the best things you can do to save time and money while minimizing

stress. The hardest part is getting yourself to do it. The rest is easy!

Do you meal plan? We’d love to hear how it works for you in the comments. We could all use

some tips!


This is a guest post written by Annemarie Rossi. Annemarie is the author of Conquering Your

Kitchen and the creator of Real Food Real Deals. Her website provides recipes and tips to

help families eat real food on a budget. Annemarie’s work has been featured in many places,

including the Non-GMO Cookbook, Edible Boston magazine, Fox News Online, Babble, and

Spry Living. She lives in the Boston area with her husband and two children.  Feel free to follow Annemarie on Facebook and Pinterest for more great ideas!

Join more than 35,000 subscribers and start gettiing free recipes direct to your inbox!

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18 thoughts to “Guest Post: How to Meal Plan”

  1. I have to plan out my meals. Otherwise, I go to the grocery store and buy a bunch of stuff that won't turn into meals. My kitchen ends up feeling like an episode of "Chopped".
  2. My family is grown, so I dont really do planning anymore per se. However, I loosely plan by taking out certain meats to thaw. But I also do home canning so I can open a jar on the spur of the moment.
  3. I love meal planning! I find that it saves me a ton of money when I grocery shop. I don't necessarily do theme nights (except Taco Tuesday - Darn you Lego Movie!!!), but I do try to make some nights quick meals (under 15 mins) and some where it will take more time. This way, if something comes up, I can easily swap out the quick meal for the involved meal. I also make sure I have a few meals my husband is comfortable making on the menu. I do the most cooking, but when he has to, I don't want something that intimidates him to the point where he just orders a pizza :) I make all my new recipes on the weekend when I have time to mess it up. Thank you for the great article! I am going to have to try keeping a list of recipes. Some days I just don't have enough energy to think of a good plan!
    1. Amber, great idea about making sure there are some quick meals on the menu each week. I often have to shift one night's meal for another in my meal plan as things come up throughout the week. And the weekend is definitely the best time to try new recipes. I'll have to remember that!
  4. I plan my meals out weekly and go food shopping from there. I love my crock pot. I prep the night before and the hubby puts the crock pot on in the am. Makes life south easier and less stressful for me and the kids!
  5. I have gotten in the habit of doing weekly meal planning, and it makes everything more organized. What I do is figure out 7 of each meal, some of which are leftovers, and then just wing it for which meal gets made when. That means I don't have to make a complicated breakfast when I've slept too late (yes, even us retired folks can do that…), or I can reheat leftovers for dinner when my cooking plans are interrupted by unexpected events. When I manage to make a complete shopping list, it definitely streamlines the grocery shopping. Plus it feels really good to use up all the ingredients I bought.
  6. Thanks for the great post full of ideas!! I hate to plan meals but it's a necessary evil to save money and stress by having to come up with meals last minute. Between work and family, it's hard to come up with time to meal plan but your suggestions will really help!
  7. With 2 type 1 diabetics in my house I should incorporate meal planning. I kind of do several things on an idea of ready to eat meals like having two homemade soups in the fridge, lots of salads premade and the dreaded cold cuts. My oldest has decided to go vegetarian but still eats cheese and eggs. I just decided to follow this blog for better recipes and ideas. So far it's working. Thank you
  8. Support the local farmers and eat well and plan those meals. This is the perfect time of year for fresh, local, seasonal whole food shopping at the farmers markets or roadside stands.

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