Step-by-Step Guide to Easy Meal Planning

Meal Planning…… not always the most exciting way to spend my time, but necessary. There are so many different ways to meal plan, and you have to find the way that works best for you and your family. I know some people who have a calendar and plan what they are cooking each night for a week, two weeks, a month. For us, planning out each meal for specific days didn’t work. We tried it.

In our house, we plan out the meals we are going to make, just not when. This way we aren’t stuck with a schedule and can choose what sounds better that day. Often there are meals that get starred as the ones to make sooner because they have more ingredients that will go bad quicker. I will dive more into the way I meal plan, but first, want to give a few of the reasons why you should start. Proper meal planning saves you money, food, and time!

Meal Planning Saves Money


When you don’t plan out your meals, it can often lead to you not having enough ingredients for a meal, which means running to the grocery store to grab something. Or worse, eating out or ordering in. When you run to the grocery store, most of the time you won’t get only what you need for that meal. You remember you are getting low on milk. Oh and some bread would be good to have on hand. And they got you with the snacks in the checkout aisle. Next thing you know you’ve spent $50 on a trip to get a few things for one night’s meal.

Meal Planning Saves Food

If you plan out your meals, you can make sure to use up ingredients rather than tossing the extras out. For example, one meal may require half of an onion, so you can plan another meal to use the other half. If you don’t have a plan, that half of an onion will probably be forgotten and go bad before it is used. Now you’ve wasted both money on the onion half that wasn’t eaten, and you’ve wasted perfectly good food.

Meal Planning Saves Time

Let’s go back to that grocery store trip you had to make because you didn’t plan out your meals. How long did that take? At best, maybe 30 minutes. We are lucky that there is a neighborhood marketplace Walmart about 5 minutes from the house. But you have to think about the time it takes you to drive there, find what you need, checkout, load the vehicle, drive home, and put the food away. Wait, didn’t you just go grocery shopping a couple of days ago?

Are you tired of all the waste that comes out of the kitchen? Trying to save money while also helping the environment? Join me at No Waste Kitchen for more tips, ideas, and resources similar to this.

My Strategy

When I am working on my grocery list and meal planning, I make sure to set aside about 15-20 minutes. I’ve been doing this so long, now, that I have my process down pretty well.

  1. I pull out my grocery list, my cookbooks, my recipes on my phone, and any I found online to try on the computer
  2. Make a list of a few meals I want to make
  3. Write down all the ingredients for the meals
  4. See what meals will have leftover ingredients (like that half onion)
  5. Find recipes that will use those ingredients
  6. Write the ingredients I need for those also

Once I have my list of meals and my grocery list written out, I head into the kitchen to see what I have. To make sure I don’t miss anything we may need, I write it all down, then cross off what I have. Sometimes I still have some garlic from last week or half a block of cheddar cheese in the refrigerator. If those are things I need, I go ahead and cross them off the list. This helps with saving money since I don’t buy what I don’t need. It saves food because I am not throwing out extras, and saves time from having to find it at the store.

What You Need

Using my method, you don’t need much to meal plan. I have an led writing board that I put magnets on the back of to hang on my refrigerator. This is where I write down the meal options that we have for the upcoming weeks. It’s not necessary, and a piece of paper would be perfectly fine. I was given this for Christmas years ago, so it’s gotten a lot of use, and I am not wasting more paper every week.

The only other thing I need, besides my favorite recipes, is a piece of paper for my grocery list. You can use lined paper, or you can download my entire meal planning kit here:

15 thoughts on “Step-by-Step Guide to Easy Meal Planning

  1. Everyone gets an input when I meal plan. Love to mal plan because I don’t run out or have to much of something and it goes to waste.

  2. I’m just like you, I love meal planning and I find it so satisfying that we save money time and energy! My strategy is very similar to yours. Every sunday we make a plan write down the meals and then make the grocery list. I dont pull out recipes but I do keep notes of ideas and interesting meals though!

  3. We meal plan but we need to be as organized like you! It’s just the 2 of us so I guess that makes it simpler (only 2 people fighting about what they want to eat lol) and we plan out our meals for 2 weeks. Saves a lot of money and trips to the grocery that’s for sure.

  4. This is definitely something I need to get better at. When we meal plan, we save so much money bc we don’t eat out. Thanks for the tips. 🙂

  5. These are great tips. But I swear meal planning doesn’t really work for my family. I had tried it several times but I can’t stick to the meal plan and that’s because no one’s going to eat. We kind of don’t have a regular eating schedule. Like my hub would miss breakfast because he’ll sleep in. Maybe I’ll just do meal planning for myself.

  6. I really struggle with meal planning. But I’ve found a way that semi works for me. I tend to only plan three days at a time. It’s also easier that I don’t have to plan my husbands lunches!

  7. I also have a board on Pinterest I Pin too and refer back too for new recipes to try out. I like to create recipes based on stuff we regularly buy instead of purchasing all new items I might never use again.

  8. I meal plan for about 2 weeks at a time. I love it. It saves us so much money being about to buy larger packages and using it throughout the 2-week time frame instead of buying just enough per meal.

  9. I try to try to find meals that use a few of the same ingredients but have different tastes. I can buy it in bulk and save more money.

  10. I love hearing your strategy and I’m feeling inspired to get better at meal planning! I tend to visit the grocery store multiple times a week based on what leftovers we have, but putting a little more forethought into it would definitely save me some time.

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