Meal Planning 101 – What you need to know!

Do you need help to plan healthy meals? Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered! These easy meal-planning tips will help you create nutritious meals without spending hours in the kitchen. Meal planning can be an effective way to ensure that you’re eating nutritious food throughout the week. 

Meal planning doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it can be easier than you think. With these simple tips, you can easily plan delicious, healthy meals for your family.

What is Meal Planning 101?

Meal planning means coming up with a smart way to save time, money, and energy while making meals that your family likes. There’s no single right way to do it; the important thing is finding what works best for you and your family. Meal planning can include different methods, like making a weekly or monthly meal plan, using a slow cooker, preparing food in advance, cooking a bunch at once, or even planning out what you’ll eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The main goal is to make it easier to decide what to eat each week before you go shopping, so it’s a helpful and simple tool instead of something that stresses you out.

Where to engage in meal planning

Some people like to make their meal plans themselves. You can do this by writing it down on paper, keeping a food diary or a planner, or even jotting it down on random bits of paper. Alternatively, you can use digital methods like spreadsheets, online calendars, or note-taking apps.

If you don’t want to make your own plan, you can buy one. These plans come in different forms. You can get pre-made plans sent to your email, use special apps, or join websites that give you access to plans.

At Real Plans, we prefer our own system, of course. We have both a computer and a phone app. They give you plans for as many meals as you want and let you add your own cooking ideas. Plus, you can save your favorite recipes to use again later.

When to engage in meal planning

You can do meal planning as far ahead as you want, or you can do it without much planning ahead of time. For example, if you go to a farmer’s market often, you can get fresh ingredients for the next day’s meal. Most people like to plan for one to two weeks. They might plan on a Friday, shop on Saturday, and cook on Sunday. But you can also plan for a whole month if that works better for you.

Different Types of Meal Planning

Meal planning is a flexible idea that can work for different preferences, lifestyles, and diets. There are various ways to do it. Here are some common ones:

  1. Weekly Meal Planning: This is when you plan meals for a whole week. You pick recipes, make a menu, list what you need to buy, and prepare some stuff for the week.
  2. Batch Cooking: Batch cooking means making a lot of one dish at once, then dividing it into smaller portions for later. It’s good for busy people who want ready-made meals.
  3. Once-a-Month Cooking: Also called freezer cooking. You cook a month’s worth of meals in one day, freeze them, and eat them over the month. It saves time but takes a lot of effort.
  4. Theme Nights: Each day of the week has a theme, like “Taco Tuesday” or “Italian Night.” It makes meal planning fun and adds variety.
  5. Ingredient-Based Planning: Instead of recipes, you pick key ingredients to make meals. For example, you use chicken, quinoa, and veggies in different ways.
  6. Special Diet Planning: If you have a special diet, like vegan or keto, you plan meals that fit your diet.
  7. No-Cook or Minimal Cooking: Some people prefer raw or quick meals like salads or smoothies to save cooking time.
  8. Flexible Planning: You make a list of meal ideas for the week but don’t assign them to specific days. You decide what to eat each day.
  9. Budget Planning: This saves money by using affordable ingredients and minimizing waste.

Meal planning can be adapted to fit your life and needs, making it a useful tool for anyone looking to eat well and save time and money.

Why Meal Planning Matters

  1. Health and Nutrition

One big reason to try meal planning is because it’s good for your health. When you plan your meals ahead of time, you have more control over what you eat. That means you can make sure you eat a variety of foods that give your body the stuff it needs. Whether you want to lose weight, get stronger, or just stay healthy, meal planning can help you reach your goals.

  1. Budget-Friendly

Planning your meals can save you a lot of money on groceries. When you plan, you write down what you need for the week, so you don’t buy things you don’t need on a whim. You can also buy things when they’re on sale, get bigger quantities for less money, and use your ingredients wisely. All of this adds up to more money in your pocket in the end.

  1. Time-Saving

A good meal plan can save you a lot of time during the week. You won’t have to stare at the fridge, trying to figure out what to make for dinner. Instead, you’ll have a clear plan, and getting ready to cook will be easy.

  1. Reducing Food Waste

One of the best things about meal planning is that it can help you waste less food. When you plan your meals, you only buy what you’re going to use, so you throw away less food. This is not just good for the environment but also saves you money.

Getting Started with Meal Planning

Now that we’ve established why meal planning is essential, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of how to get started. Here’s a step-by-step guide to meal planning:

Start with a Plan.

First things first, start by creating a list of what you’ll need to make your meals. This includes ingredients, equipment, and any other supplies you might need. Then, take inventory of your pantry and refrigerator. Make sure you have everything you need before you begin cooking.

Choose Your Recipes

Now, pick the recipes you want to make for the week. Think about what you like to eat, how good you are at cooking, and how much time you can spare. It’s smart to have some simple recipes for when you’re busy and fancier ones for when you have more time.

Make a Shopping List

From the recipes you picked, make a list of what you need to buy. Say exactly how much you need so you don’t buy too much. Sort your list into groups like fruits and veggies, milk and cheese, meat, and things you always have in your kitchen to make shopping faster.

Shop Smart.

Are you shopping for your meal plan? Once you have your list ready, shop smart. If you buy something new, consider buying organic versions of foods that aren’t typically considered “healthy.” Also, when shopping at grocery stores, check out the produce section. It’s often cheaper than meat and dairy products.

Stick to the Plan

Once you have your meal plan and ingredients ready, try to follow the plan as much as you can. This way, you won’t end up ordering takeout or eating unhealthy snacks at the last minute. But also, keep in mind that it’s okay to change things if you need to.

Eat Well.

Eating well isn’t just about what you eat; it’s also about how you prepare food. You should ensure that half of your plate is filled with vegetables and fruits. Try to avoid eating processed foods as much as possible. And, if you’re trying to lose weight, keep an eye on portion sizes.

Best meal plans websites.

Be Prepared.

If you’re looking for ways to save money while still eating well, consider making a few simple changes to your diet. First, start by cutting out unhealthy snacks. Instead, opt for healthier options like fruit, nuts, and yogurt. Second, add more whole grains to your diet. Third, choose lean proteins instead of fatty meats. Fourth, cut back on sugar. Finally, drink plenty of water.

Embrace Leftovers

It’s okay to plan for extra food that you can eat later. In fact, you can purposely make more food than you need for today so that you have easy meals for tomorrow. This can help you save time and make less trash.

Evaluate and Adjust

At the end of the week, think about how your meal plan worked out. Did it help you reach your goals? Did you like the food you made? Use what you learn to change your plan for the next week.

Tips for Successful Meal Planning

Now that you’ve got the basics down, let’s explore some helpful tips to make you a meal planning pro:

  1. Cook in Batches: Think about making extra food on weekends or when you have free time. Make more servings of meals and freeze them in single portions. This can be a real help on busy weekdays when you don’t want to cook from scratch.
  2. Get Creative with Leftovers: Don’t throw away leftovers. Try making new dishes with them. For instance, you can use last night’s roasted veggies in a tasty salad or frittata.
  3. Theme Nights: Make meal planning fun by picking certain nights for themes like “Taco Tuesday” or “Italian Night.” This adds variety and makes meals more exciting.
  4. Use One-Pot and One-Pan Recipes: Make your cooking simpler by using recipes where you cook everything in one pot or pan. These meals are not only easy but also mean less cleanup.
  5. Stock Up Your Pantry: Keep your pantry filled with basics like rice, pasta, canned beans, and spices. Having these on hand means you can make a meal even if you’re running low on fresh ingredients.
  6. Plan for Snacks: Don’t forget about snacks, especially if you’re busy or have kids. Prepare healthy snacks ahead of time, like chopped fruit or yogurt parfaits, to beat hunger between meals.
  7. Involve Your Family: If you have a family, get them involved in meal planning. Let each family member pick a meal or give ideas for the week. It gets everyone excited about mealtime.
  8. Try New Ingredients: Use meal planning as a chance to try new things. Challenge yourself to make one new dish each week to keep things interesting and fresh.


Meal planning is like a useful tool that can change how you deal with food and make your daily life easier. When you have clear goals, plan things carefully, and use the right stuff, you can enjoy lots of good things from meal planning. It can make you healthier, save money, and reduce stress.

Just remember, getting good at meal planning takes time. If you have a hard time at the beginning or things don’t go perfectly, don’t give up. If you keep trying and are open to new things, you’ll get really good at meal planning. You’ll love making your own meals, and you’ll feel in control of what you eat. So, get ready, get your tools ready, and start your meal planning adventure. Your future self will be grateful. Enjoy your cooking!


Is meal planning suitable for people with busy schedules?

Absolutely! Meal planning is particularly beneficial for those with busy lives. By setting aside a bit of time to plan your meals, create shopping lists, and do some prep work, you can save time during the week. It allows you to have nutritious, homemade meals even on your busiest days.

Can meal planning accommodate dietary restrictions and preferences?

Yes, meal planning can easily accommodate dietary restrictions and preferences. Whether you’re following a vegetarian, gluten-free, low-carb, or any other special diet, you can tailor your meal plans to meet your specific needs. There are plenty of recipes and resources available to support various dietary choices.

How can I prevent meal planning from becoming monotonous with repetitive meals?

Meal planning can actually add variety to your diet when done right. To prevent monotony, regularly introduce new recipes and cuisines into your plan. Theme nights, like “Mexican Monday” or “Italian Thursday,” can also make meal planning more exciting. Don’t hesitate to experiment with new ingredients and cooking techniques to keep things fresh and interesting.

Recipes for Weight Loss & Diet | EatingWell

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