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How to meal plan for the week

Hey there, fellow home cooks! Meal planning can be a game-changer when it comes to making your life easier, saving money, and reducing food waste.

I’m here to share some tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years to help you create a weekly meal plan that works for you and your family. Let’s dive right in!

How to meal plan for the week


Meal planning involves selecting meals for the week and creating a shopping list. It saves time, reduces food waste, and promotes healthier eating. Plan around your schedule, dietary needs, and budget. Take inventory of what you have, choose simple meals with few ingredients, and select foods that can be repurposed. Finally, make a shopping list and stick to it. Meal planning is an effective tool for eating well and feeling your best.

Book and pen for meal planning with fresh vegetables around it.

Start by Taking Inventory of Your Pantry, Fridge, and Freezer

Before we even think about what to cook, let’s take a step back and see what we already have on hand.

This is something I learned the hard way when I used to buy groceries without checking what I already had at home.

Trust me, nobody needs three jars of pickles, and I’m speaking from personal experience!

So, grab a pen and paper or use your favorite note-taking app, and let’s take inventory of what’s hiding in your pantry, fridge, and freezer.

This doesn’t have to be a detailed list, just a quick overview of the main ingredients you have available.

This step is essential because it will help you plan meals around the ingredients you already have, which ultimately saves you time and money.

While you’re at it, keep an eye out for any items that are close to their expiration date. We’ll want to prioritize using these up to avoid food waste.

Some foods such as fruits and vegetables don’t have expiration dates. You and find out how to tell if carrots are bad or how to tell if green beans are bad and more in my related blog posts

Plus, it’s always a fun challenge to get creative with ingredients that are about to expire!

Once you have your list, it’s time to move on to the next step: getting inspired. I know it can be hard to come up with meal ideas, especially after a long day, but that’s where the magic of meal planning comes in.

Finding Meal Inspiration and Choosing Recipes

I get it, the idea of sitting down and planning meals for a whole week can feel overwhelming. But don’t worry, we’ve got this!

The trick is to find some reliable sources of inspiration to make the process enjoyable and stress-free. Here are some of my favorite places to look for meal ideas:

  1. Recipe Websites and Blogs: There’s a wealth of amazing home cooks sharing their delicious creations online. Bookmark some of your favorite sites and browse through them when you’re planning your meals. Look for recipes that use the ingredients you already have on hand, or ones that require just a few additional items.
  2. Cookbooks and Magazines: Lots of people love flipping through the pages for inspiration. If you have a collection of cookbooks or food magazines, this is a perfect time to put them to use. Take note of any recipes that catch your eye and add them to your meal plan.
  3. Social Media: Platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and TikTok are brimming with meal ideas. Search for hashtags like #mealprep, #easyrecipes, or #weeknightdinner to find mouth-watering options that fit your needs.
  4. Theme Nights: This is a fun way to keep your meal plan interesting and make decision-making a breeze. Try assigning themes to each night, like Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, or Slow Cooker Sunday. This can help narrow down your recipe choices and make the process more enjoyable.

Once you’ve gathered some meal inspiration, it’s time to choose the recipes for your meal plan. I recommend starting with around four to five recipes per week to avoid getting overwhelmed.

Remember to take into consideration the ingredients you already have and any dietary preferences or restrictions.

Create Your Meal Plan and Grocery List

Now that you have your recipes, it’s time to create your meal plan. You can use a physical planner, a digital calendar, or a meal planning app—whatever works best for you.

Write down which recipes you’ll be making on which days, and don’t forget to account for leftovers! I like to plan for at least one or two leftover nights per week to give myself a break from cooking.

Once your meal plan is set, it’s time to make your grocery list. Go through each recipe and note down any ingredients you need to buy.

Be sure to double-check your pantry, fridge, and freezer inventory to avoid buying duplicates.

Armed with your meal plan and grocery list, you’re ready to hit the store and start cooking up a storm.

Trust me, you’ll thank yourself later when you breeze through the week with a well-thought-out meal plan in hand. Happy cooking!

Steps for Meal Planning Details
1. Take inventory of your pantry, fridge, and freezer Write down the main ingredients you have available and prioritize using up items that are close to their expiration date to avoid food waste.
2. Find meal inspiration Look for inspiration from cookbooks, Pinterest, food blogs, and meal planning apps to create a diverse and exciting meal plan for the week.
3. Create your meal plan Decide how many meals you want to plan for, choose your recipes based on the ingredients you have on hand, make a grocery list, and prep in advance to save time during the week.
4. Stay flexible and be willing to make changes Have backup meals or easy options on hand to use in a pinch, and be willing to make changes to your plan as needed.

Prep Your Ingredients and Save Time in the Kitchen

I know it’s tempting to throw everything in the fridge and call it a day, but taking some time to prep your ingredients can make a world of difference in your daily cooking routine.

Trust me, when you’ve got a hungry family waiting for dinner, you’ll be grateful that you’ve already chopped those onions!

Here are a few of my favorite prep tips to save time during the week:

  1. Wash and chop veggies: Get all your veggies cleaned and chopped in advance, and store them in airtight containers or zip-top bags. This way, they’re ready to go when it’s time to cook. Check out my post on how to cut an onion and how to cut an avocado for more tips.
  2. Marinate meats: If you have recipes that call for marinated meat, mix up the marinade and let the meat soak up those flavors in the fridge. This not only saves time but also helps to create tender, flavorful dishes.
  3. Pre-cook grains: Things like rice, quinoa, and pasta can be cooked in advance and stored in the fridge for a few days. This makes assembling meals much faster, especially when you’re short on time. Learn how to reheat rice properly so that it doesn’t dry out.
  4. Portion-out snacks: This isn’t exactly meal-related, but having snacks pre-portioned and ready to grab can save you time and help with portion control. Divide up nuts, fruits, or veggies into individual containers or bags for easy snacking throughout the week.

Be Flexible and Embrace Leftovers

Meal planning doesn’t have to be set in stone. Sometimes life happens and plans change. Maybe you’re not in the mood for the recipe you planned on Wednesday or you get a last-minute invitation to dinner at a friend’s house.

That’s okay! Be willing to adjust your meal plan as needed.

Embrace leftovers as well. If you have extra food from one meal, don’t let it go to waste. Incorporate it into another meal, or simply schedule a leftover night where everyone gets to pick their favorite dish from earlier in the week.

This not only reduces waste but also gives you a break from cooking.

Frequently asked questions about how to meal plan for the week

The time it takes to meal plan depends on the individual and the level of detail they prefer. For some, it may take only 30 minutes to an hour to plan out a week’s worth of meals. Others may prefer to take more time to research recipes and plan out meals in more detail. The key is to find a system that works for you and your lifestyle.

Yes! Meal planning can help you eat healthier by allowing you to plan out your meals in advance and choose recipes that are balanced and nutritious. By taking control of your meals, you can also avoid the temptation of unhealthy takeout or fast food options.

Meal planning can save you money by helping you avoid buying duplicates or unnecessary items at the grocery store and allowing you to plan meals around ingredients that are already in your pantry or freezer. By planning ahead, you can also take advantage of sales and discounts at the grocery store and avoid expensive last-minute takeout orders.


By following these steps and making meal planning a part of your routine, you’ll find that it becomes much easier to manage your time in the kitchen, stick to a budget, and enjoy a variety of delicious home-cooked meals.

So, give it a try and see how meal planning can simplify your life and help you become a more confident, organized home cook. Happy meal planning!

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