Meal Planning 101: Your Guide to Easily Create Delicious & Affordable Meals

Meal Planning 101: Your Guide to Easily Create Delicious & Affordable Meals

If you’ve never done meal planning before or it’s been a while, you might be intimidated. I have broken down meal planning into 4 easy steps. So you can jump right in and be on your way to saving money on food! 

Step 1: Take inventory

food inventory, meal planning

Take an inventory of what you already have! This cuts down on the amount of food you will need to buy. It also can help guide you on which meals you want to plan for the week. I’ll get inspiration based on an ingredient I have a lot of or a side I have that goes good with a dish.

Step 2: Plan your meals

meal planning

Start with the planning meals you got inspiration from based on your inventory. After that, fill in the blanks for the rest of the week. It’s up to you whether you want to plan for every meal or just do dinners. Here are a few tips to simplify the process: 

  • Don’t try to make every meal from scratch. Include at least 2 meals during the week that includes leftovers, a quick fix (frozen pizza, quesadillas, etc), or even take out. This will give you flexibility for those nights you are tired and do not want to cook. 
  • Have theme nights to cut down on decision fatigue each week. This could be meatless Mondays, taco Tuesdays, Friday’s pizza, or whatever you’re into! 
  • Research what produce is in season. This will cut down on your food costs for fruits and veggies. For a list of in season produce go to SNAP-ed’s Seasonal Produce Guide.

Once you have planned your meals you’re going to make, try to have the meal list visible. Keep it on your desk at work or on your fridge. The more available it is, the more likely you will stick to it! 

Step 3: Go grocery shopping

grocery list, meal planning

Make a list of food you do not already have in your kitchen. Stick to your list as much as possible. If this is tough for you, you may want to consider grocery delivery or ordering online with curbside pickup. Most stores are offering those options these days. 

If you are using certain ingredients frequently, consider buying in bulk. This helps save on overall costs. Buying in bulk helps me have the items I frequently use on hand and reduces grocery store visits. For more tips on how to save money on groceries read 10 Tips to Save Money on Groceries.

Step 4: Prep what you can

vegetables, meal planning, meal prepping

If you have time over the weekend, prep some of your meals ahead of time. Even if you cannot prep the whole meal, simple steps can be huge time savers. Here are a few ways to prep your meals: 

  • Chop your veggies. Have them in the fridge or freezer to use later. I try to have chopped peppers and onions in my freezer at all times. I throw them on pizza, omelets and soups. 
  • Pre-cook and shred your chicken. I would recommend doing this only 1-2 days before using it. Throw your chicken in a pot with boiling water or in the crock/instant pot with some broth. Shredded chicken can be used in enchiladas, soups, salads and more.  
  • Premix spices. Have a meal with a lot of spices in it? Put together a spice blend with the ingredients ahead of time, or make a bigger batch to be used later. 

That’s it! Use these four steps and you will be a meal planning master before you know it. Did you try any of my tips?  Let me know in the comments below!