Simple Meal Planning for Beginners


Preparing healthy, balanced meals is important. Simplicity and efficiency are also critical to keep a house running smoothly. By the time my daughter was eating solid food, I knew that simple meal planning was going to be the best way to accomplish all of these goals.

Reducing Food Waste

There’s nothing worse than throwing away spoiled food. The time spent shopping for and cleaning it is wasted. The money spent is wasted. And it’s a resource that could have fed someone, if we weren’t so busy we forgot to eat it.

Simple meal planning has helped my family reduce our food waste and make the most out of our grocery budget. We have a very specific list of what we need for meals and we stick to it.

Creating a Plan

Meal planning can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Breaking down simple meal planning into steps makes it much easier to achieve.

  1. Start by making a 7×5 “Month of Dinners” chart.
  2. In the top row, write the days of the week. To make meal planning easier and more balanced, give each day a theme or protein specification. In our house: Sunday is grill food, Monday is chicken, Taco Tuesday, slow cooker Wednesday, pasta Thursday, breakfast-for-dinner Friday, and Saturday is comfort food.
  3. Once you assign categories to your days, ask your family to share their favorite meals. Make sure your weeks are balanced so you aren’t eating chicken kabobs on Sunday, baked chicken on Monday, chicken tacos on Tuesday, slow cooker teriyaki chicken on Wednesday, and chicken parmesan on Thursday. Variety is the spice of life, after all.
  4. Once you have your dinners planned out, now it’s time to create a weekly shopping list. This takes a lot of effort up front, but it’ll save you so much time and money when you use it for future months. I like to grocery shop on Tuesday, so my weekly shopping list includes the ingredients for Tuesday dinner through the following Monday. I make four separate shopping lists, one for each week, and start by listing all of the ingredients for each dinner. Don’t forget condiments and side dishes. Finally, add in other things you need for the week to prepare breakfast, lunch, and snacks. If you want to make your grocery shopping experience extra speedy, keep your list in the order you’ll find things at the store.
  5. Once you’ve created your monthly shopping list, you’re well on your way to simple meal planning. Now you can enjoy a month with 30 different dinners. Simply repeat and enjoy!

Adjust for Seasonality

Once you have your basic monthly meal plan ready, you can adjust for seasonal food. My family’s summer meal plan is much lighter, with more salads and chilled meals. In the fall, our side dishes include more squash and sweet potatoes. Our winter meal plan includes more soups and crockpot meals.

We’ve been using a simple meal plan for a few years now, so we have a pretty solid plan that we rotate out every quarter. The initial time spent has paid off in energy and money saved over the years. Good luck with your meal planning journey!


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