Simplify Meal Planning with Our Easy-to-Follow Guide

Are you tired of staring into the fridge after a long day, not sure what’s for dinner? The average American adult makes 35,000 choices daily, many about food.1 By planning meals, you can make your week smoother, cut down on food waste, and eat healthier.

Planning ahead and buying only what you need can reduce food waste. The average British family throws away about £800 in food each year. Items like bread, bananas, and milk are often wasted.1 Meal planning helps avoid throwing money away, ensuring your groceries get used.

Meal planning makes healthier eating easier too. A plan can steer you away from unhealthy, ready-to-eat or takeout meals.1 With a plan, you choose nutritious homemade meals that fit your family’s dietary needs.

Meal planning also reduces stress and decision fatigue at dinner. The constant worry of what to cook can be draining without a plan.1 A good meal plan means less worry, a balanced meal on the table, and everyone getting involved.2

Key Takeaways

  • Meal planning can reduce food waste and save money by ensuring you only buy what you need.
  • Planning meals in advance makes it easier to choose healthier, homemade options over costly takeout or pre-made meals.
  • A structured meal plan reduces stress and decision fatigue at mealtimes, taking the guesswork out of what to cook.
  • Involving the whole family in meal planning can promote healthier eating habits and teach valuable life skills.
  • Utilizing a meal planning template and rotating through a set of favorite meals can simplify the process.

Benefits of Meal Planning

The average British family throws away about £800 of edible food yearly. This includes bread, bananas, and milk. These are the most wasted foods. When you plan meals and buy only what you need, you’ll waste less and save money.3 By not making last-minute food choices, you’ll avoid the urge to order takeout or get costly ready meals, which helps cut spending.4

Reduce Food Waste and Save Money

With a meal plan for the week, you’ll have every ingredient ready. This means you’re more likely to cook at home, choosing healthier options. Making your meals is generally better for you than eating from shops. Plus, you can pick the best snacks instead of the easiest.3 Meal planning adapts to any family members’ dietary needs or limitations.

Easier to Eat Healthier

Not having a plan can make making dinner stressful after a long day. Scouring the fridge or freezer for ideas ends up in choosing the least healthy option or looking at takeout menus.3 Having a meal plan for the week means dinner decisions are already made. This lowers stress and helps you serve a nutritious meal.

Less Stress and Decision Fatigue

Create a Simple Meal Planning Template

meal planning template

Start with a list of your family’s favorite meals. You don’t need to worry about the order now. Just jot down meals everyone likes, aiming for at least 35 ideas. This gives you a 5-week variety. And, don’t forget to ask family members for their input.5

Gather Your Family’s Favorite Meals

Once you have 35 meal ideas, put them on a template for 5 weeks. Think about the time it takes to prepare each meal. It’s good to have only 2 challenging meals every week.

Also, consider your family’s schedule. Pick quicker meals for busy nights. You can cook these meals in any weekly order you want.5

Arrange Meals in a 5-Week Rotation

Don’t forget about side dishes and veggies to complete your meals. Make a list of your favorite sides and vegetables. This ensures your meal plan is balanced and varied throughout the week.

Doing this makes grocery shopping and cooking much smoother.5

Include Side Dishes and Vegetables

Tips for Streamlining Meal Planning

Planning week by week is easier than planning for longer periods.6 A seven-day plan helps you stay organized. It’s not too long to make you feel swamped.

Make sure you only plan seven days’ worth of meals at one time.

Plan for One Week at a Time

Keep it simple. Add quick and easy recipes to your meal plan.6 Include 4-5 meals that take no more than 45 minutes to make every week. You can try complex dishes only 1-2 times during the same period.

Prepare Simple, Quick Meals

Trying out new recipes is fun but time-consuming.7 Only pick one new dish to try each week. Stick to meals your family loves for the other days. This makes planning meals easier and smoother.

Limit New Recipes per Week

Use a Meal Planning Printable

Meal planning printables or templates make planning meals easier. Look for a one that lets you jot down the week’s dinners. It should also have sections for breakfast, lunch, and snacks.8 You can keep it on a clipboard for easy shopping.

The printables come in different styles, like vertical or horizontal. They also have fun colors, such as teal, pink, or gray, and include features like food trackers and notes.8 You can choose to start your week on Sunday or Monday. This caters to different family needs and makes meal planning more flexible.8

People usually plan their meals for the week on Fridays. If you don’t plan, you might spend more time and money at the store.5 Planning meals is good for you because it lowers stress and saves cash. It’s best to plan meals for weekdays and relax about meals on weekends.5 Try to use 3 things from your pantry or freezer in your meal plan.5

When planning, pick meals you can make ahead in big batches. Things like stews, chilis, and pasta are great for this.5 If you’re not into preparing meals ahead, go for things you can cook in 30 minutes or use a slow cooker.5 It’s important to choose meals that are both tasty and easy to fit into your schedule.5 Putting them in a planner helps make sure you have enough variety.5

Make a shopping list by checking recipes against what you already have.5 The last step is to go shopping with your list in hand.5 You can use an Excel or Google Sheets version of the meal planning printable. It’s great for sharing with others and getting interesting meal ideas.5 Remember, plans might need to change, and it’s okay to be flexible.5

Shop Efficiently

grocery shopping

Shopping for meals wisely is key. Pick one source for recipes each week. This could be a cookbook, a website, or an app. Having everything in one spot makes it easier to cook.9

Limit Grocery Stores to Two

Try to shop at only two grocery stores each week. It saves time and keeps you focused. Many find it helpful to buy most things at a discount store first. Then, they visit a bigger store quickly.9

Shop on the Same Day Each Week

Set a weekly grocery shopping day for a steady routine. This makes it easier to plan and shop. You won’t buy too much or too little. Plus, having everything ready when cooking is a big time-saver.9

Meal Planning

Meal planning takes time at first, but it’s worth it.5 Start by picking your family’s top meals and organize them over 5 weeks. Make shopping lists from this. It makes your week smoother.

Put in the Work Upfront

Having a meal plan is great, but be ready to change if needed.5 Adjust when your plans or tastes shift. The aim is to make mealtime easy and fun, not stressful.

Stay Flexible and Realistic

Planning meals saves cash and cuts down on waste.5 Look at your calendar to consider meals needed for events or workdays. Also, shop your pantry first to use what you have, saving cash.5 Big dishes like stews and chilis are perfect for meal prep, and quick meals under 30 minutes work well for busy nights.5 It’s crucial to pick recipes everyone will like to keep your planning smooth.5 A weekly food plan ensures you mix it up and stick to your budget.5 Lists help you buy only what you need and stay on track.5 Remember, meal planning should fit your life, so be ready to tweak it.5 Involving your family can make it more fun and successful.5 Technology can make the whole process easier, with apps and templates available.5

Meal planning means you’ll save time, cash, and food.10 Label meals before freezing to find them easily later. Make sure to eat fridge leftovers within three days.10 Dishes like pies and stews do well in the freezer.10 Choose meals that use similar ingredients to make cooking simpler.10 Theme nights, for example, Meatless Monday, can add fun to your menu.10 A three-week plan gives you a good structure to follow. It includes balanced meals and snacks for each day.10

Get the Family Involved

Ask your family for their favorite meals. Include their choices in the meal plan.11 This way, everyone will be happy with the meals. They’re more likely to enjoy what’s cooked.

Ask for Input and Favorites

Let your kids help pick meals and make the shopping list. They can even join in cooking.11 Doing this not only makes them a part of the process. It also teaches them important skills for life.

Let Kids Help Plan and Cook

Working together on meal plans makes everyone feel involved.11 This is especially true for kids. It helps them love food and learn how to cook as they grow.

Leverage Meal Planning Services

Meal planning might not be your favorite task, but a meal planning service can change that. These services give you ready-made meal plans, shopping lists, and recipes that match your eating habits. They save time and help you cook meals the whole family will love.12

Doing meal plans is linked to eating healthier, which can reduce obesity.12 Tools like meal planning software let you quickly access thousands of recipes and meal plans. They also show you nutritional info, saving time and making planning easier.12

Healthie’s Starter Plan offers basic tools like scheduling and telehealth for free.12 Plus, they’re working with Living Plate Rx to include a dietitian’s meal planning tool in their service.12

For wellness businesses, adding meal planning services can grow their offerings. This includes making personal meal plans or plans for groups.12

App Recommendation Features Pricing
Noom Weight loss
  • Daily lessons
  • Personalized coaching
  • Color-coded food system
Varies up to $70/month13
Cronometer Meal prep
  • Tracks 84+ nutrients
  • 700,000+ food database
  • Custom meal creation
$10/month for paid version13

Fortune favors Noom for weight loss, rating it 3.9 out of 5.13 It offers lessons each day and one-on-one advice through personal coaching.13 The app also uses a color system to easily show the health value of foods.13

Cronometer tops the list for meal prep and kicks off with a free 30-day trial.13 It can track up to 84 nutrients, with a huge database of over 700,000 foods.13 Even its free version lets you create your custom meals, which is great if you’re specific about your nutrition.13


Starting meal planning might look hard, but it gets easy with the right tips. It becomes a great way to organize your meals. Use a 5-week meal plan that rotates14. This, along with a shopping list, will save you time and money. It also helps your family eat better. Trends show a change in the American diet from making food at home to eating out between 1977–78 and 1994–9614. Plus, studies say that poor kids who drink a lot of high-energy drinks are likely to keep doing so over time14.

Let your family help with meal planning. Feel free to change your plan whenever you need. A study found that planning healthy family meals can fight obesity through a trial14. With a bit of effort upfront, meal planning can really simplify things. Knowing how to cook is key to making good food choices14. Also, teaching cooking through community programs can boost how people feel about cooking and their food choices according to research14.

There are meal planning services that can make your life easier. Follow the steps in this guide to plan your meals easily. This way, you’ll have more time and less stress. And, you’ll get to enjoy eating nutritious meals with your family more often.


What are the benefits of meal planning?

Meal planning makes you throw away less food and spend less money. It also helps you eat better. And it makes dinners less stressful by cutting down on decisions.

How do I create a simple meal planning template?

First, pick your family’s top meals. Then, put them in order for a 5-week rotation. Don’t forget about side dishes and veggies to make it a complete plan.

What are some tips for streamlining the meal planning process?

Try to plan for just one week at a time. Go for meals that are quick and easy to make. Also, keep the new recipes to a minimum each week.

How can a meal planning printable help simplify the process?

A printable planner with space for dinners, breakfasts, and more makes things neat. It’s also handy to take when you go shopping.

How can I shop efficiently for my meal plan?

Stick to one recipe source each week. Also, try to use only two stores. Pick the same day to do your shopping weekly to get into a regular rhythm.

How do I stay flexible with my meal plan?

It’s good to have a plan, but don’t worry about changing it up. You can do this if your plans switch or you want to try something new. The main thing is to make a plan that fits your family’s needs.

How can I get my family involved in meal planning?

Let your family help choose meals and make the grocery list. They can even help in the kitchen. This way, everyone eats something they like. Plus, it teaches useful skills.

What if meal planning still feels like a chore?

Think about getting a meal planning service. They offer plans, shopping lists, and recipes to suit your diet and tastes. It could make things a lot easier for you.

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