How to Meal Plan in 5 Steps.

Until about three years ago, I had never even heard of meal planning. It wasn't until I did The Whole 30 in 2014 that I became a disciple of this technique, which is absolutely guaranteed to save you time, money, and brain cells. 

The idea behind meal planning is that you carve out 15 minutes at the beginning of your week to (you guessed it!) plan your meals. I used to do one of two things: make multiple trips to the store (time consuming) OR make one trip, but just kind of grab whatever I thought I'd need (expensive and inefficient). By planning meals at the beginning of the week, I save myself hundreds of dollars a year, make my trip short and succinct, and, to my surprise, enjoyable. 

Walk with me.

I start by deciding what I want to make for dinner. This particular week, we're eating in all 5 nights. Other weeks, depending on what we have going on, I may only plan for 3 or 4 nights - it varies. Make it work for you! 

A note: I don't formally plan breakfasts and dinners, but I do include ingredients for what I know we eat every morning (eggs, granola, yogurt, berries) and what Jordan will need for lunch (bread, cheese, apples, etc.) on my list for the week. 

I have a little spiral-bound notebook that I do this in each week. In the top margin, write your name in the upper right-hand corner. 

...that was a reflex from teaching. Sorry. 

1. In the top margin, I write what we'll be eating: 


2. I create my categories. Here are the codes I use:

"P" for produce;
"D" for dairy;
"M" for meat;
"C&B" for canned and boxed;
"H" for household;
"F" for frozen. 

I learned this from a meal-planning service years ago - make your grocery list according to sections of the store *mind = blown*. That way, you aren't running back and forth between aisles because you listed "broccoli" right after "chips" and "eggs." Listing by category allows you to get everything on your list the first time you're in that part of the store - then you can move on! It's a game-changer. 

3. I take a look back at Monday night's dinner. What do I already have in the pantry? I've got several of the ingredients already covered. So - what do I need from the grocery? 

Ignore the "berries" and "grapes" in the "P" section. I got a little carried away. I will not, in fact, put either of those things in my chili. 

Ignore the "berries" and "grapes" in the "P" section. I got a little carried away. I will not, in fact, put either of those things in my chili. 

4. I'm now ready to move on to Tuesday's dinner. I list what I'll need to get. 


5. Then I complete the process for the week's dinners, also adding in anything "extra" that doesn't have to do with dinner (La Croix, dog food, eggs, etc.). PS - I know eggs are not dairy, but they're in the dairy section


That's it! 

Of course, we have some things in the house that will be used for our meals/snacks that aren't on this list since they're already in the pantry/fridge. But that's the beauty of meal planning: you don't buy anything you already have, because you check as you go to see what you need.

Going to the grocery used to be a slog for me. Ever since meal planning came into my life, I take my neat little list, pop in my headphones, listen to a podcast, and enjoy. Everything is laid out for me! It makes the process so. much. more. enjoyable. 

And if we can make the mundane not just tolerable, but enjoyable, then haven't we won? 

So. Do you meal plan? What's your method?? I love learning tricks from people who also do this. 

Happy eating!