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Tips and Tricks for Better Meal Planning



I am going to keep it real with you here today. When it comes to the kitchen, I think I'm an amazing cook. I grew up in a family that just loves cooking and my mom cooked every single day of her life and never missed a meal. I'm talking, breakfast, lunch and dinner. She taught me how to cook and I can cook almost any meal from scratch, but when it comes to baking, I'm not that great. However when it comes to feeding my family, there have been days when I'm just too lazy to cook and would much prefer to order in. I am not good at meal planning and today my good friend Maurine Anderson is going to share with you some tips and tricks for better meal planning so that you can start planning out your meals for the week like a champ. Meal planning isn’t just something for the highly organized—it’s something that just about everyone, single or married with children, should embrace for healthier, better eating on an everyday basis. Plus, not planning out your meals can actually be bad news for your budget.


First, easy does it.

If you’re completely new to the world of meal planning, you should know that it’s okay to ease into it at first. Start by printing off a weekly meal planning sheet that lists the days of the week, and then fill in two or three dinners that you plan to make during the week. (You can always make these dinners in bulk to make for a full week’s worth of dinners.)


Keep a running list of go-to favorite recipes.

You may assume that your memory will serve you well when it comes time to plan out your meals for the week, but chances are your mind will go blank the moment you grab that pen and paper to start planning. This is why it’s a great idea to keep a running list of go-to favorite dishes to make. You might keep a cookbook and recipe cards handy, or you might start a Pinterest board of tried and true recipes. Refer to this list often, and strive to add to it regularly. When it comes time to fill in your calendar with meals, let these recipes become the backbone of your meal plan, and then fill in with new recipes that you want to branch into.

Cook in batches—not per meal.

Strategic meal planning involves cooking things in batches so that you can cut down on cooking time throughout the week. You might, for example, make a large batch of rice in your rice cooker and enjoy it with Mexican one night, and then turn it into “cowboy rice” the following morning for breakfast. Or, you might make Parmesan chicken for dinner one night and then enjoy it over your salad for lunch the next day. Your tastebuds and stomach won’t kill you for enjoying Tuesday dinner leftovers for lunch on Thursday, either.


Practice bulk food prep.

A similar concept applies to those smaller steps involved in food prep. Let’s say that you know you’ll be making a Denver omelet a couple of days during the week, tacos on Tuesday (for “Taco Tuesday,” of course), and then pizza on Friday. Why not do all of your bell pepper chopping all in one go before the week starts? Or, if you’re a regular maker of smoothies, why not set aside 30 minutes to create some bags of chopped fruit for keeping in the freezer? This will streamline your cooking significantly throughout the week, and it will quickly make you fall in love with weekly meal planning.

Choose recipes with ingredient overlap.

As you write out what you’ll be eating on each day for the upcoming week, try to select recipes that have some ingredient overlap. An easy way to do this is to look the ingredients involved in what you’ll be making on Monday and then to select the recipes that follow accordingly. For example, you might use potatoes on Monday to make garlic roasted potatoes, and then use the rest of the bag on Thursday to make slow cooker potato soup. This will ultimately make your grocery shopping much easier, not to mention less expensive. And don’t worry—there is still a lot of variety to be had even when you’re working with many of the same ingredients during the week. Consider the many different things you can make with canned tomatoes and garlic: chicken white bean soup; roasted asparagus with tomatoes; baked caprese chicken; turkey quinoa chili; or smoked sausage and potatoes on a skillet.


Write out your grocery list as you fill your calendar.

Writing out your grocery list as you fill out your calendar will save you a great deal of time as you prepare to make a trip to the grocery store. Moreover, considering the last point about “ingredient overlap,” writing out what you’ll need as you go will ultimately help you select coordinating, convenient recipes to make later in the week. Don’t forget to jot down the quantities you’ll need for each ingredient so that you aren’t left short handed—or with so much excess of an ingredient that you’ll have to throw it out.

Look to your pantry for inspiration.

Right before you begin your meal planning session for the upcoming week, take an inventory of which ingredients you already have on hand—particularly those you could probably do to get rid of. Use these ingredients to help you decide which dishes you’ll be making during the week. Not only will this save you money on your next trip to the grocery store, but it will also encourage you to save money in the long run by purchasing certain ingredients in bulk to keep on hand. The more practice you get inspecting your pantry as you meal plan, the better you’ll be at understanding your grocery expenditures.

Don’t forget to add key reminders.

As you write out your meals, don’t forget to pencil in key reminders such as “put the chicken in the fridge to thaw” or “set the slow cooker to 4 hours on low”. They may seem like small things but they will really help your meal planning game.

Let's discuss: Do you make a meal plan or do you just wing it? 

Annmarie John
34 Comments
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34 comments:

  1. I definitely wing it. How could I possibly know days in advance what I would be in the mood for on a different day, you know?

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    1. Hahaha that's exactly how I feel. I used to meal plan but there would be a day I'm so not into what I planned so I would change it. I am totally a winger kind of person myself.

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  2. I went through a phase where I actually meal planned for a month & it made dinner time so much easier but it was a ton of work planning, buying groceries, searching recipes, etc. for a whole month of dinners. I ended up going weekly and then just got lazy altogether. Hubs does the grocery shopping so I just make whatever he buys HAHA. These are great tips and some that I used while I did plan.

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    1. I think I did it for about 2 weeks before I got lazy and stopped. It was fun for a while but I think I do so much better when I wing it. I do think you save more when you meal plan but I'm not consistent enough.

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  3. These are such good tips. I need to practice bulk food prep, because I think the thought of it intimidates me a little bit. Definitely saving this post :)

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    1. Bulk food prep would be a good idea, especially if you have a big family and not a lot of time.

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  4. I'm a big fan of ingredients overlap. It's the only way! And making things in bulk that will last. I think doing ANY kind of meal planning will be a step up for me.

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    1. I'm not big on meal planning but I can say that it did help while I did it. I need to go back and do it again.

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  5. I meal plan and grocery shop every Sunday. If we don't you are right - we do NOT make good choices. I love the idea of having reminders. Our problem is I spend all this time meal planning and then forgetting to take the needed meet out of the freezer. FAIL!

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    1. Well even if you fail in that way, you're still doing great with your meal planning so you're still doing something right.

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  6. I am such a bad meal planner. Hope this will help me become better at it.

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    1. I hope so too Amber and glad it was able to help a little.

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  7. I would love to think I cook in batches but with 6 in our family left overs are rare. I need to get better at planning for more than a week at a time.

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    1. That's what my problem was initially, I was never good at planning for more than a week. I need to do better myself.

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  8. Keeping a list of our favorite recipes is my favorite tip. It makes it so easy to throw together a meal plan!

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    1. It really does and it's something I need to get better at too.

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  9. I'm an avid meal planner. With a chronic illness that hurts my feet and zaps my energy, I have to know what I'm making for dinner and save my steps and energy to get it done. With 3 hungry growing boys, it's a small fortune to go out to eat and we end up making bad choices. If I make a bad food choice, my body revolts on me and then I'm in more pain the next day, vicious cycle. Thanks for sharing these tips, I do many of these too!

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    1. I can see where meal planning will be beneficial to you. It does coast a lot of money to go out and eat and I try not to do it too often. I'm happy to hear that meal planning is working out great for you.

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  10. I plan out a few meals for the week, but not necessarily what day they'll be -- I always change my mind! For me, it was easiest to plan out meals that I was already comfortable making (even if they're from a box) and add in one new recipe each week.

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    1. That totally makes sense. I've also tried meal planning and it lasted for a while but I wasn't really consistent.

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  11. I like to pre plan meals to, makes life a lot quicker and easier after a long day when the last thing you want todo is make another decision !

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    1. That is so true and if you know what you're making, especially after a long day at work, then you won't feel frazzled.

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  12. I hate hate hate meal planning. It just drives me nuts and I feel like we are never in the mood for the meals planned on each day. These tips made it seem less daunting and I have totally been doing it all wrong!

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    1. I'm sure you weren't doing it all wrong but it doesn't hurt to try again with some new tips.

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  13. i love going food shopping every week but then run out of meal ideas for the random things i've bought by the middle of the week. need to plan better!

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    1. That sounds a lot like me. I however went grocery shopping today and hoping to do a lot better with my meal planning this week.

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  14. I would say that I am a decent cook. Time has always been my enemy when it comes to meal planning. However, I know that it would make my life easier if I took the time out to execute it better.

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    1. Oh yes it surely would and think that's what gets me as well. Maybe I need to manage my time even more than my meals. :)

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  15. To be honest I am always on the go so making time to meal plan can be difficult. When I move again I am going to start meal plans again.

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  16. These are great tips. I end up just winging it but I know planning our meals would be better.

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    1. Don't feel bad, because I wing it 90% of the time as well but with these tips I know I can do so much better.

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  17. Great suggestions. I totally agree with keeping favorites on a rotation. I always ask hubby if he thinks it is a "repeat" or not.

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    1. My hubby doesn't really care about repeats as long as he eats. He's pretty easy which makes it easy for me to not meal plan, but I do need to get into the habit of doing so.

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[name=AnnMarie John] [img=https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-X9gUeVik-ZY/WJjwNTOobII/AAAAAAABTJ4/qEhU0n62_AIo-j6-6LA2OFOr44lKCHASwCLcB/s100/AnnMarie%2BJohn%2BHeadshot.JPG] [description=AnnMarie John is a lifestyle blogger, mom of 4, retired army veteran and a huge Disney lover. Formerly from the beautiful island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean and now living in colorful Colorado, she loves sharing her opinions on everything, crafting and food.] (facebook=http://www.facebook.com/theannmariejohn) (instagram=http://www.instagram.com/theannmariejohn) (twitter=http://www.twitter.com/theannmariejohn) (pinterest=http://www.pinterest.com/theannmariejohn) (email=mailto:annmarie@annmariejohn.com)

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