Did you know, the foundation to solid meal prepping is down to the planning!
Without meal planning, you would most probably feel lost.
This beginner step-by-step guide will walk you through the meal planning process and will help you become a pro.
Step one: plan for the week ahead
The best place to start is by looking at your calendar and plan for the week-ahead.
If you are planning to meal prep, most recipes last in the fridge for 3-4 days, and there are plenty of vegetarian meals that can keep well for up to 5 days.
As a result, meal prepping gives you the advantage to plan and cook your meals in advance which ultimately helps you save time and stay on track.
However, what if you don’t want to prep your food and cook fresh meals instead? That is perfectly fine, and you can still make a meal plan based on recipes that you plan to cook for the week ahead.
Meal planning is that simple.
The goal is to start at an easy pace and just review one week at a time. For example, if on Saturday you review the weekdays ahead, you might have a day when you will order a takeaway or eat out. It’s important to keep this in mind in case you cook too many meals.
Tip: You don’t need to prepare all your meals in advance. You can mix and match. For example, you can simply just choose one breakfast recipe for the week like this high protein baked oatmeal or two lunch recipes for work. The key is to plan around your schedule and cook the way you prefer.
Step two: Review your pantry
The best place to start is by reviewing your pantry.
Look what’s in your fridge, freezer, and cupboards before picking recipes.
Is there anything you need to urgently use? Is there anything you can get rid of?
This can help you plan which recipes you will use. For example, if you have a bag of bell peppers in the fridge and you know they will expire soon, you can search for recipes that call for using bell peppers.
This is where I always start when I plan my meal prep because it prevents food wastage and helps me quickly find a recipe.
Another advantage of reviewing your pantry is that it helps you save money. For example, if you store a bulk of rice, pasta, lentils or canned tomatoes, you will only need a basic shop.
Tip: Having a well-stocked pantry with regular items such as spices, herbs, grains, frozen vegetables, and so on will help you cook most recipes. You will only need to buy fresh items and this can help you significantly reduce your shopping budget costs.
Step three: pick your recipes
If you followed step two, then this step will be so much easier. Picking recipes sounds fun and easy but is really tricky at times.
Well for me anyway.
The point is, having too much choice isn’t always great which is why if you have a particular ingredient which you need to use, it will narrow down your options.
If you have a particular goal, then it will be easier to pick recipes because you can filter your way through a big list.
For example, here are some top categories:
Tip: When you pick a recipe, first review your pantry and then look for categories that align with your goal or preference.
Step four: Record in a meal planner app
You can use a meal planning template or just record it in a meal planning app. The latter is so much easier and my advice would be to install MyFitnessPal.
The benefit of using MyFitnessPal is that you can import recipes from any website and it does all the work for you.
You just pick your days and your diary is complete.
Also, if you like to see a breakdown if your macros or calorie intake for the week, MyFitnessPal displays that and an easily readable format.
The main benefit of using an app is that it’s faster, and you can review the week-ahead.
This helps you stay on track and make changes accordingly if you have a specific goal such as eating a specific number of calories.
However, if you don’t want to use a template or app, that’s completely fine. You could even just write a simple list.
Tip: I still use MyFitnessPal, since 2012, all because it’s so simple, effective, and helps me stay on track with my meal plans.
Step five: Make shopping list and shop
Once you have picked your recipes and made a plan, all that is left is to go grocery shopping!
When you write your shopping list, you should double-check your pantry in case you double up on your ingredients and simply write the ingredients you need.
Again, you can use an app for this to save time, but there’s nothing wrong with a good old notepad shopping list!
Need more help?
It’s that simple. If you need more help, you should definitely check out the latest meal prep recipes and ideas.
Meal Plan Weekly is a resource for busy people and home cooks around the world. What started as a solo blog has now turned into a website of healthy recipes and home cooking tips written by home cooks, chefs and nutritionists around the world. Our mission is to make healthy cooking easy, with realistic recipes that you will actually cook and balanced meals that you can fit into your meal plan.