If you’re new to meal planning, this guide will show you the basics to start creating a meal plan, with a free downloadable template to get you started.
Cooking can be boring! It’s time consuming, you’ve got to constantly keep an eye on it (or it might boil over and burn – guilty!) and it’s just a real chore!
I know we all need to eat but, by the time it comes to having to cook, I can’t think of anything worse. I leave it too long, the kids start going on at me and then, when I finally check in the fridge, there is nothing easy to magic together.
This was my life!
However, after trying to get a little more organised and put a bit of planning into our meals, I felt like a kitchen pro and actually started to cook and eat new foods. Plus – my favourite thing – we slashed our food bill!
What is meal planning?
Meal planning is not just about deciding what to eat one week at a time. It’s sooo much more than that. It can help organise your life (saving you time) and it can cut down on the amount of money you need to splash out at the supermarket.
A meal plan breaks down what you are going to eat for the amount of time you plan for.
So, say for your family you want to eat three times a day for 7 days a week. You would therefore plan for 7 breakfasts, lunches and dinners with enough to go around everyone.
Rather than planning a week at a time, you could choose to plan for two weeks or even a whole month if you have the room to store food. This way, you may well be able to get some better deals bulk buying meat.
Benefits of meal planning
Here are just a few of the benefits of creating a meal plan:
- You can make sure you don’t have to be doing everything last minute in the kitchen, therefore saving you time.
- Everyone will know what they’ll be having for breakfast, lunch and dinner each day, which should hopefully lead to fewer squabbles, especially if you get everyone involved in picking some family favourite meals.
- By knowing what you’re going to shop for in advance you can better plan your budget as know what you’ll need to spend (or if you need to adapt your meal plan to spend less).
- You will have less food waste and you’ll be able to make sure you buy and use what you’ll actually need.
Create a basic meal plan
There aren’t many steps to make sure you can get your meal plan off the ground:
- First off need a meal plan template (free to download), or you could easily draw one up yourself, or download one of the countless (free) apps.
- Then, work out what’s going on with your week. Do you all need lunches or do the kids get free school meals? Will you be working late one night? Are you out at a friend’s one evening so don’t need to cook? Are you planning a day trip so need to have a different kind of picnic lunch prepared, or will you eat out?
- Once you know the comings and goings of who’ll be eating it’s then time to start making meal plans. For breakfast, you may have one, two or three different options; toast, cereal, oats, eggs etc. Lunches may work out quite similar from day to day, but meals for dinners usually have more variety.
- When you know what you’re having day to day, simply write a list of all the ingredients you’ll need to buy so you can cook to your plan. Make sure to cost it out as you go to make sure you stay within your budget.
That is simply all meal planning is!
You then go shopping, buy the stuff on your list and cook what you planned each day.
If you just want to create a meal plan then above is all you need.
I see you’re still with me? Want to see how to really make some savings?
Head over to our bumper guide How to Meal Plan Like a Pro! for the next level of meal planning tips to slash what you spend at the supermarket.
Or have you lost your meal planning mojo? Take a look at our meal planning tips and tricks so you don’t resort to eating cold beans from the jar!
Still struggling to come up with ideas? Why not use some of our budget meal plans:
- £25 healthy meal plan
- £40 meal plan to reduce food waste
- £25 budget meal plan to feed 7 people for 7 days
Have you mastered using pen and paper or looking for more ideas? Why not try these meal planning apps.
Naomi knows the burden of living on very little and became debt free by learning from past mistakes and following her own money saving tips and tricks. She is studying a Level 2 Certificate in Awareness of Mental Health Problems and is a Youth Mental Health First Aid Champion.