Meal Planning Tips for Beginners – Our Guide to Meal Planning
Do you want to have less stress, save money, lose weight, and just be generally healthier? Start planning healthy meals for you and your family! Make meal plans that make sense for your budget, time and health. Follow along with our tips for meal planning beginners and save time and money.
- Healthy eating starts with an easy meal plan and some meal prep.
Meal Planning is a great way to get the whole family involved in choosing meals and recipes, creating shopping lists, and having a variety of tasty meals for each week.
Did you know that planning meals comes with many benefits? You can read more about the benefits of meal planning right here –> Benefits of Meal Planning
2 Great Resources for Beginner Meal Planning!
Here are the The Top 10 Reasons Why You Would want to start Meal Planning!
- Better Health
- Save Time & Money
- Less Food Waste
- More Variety – stop eating the same foods over and over
- NO MORE EXPENSIVE TAKE OUT
- Smaller Waistline
- Healthy Family
- Easier on the Environment
- Less Stress in Your Life
- More Time for Other Things in Your Life
So Where Should You Start With Your Meal Planning?
Meal Planning Steps:
1. Have a Paper Meal Planner where You can Sit Quietly and Write out Your Meals –
You can pick one up right here —> Blank Grocery List — Now sit down and have a cup of tea or coffee while you plan your weekly meals.
- Print the PDF Below and choose your favorite 15 meals and write them down.
Choose 4 meals – Now, from that list choose 4 meals that will give you a variety of food groups. An example of this would be a chicken, beef, fish and vegetarian recipe.
Write down the 4 meals you have chosen and add to that list one new meal that you would like to try. Maybe a healthy vegetable stir-fry or a new pasta dish.
Here is our list with 4 of our favorite meals, one new meal to try, and 2 repurposed meals. (Your list will be different with different meals -)
Beginner Meal Plan
- Sunday – BBQ Pineapple Crockpot Chicken (favorite) – BBQ Pineappble Chicken Recipe
- Monday – Hamburger Beef Stroganoff (favorite) – Beef Stroganoff
- Tuesday – Chicken Tacos (repurposed from the BBQ chicken from Sunday)
- Wednesday – Easy Skillet Egg Noodle Lasagna (favorite) – Egg Noodle Lasagna
- Thursday – White Bean Soup (new recipe to try)
- Friday – Parmesan Crusted Baked Cod (favorite) (Cod recipe here)
- Saturday – Sloppy Joes (repurposed from the Beef Stroganoff on Monday) (Sloppy Joes)
Ideally you want to write down 5 meals total – then repurpose two of them. Repurpose means to make the leftovers of one meal into a totally different meal.
2. Now Create Your Shopping List
Once you have your meals planned, transfer each ingredient from the recipe to your shopping list under the correct heading.
Eggs, butter, yogurt and cheese would all go under the heading “DAIRY”. That way when you hit the dairy section in the supermarket, you have all your ingredients listed that you need for that section.
Some ingredients you won’t need to put on your shopping list, just check to make sure you have enough: eggs, butter, sugar, rice, spices, etc. The items that are typically stocked in your cupboard or pantry. Just make sure you have them before you head to the store.
Nothing is worse than not having something simple for a recipe.
– Don’t forget to add your household/paper products to the list.
The 4 P’s of Meal Planning
PLANNING – Pick the dinner recipes that suit your lifestyle the best. Do you need 30 minutes or less for a recipe? Do you love to tinker in the kitchen with new recipes? When doing your weekly planning, pick the recipes are going to work the best for you and your family.
PURCHASING – Shop Your Favorite Stores.
Gone are the days when you could only shop one local store. We have such an awesome variety of healthy stores, and each one can provide a different selection of foods and home supplies.
Meat Planning Tips for Beginners:
Try out your local Aldis store for deep discounts on groceries.
- Trader Joe’s
- Whole Foods
- Thrive Market
Another reason to check out these stores, is they are fun! It’s fun to look around and see what new foods are out there. Many regular grocery stores do not offer the special products and produce that Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods has to offer.
Example: Trader Joe’s has the best healthy breads. They freeze well and are a very healthy sliced bread option that you are not going to find in your typical grocery store.
Check out your local Whole Foods to see if they offer taste tests on some of their foods by featuring the cooked recipes. They typically do these taste tests on Saturday afternoon.
Costco is another super-store that has taste tests on Saturday afternoon.
When shopping for your weekly meals , don’t use coupons or obsess over them – Don’t be tempted to buy processed foods or foods that you don’t need. Stick to fresh and healthy foods that don’t typically come with a coupon deal.
PREPPING – Prep some of the fruits and vegetables directly from the Store. When you bring in your groceries right out of the car, prep what you can. For example: fresh kale – toss the fresh kale in the sink and give it a good bath. Cut the tough center rib out of each section. Chop up the kale and let in dry. Put in a large glass container until ready to use. Strawberries – give them a good bath and let dry. Cut off the top stem and the bottom with a sharp knife. Slice and put in a glass container. Sprinkle with a small amount of sugar.
Prepping for Meals – If you know you are going to have a busy day or couple of days, get as much of the prep work for meals done in advance that you can. Chop onions, chop red peppers, make rice; there are so many things that can be prepped in advance to make those hectic days a bit easier.
PREPARING – To make cooking so much easier, tidy up the kitchen before you do anything else. (We love the word tidy.) Clean that Kitchen!
Get everything out you will need to prepare the meal. Pretend you are the star of a cooking show and the camera is ready to roll! Read over the recipe in advance and make sure you understand all the steps. Sometimes cooking steps can be a little confusing as written.
Meal Planning for Beginners – Equipment –
Slow Cooker – Buy a slow cooker, rice cooker, large mason jars, resealable freezer bags, a dependable chef’s knife and a nice sized blender. Don’t forget the pairing knife – essential to prepping foods.
Quality Spatula – You need a Good Spatula! How else will you saute onions, ground beef , turkey, etc… ?
Oven Mitts – Good pair of oven mitts, a few cutting boards, mixing bowls, measuring cups and spoons.
Glass Storage Containers – Buy glass containers which are machine washable and microwavable. Glass containers are far better for storage and for your health. Once you try glass storage containers, you will fall in love with them.
Quality Pan – Make sure you have at least two decent pans with lids to start. Does not have to be fancy – but should be of good quality. One skillet with a lid is must. One pot dinners are AWESOME!
Colander – Quality Colander that you will use A LOT. Don’t purchase a painted one, opt for stainless steel.
Cookie Sheet – A good baking sheet to do all that sheet pan cooking for sheet pan dinners. : )
Spices and Spice Rack – Don’t forget to stock up on herbs and spices to use in place of unhealthier alternatives like salt.
Don’t Forget to Repurpose and Have a Delicious Leftover Night Once or Twice a Week!
Plan Healthy Meals – Plan Meals with Fats – Protein and Carbohydrates –
Since the 1970s, people in Western nations have been told that eating fat will make you fat. This simply isn’t true. The sugar industry spent millions on a media campaign to name fat as a health hazard and downplay the danger of sugar. It worked. Everybody began eating fat-free diets, sugar was seen as a healthy flavor provider, and now the world suffers from the worst sugar-related health problems in human history. Your body needs a decent amount of fat in your diet, good fats. About 20% to 35% of your total calories should come in the form of fat.
Healthy fats help your body absorb vitamins, they provide a protective cushion for your vital organs, and it can be stored as an energy source for use later. Totally avoid trans fats, limit your saturated fats, and focus on monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats to keep your cholesterol down.
Few Examples of Healthy Fats – Avocado, Nuts, Cheese, Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Butter.
Like carbohydrates, protein provides energy. Protein is harder to break down than fat or carbs, so when you eat foods with protein, you feel full longer. This helps you regulate how many calories you eat throughout the day. Accordingly, a high-protein diet that cuts back on carbohydrates is a great way to lose weight. About 20% to 35% of your daily caloric intake should be in the form of protein.
Every cell in your body requires protein, and the more active you are, the more protein you will need. Someone who is extremely active could require as much as twice the protein of someone who is sedentary. Protein can be found in plant-based foods, and animal-based foods contain much higher levels of this essential macronutrient.
Few Examples of Good Protein – Chicken, Fish, Hamburger, Tuna and Eggs.
You need somewhere between 30% and 60% of your calories to come from complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are translated to fat and stored almost immediately, so you want to avoid them. This means opting for carbs found in fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, as opposed to processed foods, starchy food, fast food, pastries and other unhealthy options.
Few Examples of Good Carbohydrates – Vegetables, Beans, Plant Foods, Grains and Fruits make excellent complex carbohydrate choices.
Understand that protein and carbohydrates deliver about 4 cal per gram of weight. Fat weighs in at a heavy 9 cal per gram, but again, sugar is the culprit that makes you overweight and obese, not fat. In a 2,000 calorie daily dietary plan, the above ranges would mean the following:
• Fat – 100 – 175 grams
• Protein – 100 – 175 grams
• Carbs – 150 – 300 grams
What to do with all these leftovers?
Eat Leftovers for Lunch!
When you start planning you weekly meals, you will find that your dinner leftovers make the healthiest and best lunches!
Curried brown rice goes really well on a bed of lettuce greens. Toss in some leftover peas, a little chopped radishes, a few slices of leftover chicken and wowza! A healthy leftover salad is born for your lunch.
Most foods make great lunches and it’s good to eat a larger lunch and then a smaller dinner.
When you start to see the positive impact that healthy meal planning has on your family, you want to make other smart changes.
Planning & prepping healthy meals ahead of time saves time, money and you benefit from overall health & well-being.
Always repurpose 2 dinners if you can. Think healthy leftovers when planning meals so you have enough for a few healthy lunches.
Hope You Have Gotten some Great Tips and Ideas with our “Meal Planning for Beginners.” We are always available if you have a question!
Also you will love to read – The Importance of Meal Planning!
Helpful Kitchen Tips for Getting Dinner On The Table Quicker
Cooking from scratch is “the single most important thing we could do as a family to improve our health and general well-being” ~ Michael Pollan
Are you strapped for time but still want to eat healthy meals and have dinner on the table most nights? In this hurry-hurry world we live in, the one thing that we need the most seems to be pushed aside the most – Family Dinner Hour!
Wouldn’t you just love to “twitch” your nose and a healthy & delicious meal would appear on the table?
Well of course you would!
Well here are some sane tips to follow so you can get your dinner on the table much quicker and move on to spending quality time with your family.
1. Always read the Entire Recipe before shopping or Cooking
Make sure you have read through the entire recipe before shopping or cooking. That way you will have all the ingredients that you need on hand and also have a basic understanding of how the recipe works.
2. Clean Your Kitchen Before You Start Cooking
We posted a great article explaining the benefits of cleaning up (redding up if you are from Pittsburgh) your kitchen before you even get started cooking. Mise en Place for less Kitchen Stress. Nothing is worse than trying to cook dinner in a messy and hectic kitchen. Having things out of place just slows us way down. This doesn’t mean “clean” your kitchen from top to bottom, this means put things away and clear enough space so you feel better about beginning to cook.
Wipe up any spills or messes, put any dirty dishes in the dishwasher and wipe out the kitchen sink. You will notice that you’ll start cooking with a clearer & calmer mind and things will go much faster.
3. Cook Smarter
Cooking smarter means taking as many shortcuts as possible and still having a delicious and healthy dinner.
Having a meal plan for the entire week is the smartest way to do dinner. Read over your meal plan for the upcoming week and see what vegetables can be pre chopped and bagged for later use.
Chop about 3-4 onions and store them in a resealable bag. These will last all week and saves tons of time.
Precook your tasty chicken to use later in the week. See tips here on how to cook your boneless chicken breasts to use in dinner recipes.
When browning ground beef for a recipe, always brown extra and freeze it in a plastic freezer bag.
When cooking your weekly carbs such as rice, pasta, potatoes; always cook enough for 2 nights. Eating boiled red potatoes on Monday night instantly turns into a delicious potato salad for Thursday night if you think ahead.
Cook some hard-boiled eggs and leave them in a bowl in the fridge. Don’t peel the eggs until you are ready to use them.
4. Try some new 30 minute meals that promise to have dinner on the table in 30 minutes or less.
Meal Planning for Beginners – Go easy on yourself! There are so many great recipes that you can cook that will have dinner on the table in 30 minutes or less from start to finish. Keeping dinners super-simple a few nights a week will give you encouragement to cook more at home. When it seems like a less daunting chore, we are more likely to be successful at getting started.
Try a few of our 30 minute meals!
5. Never Underestimate the Power of Tiny Hands
Have some little people running around your house? Let them help as much as possible with dinnner. Store easy-to-grab things on lower shelves like weekday plates and napkins. This will make setting the table easy enough for even a young child.
6. Use your Slow Cooker Often
A slow cooker can be your best friend when it comes to getting dinner on the table quickly. One tip is to leave your slow cooker in plain sight. Sometimes when we put away our crockpot it collects dust and we forget to use it. Crockpots are great for cooking larger and cheaper cuts of meat and then using the cooked meat for two meals.
You can make your side dish in a slow cooker as well. Baked potatoes or brown rice cook nicely in a crockpot or slow cooker.
7. Organize Your Kitchen for Speed
Place everything that you use often in arms reach. Lay out your kitchen for maximum efficiency and it will pay off when it comes time to getting dinner on the table quicker. Store spatulas and wooden spoons in a pretty container on your kitchen counter that is easy to reach. Always, always use clear containers to store as much as possible. Who knows what’s lurking in the forgotten plastic bowl in the back of the fridge!
After you have cleaned up your kitchen, read over the dinner recipe and take out everything you will need to make the meal. Pots, pans, spices, and measuring spoons to name a few.
8. Invest in Good Equipment!
We can’t stress this enough! If you love your equipment, then you will have an easier time in the kitchen! Invest a little bit of money to buy some quality kitchen necessities and it will pay off in saved time. You wouldn’t start to build a house with an old hammer and some rusty nails. If you can’t invest in a quality set of cookware yet, then just buy a few quality pieces. A good kitchen knife will last forever and save tons of time in prep work.
– READ MORE – Want better faster food? Buy a better faster knife.