meal planning for beginners

What is Meal Planning?

Menu planning is a great way to save money, save time and reduce waste. It can help you avoid buying unnecessary things at the grocery store and to avoid eating out too often. It can help you avoid waste since you always know what you’re making for dinner. It helps to reduce time spent as well by giving you a chance to do food prep the day before so you are able to get down to doing what you do best; feed your family! Planning a menu when you never have before may seem complicated, however, it only takes a couple of simple steps and you’ll be ready to go.

Before getting started...

When you first make the decision to start menu planning, you’ll need to make a couple of decisions. Making them before you plan your first menu will help ensure you don’t run into any issues once you get started. You will also want to gather any supplies you might want. If you plan to keep your menu plan digitally, you won’t need to gather anything. However, if you would prefer a physical copy, a printable menu planning pack can be a great help. At the very least, physical copies will need a pen and paper. Once you have what you need, it is time to start planning your menu plan.

Menu Planning Tips for Beginners


Decide How Many Meals You Are Planning

Before you can plan your menu, you’ll need to know how many meals you are planning for. This not only includes a total number but also how many per day you want to plan. Some people prefer to only plan dinner each day. Others prefer to plan all three. It is entirely up to you how many you do. There is no right or wrong.

Will You Freezer Cook?

For some people, combining freezer cooking and menu planning is without question. For others, they are separate things and one being planned does not rely on the other being planned. If you are freezer cooking while you menu plan, you’ll want to pick up the freezer cooking supplies you will need before you actually plan your menu.

Gather Your Favorite Recipes

Menu planning requires you to know which recipes your family loves. This means you’ll want to gather them up either on a Pinterest board, a written list, your favorite recipe book or in a recipe binder before you start. Try to give yourself as many options to choose from as you possibly can. Doing so will help eliminate boredom in your menu.

Take an Inventory

Next, do a full inventory of what food you have in your home. This includes your fridge, freezer and pantry. One of the reasons menu planning saves you money is because it prevents you from purchasing groceries you already have and uses those groceries before they expire or spoil. If you have never done an inventory before, a printable inventory sheet can help keep you on track and to make things easier for you. Be sure to account for every food item you have otherwise you may miss out on something you’re able to plan for your menu.

Start Menu Planning

To begin planning your menu, compare the recipes you gathered against the items you have in your inventory. The first step to successfully planning a menu is to cook meals you can make without buying ingredients. Ideally, you will want to plan as many meals from these ingredients as possible. Unless you have not been grocery shopping in weeks, the chances of being able to plan several meals with the food you already have are high. Add these meals to a calendar or write them as a list with a date you want to have that meal.

Fill In Gaps in Your Menu Plan

Once you have exhausted all recipes you can already make, it is time to fill in the gaps of your menu plan. These are where the rest of the recipes come into the picture. Search your recipe files for other recipes you want to include in your menu plan. As you add them to your list, be sure to write the ingredients you will need to shop for to a grocery list. You are less likely to forget an ingredient if you write it down as you pull the recipe for your menu.

Follow Your Menu Plan

Once everything is put together and the shopping is done, it’s time to cook! Following a menu plan can be difficult at first; especially if you're not used to cooking much or are used to eating out often. You may forget to put the meat out to thaw. You may forget you even have a menu plan at all. It is totally fine if this happens. Just be sure that you don’t allow it to get you down and off track. It won’t take you long to adjust and once you do, you will see the true genius of having a planned menu for your family.