Weekly meal planning is all about meeting your goals. It is a way of structuring one of the most important things in your life – eating! An effective healthy meal plan will account for all of your dietary goals, and streamline them so that any healthy, delicious recipe is an attainable, quick meal.
Don’t Be Intimidated!
Meal planning can seem like a pretty daunting task for beginners! Organizing your weekly menu at once, doing the weekly grocery shop, taking account of various nutritional factors, accounting for levels of activity, all while making a delicious recipe! It can all seem like quite a lot.
However, as with most things in life, the more you break something down, the easier it becomes. This article is here to help you understand the meal planning essentials and provide some easy planning tips. We’ve broken down the process into all of the relevant steps you will need to plan meals that meet your personal dietary and culinary food goals.
1 – Define Goals
The first step in the meal planning process is to define your own personal dietary and nutritional goals. The entire point of planning meals is so that you can meet some sort of menu plan – whether it is in congruence with a diet, to fuel an active lifestyle, or simply to cook food that tastes good for lunch or dinner.
Regardless of your reasons, you are “planning” meals in accordance with some sort of ideals. So the natural first step is to define these ideals. You need to know your own personal nutritional goals, so that you can plan meals to meet these goals. Often, this will start with an understanding of the basics of nutrition.
So sit down and think about what you want to achieve with your eating, and keep this in mind, because it will be guiding you throughout this whole process.
2 – Set a Diet
So, once you have defined your dietary and nutritional goals, it’s time to narrow in on the small details. Set yourself a personal dietary or nutritional plan that works for you. There are many helpful diets and nutrition plans that you can find online.
If you are really struggling with this part, a visit to a nutritionist can also be a good idea. You have so many needs which are specific to your body and activity levels that is impossible to suggest a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s all about knowing yourself and setting a plan.
3 – Plan Each Meal (Set One Time If You Want)
The next step in effective meal-planning is actually setting aside a time to plan meals. Depending on how far you like to plan ahead, you could plan all your meals for the week, or you could plan daily. It’s all about whatever works for you!
The key here is picking a method of planning and stickingto it. Routines become habits when you pick a consistent time and actually set out todo it. So find a routine that works for you, and be sure to make it into a habit. This way, it will actually result in a lifestyle change.
4 – Get Supplies
After you have planned out your meals, it is time to get supplies. As you can see, we put this step after the planning for a reason. Many go into the grocery store aimlessly, and that’s exactly what you want to avoid with meal planning. Look at your plan, break it down by ingredients, and get those ingredients.
5 – Stick to a Shopping List & Schedule
Similar to the way you set aside time to plan your meals, you should do the same with shopping. Pick a day and time that will work for you to pick up your supplies for the week (or whatever length of time you have determined) and stick to it!
Surely you are starting to see a pattern here. We are turning these routines into habits, because that’s how you make a lifestyle change.
6 – Prep!
Next up, prepping the meals! Depending on your preferences, you can prep meals in advance, or prep them day of. Meal prepping is a whole other area of nutrition that you can incorporate into your lifestyle.
Regardless of how you choose to prep, this step is easy! We have already planned our meals and gotten the supplies, so now it’s just about preparing them.
7 – Store It
Once again, this one depends on whether you are leaning toward a more “meal prepping” sort of schedule. If you are planning ahead so you can prep meals for the week, then you will likely need some containers to store it all in your fridge. The size and functionality of your containers will depend on the meals you are prepping. There are various sizes, shapes, levels of insulation, and different compartment options to choose from.
8 – Make Adjustments
Next up, make adjustments! Although we have focused this article on planning ahead of time, you will see that nothing is set in stone. If you have adjustments that are needed from day to day, then that’s totally fine. If you went on an extra long run and need to make a bit more, then go for it!
The entire point of this process is to make it easier to stick to a healthy eating schedule, and sometimes you need to make changes on the fly.
9 – Plan Your Next Week (Variety!)
And this takes us back to the start, to plan your next week of eating! As you can see, meal planning is all about establishing and sticking to a great routine. The purpose of meal planning is to develop a schedule that promotes healthy eating and sticking to your nutritional goals. It is a way of simplifying the process, and also will end up saving you a lot of time by streamlining the planning, buying, and cooking process.
But nowhere does it say that all meals have to be the same! Plan each weeks’ meals with some fun variety. Mix up the cuisines, and keep things fresh. For whatever nutritional or dietary routine that you choose, you’ll find hundreds of recipes and inspiration ideas online! Just because it’s a routine doesn’t mean it has to become stale, after all.
About the Author
Alissa is a resilience coach, cartoonist, and advocate for ‘connection, not perfection’. She’s dedicated to helping others find a sense of safety and belonging inside themselves so they can heal, connect, and build authentic, joyful lives.