How to Start Meal Planning

If you didn’t already know, meal prep gave me time back with my family. I didn’t always know how to meal prep and it took a while to find my own flow in the kitchen.

If you want to learn how to meal prep for your family and have meals for the whole week, keep reading!

Photo of meal prep tips for beginners

How I started meal planning for my family.

I didn’t always meal plan and the truth is that I was dealing with a lot of guilt from not cooking for my family.

While I wanted to start planning meals out, it felt like life was constantly against me. From work, carpool lines, after school activities, and trying to find time for myself, the drive through was certainly faster.

That also brought on a lot of guilt from not feeding my family in a way that I was proud of and I was determined to find what worked for my family while not taking hours out of my week to do it.

This is where meal planning and working WITH my schedule made the biggest difference. I learned how to plan my week out with meals that matched the busy lifestyle I had and found ways to prep ahead of time so I could enjoy my nights while having food on the table for my family.

This shift also helped me to lose over 30 pounds while eating all the same amazing foods as my family. I hope to share this journey with you so you can get your time back too!

What is meal planning?

Meal planning is simply creating a plan for your week that fits inside YOUR busy lifestyle. It is the plan you create based on your schedule, the meals you will eat, and the groceries you buy for the week.

Here are some things to consider when meal planning:

  • What is your meal planning personality? Do you like to chop, dice, & slice? Or do you want a simple approach?
  • How much time do you have to dedicate to meal prep during your week?
  • How often will you need to cook or grocery shop during the week?
  • What kind of variety do you want use? Instant pot, Crockpot, Sheet Pan?

The goal is to have a plan for the week so it’s easier for you to follow-through with. No need to be fancy or complicated!

Woman chopping veggies

Where do I start?

If you are learning how to meal prep and you feel overwhelmed, you are not alone.

In fact, this is what holds many people back from starting in the first place. With so much information, it’s hard to know where to begin.

Here are a few of my key tips when getting started:

  • Start small. You don’t need to make fancy meals every night. Choose 1-2 new meals per week and repeat other meals that you have made in the past.
  • Stretch ingredients. You can use the same base meal and turn it into 3-4 new meals in your week. Stretching ingredients is a great way to add variety without cooking a new meal.
  • Make family favorites. Start with family favorites and build from there. Don’t add pressure to make something new, lean into what your family already enjoys!
  • Lean into convenience. Take the easy way out and buy pre-cut veggies, frozen, or canned items to help make meal prep faster. No one cares if you chopped it or someone else did. There is no badge of honor for prepping every part of the meal.

How often do I need to meal plan per week?

Think about how often you grocery shop per week. If you tend to shop once a week, you will want to plan your week out according to that.

However, if you go multiple times a week, planning a few days at a time may be a better option for you.

Learn what works within your family dynamic and don’t be afraid to try something new to see if it works better!

4 meal planning mistakes to avoid

Along the way, I learned what NOT to do and I want to help you not make those mistakes too!

  1. Trying to prep ALL your meals. When thinking of meal planning, think of the biggest meal you need to dedicate most of your time to each week. You do not need to prep all the meals you eat every single week.
  2. Making all new recipes. It’s easy to get sucked into Pinterest and then you find yourself making all new recipes with multiple ingredients. Instead, try to focus on 1-2 new recipes per week and put family favorites on rotation.
  3. Random meals. If you are trying to make 5 + different meals per week and each meal is a different protein, side, and veggie option, you are making prepping much harder. Try to keep similar ingredients across the week to help with shopping and planning.

Hopefully this is helpful for those of you that are interested in starting your own routine and are looking for a little guidance.  If there is anything I didn’t touch on or any questions you have or if you have your own suggestions, leave them in the comments below!

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