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How to Meal Plan in 5 Simple Steps

Have you ever been caught with no idea what to make for dinner and no time to shop? We all have. By using the 3 P’s—planning recipe, purchasing groceries, and prepping ingredients—you won’t have to start from scratch every night. Meal planning works best when you take it one stage at a time; there’s no need to do all three P’s at once. Instead, break them up and do each one when you have time.

So, say goodbye to fast food and hello to fresh meals on the table in no time. You’ll wonder why you didn’t try this sooner!

1. Check Family Schedules

Before you choose recipes, see what your family’s week looks like. Embrace theme nights, especially when you’re starting out. Knowing that you can count on Meatless Monday takes away a lot of the stress in planning. And rely on those go-to recipes you know your family will love and can be made with foods from the pantry or freezer. Sweet Potato Black Bean Enchilada Casserole or Roasted Red Pepper Pasta are great options.

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta 
Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

2. Make Your Lists

Once you’ve chosen your recipes, make a master ingredient list of all the ingredients you need for that week. Then cross off everything on the list you already have in the house. What’s left over is your grocery list. Keep your pantry stocked with a selection of meal mixes to add quick, convenient, and delicious flavor to whatever you’re making.

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3. Prep for the Week

If you only have 30 minutes to prep, no problem. You can quickly prep big batches of fresh veggies at the beginning of the week using a high-quality food grater. This way, you won’t have the “what’s for dinner” blues.

Quick Prep Food Grater 
Quick Prep Food Grater

4. Be Flexible

You may want to leave some room for when unexpected things happen. For these days, a pressure cooker can get dinner ready quickly, even when the meat is still sitting in the freezer!

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Butter Chicken made in a Pressure Cooker

5. Make Extras of Family Favorites

Every family has its favorites. We suggest making extras of favorites to enjoy at another time. Mason jars are a great way to transport, store, and enjoy leftovers at work the next day. When freezing leftovers, it’s best to store in airtight, leakproof containers to keep fresh for next time.

leakproof glass containers 
Leakproof Glass Containers
Learn how to create a weekly meal plan with a "Comfort Foods Made Better" meal planning party.

12 Responses to How to Meal Plan in 5 Simple Steps

  1. Cathy August 4, 2019 at 6:06 pm #

    How do I find out how much everything cost?

    • Natalie Kemp August 16, 2019 at 2:50 pm #

      Cathy great question! If you click on the item highlighted it will lead you to the page it’s on, and show you the price.

  2. Chriselda Taylor August 13, 2019 at 11:25 pm #

    Pre-shopping lists, review ads and online shopping

    • Paula Ray February 26, 2022 at 1:04 pm #

      Oh Wow Chriselda! I remember you from our flying days at NA, I dropped you off at your home one day, I remember that big bridge! I’m Paula from Boston!!!
      my friend Terri lives in Cape May, NJ, (she was a F/A for JetBlue)
      so I’m buying a few things from her virtual PC party.
      I hope you’re fabulous, I remember you were so kind and nice!! Be well my friend.
      Paula

  3. Kellie Demmler August 15, 2019 at 8:49 am #

    Hi Cathy,

    When you click on one of the underlined links in the article it will take you to the product page which includes prices and the description.

  4. Grace Ann Nelson August 22, 2019 at 5:02 am #

    I keep a paper on our refrigerator so I can quickly jot down any staples I’m getting low on that may not be in that week’s recipes … mustard, BBQ sauce, foil, tea bags, etc.

    • Nancy Lee January 2, 2022 at 5:28 pm #

      I used chalkboard paint inside my pantry cabinet door. I keep chalk on the shelf and write down anything I see is running low or out. A picture of the list before shopping is very helpful and quick

      • Kimberly M Seib-Pilarski February 19, 2022 at 11:31 am #

        Great idea!

      • Jean July 2, 2022 at 6:33 am #

        Thank you! That’s a great idea!

  5. Paula Chastain August 26, 2019 at 8:10 pm #

    Wow, this is awesome. Are we allowed to use this in our virtual parties?

  6. Veronica Estopinal March 10, 2021 at 10:19 am #

    I try to make Saturday mornings my “prep for the week” day.

  7. Carolyn Cook January 5, 2022 at 11:18 pm #

    These are great ideas! Thanks for sharing with us!

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