A Beginners Guide to Meal Planning

by Elle Penner, MPH, RD
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A Beginners Guide to Meal Planning

When it comes to eating well, meal planning is one of the easiest things you can do to set yourself up for success. The beauty of it is there are no rules and you can’t really mess it up. The key is just to start, and to set aside a little bit of time each week to do it. There are so many ways to approach meal planning that, after practicing just once or twice, you’ll begin to find what works for you and your family.

To help you get started, we’ve broken down some of the basics. We’ve even included two practice exercises to help you map out your next week’s worth of healthy meals.


Our eating situations can vary greatly from week to week depending on work schedules, after-school activities, evening commitments and travel plans. Here are some things to consider as you assess your eating situation.


Take a few moments to think about what you have going on next week. Taking a quick inventory of everyone’s plans will quickly give you a rough idea of how many meals you’ll need to get through the week, and how much mileage you can get from each recipe or dish.


If you have a crazy busy week coming up, make a mental note to be on the lookout for quick, slow -cooker or make-ahead meals that can served up in a hurry. We’re big fans of the cook once, eat twice (or thrice) approach.


Things like the weather, a change in seasons and food cravings can impact what sounds good on any given day. Thinking about these things beforehand will make recipe-selection process faster and meal times easier on everyone.


If you want to eat better for less (and who doesn’t?), think seasonal produce and sales. Check out these 6 ways to meal plan to help you budget better.



Write the days of the week on the left side of the page and the meals you want to plan across the top.


Vague descriptions like quick dinner, leftovers, or packable lunch are fine for now. Don’t forget to plan for leftovers and make note of special dietary restrictions here too.


Note how many meals you’ll need for the week, grouping together similar ones. For example: 2 quick dinners, 3 packable lunches and so on.

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Now the fun part! Once you know how many meals you’ll need, find some healthy recipes and then fill in your calendar for the week. Here are some tips to help:


Having a list of go-to meals is one of the easiest ways to expedite the meal planning process. Consider trying one or two new recipes and use a few old favorites to fill in the gaps. Every time you find a new meal you love, add it to the rotation.


Finding delicious, healthy recipes isn’t hard — you just need to know where to look. Health-conscious cookbooks and food magazines are great, but the internet has an abundance of healthy recipes at your fingertips.



  • Add them directly to your MyFitnessPal recipe box, either on the web or within the app. Our recipe tool even calculates the nutrition facts for easy logging later.
  • Create a healthy recipe Pinterest board. Check out ours for meal inspiration. 


  • Create a three-holed binder with plastic sleeve inserts to organize recipe cards and meals pulled from magazines.
  • Use bright-colored tabs to flag favorite cookbook recipes.

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Regardless of what format you prefer, the key here is to fill in your calendar with specific meals. Meal planning pro and Cook Smarts founder, Jess Dang, says, “Good meal planning is like putting together a puzzle. Try to avoid selecting different recipes that don’t fit together or else you’ll be buying a lot of different ingredients. Select one, look at the ingredient list and let that help you select recipe #2, and so on.”

Whether you use a notecard, a printable template or go digital, it’s a good idea to keep a paper copy of your calendar in plain view, such as on your fridge. “Making your meal plan visual may hold you more accountable for executing on the cooking. Plus, your family isn’t constantly asking you, “What’s for dinner?” They can just refer to the board,” adds Jess. If you need some ideas, check out Pinterest for visual meal planning boards.

If you prefer going digital, create a sub-calendar for your meal plan in Google, Outlook or your calendar application of choice and share it with family members or roommates so everyone knows the plan.



Save yourself by writing your grocery list while you fill out your calendar. And don’t forget to jot down quantities for each ingredient! Before you head to the store or order your groceries, take a quick inventory of what you have on hand and cross off the ingredients you don’t need to purchase.



Digital versions (like a note on your smartphone) are handy, easy to update and usually within arm’s reach.


Pick some favorites from your master list and 1 or 2 new recipes to try.


While doing that, jot down ingredients for each recipe. Then, take stock of what you already have on hand before heading to the store.


Once your shopping is done, start meal prepping for the week. Et voila!

Got some meal planning tips and tricks of your own to share? Leave them in the comments below!


  • sherriqt314

    I have been doing this for about a year now. It’s wonderful. I did it to save money and avoid going out to eat as much (it would be Thurs/Fri and we would say we’re too tired to cook). I make several freezer meals (not a whole months worth) for those thurs/fri. I then make a list of about 25 dinner options. Each day we look at the list and choose one. Then we cross it off. It has saved me money and time and helped with the eating out thing. And there’s less guessing of what to have for dinner. I just went today to the store for January’s menu. I had several meals leftover that weren’t eaten in December (because of holiday festivities) so I didn’t have to buy much. Usually my first grocery bill of the month is close to $200, then after that it’s around $70/week (I’m feeding 4). It did take a few month’s to see savings in the money, but now I’m spending less and going out less, so win-win.

  • marissa

    The suggestion of using same ingredients for different meals is a favorite, but also, take a meal like chili, and make chili dogs the next night, or I love eggs and chili in a tortilla the next morning. Roast some veggies and pair with a protein, then make tacos with the veggies another night. My favorite is roasted sweet potatoes, kale and onion. Then adding some seasoning and black beans to make tacos!

  • Leona Beard

    I have been doing meal planning for a couple of years. It really helps me eat healthier. I typed up 2 forms on excel one for my grocery list & the other for meal planning. I have 3 favorite low carb cookbooks which I look through to create my recipes. I am retired so I have time. I plan for a week at a time then go shopping. It might be a little work choosing the recipes but so worth it when you know what is planned each week. We do eat out now & then but a lot less when meals are planned. I love to cook from scratch which helps in my meal planning.

    • Zuzanna Grodoń

      Can you elaborate on those excel forms? How are they built exactly? I’m a begginer, and an excel form seems like a solution to all my problems with meal planning 🙂

      • Leona Beard

        Hi ! my excel form for meal planning is simple.
        5 headings they are:
        Book. Page #. Recipe Name. Week Day. Servings.
        I use different low carb cookbooks that’s why I list the cookbook. As I am finding recipes I have my shopping list beside me to list anything I may need to buy. Hope this helps. Any other questions feel free to contact me. Good luck!!

        • Trace

          Sounds great. .. What are your favorite low carb recipe books??

          • Leona Beard

            My favorite is 500 low carb recipes by Dana Carpenter; second is Ultimate Low Carb Diet Cookbook by Donna P. Rodnitzky last is Suzanne Somers Eat Great, Lose Weight in her book she has the best marinara sauce which i use with spaghetti squash.

  • Sarah Pasley Hayes

    I need to get back into my meal planning but when I did do it I would maje a months worth at a time. Making sure not to repeat meats twice in a row. Plus I would throw in a few new recipes to try. But my husband is gone most of the month and two boys (4 & 6 yo) and a mother in love ( who barely eats a kid size serving) so cooking every night has been harder. Lots of last minute cooking like grill cheese or hit dogs and the all time favorite chicken nuggets.

  • Dona

    One of my favorite, quick & easy, side dishes is almost any package of frozen blended vegetables. I put them in the microwave just long enough for them to be thawed and maybe a little warm. Then I add salad dressing – usually Italian, but I like Kraft Light Asian Toasted Sesame reduced fat dressing for the Japanese blend of frozen vegetables.

  • Elise

    This article should outline which foods can be stored and for how long. Meal prepping is a valuable tool to anyone who is serious about obtaining their Nitrition goals, but can be dangerous if done incorrectly (if cooked meats being stored incorrectly).

    • Roma Seiker

      There are a multitude of food storage charts on the net. Google and print!

  • Guest

    I have been trying for months now to learn how to meal prep. I live on my own and I am a nurse, I really struggle eating healthy as when I do the food shop, things only last a couple of days before going out of date! I end up throwing most food away! I struggle with knowing what I can freeze and what I can’t and what lasts 1 day in the fridge and what can last 4! If anyone has any advice or any ideas of useful websites to help, please share! Thankyou xx

    • Guest,
      As a personal trainer at Gold’s Gym, I have found this blog to be the best to answer your questions and give encouragement. Hang in there. If you are a nurse, you are already smart. You can do this. 2015 is your year to take control of your health

    • mag

      Do you like soups? Need/want to add vegetables to your diet? You can freeze your veggies or purchase already frozen vegetables and add them to soups when you are ready to make them. Key to making great stock soups that you can cook, freeze and thaw when needed: Never boil your soup, use lots of spices like cumin, cayenne, sea salt, fresh ground pepper bay leaf, parsley, a dash of vinegar, and cilantro. Know what spices go together, and start your personal chemistry experiments…keep good notes so you can repeat the soup bases you love. Start with a homemade or store bought broth, add additional water, spices, vegetables (be aware that adding potato and rice during the cooking process makes for a gummy consistancy.) Use fresh pumpkin, carrots, or butternut squash to thicken soup bases. Heat squash, pumpkin or carrots until mashed potato like consistency. With a hand-held submersible blender emulsify and thicken hot broth right inside your stock pot…add carrots, cabbage, onion, broccoli, spinach, and zucchini until softened to your taste. You’ll never get tired of the myriad of soups you can make…totally dependent on what you have on hand. Use tomatoes, tomato paste, black beans, kidney beans, lentils, green beans, canned or frozen corn. Make a huge batch, freeze in rubber-maid pba-free containers (buy multiple sizes online) and you have instant dinners and lunches to microwave. Have fun mixing and matching spices. Add cooked meats, rice, potatoes, or couscous to frozen soup concoctions as desired.

      Dinner: Choice of beef, chicken, fish. and a fresh salad. I buy family sized meat packages (chicken, turkey, beef) on sale. These are immediately taken out of the commercial packing material, individual pieces are re-wrapped in individual patties or serving sized pieces in freezer paper, repack multiple pieces into larger freezer bags that are easily separated as needed for the grill or cast iron skillets (cheap and easy to season and maintain ).

      • Sherry Aldrich Sineath

        Thanks for taking the time to pass this along!

    • Hanna Kroon

      I’m currently a student who works part time and has a lot of self-study hours which means I also don’t have time or motivation to cook for myself daily. I bought a slow cooker off Amazon sized for 2-3 people. I make chili, stew and shredded pork/chicken in there all the time. Throw in the ingredients, go out to school/work and come home to ready food. I put half into a tupperware box to use the next two days for dinner (and some for the day I made it) and the other half I freeze for later.

      Read expiration dates on products! Don’t just grab the first one. Usually, the products that have a later expiration date are further back on the shelf. Fruit; don’t but already fully ripened fruit.

      Don’t also just buy things because they tempt you. Make a meal plan! For instance, yesterday I made a crockpot chili which gives me 5-6 servings. It q required mince, onions, garlic, chopped tin tomatoes, beans and seasonings/sauce. Super cheap, super easy. Yesterday I had it over rice, tonight I’ll likely eat it on top of a roasted aubergine, tomorrow I’ll eat it on top of the other half of the roasted aubergine. Then for the final portions I can eat chili with jacket potatoes.

      You can bulk buy meat and freeze some of it raw, or then cook it and freeze. Easy. Buy frozen veggies instead of fresh if you’re not sure you’ll use them up/don’t use them too often.

      I don’t know what exactly you are buying that last you only a couple of days because I shop once a week and everything I purchase will be good for the week.

      I’d love to help you more but this is hard given that I don’t know much about your eating habits or schedule. If you need anything more, just ask away! 🙂

    • Gillian Villeneuve

      You might look at SOSCuisine which has a French or English button. They allow you to select the # of portions in a recipe. Try the websites of magazines which publish a lot of recipes. There are a lot of solutions, but I can’t write everything here.

    • Nancy

      I just buy fresh vegetables, fresh fruit. I also get bags of frozen chicken breasts and frozen salmon at Costco. Each morning I pull out the frozen chicken or salmon and let it defrost for the day. There is always an easy recipe for chicken or salmon. About every four or five days I go into my vegetable drawer in the refrigerator and make roasted vegetables with what is left in there. Doesn’t matter the combination. Last night it was parsnips, brussel sprouts, red pepper, carrot and acorn squash. You chop everything up into pieces, toss them together in a bowl with olive oil and salt or spices. I like using Garam Masala. Pour onto a cooking tray and roast at 450 degrees for 20 – 25 minutes. Use a fork to tell if they are done. That way I am always using up my left over vegies so they don’t go bad and its a delicious side for any protein.

    • Elizabeth Kulpa

      Root vegetables like sweet potatoes & carrots can last days, as can hard squash like butternut. And I always make more chicken breast than I need, so I can have it over brown rice one day, in a salad the next, etc. I also keep dried apricots on hand. Dried fruit can have a lot of sugar, so you have to watch your portions, but if you don’t have fresh fruit, it’s better than reaching for potato chips.

    • Guest

      Try buying a Foodsaver. My husband and I were in the same situation and since investing $150 in a Foodsaver we seldom throw anything out. I put together salads for the week, seal them and then each morning I just grab one out of the refrigerator. You can also make meals and seal them so that you can just come home and open one up and heat it. Amazon sells a canister set which keeps berries fresh for about two weeks.

    • TGarlic7girl

      I am a nurse too and the only thing I can tell you is once you buy the food kyou have to COMMIT to cooking for at least 2 hours. Find easy recipes you like and start cooking and putting it away. When you do it all in one swoop you have good food ready to go! All I can say is you have to plan and follow through. Hard but can be done.

    • Bobbi Harwell

      I usually grocery shop for the month . I buy 2 packs of Perdue perfect portions chicken breast, a pack of meatballs and a pack of talapia. I go to the produce junction every weekend, there I get my fruits and veggies for the week. I usually eat the same thing for the week. I eat my heaviest meal at 1pm and salad for dinner. Like the blog says, plan your meals , if you can get recipes and plan for the month. Hope this helps.

    • guest2

      If you like fresh veggies like we do green boxes are great. Just not for mushrooms though. We haven’t used them for fruit such as strawberries yet but they are coming into season so will soon. Also we only cook a couple of days a week. And when we do we use lots of fresh veggies and make enough to freeze at least 2 meals each that we have for lunches. You can freeze just about anything some pastas don’t freeze well like egg noodles but penne and others do great. We always get fresh deli meats and packaged cheese for quick sandwiches as well. Keeping prepackaged individual size things around like apple sauce and fruit is nice to grab as well. We also keep individual puddings on hand as well. We have to watch our weight and that is why we only shop 1 day a week usually on Sunday mornings and make a list before we go knowing what is on sale and what we want to cook that week.

    • Jessica

      Most food should last 4 days. I wonder if your fridge is a bit warm?

  • Lisa

    I have been trying for months now to learn how to meal prep. I live on my own and I am a nurse, I really struggle eating healthy as when I do the food shop, things only last a couple of days before going out of date! I end up throwing most food away! I struggle with knowing what I can freeze and what I can’t and what lasts 1 day in the fridge and what can last 4! If anyone has any advice or any ideas of useful websites to help, please share! Thankyou xx

    • Yvette

      Pinterest has excellent visual charts on ingredients and how long each one lasts. If you dont use Pinterest…you should. A lot of very helpful information on there. 🙂

      • Lisa

        I do have pinterest 🙂 I’ll have a look. Thankyou 🙂 xx

    • obsmith

      I have found certain grocery stores are really bad at selling food that expires in a few days vs. in a week. Maybe you can find a different store that let’s you get a few more days out of the food? If you can and it doesn’t scorch your budget, you might have a little more luck. Also, just skip the raspberries in January! Some produce does go bad quickly when out of season. Last, you can get better at trusting yourself rather than the expiration date by trying the food out once and seeing if it is okay. The food companies want you to be safe, but they also are looking out for their bottom line. Dairy, for one, usually lasts beyond the expiration date. Keep at it, and you’ll get better! And don’t forget that you can open a bag of frozen peas/corn/beans for yourself, seal it in a freezer bag, and pop it back in the freezer until next time. Same with spaghetti sauce– put the leftover in a baggie and freeze it! Good luck!

  • Artie Martin

    Can you discuss dealing with diverticulitis as I am very new to this disease and after two bouts of antibiotics. I am scheduled for a colonoscopy

  • Kellie

    I find doing a stock take is the best way to start. What needs to be used can help narrow down you decisions, there is a world of wonderful food, you don’t want to waste it or your money.

    • Anne Pike

      I do this too Kellie. Plan my first few meals of the week around what’s already in the pantry/freezer.

      I have a four-week evening meal planner, with 4 weekly shopping lists to go with it. I have at least 1 seafood and 1 meatless dish each week, and don’t have the same protein or carb two nights in a row. I log all my recipes with Pepper Plate app/website and I can generate an electronic shopping list from selected meals whenever I want. It’s very flexible, I have cut food waste, and I never have to sweat about what I’m going to feed the family that night. I put my hubby’s name against the meals I know he cannot ruin, so even the chef is planned in advance! I love meal planning!

  • CFoodie

    Sorry for anyone who wants to know the website to make your books is called myfoodbook. It’s free and has helped me to keep my weekly meal plans very organised. Keeps me focussed on my healthy meals.

  • Guest

    I feel this info wasnt helpful at all. There were no examples of whats foods we should eat to be healthy. And what happens if u are hungry and u go to refrig for a snack no ex of which foods are great for snacks maybe because they are full of fiber.

    • Bernadette

      The article was about meal planning though. There would be lots of good pages you can visit for healthy snacks/meals.

  • flower68

    I feel your missing ex of what foods to eat and snacks. We all cant go out and buy what we want and except to lose weight. I found out all veg. Sunflower. Canola etc oils are extremely bad for our health. We need to all use coconut oils. Its sad when we think we are eating healthily ex eggs then someone says EGGS ARE BAD NOW. My best advice is dont eat ANY boxed foods all high in salt and etc. Eat lean meat, all berries, butter not margine, white bread not wheat or the best is swg bread found in freezers, vegetables, green tea 4-6 cups, water, light almond milk and one day out of the 7 enjoy your favorite food that day ex pizza one or two and supper steak and fries with sm pie. This tricks your body and u will loose weight and u will keep it off. God bless u all.

    • Kirsty Mullan

      When has white bread ever been good?

      • Sherri

        Have you read wheat belly . Our wheat today shirt man make stalks . Processed too much . Think of eating plastic .

  • Susan Vance

    Is there a site where I can list all the food in my house, and get a menu plan and grocery list?

    • catherae

      Wouldn’t that be wonderful!

    • MabeeA

      well not exactly but give MyFridgeFood a try! you list everything you have and it tells you eveything you can make! 🙂

  • loz

    In your planner, add in any events your family members are doing that could affect the meals in your week.

  • Thanks for the useful post, Elle.

    My least favorite part of cooking is figuring out what to cook! Until last year, I worked 7 days a week outside the home, often not getting back until 7. Trying to figure out what to eat when you’re flat out exhausted leads to some poor choices!

    Now that I’ve switched careers and work full-time from home, I really want to use my flexible schedule to make healthy cooking and eating a joy instead of a chore. This post is a great asset, thanks again.

  • Jill Warrick

    I’m starting to hopefully loose some weight-starting this month, I’m NOW a single women & trying to get my personel life back in order! I made some great Chicken noodle soup in the crock pot – it will be a great lunch time soup and also salad along with it!

  • Matriarch

    No one has mentioned the blender as a tool for using up those foods that are getting old. Make blender drinks, freeze, make soup or dry. Apples can be made into applesauce to stuff into an acorn squash or freeze or dried in the oven and munched on for months. Much of my meal planning is using up the produce that is getting beyond fresh. I can’t seem to do more than three days at a time.

  • TdFLanterne

    So there isn’t a Planned Meal functionality in myfitnesspal? Why not? We’re still doing this with pencil and paper? Please add it!

  • Kate goad

    My favorite meal planning app is “Meal Board.” Keeps a pantry, you can import recipes and it creates a grocery list for you. It even syncs across platforms, so you can create a meal plan on your iPad, and send it to your phone.

  • Amber

    I make my go to breakfast once a week and it lasts all week. Simply put 1 carton of egg beaters, chopped ham or chicken and a few handfulls of spinach in a long cake pan. Add salt, and red pepper flakes to taste. Cook it at 350 until firm. Cut into 12 pieces, and it is around 100 calories a square. Tons of protein, minimal carbs and low fat.

    • Jo

      Do you freeze it Amber, or just store in the fridge?

    • Jo

      Do you freeze it Amber, or just store in the fridge?

      • Amber

        I just stick it in the fridge.

    • Paula Knight Brittle

      Do you freeze the squares or just refrigerate them?

      • Amber

        Just refrigerate them.

  • michael hernandez

    I am disappointed, nothing in this article seems “easy” in fact quite the opposite, there is some good information, however somethings I do not agree on, it says “The beauty of it is there are no rules and, you can’t really mess it up”. There are lots of rules with meal planning, this is why there are registered dietitians and nutritionists. everybody is different and has different goals, and your meal plan should be customized based on, your goals, your daily activity levels, how many calories you are burning in a day and how many you plan to consume, your level of fitness activity, your supplementation, your medical history, what kinds of foods you like and do not like, there is actually A LOT of rules, or criteria that goes into this. If this criteria is not followed it can most definitely get “messed” up, either yielding an unsafe or ineffective meal plan, which can lead to a rebound effect or weight gain when you come off the meal plan. Anyhow there is some good tips in the article, education is one of the most important parts of this puzzle. Anyways, just my two cents….

    • Garlic7girl

      Don’t go by the recipes here you search for easy healthy recipes. It works I tell ya, it works!

  • Kristy

    For cost savings when meal planning, plan meals around ingredients. For instance, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of cheese, select another recipe that needs 1 cup as well and buy a larger block. Same goes with new spices, herbs, etc.

  • michellet

    Started meal planning after my 4th baby. Even better I order my groceries online and get them delivered the next morning! Going on 4 months of this and I can’t see it changing. Seems the only way to go with a large family.

  • Diane Brandson

    I’ve been using Pepperplate to both plan menus, save recipes and add to an ongoing grocery list. I have found this program useful as I tend to be able to try many more new recipes when I have the ingredients on hand (due to the shopping list) The import feature for recipes is good… there are many sites to choose from , or you can cut and paste. The only thing this one does not have is a calorie counter, however I calculate the calories of each recipe and add them into the info as I import the data. I would use MFP for these features, but have not found a menu planner on MFP is there one?

  • @1117stella

    Soup is an excellent go to and filling. Until I began my program I didn’t even know how to make soup.
    I began reading several recipes and came up with healthy versions.
    Secret tip: not only do I use low sodium chicken broth for my base I add a can of V8 juice. It bulks up the veggie content.
    Don’t be afraid, experiment.
    So far I’ve lost 116lbs and still counting.
    Best wishes for your success!

    • julie

      That is awesome Stella, would you be willing to share one of your soup recipes? I do like spicy and have used the spicy v8 before.

  • elly

    I like the idea of ‘big batch cooking’ (pasta sauce, chill, etc) . . . cook a big batch on a weekend, and freeze in meal size containers – then on rushed days, just reheat in the microwave or in the oven.

  • catweazle_1962

    I am like a few of you guys in that I work long hours.. But with a little planning eating healthy is quite easy, and most importantly if you do give in to the dark side and eat the occasional not so healthy food, don’t beat yourself up over it. My favourite at the moment is coming home putting the oven on and fill the baking tray with veg, brocoli, mushrooms, tomatoes, onion, peppers, anything that takes your fancy, and then a bit of lean healthy meat/fish, I tend to use a lot of fillet chicken these days, and maybe throw in a few small baby(already boiled) potatoes, and then throw a little olive oil over the lot, 30 to 45 min and job done and little work. Also making a load of prepared healthy meals at the weekend and freezing, it really is easier than most people think with a little planning, and trust me I am a lazy sod at times.

  • Teri Sugai

    I would love to see an actual “meal planning” component within myfitnesspal. I’ve been on a very regimented diet plan for several months and will soon go into maintenance. I’d like the ability to plug in an advance meal plan to help me maintain my weight, estimate calories, macronutrients. Does anyone know if this can be done with the app?

  • Thanks Elle!

    This is good information, and I can definitely relate to the article. I have found that it is much easier for me to stick to my healthy routine if I have a plan laid out for the week ahead. I am going to share this link to my facebook page. 🙂

  • Elizabeth Sharp

    I have found having a laminated food plan calender helpful so I write in whiteboard marker and can alter it when necessary. Like when we have leftovers or have a sudden change of plans that affects meal times.
    I also find salad in a jar and overnight oats hugely helpful to both save time and keep me on track. I prepare 5 at a time and then I allow myself the 2 other breakfasts and lunches of the week to have something else.
    I also do up ziplock bags or containers of chopped fruit and smaller containers of protein powder or super food powders for smoothies in weekly batches so they on hand all the time.
    A weekly cooking day is always good too.
    I make most things from scratch so having a cooking day with my kids and freezing stuff means all the mess in one day and we all know ahead of time what we are having for dinners or snacks, etc.
    I’m also about to start bagging up my own bread mixes so i only need to measure the liquids and pour in the dry mix and turn on instead of measuring everything every time- which is super tedious!
    These are some things that work for me and my family, but I’m always looking for more ideas because making things from scratch can seem time consuming- especially with 5 children.

  • Bad Medicine

    I hate meal planning. Why does every weight loss plan require me to become a book keeper ? I hate it.

    • John

      Are you an I dot

    • Ashley Sperry

      Check out BeachBody’s 21 Day Fix. No counting calories just whatever fits in the boxes they provide. It’s super simple! And the workouts are only 30 minutes and great for beginners.

  • Joanne

    @disqus_kvlIE8Lmji:disqus You could always go on a prepared meal plan! I’m trying this thing called Rexfords Lifestyle in Toronto where meals have all the macros written on them already. LOL i hate calculating or entering food on an app too, seems redundant, i just want to eat!

    • Ashley Sperry

      You might enjoy BeachBody’s 21 Day Fix too like I mentioned to Bad Medicine above. No counting calories just whatever fits in the boxes they provide. It’s super simple! And the workouts are only 30 minutes and great for beginners.

    • Sounds like a great idea. ☺️

    • Having a list of go-to meals is one of the easiest ways to expedite the meal planning process. Consider trying one or two new recipes and use a few old favorites to fill in the gaps. Every time you find a new meal you love, add it to the rotation!

    • Take a few moments to think about what you have going on next week week. Taking a quick inventory of everyone’s plans will quickly give you a rough idea of how many meals you’ll need to get through the week, and how much mileage you can get from each recipe.

  • Lisa

    All this calorie counting seems v complicated ; no wonder people give up, it takes away the pleasure of eating.

    Surely if people learn to plan their meals and snacks for the week, cook from scratch using the best natural ingredients, low GI, steam, bake and have at least 3 colourful salads each week, oily fish all served on smaller plates with proportions in line with the eat well plate and incorporate regular exercise into their week they will end up the correct weight.

    If people don’t think they have time then they may have to question their priorities, wealth or health!

    • Bethany Bach

      I think you are right. It is complicated. I read a book which talked about a study on weight loss (in part). One idea I am trying from “The Power of Habit” is writing for one day a week in a food journal, recording one day. It said that the people who did that lost more weight than other control groups and it’s about as complicated as I can stand. Try it if you want. I think it is hellping me to be more aware.

      • Lisa

        Sounds like a great idea. ☺️

      • Is the power of habit the name of the book on weight loss management?

        • Bethany Bach

          It is actually just what it says, a book about habits. There is a bit about weight loss, advertising, habits that changed companies, and the science of habits themselves. It is a good book, a simple read and it has helped me a bunch.

          • When you read the book, did you use it as a supplement to loose weight? Did you see significant weight loss while using the book? And, were you consistent or inconsistent reading this book for weight loss management?

          • Bethany Bach

            Sorry, I’ve been away, I have been ill. I did not read it for weight loss purposes and have inconsistently practiced it due to my illness. I’m starting again. It continues to increase my awareness of my eating habits.

          • So, your inconsistency will work to your advantage to set future goals for weight loss?

    • A Renee Holmes

      For me, it has nothing to do with wealth or health and priorities. The simple fact is I get no enjoyment out of anything kitchen-related, especially cooking from scratch (or just cooking in general). I actually despise all things related to cooking (planning meals, making grocery lists, going to the grocery store, etc.). The whole process is like cleaning toilets to me, very unpleasant. I wish I could be like others who thoroughly enjoy it and enjoy exploring the possibilities. But after all the years of trying, I haven’t reached that happy place yet.

      But the fact is, I MUST somehow find a way to enjoy it (enough to just do it) because that is the only way that I will be able to even entertain the thought of spending time at the whole process…and it’s extremely beneficial to my overall health. I haven’t found that happy medium, so I continue to read and practice, and one day, it might grow on me.

      • Lisa

        You are not the only one!! I can’t bear it but to be honest I stick to quick salads or stirfrys using a range of colourful ingredients and you can’t go far wrong following a Mediterranean diet. It’s fresh, simple using basic ingredients. I alternate whole meal bread with whole grain wheat and rice. Eat a lot of fish with it, prob have one meal with lamb or beef a week for iron, using a lot of tinned beans lentil tomatoes, easy to throw in to pad it out.

        I would find two meals a week to start with that are simple to prepare, cut up red green yellow peppers, radish, tomatoes, spring onion cucumber, use a vinegrette dressing not Mayo, throw in some rocket add fish, turkey, or chicken, bread, rice or wheat. That’s it!

        When happy with that try a different meal baked spuds with thin layer of mature grated cheese and salad.

        I think salads should be eaten everyday. If you do you will see your skin and energy improve ! I do.

        • A Renee Holmes

          Thank you so much for the response! I honestly didn’t expect one! I’m working on my meal plan, and your suggestions are absolutely perfect solutions so that I won’t become overwhelmed and quit the process altogether because of frustration. I can’t quit because I don’t ever want to hear the “D” word (diabetes) or any other health-related word simply because I remained careless about my eating habits.

          • Lisa

            Good luck with it all! None of us eat perfectly all the time, it’s a work in progress 🙂 It will become more natural as you get to grips with it.

        • Did alternating in your diet with breads help you loose weight?

          • Lisa

            Hi Eric

            Using wholegrain food fills you up for longer and takes the body longer to digest so you shouldn’t feel hungry an hour later. It stays in the stomach while the body digests it bit by bit and then squirts the liquid carbohydrate into your small intestine where it is digested. The liquid carbohydrate is a form of sugar the body uses for energy and is dripped slowly into the blood stream to give continuous energy. The white, highly processed carbohydrates, white bread, pasta, rice, are partially broken down before we eat them so they break down quickly and surge into the blood stream causing a sugar over load. The pancreas then has to work really hard to produce insulin to get rid of the excess sugar. The body is always trying to keep the body in homeostasis – not too much or little of anything or balanced – so excess sugar surges are a problem. After the insulin has dealt with the excess sugar you can have a dip in energy as it may have got rid of too much sugar, plus the body has used energy to get rid of it so you may feel tired and lethargic.

            If eating white carbs, excess sugary products continues it can lead to diabetes so stick to the whole meal carbs and reduce processed sugar to stay fuller for longer, lose weight as you won’t feel as hungry and keep yourself healthy.

            Sorry if I’m teaching you to suck eggs – just realised how much I have written!!

          • Actually, this is great to get a more exhaustive answer about a serious subject as insulin? So, you are explaining that the more we ingest of white type of starch foods our Insulin levels decrease or increase?

          • Lisa

            Hi Eric

            This is taken from the nhs website:

            There are two main types of diabetes:

            Type 1 – where the pancreas doesn’t produce any insulin

            Type 2 – where the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or the body’s cells don’t react to insulin

            The second is the type people get from eating and living unhealthily. The causes are complex but in layman’s terms the body is overwhelmed by the amount of sugars it has to deal with and breaks down – just like a car might if you put the wrong or substandard fuel in it.

            The NHS website has loads of useful info.

          • Okay, that is great. What is NHS website? Do you think the NHS website provides an African American perspective about Type I and Type II diabetes?

          • Lisa

            Hi Eric

            I’m in the UK so the NHS stands for the National Health Service. They have a website that is trustworthy as the information is screened by many professionals before they can use it. They are at the heart of our health care here so can be trusted.

            I’m guessing you are African American and are looking for specific information. I have just had a very quick look and it seems there is a real issue with diabetes in the African American community. However, it seems it may be a cultural thing in that many A.A cook with lots of fatty, sugary substances (overeating fat also contributes to diabetes – told you it was complicated) so this may have a bearing as to why so many get diabetes.

            I found an article that will give you more information. I think it was written by an A.A. The same rule applies though, you need to eat a balanced diet – follow the Mediterranean diet and cut out fatty meat, sugar and palm/coconut oils and use small amounts of cold pressed olive oil, veg oil, eat more oily fish, loads and loads of fresh raw salads and veg and eat whole grain food.

            You also need to exercise – not madly but take regular brisk walks every day, use a gym or go to a class or Personal Trainer. Good luck with it all

          • Toni

            There is a really good book that explains how to eat and the whole diabetes condition in lay men’s terms. It’s ChangeOne For Diabetes. It’s by Readers Digest. I think you’d find it helpful. I’m African American with diabetes all around me meaning my mom, dad, grandfather, brother, and even I had gestational diabetes. But I’m not diabetic and if all I have to do to prevent it, is to eat healthy and exercise, well, I think I’m worth it! You too!

          • So, at least you have one half the battle of knowing the genetic background of diabetes. Do you support each other as a family to prevent diabetes? Do you support each other as a family to eat right?

          • What kinds of foods that you can put in a pressure for people living with obesity and diabetes complications?

      • Joey Decangi

        Use a pressure cooker.
        I am using one now and some meals are done in 10 minutes.
        It’s either that or I eat junk which I prefer not to. I work 12 hours a day and can’t do it any other way.
        Just thought I would throw in my 2 cents….

        • Hi, what kinds of foods that you can put in a pressure for people living with obesity and diabetes complications?

          • Joey Decangi

            You can cook just about anything you want. Best thing to do is either go online or get a book on pressure cooker recipes and you will see a great variety of foods that can be prepared. Best part is you don’t have to worry about seasoning too much as most of the flavor of the foods get trapped in the cooker and stay in the food.

          • Do you know what kinds of books or websites that are specific for obesity or diabetes cooking recipes?

          • Joey Decangi

            Sorry Eric, that I donly not know

          • That’s okay because I’m gonna go to the Chicago Public Library in downtown to see what you are talking about.

          • Toni

            Try the Whole 30, you basically eat clean for a month. I did it and no longer have a desire for sweet foods, I do crave fruits and nuts, and fresh foods. You just need to give your gut a break, and on this diet I was able to eat and not feel hungry after, and at the end, felt healthy regardless of weight.

          • While using the the Whole 30 book, did you set it as a goal not to eat sweets or desire sweets?

    • If you prefer going digital, create a sub-calendar for your meal plan in Google, Outlook or your calendar application of choice and share it with family members or roommates so everyone knows the plan.

  • Honestly I couldn’t get through the article because of all the missed editorial mistakes.

  • katwomansz

    I buy whatever is on sale. Then I Bing the ingredients until a recipie pops up. I used to use cookbooks and shop to the recipie, but it’s better to get what’s on sale for the week and substitute what you have on hand.

  • Do you think meal planning for beginner’s is beneficial for people who are living with obesity and or diabetes?

    • GiaTia

      Yes. I have type 2 diabetes and meal planning definitely helps. You are more aware of what you are eating.

      • So, when you are aware of what you eat, then you notice your blood glucose levels decrease?

        • Sarah W Dyck

          I’m using plexus and it works. Awesome for diabetics and most people lose weight on it. I have had amazing results..

          • Sarah W Dyck

            That way you don’t have to watch every little thing that goes in your mouth lol

          • What is a plexus?

          • Sarah W Dyck

            I have replied twice but For some reason it’s not getting approved? ? Plexus is an all natural product that balances blood sugars by drinking it first thing in the morning. it tastes like kool-aid 🙂 it’s only available online. But if I put in the website, then this comment won’t be approved lol

          • Okay, is Plexus a natural drug? Is Plexus a herbal tea or herbal remedy that decreases the blood glucose levels? Do you have to take Plexus with a meal or in between Meals, Sarah? Or can Plexus be swallowed down like a 12oz can of diet mountain?

          • Sarah W Dyck

            It is a natural, plant based powder you add to a cup of water , shake and drink. Drink a half hour before breakfast and you are good for the day. It gets rid of your cravings as well. It tastes really good! I look forward to it every day. Do u have a number I can text you with?

          • Sure its 3128630129

          • Sarah W Dyck

            Ok that’s long distance 🙁 do you have Facebook lol?

    • OK-RD

      Hi Eric Hilary Smith. I have been reading through the comments and noticed that you have asked many thoughtful questions! It sounds to me like you could benefit from working with a certified diabetes educator and/or dietitian to answer your questions at regular visits and develop an individualized plan (I, myself, am a dietitian and diabetes educator.) I would strongly caution against soliciting a lot of advice in online forums, especially when it comes to supplements (Plexus, for instance). It’s so important to talk with your doctor, pharmacist, or dietitian before starting these products as they may have active ingredients that could interact with other meds you take. (I am not commenting on plexus itself, just supplements in general as they are not regulated by the FDA or any other organization here in the US.) The term “natural” is not regulated at all so just because something is “natural” does not necessarily mean it may be harmless to you.

      • Well, according to research articles, no one is sure about the definitions concerning obesity and diabetes. In the health care marketplace, even with Obamacare looming with the election, dieticians and Diabetes educators are not sure about ethical or safe approaches to bringing diabetes into remission. I am talking preventive about Plexus, thank you for the leg up and thank you for reading our comments. We are preparing to right a two part book according to American Pediatrics Association and American Medical Association to bring diabetes into a Prevention perspective. Part one: Alphabets about Diabetes and Obesity and part two is the Miseducation about Diabetes in Black America. So, checks those out when they come out in the near future.

    • OK-RD

      And YES! Meal planning is great for anyone trying to eat more healthfully! It can help you save money, reduce food waste, and give you a reason to avoid eating out/fast food/junk foods as you would already have the items you need to build a healthy meal at home.

  • Bethany Bach

    This helps. It is well written, easy to follow and I believe it will be of use to me and my family for years to come.

    Thank you.

  • B. Giallombardo

    I look at my meals for the week and pre-prep some items for the week on the weekend. This shortens the prep time during the week.

    • Do you go by calories that each meal has for the week?

      • B. Giallombardo

        I let my Fitbit and My Fitness Pal track my calories daily.

        • Are you able to record how many pounds you are loosing each day with Fitbit?

          • B. Giallombardo

            I track weight loss by the week. and yes I track it in my Fitness Pal

  • RavenousPixie

    My family and I have used eMeals for a couple of years—we’ve used their paleo and clean eating meal plans. But they have tons of other meal plans like diabetic, gluten free, low cal….all kinds of stuff. I think we pay $5 a month for everything Family LOVES it! Everything is done for me—the recipes, menus and grocery list. So easy. Plus they have an app so super-easy to use to shop and cook.

    • Have you ever heard of a ketogenic diet?

      • RavenousPixie

        Only by name, but I don’t know anything about the diet.

        • Do you think the African American Community can benefit from using those aforementioned recommendations or ideas?

          • RavenousPixie

            I definitely think the African American Community can benefit from using something like eMeals. Like I mentioned, they have all kinds of meal plans—diabetic, gluten free, heart healthy, low cal—you should check it out. Good luck!

    • HealthyFitness212

      That would be perfect w emeals. Too bad they endorse Paula Dean. I’ll wait for the next company who does this or better wo endorsing blatantly racist people.
      (Never would have known until I looked at all the menu options btw; not saying you’re racist.)

    • What do you think is a simple Paleo Meal for Lunch?

      • RavenousPixie

        Hi Eric – I didn’t take your comment the wrong way ; – )
        As for lunch, as mentioned, we’ve only used eMeals for our all-day solution of breakfast, lunch and dinner.

        • Oh okay, no problem. I was just wanted to know is the Paleo diet made up of the five food groups on the food pyramid?

  • James Park

    You can also try looking up a professional meal delivery service by using True Meals. They are a meal delivery community and marketplace for the U.S. for local businesses. That’s if you don’t want to count the macros yourself and don’t enjoy cooking as much as others!

  • Ignacio Sports

    Proper balanced diet should be there for healthy life style.Useful post.Thanks For sharing this.

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    Try eatthismuch app or website. It does everything stated above for you. Just click point and print. Voila! You have a customized meal plan with a grocery list. I often add my own recipes or recipes from this site so they can be added into the rotation for variety. Highly recommend

    • Renee Soronen

      Um, wow! I hadn’t heard of this site until today. Thanks for sharing!

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  • Greg Lupus

    I use Fitatu, new calorie tracker in the UK. Free app like basic version of MFP.

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  • Vanessa Foster

    Oh my gosh! Thank you for this. It is so hard to get organized these days when planning out healthy meals for the week. I cannot wait to try this out along with fruit desserts I saw featured in Consumer Health Digest.

  • Thank you for this fantastic info. The tips listed above are insightful and will help me a lot. The article is well written as well.

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    It seems like timing on nutrients and variety should be set up?

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  • David Ryan

    Informative and some valid suggestions but a little overboard on the planning. Its dinner not D-Day LOL

  • davedave12

    anyone else remember when carbs were called starch — every one for the last 500 years has know that too much bread, rice potatoes, pasta, baked goods make you fat

  • MarkandDonna Whitham

    Mealboard App does all of the above

  • Did you see significant weight loss while using the book?

  • Thank you for this guide on meal planning. I think it will take me sometime before I can start practicing these. It’s like a new habit that I need to form.

  • Brian Smith

    Still trying to figure out how you don’t spend your whole Sunday cooking food for the week? We have two boys that play sports and both of us work full time, so Sunday is the only day that isn’t filled with work, practices, games or church.

  • Kaicheng Hu

    Good practices!

  • Hey, thanks for posting this insightful content. I love it so much, thanks.

  • Really great info! I will definitely use this as a reference. Thanks!