How to Make a Meal Plan in 10 Easy Steps

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A meal plan can help you feed your family, keep you on budget, and reduce food waste. These are a few ways to teach you how to meal plan.

Creating a meal plan is one of those tasks that can feel tedious like doing the dishes. Numerous subscriptions offer to do it for you, which is amazing! But for most people, it does not fit the budget to do a meal plan subscription.

So exactly how do you meal plan?


#1 Make a Quick Kitchen Inventory

Grab your trusty pen and paper OR open the notes app on your smartphone. List out the places you store food, such as the refrigerator, freezer, cabinets, pantry, basement, garage, deep freezer, under the bed, and wherever else you creatively store your food.

Now, write down everything that you have. This can be the most time-consuming part, but with practice, you’ll be a meal planning pro!

#2 Note Any Upcoming Expirations

To help reduce food waste, make a note of expiration dates. Anything that is about to expire soon, plan on using soon.

Any food that is wasted is money thrown away.

meal plan
I like to meal plan weekly. This is my meal plan notebook set up, but you can meal plan your way. Have fun and be creative!

#3 Throw Out Expired Foods

Speaking of expiration dates and food waste… if anything is past expiration, toss it out! It is not worth the food poisoning or upset stomach.

Pro Tip: There are so many cheap hacks to keep food for longer.
You can put a few sheets of paper towel in a container of spinach and store the container with the paper towel sheets down.
You’d also be surprised what you can freeze!

#4 Use Any Leftovers in Your Meal Plan

If you have leftovers that are still good, incorporate them into your meal plan.

Sometimes, you cook up a bigger batch of food than intended. Sometimes, you might be able to throw that little bit of rice into an omelet and make a breakfast casserole.

The possibilities are endless!


#5 Put Together Your Recipes

Okay, you’ve made your food inventory. Thrown out the expired stuff. And, made note of what you have.

Now it’s time to put together your recipes.

It’s okay if you don’t know where to start. I often find myself here, too. You can use a recipe maker generator, such as SuperCook or MyFridgeFood.

You can also simply good recipes by combining two ingredients that you have. The possibilities are endless, and you can get creative.

Pro Tip: If you’re on a tight budget, stick to recipes with simple ingredients and spices you know you’ll use again.

#6 Plan Out Your Meals

Now that you have your recipes, it is time to plan on when you plan to eat what.

This can be an optional step, but it is helpful to know what you plan on eating on which day of the week. This way you don’t have to guess at the last minute what you are eating and are more likely to take something out o the freezer to defrost ahead of time.

meal plan
My meal plans are a mix of leftovers, breakfast for dinner, and a few other meals for dinner.

#7 Create a Grocery List

Anything that you don’t already have for your meals, write it down.


#8 Create Your Shopping List

Write down anything else you need at home, such as snacks for the kids, pet food, laundry detergent, etc.

I know this doesn’t exactly relate to meal planning, but if you are on a tight budget, it does.

Pro tip: Download your favorite store’s app on your phone and put your list there. This helps you see what they have or don’t have, find deals, and sometimes find items in the store quicker.

#9 Save Your Recipes

This is obvious, but it was not to me in the beginning! The biggest lie I told myself was that I would remember where to find the recipes I found online or from the countless recipe books available to me.

You can snap a photo, email the links to yourself, or save the recipes in your phone notes.

It also makes it quicker and easier to get food cooked and on the table.

#10 Stick to Your Meal Plan

This is also an obvious point, but again, it was not to me in the beginning. I use to feel like occasionally straying from the meal plan would be okay, And it is, sometimes. We are human, after all.

But if you’re on a budget, this can be harmful to your wallet. This brings me to another pro tip.

Pro tip: Schedule time to eat out. Not everyone likes to cook every day. I don’t. And, you don’t have to exactly eat out. You can also pick up ready-made food from your local grocery store, grab some fast food, or even have dinner at a friend’s house.

Conclusion on How to Meal Plan

Meal planning is not a one size fits all solution. Some people benefit from meal service subscriptions, while others want to DIY. These steps are great and easy ways to help you feed your family, save money, and reduce waste.

What do you think about these steps? Is there anything different you would do?

P.S. If you liked reading this, you’d probably like to learn a few ways to save money and pay your bills here.

5 thoughts on “How to Make a Meal Plan in 10 Easy Steps”

  1. As a working mom, meal-prep is very important as it helps me save time. Personally, I plan out my meals for the week, and have a grocery list ready when I hit the stores. That way, I’m not wasting time at the aisles trying to decide what to buy. Thanks for sharing this list. These are all great suggestions!

  2. I started meal planning years ago to prevent us from getting fast food too frequently and I haven’t looked back! I love your tip for adding leftovers to the meal plan. It makes that week night even easier!

  3. Coming up with meals can be a task (at least a little one). My kids grumble if one set of meals have been on for a while.

    These tips will com in handy for making meals. Thanks for this

  4. These are really great tips to save time and money. It makes me feel bad when I throw food away. As long as leftovers are okay, we put in the fridge or incorporate it on the next meal.

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