Meal planning is such a smart life move. If you don’t know how to meal plan, don’t worry, it’s not hard! There’s 6 easy to follow steps that will have you creating your own custom meal plans in no time!
DIY Meal Plan Steps
Follow these steps and start meal planning this week!
1. How many meals for how many people?
The first thing you need to do when creating your own meal plan is figure out how many meals you’re planning and how many people will eat each meal.
Include everything: breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and beverages. And don’t forget to account for any meals you might eat out!
2. Know your limitations
Now’s the time to think about meal limitations.
One common limitation is food allergies and dislikes. For example, you have a person who’s lactose intolerant. Are you going to make all your meals lactose-free or will you make some adjustments just to them?
Another common limitation is lunches. I work from home so I have a full kitchen for lunch. But that’s not the case for everyone. Students might have access to only what’s in their lunch bag. Some jobs will have nothing, others will have a fridge and microwave, etc.,
Keep these limitations in mind when you’re meal planning so that you’re not wasting food because you don’t have the equipment to eat it as planned.
3. Choosing the “star”
Now that you know how many meals you need to create, it’s time to start planning.
IMO, the best place to start is with protein. There’s two reasons for this:
- Protein can be expensive. If you choose your protein first, you can choose what’s on sale this week and then choose recipes to match.
- For many people, protein is the star of a dish.
It’s up to you how many different proteins you want to choose for a week. I usually choose 2 main dinner proteins, like chicken and ground beef. These are proteins I can easily make into a few different dinners and also eat as leftovers for lunches.
I’ll also use deli meats, eggs, and other proteins for breakfasts and lunches. These items have longer expiry dates so I can keep my fridge stocked with them at all times.
4. It’s time to meal plan
Now that you know all the big stuff, it’s time to fill out your plan.
There are a bunch more things to consider when making your meal plan:
- What’s on sale?
You probably already know what proteins are on sale (because I suggested you choose those ones). But what about other items that go with your chosen proteins? What about snack items?
- What’s in season?
Nothing beats locally grown in-season produce. It’s so much tastier & it’s great to support local farmers. Growing seasons vary based on region so I would suggest you head over to your search engine of choice and type in “produce in season REGION” with REGION being where you live. I typed in “produce in season Ontario” and it led me to this great chart (that’s downloadable).
- What do you already have?
One of the best places to “shop” for your meal plan is your own cupboard.
- How much cooking do you want to do?
Maybe you like cooking and are happy to cook a fresh and unique meal every night. Maybe you hate cooking and are okay eating the same meal every day (and/or twice a day).
You need to do what works for you.
- How much prep work do you want to do?
Another aspect of meal planning is prepping your meals. Some people are content to do all their meal prep before/during cooking, others want to do as much as possible on day one.
If your budget isn’t super tight and you’re not a big fan of prep work, there are a lot of things you can buy “ready to go.” For example, my grocery store sells chopped and washed fresh veggies. They’re expensive as f*** but the cost might be worth it to some people (I mean, obviously it is or the store would stop selling it).
Again, you need to do what works for you.
- How much help will you have?
If you’re not going to be doing everything alone, having a plan can make it easier for everyone. Who will be helping and what roles will they take?
Pro Tip: If you’re going to be teaching someone, make sure to add extra time to your plan.
There are no right or wrong answers! Every single household will be different so you need to be honest about what’s happening in your house so you can make a successful plan!
A meal plan isn’t just about choosing your recipes, it’s also about planning how you’ll prepare them. So do that, too. For example, I do as much prep as possible on shopping day: I wash and chop all my produce, I marinate or cook all my meats, I package out my snacks, etc., These things are part of my plan!
5. Let’s go shopping
MAKE A LIST!!!!
Seriously, make a list.
I make a list of absolutely everything I need. Then, I “shop” my cupboards and cross off what I already have. What’s left? Everything I need to buy to make my meal plan happen.
Head to the store(s) and get everything!
6. Get to it!
You have the plan, you have the food, it’s time to start! Follow your plan and enjoy a fantastic week of meals!
How to Meal Plan Example
Here’s a basic example of one of my weekly meal plans.
First up, is who we’re meal planning for, how many meals, what limitations there are, and choosing some proteins. In this case, I have 4 adults to prep for (2 of whom I only have to worry about dinner for).
Next, I like to choose all the meals I’m going to make. Personally, I don’t plan daily breakfasts or snacks. Instead, I make sure that I have a bunch of breakfast food and snack food on hand and I eat whatever I want. I also keep some deli meat, nuts, and other items on hand that I can toss into a salad.
Finally, comes the plan. I like to do all my prep work on Sunday so that I can quickly cook fresh (and unique) meals throughout most of the week. For example, fajita’s take no time when the meat is already cooked and your veggies are already chopped! Prep time usually takes me 2 to 3 hours (and includes Sunday dinner).
Saturday is leftover day in my house because there’s pretty much always a collection of leftovers available. If you’re short on leftovers though, I always have buns (in the freezer), deli meats, and veggies so a salad and/or sandwich can fill in the gaps!
The only thing not included in my above example is the grocery list, make sure you have one before you head to the shop!
Check out my tasty Roasted Whole Chicken Recipe (it’s super easy and keto-friendly, but also delicious if you’re not doing keto).
Follow the plan
You have a plan. You have all the food. Now, you just need to do it.
Share your DIY meal plan in the comments below!
Want more? Check out the 7-day Keto Meal Plan next.
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