Five ways to master meal planning

“What’s for dinner?”

Whether someone is asking you that question or you’re thinking it to yourself, it can be overwhelming. You might wonder what you even have to make at home, and anything you can think of in the moment sounds unappealing. You cave and order carryout…again.

If this sounds familiar, meal planning can be a great solution. It’s a little work upfront, but has long-term benefits. And with our simple steps to meal planning to success, it’s much less stressful than trying to calculate what you’ll eat every night on the spot.

  1. Block time to plan: OK, this one is inevitable, but we promise it’s not a lot of time – just 30 minutes or so, and you can even do it while watching TV. Take time, say every Sunday afternoon, to write down five meals you’d like to make that week horizontally across a sheet of paper. Next, jot down the ingredients you need under each meal. A common misconception of meal planning is they have to be elaborate meals, but they can simply be workable stapes. For example, one meal could be a “sheet pan meal” of salmon, baby red potatoes, and asparagus. Even when accounting for seasonings you may need, that’s a short ingredient list!
  1. Check the fridge, freezer and pantry: Before you head to the store, check out what you have at home already. It’s easy to forget that you already have chicken broth in the pantry, or oregano in the spice cabinet. Consult your ingredient list and cross off anything you already have readily available.
  1. Sort before you shopA favorite time-saving hack to meal planning is simply sorting your ingredient list to help you speed through the store without backtracking. Take your ingredient list and a new sheet of paper. Write down headings for store departments, such as “Produce” or “Dairy.” Make it even easier by downloading one of these printable templates. Working through your meal list, write down your ingredients under their proper heading / location. With everything organized, shopping in-person or online is easy!
  1. Make it fun: Meal planning doesn’t have to be a dreaded chore. You have to eat anyway, so make it fun! Prep and cook while listening to a favorite record or podcast. Get new ideas for meals by sticking to a chosen theme. For example, you might try a week of slow cooker meals, or cook “around the world” by trying a different type of cuisine each night. Follow a few food bloggers or recipe websites for further inspiration.
  1. Get an assistCurated options like Healthrageous lighten the load by doing the planning and prepping for you: They deliver tasty meals and meal kits directly to your door, so you only have to do the cooking. This can be a great go-to option to augment the meal planning you’re doing, or fully rely on it if your schedule is busy.

With a little time at the start of each week, you’ll reduce stress every day by not wondering “what’s for dinner?” You’ll already know, and you’ll have your favorite show queued up to watch while you make it.