How to Meal Plan

Posted in Blog on 30.06.2024

How to Meal Plan

Are you stuck in a food rut? Is one of the many challenges in any day the perpetual “what’s for dinner?” / “I dunno, what do you fancy?”

If indecision and procrastination were Olympic sports, I’d have gold medals hanging above my kitchen sink. But guess what? That perpetual dinner debate was the catalyst that led me from dinnertime dilemmas to how to meal plan like a maestro. That and going from a two car to one car family.

My meal planning journey started around a decade and a half ago when my knees decided they didn’t want to support the long hours of working in kitchens. Me not going out to work every day meant our family didn’t really need two cars so I sort of stumbled on meal planning. Instead of going food shopping, we started getting it delivered – which isn’t quite the same as wandering down the aisles IN the supermarket and grabbing a few things for that week. Instead it seemed to naturally lean toward meal planning. How did I know what and how much of it to order if I didn’t know what I was cooking?

“What do you fancy for dinner?” The question that haunts us all right? This nightly ritual of indecisiveness was getting pretty old. It was time for a new approach from the “I don’t know, what do you want” to something a bit more organised and, well, MUCH less stressful.

I’m not going to say the clouds parted and a ray of hope shone down but meal planning really did save a LOT of hassle.

Fast forward to today and while the family is slightly smaller now (currently waiting on the decree nisi as I type) I, as a singleton with two dogs, still rigorously meal plan. Because no matter how many you’re feeding or whether you get your groceries delivered or actually go shopping, it just makes sense!


How to Meal Plan

Why meal plan?

Do you feel like you never have enough time to cook healthy homemade meals? Do you spend a fortune on grocery shopping just to end up throwing stuff away that’s gone rotten in your fridge? Do you want to eat healthier but don’t know where to start?

  • It minimises decision making and takes one thing off your metaphorical plate each week.
  • Makes food/grocery shopping so much easier. No more aimlessly wandering the aisles trying to decide what you might fancy to eat next Friday. You’ve got your trusty preplanned list!
  • With careful planning and checking it negates extra trips to the shops because you’ve bought everything you need for the week. This not only saves time but reduces those impulse purchases that tend to happen during multiple trips.
  • You can plan to use what you already have. This prevents buying duplicates and allows you to plan meals around what you need to use up.
  • Encourages meal prep. Having a structured meal plan makes it easier to think ahead to what can be prepared in advance. This streamlines cooking and reduces time spent in the kitchen. It also helps ensure healthy meals are ready when needed instead of resorting to take aways or overly processed food.


How to Meal Plan

How to get started with meal planning

Like most things in life, this will all get easier the more you do it!  If you’re new to meal planning make it easy to meet your goals. Start small. Plan for just a few days of meals rather than a full week. Or even for one of the types of meal per day – say a week of dinnertime meals planned. I have a whole week of dinner plans done for you in my free guide: What’s For Dinner – Stress Free Guide To Simplify Dinnertime.

STEP 1: Start by making your list/plan

Take a sheet of paper. Divide your page into days (Monday, Tuesday etc) then into each meal you want to include – breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts and snacks. It’s easiest if you put this in a grid format.  What you want to include will be different depending on your lifestyle but feel free to steal my own personal meal planning template that I’ve used for the last 5+ years. It’s simple but it WORKS.

How to Meal Plan

There’s also both a one week dinnertime only template and a full three meal template in my free download: What’s For Dinner – Stress Free Guide to Simplify Dinnertime.

Don’t skip this part. Making your list is important. Not only will it save you the whole ‘what’s for dinner’ blah, it also means you only end up buying what you need. This saves a tonne of time, money and storage space!

How to Meal Plan
STEP 2: Add in your meals.

As I got more and more used to meal planning I began compiling a list of meals that I really enjoyed. I sat myself down and made a list of meals that not only do I enjoy but ones that are simple, nutritious, make stonking leftovers (hello fellow singletons) or can be batch cooked and mixed up into something different throughout the week.

From that list I then plan my meals each week, cherry picking what’s in season and what I have time to cook or prepare in advance. And as you add to your recipe repertoire you can keep adding to your list, giving you even more variety.

Decide what day you want to eat what meals. Think about what your schedule looks like for that week. Any meals planned out? A particularly busy day so leftovers or something very quick needed for that day?

How to Meal Plan
Tips for meal planning success:
  • Make sure the recipes are balanced and filling. Add variety with a good range of vegetables, fruits, protein sources and grains.
  • Try and include vegan protein in every meal as this is what helps to keep you feeling full. Beans, peas, legumes, oats, tofu, tempeh, seitan and even meat substitutes all offer good sources of vegan protein.
  • Incorporate leftovers. Make extra of a particular recipe so you have enough for another day later that week. Leftovers have become my sanity and last night’s dinner often becomes next day’s lunch!
  • Think about what you already have in the pantry/fridge/freezer and if they can be incorporated in the meal plan.
  • Add dishes you KNOW you will enjoy. Or the temptation will be to ditch the plan and order in.
  • Make meal planning a part of your routine. Set aside a day and time to meal plan each week.
  • Make a master list of your favourite meals and recipes that you can keep adding to as you build your culinary repertoire.
  • Keep trying new things so you don’t get stuck in a rut!


How to Meal Plan
STEP 3: Make a shopping list

Have you ever shopped without a list? What did you buy? What happened to the food? Did you have to make additional shopping trips?

Go through each recipe in detail so nothing is missed – double check this. Check this against what you already have and add any missing ingredients to your shopping list. Be efficient – organise your ingredients by different sections in the grocery store.

How to Meal Plan
STEP 4: Go shopping!

Money saving tips:

  • See what’s on sale but don’t buy what you don’t need (unless you can freeze it AND have space in your freezer AND know that you can use it in another week’s plan!)
  • Stick to your list – avoid impulse purchases
  • Avoid buying perishables unless they’re in the plan
  • Try not to shop when you’re hungry. I know this seems obvious but you might be surprised the difference it makes!
  • Buy local and in season
  • Buy in bulk when possible for things with a really long shelf life like grains, pasta, flour etc
  • Grow your own herbs – an easy and cost effective way to add flavour to your meals


How to Meal Plan
STEP 5: Optional but recommended – MEAL PREP!

I love meal prep. As someone who spends a LOT of time cooking (and washing up), having something either already made or a few minutes away from being ready is a life saver when I just can’t be arsed to cook. And I think we ALL get those days right? It means I get to eat a balanced, nutritious meal and I’m less inclined to reach for the take-away menu. It means I eat quality and variety and it minimises food waste. The food is ready (or almost ready) to go – less stress, less fuss.

  • Allocate some time a week to meal prep.
  • Make a note of what dishes or parts of a dish can be prepared ahead of time or can be made and frozen. Does a recipe require something to be marinated or soaked?
  • Give yourself time and make it fun!
  • Read the recipe fully before beginning then follow the step by step instructions.


How to Meal Plan

Everything I’ve shared with you in this post is not just ‘theory’. These are all strategies I personally use and have taught to real people with real results.

Do you want to try a done for you guide including a full week’s dinnertime plan with meal prep, exclusive recipes and a shopping list? Download my freebie by clicking on the button below:



Hello there!  I’m Sam, former Michelin star pastry chef and now your go-to vegan foodie on a mission to make plant-based eating a deliciously easy adventure!  From cozy comfort foods to vibrant salads and decadent desserts, there’s something for everyone in my kitchen.

Whether you’re cooking for one or for a houseful I believe food doesn’t have to be complicated to be full of FLAVOUR and I want to show you how.  I’ve been a rigorous meal planner for over a decade whilst embracing seasonal ingredients (because that’s where the real flavour is!)

I’m also a dedicated dog mum to Nooch and Baxter and enjoy cooking them homemade treats (many of which are posted here) when I’m not screaming at the tennis or devouring fantasy fiction.

All things autumn - warming soups, savoury bakes and delicious sweet treats!

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