Simple Meal Planning for Beginners

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One way to lower your grocery bill is to meal plan before you go shopping. If you think that sounds complicated, it doesn’t have to be. Let me share with you how to create your own simple meal planning routine.

As a busy mom and wife, I prefer to keep meal planning as simple as possible!

I used to think that I needed a fancy chalkboard menu and lots of Pinterest worthy meals, but I’ve learned that simple meals make my husband happy, and they are less stressful for me.

That’s a win-win!

Looking for simple meal planning tips for your busy family? Here are the best hacks plus a printable menu! #mealplanning #simple #families #printable

Step-by-step guide to meal planning for beginners:

  1. Pick 5 meals from the master list and write out your weekly meal plan. 
  2. Check the freezer and pantry for ingredients that you already have.
  3. Write down any missing ingredients including anything needed for breakfast, lunch, or snacks and add to your grocery shopping list.

Simplify your Meal Planning with these two tips!

Simple meal planning has saved me so much money and stress when it comes to making dinner, and I hope it does for you too!

Creating a master list to refer is a life saver, so let’s talk about how to do that. 

How to Meal Plan for Beginners

1. Create a master meal list of meal ideas.

Think about all of the meals that your family eats on a regular basis and write them down in one place. As you find new meals that your family enjoys, you can add them to your list.

Having a list helps save time so that you don’t have to look through cookbooks each week or think of meals off the top of your head.

You can organize your list any way that works for you. I divided my list into 4 categories: ground beef, chicken, roast, and pork.

When choosing the meals, pull 1-2 meals from each category for a total of 5 meals. That way you don’t eat chicken all week. One night could be leftovers and another night could be frozen pizzas or something easy. Or you may decide to go out to eat one night.

You can get a your free meal planning printable here. It includes a page for your master list of meals and also a page to create master lists for breakfast, lunch, and snacks.

When choosing your meals, make sure you keep your weekly schedule in mind. I like to pick a few easy meals that I can throw together in 30 minutes like tacos, breakfast, sub sandwiches, ect.

That way I can make an easy meal on the nights that I don’t have a lot of time or energy, and we avoid spending money on going out to eat.


meal plan printable

Looking for simple meal planning tips for your busy family? Here are the best hacks plus a printable menu! #mealplanning #simple #families #printable



2. Keep the rest of the meals and side dishes simple.

I know this tip isn’t for everyone, especially those who like to make elaborate meals. But having simple side dishes has helped me save money and time on meal prep.

Basically, my side dishes don’t need complicated recipes because I stick to vegetables, fruit, and some form of bread.

The only cookbook that I use on a regular basis is my Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book*. It is full of basic recipes.

Meal Planning can be easy when you use basic recipes.

I especially love referring to the chart for cooking fresh vegetables at the very end of the book!

Any vegetable that you can think of is included in this cookbook. I love that it shares both conventional and microwave directions.

Sometimes you just don’t have time to heat up the stove!

Cooking fresh vegetables


Bonus Tips for Beginner Meal Planning!

  • Choose 2-3 vegetables each week, and rotate between them for each meal. You can keep a stock of frozen and canned vegetables and buy some fresh produce each week too.
  • Just like vegetables, choose 2-3 fruits for the week, and rotate them usually among meals. Often I will cut up melons and berries early in the week so that there is no preparation needed before each meal. We also like canned and frozen fruit for convenience.
  • Keep breakfast simple with muffins, toast, oatmeal, fruit, and yogurt.
  • I have a short list of snacks that we rotate on a regular basis: Craisins, crackers, veggie straws, cheese slices, cottage cheese, applesauce, and pudding.

When meal planning, choose easy snacks.


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Looking for simple meal planning tips for your busy family? Here are the best hacks plus a printable menu! #mealplanning #simple #families #printable













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8 thoughts on “Simple Meal Planning for Beginners”

  1. That’s brilliant! I need to start a master list of main dishes, I have one of side dishes since I can never think of anything off the top of my head when I am making my meal plan. I like that you just pick a few veggies or fruit and that’s what you have for the week, that would make shopping so much easier!
    Great article, thank you for sharing!

    • I used to think that I had to have fancy side dishes, but preparing simple fruits and veggies makes it so much easier. That way I can focus my time on the main dish.

    • This has helped take the “thinking” out of meal planning. It is much easier when a list of meal ideas are ready to go! I’m glad this was helpful. 🙂

  2. I have a similar process for meal planning, but it still stresses me out every week going through my cookbooks, Pinterest, etc. looking for what to make. I had thought of making a master list before but never actually followed through with it. I LOVE the idea of the page protector and dry erase marker, as well as breaking it up by categories – brilliant! I’m totally going to start doing this!

    • A master list makes planning SO much easier! I even made lists for breakfast and lunch because I always have a hard time coming up with things to make. I hope the master list works for you too!

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