Successful Meal Planning Tips (and FREE Meal Plan Template)

I get questions all the time about meal planning, grocery shopping, and how I pull it all off. I put together this post with my meal-planning tips… and guess what? I’m even sharing my One-Page Meal Plan template with you!

FREE Meal Plan Template // Successful Meal Planning Tips // Whole Life Handbook //
Set Aside Time

Does planning to plan make me the most type-A person on the planet? Perhaps… but the first step to successful meal planning really is to set aside the time to do so.

I love getting up on Saturday or Sunday morning–whichever day I’ll do my grocery shopping for the following week–and sitting with a cup of coffee and my computer (and my dog!), going through recipes and deciding what I want to make for the week.

Have a System

I use an electronic template that has a spot for each daily meal, a grocery list, and some of the other things I’ll talk about in this blog post like making good notes and having a backup plan. As a WLH reader, you can download my template here! I’m so excited to share it with you to help you in your meal planning ventures. You can click the photo below with my notes to enlarge it.

Download the Whole Life Handbook One-Page Meal Plan Template Here!

I also like using a good, old fashioned notebook. I’ll use the left side of the notebook for my grocery list and the right side for the meal plan.

Whichever method you use to document your meal plan and grocery list, make a note on each recipe where it’s from – i.e. Pinterest, page 32 of the Whole 30 Cookbook, etc., so you can quickly find it when it’s time to get cookin’.

Make a Smart Plan…

Ensure that you are factoring in your schedule for the week. I always make sure to note on my meal plan the days we have an evening commitment that might interfere with how long I have to prepare a meal. That way, I can avoid planning a meal that will take longer to prepare on nights when I may not have the time for it.

It’s also a smart idea to plan recipes to be large enough so that you’ll have leftovers. That way you do not have to worry about planning separate lunches during the week. I almost fully rely on leftovers for lunch, but I do make something separate–like a big batch of chicken salad or large pot of chili–to supplement the leftovers (I talked about this a bit here).

Also–save the new or more complicated recipes for the weekend or nights you’ll know you’ll have a bit more time to dedicate to them. That way you don’t get discouraged if you get home late during the week and don’t have time to make what you had originally planned.

… But Have a Backup

Let’s be real–life happens. You may get caught at work late one night and not have the energy to put in to a recipe. Or, you may get home at the end of the day and realize you were going to make a crockpot meal and you never started it. Include one or two “backup plans” each week in your regular meal plan for these instances.

For example, maybe you have some frozen chicken breasts you know you can pull out and serve with sweet potatoes and some greens. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s still proper fuel for your body.

The backup plan could even be picking up Chipotle or another quick, healthy option. As long as you are making it part of your plan, you’re going to be less likely to deviate from your lifestyle and choose a less healthy to-go option.

Check out my “No Recipe” Meal Ideas post for some good backup plans.

Use Pinterest!

Create a hidden “On the Menu” board on Pinterest. As you are planning your meals, pin the recipes on your plan to that board. That way, when the day comes to make a certain recipe, you don’t have to dig for it or try to remember which board you pinned it to. You also don’t have to annoy your friends by pinning the same recipe multiple times.

And when you start to run out of ideas..

Look at your favorite restaurant menus! What is your favorite dish? Is there already a copycat recipe out there? If not, how can you recreate it?


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