How to Meal Plan for The Week for Busy People

Set aside some time to plan your meals ahead. You will be less likely to give into fast and unhealthy food when you have a healthy meal option on hand. When you have a busy schedule, it can be difficult to have proper meals that meet your daily nutritional requirements. Once you get into the habit of meal planning, you will be able to eat right and carry out your active lifestyle. Here are 18 steps for easy meal planning.

how to meal plan

18 Ways How to Meal Plan for The Week

1. Create Two Side Dishes

Some great side options include beans, lentils, a healthy carbohydrate or vegetable dishes. You can keep them in the fridge for the majority of the week. You can have some of these sides for dinner or pack it for lunch. Add some spice and flavour to your sides. You will have an incentive to eat these delicious sides. The flavoured sides taste even better over time.

glass container for food prep

2. Keep Food Fresh in Glass Containers

Preserve your food in glass containers to prolong freshness. It’s a safe and effective way to store your food for more than 4 days. Invest in different sized containers to keep at home and bring to work. Plastic containers are a bit easier for travel because they are lighter. Be mindful that plastic containers won’t keep your food as fresh as glass ones. The plastic material breaks down over time which isn’t useful for long term storage. You can get rid of plastic containers after using them a few times.

3. Don’t Overcomplicate Protein

Use eggs or white meat to make an easy protein for the week. Some healthy options include an omelet, grilled chicken or fish. You could also have tofu or a whey protein shake as a source of vegetarian protein. You can marinate and prepare your protein by portioning it on the weekends. You will save yourself time throughout the week. Plan ahead by eating lean protein to have more energy and even lose weight.

4. Look for Healthy Recipes

Scroll through blogs and websites for healthy and delicious recipes. Go through your cookbooks and tab specific recipes with sticky notes to get inspiration. Rotate recipes throughout the week to keep your meals interesting.

5. Save a Space for Recipes

You don’t have to create a system to store the recipes. Keep it simple and do something that works for you. Have a visual reference for each of your recipes.

6. Ask Others in The Household for Suggestions

It may seem obvious but sometimes we get caught up in our schedules and forget to ask others what they want to eat. You may be inspired by their suggestions. It may delight you to please others who appreciate your cooking and consideration.

7. Check The Weather

It’s a good idea to find out the weather forecast for the week. Meal planning will be easier. If it looks like it will be raining, you may feel like having soup for lunch or dinner. Sunny weather may make you feel like eating a grilled shrimp salad.

8. Keep a Journal

Keep track of all your favourite meals you’ve made in the past. Having a meal journal will help you remember previous meals. You will be inspired to recreate certain dishes. If you note all the meals you’ve had in a year or more, you can refer to it to make a variety of meals.

9. Start a Meal Calendar

Create notes on a calendar for each day of the next few weeks. Writing down meal ideas and references helps keep things simple. You will be more prepared for grocery shopping and cooking meals for the coming weeks.

10. Plan Meal Theme Nights

You can associate different meal options on various days. This idea is great for many people, especially those with kids. Involving kids with meal planning keeps things fun. Narrow your focus by making quick recipe decisions. Put together a shopping list of necessary ingredients for convenience.

11. Make a Shopping List and Designate a Shopping Day

Jot down notes on an index card to make a shopping list. Shop with a purpose by having recipes in mind. Having 7 meals in mind for the week makes shopping easier. The index card will make you more accountable.

12. Check Out What’s on Sale

Browse through grocery store flyers to find great discounts. You will save money and it will make shopping easier. Feel free to adjust your shopping list to get cheaper ingredients.

13. Plan for Leftovers

Cooking meals at the beginning of the week allows you to have leftovers for the next few days. Some healthy meal options that taste great the next day include casseroles, soups and salads. Meal planning is more effective if you can get multiple meals from a prepared dish. You can always freeze any extras if you want to save it for later.

14. Prep Food Right Away

Wash and dry all produce once you get back from the store. Prep all vegetables by chopping, roasting, slicing or shredding them. Store all prepared vegetables in glass jars and put them in the fridge. All the refrigerated vegetables will keep fresh. You will save time when it comes to cooking.

15. Cook up Meal Components

Break down the process of meal planning by tending to each component of the meal. You can focus on making tomato sauce for lasagna and pizza. Doubling a recipe makes cooking that much easier. Wash all your vegetables at once. Roast some lean protein like chicken to have for dinner and use the rest for pasta dishes and sandwiches.

16. Have a Freezing Strategy

If you have any extra portions, save the rest in the freezer. These frozen leftovers can still taste delicious in a month. Some meals that keep well in the freezer are cooked beans, soups, stews and chicken dishes.

17. Don’t Cram the Fridge

Avoid being overwhelmed by making sure you have enough space in your refrigerator. If your fridge is too full, you won’t be able to see any hidden meals, condiments or food products. Throw out anything past its due date and make sure you don’t let anything go bad. Make sure you have the right amount of food in your fridge. Keep a list of any leftovers in the fridge and the dates they were made. By going to the grocery store on weekly basis, you’ll be able to get fresh ingredients.

18. Stock your Pantry

sprices for the food pantry meal prep

Make sure you have essential ingredients on hand in the pantry. Some great choices include spices, fresh herbs, a lemon, olive oil and canned beans.

Popular cooking spices are:

  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Paprika
  • Curry powder
  • Tumeric
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Chilli powder
  • Dry mustard
  • Ground coriander
  • Ground cumin

There are many types of canned beans such as:

  • Black beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Pinto beans
  • Red kidney beans
  • Great northern beans
  • Cannellini beans

If you have a well-stocked pantry, you will be able to effectively prepare meals. You won’t have to run out and replenish specific products. Running out of certain items is annoying and inconvenient.

Meal planning will help you save time and money. Read through cookbooks and find recipes for meals you want to make for the week. You should jot down when you plan on eating out on a weekly basis. Write down a shopping list so you don’t forget any ingredients. Cook enough food for 3 to 4 days and freeze any leftovers. You can be flexible with your meals and schedule.

Samantha Merz

Samantha lives in Vancouver, BC. Samantha is an avid volunteer in the community, enjoys singing and playing badminton.

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