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Meal planning, 5 Steps for where to start!

Recently, a networking friend asked me if I had any ideas as to meal planning. She was starting a new diet to assist with weight loss and she was overwhelmed as to how to even get started, so that it could be sustainable. I realized after our talk that many people out there need similar guidance with finding a place to start. So here are some tips that I have found through my years in the culinary industry that help with keeping a meal plan going.

There are a lot of pieces to take into consideration when trying to create a meal plan. Because there are a wide range of processes, techniques, and practices with meal planning, it can be difficult to know where to begin. My goal with this blog post is to help you find a great starting point and give you ideas of what you should focus on first, depending on what approach is easiest for you.

In this post I aim to give you a global picture of the key structures that are necessary for proper meal planning. I will cover each topic separately in my upcoming meal planning blog series.

1.The first structure to put in place for meal planning is in preparing to shop.

Yes! To create a proper meal plan, you will need a shopping list. Making one main shopping list will prevent you from going to stores several times a week and it will keep you focused on what is necessary, rather than what is shiny and in your face. This will help to save you time, money and keep you focused on the important, usable ingredients for your meals.

a.) Ideally, you should plan to go to the store once per week, knowing what you will need to have for the entire week. Meal preparation works best with this type of timeline.

Example grocery list template for shopping and meal planning.

b.) Next you should think about how to structure your shopping list. This can be based on where you are buying the ingredients (do you shop in multiple stores?), determining what you have or don’t have in your fridge and pantry already, and highlighting sections of the store for efficiency.

c.) Before shopping you should also examine what your dietary needs are. You could choose foods based on macronutrients and micronutrients when shopping, even if you are not on any specific diet. I will go into more depth about this section in a separate post. What you buy and how you buy can be seriously impacted by dietary needs.

Example staple items: salt, pepper, oils, vinegars, flavorings and sauces, and fresh items that you use often.

d.) You should consider staple items that you use in most of your meals, as these are the ingredients you will need at hand for any given meal. To help you figure this out, I will be posting a blog about setting up your pantry of staples.

e.) The final thing to think about when preparing to shop is how you stack your meals. What I mean by "stacking" is creating a series of meals that combine together through using similar ingredients (most likely Staple Ingredients) or creating larger meals that you can prepare and cook once a week that will last you through until your next shopping.

2. Another area of importance in meal planning is to have key recipes or go-to recipes, preferably in one location that are easily accessible.

These recipes ought to be functional, meet your dietary needs, use at least one or several of your staple ingredients, and can be scaled up or down, based on how many people are being fed.

Tasty mixed vegetables dish
Staple vegetable dish recipe

3. I believe it is also extremely important to talk about purpose.

Your "why" is crucial. Each individual will have their own unique reasons for meal planning so the focus and structure of your meal planning may vary slightly depending on what your ultimate goal is. We will get more into detail about this in the following post.

Molasses cookie gluten free
Changing diet: going gluten free or sugar free

4. Meal planning is going to change based on how many people you are planning to feed, as well.

Building meals for the right number of people is a huge part of the proper meal planning procedures and is a necessary piece to consider. In a post to follow, as part of the upcoming meal planning series, one of my posts expands on how to cook for a one-person household, a two-person household, and a family of three or more people. The way meal planning looks for each of these categories will be particular to each, so look out for this post as well!

Whole pork roast prepared: Slicing up pieces to separate for several meals for the family

5. Sizing your meals appropriately is the last important piece!

Scaling your recipes means that you have to make adjustments in the amounts of each recipe and ingredient to fit your needs. Ask yourself: How many meals do I want this recipe to cover over the week? Do I want it to alternate lunch and dinner? Do I want this meal for when I'm on the go? Which family members will want to eat this with me? Do I want to cook this recipe once or more than once during the week?

To complement all of this, I’m going to be providing a further post with procedures on how you can scale recipes up or down based on your needs, to help you make meal planning easier!

As you can see, there is a lot to evaluate when meal planning. This post is meant to be a starting point to guide you through all of the diverse parts of meal planning, and simplify the process so you can easily produce and enjoy tasty, healthy meals.

I hope you guys are as excited as I am for this series! Keep a lookout for what is to come in my fun and informative meal planning blog series!

Happy cooking!

If you found this post useful, please “like” it and share it with your friends! We welcome any comments below. If you have tried any of these steps for meal planning, let us know which steps made an impact for you, or if you have any further questions about this topic.

You can also check out more information about meal planning in our other blog posts. If you are interested in going deeper with cooking and baking, we invite you to check out our cooking and baking classes!


About Becky W :

Chef, Cooking Instructor, and Owner of Becky's Pixie Kitchen.

My goal is to impact as many people, through my passion for food, in order to improve their lives with physical health, mental health, and quality of life.

At Becky's Pixie Kitchen we create cooking classes for the community to help kids and adults who want to cook at home, by providing instruction that promotes enthusiasm, encourages curiosity and focuses on the important pieces that make techniques and recipes easy and repeatable.


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