The Basics of Meal Planning for Success: A Beginner’s Guide

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Everywhere you turn, there are many “gurus” out there promoting meal plans! You really can’t go without seeing the basics of meal planning, whether it be on social media, home workout plans, or that one friend in the “health and fitness” MLM.

Meal planning, when done correctly, is the KEY to stay on track with your health goals. Whether you want to lose weight, gain weight, or make more mindful decisions there are a few basics of meal planning you need to know!

Here are 5 basic stops of meal planning to get you started today!

FREE Guide, Download below

What are the basics of meal planning?

Meal Planning doesn’t have to be difficult or make you feel like you’re going on a diet. It has many benefits!

  • Less stress trying to determine what you or your family will eat
  • Great to keep you on track with your health goals
  • Easy on the go, convenient meals
  • Saves you money

Let’s get started by learning some of the basics of meal planning!

Determine What You Need

The first basic step in meal planning is determining what you need and what your budget is.

  • Brainstorm different meals and snacks
  • Consider how your leftovers can be used
  • How many meals will you need for the week?
  • Organize your fridge in a way it allows you to quickly grab things
  • What kind of containers will you use? Glass containers are easier to microwave! Click HERE to see the ones I use that are BPA-free!
  • Keep it simple and avoid recipes that require a buttload of ingredients

Meal planning is super easy if you have a list of staple ingredients you can easily keep on hand at all times! They should work well in just about any recipe you do. I keep things super simple, personally. I’m not a foodie or a chef, and I’m not about to pretend to be.

Here’s my staple ingredient list:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil- great for cooking or a salad dressing
  • Pure unsalted butter
  • Spices- Oregano, Italian, Cinnamon
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Lemons- I drink a LOT of Lemon Water
  • Almond Milk- I just found out I’m partially lactose in tolerant
  • Almond or Peanut Butter- non hydrogenated
  • Monk Fruit Sweetener or Stevia- Great natural sugar alternative
  • Low Sodium Soy Sauce

Create Your Master Food List

It’s time to create your master food list! You can make your own or find one online and print it out! Ideally, what you’re doing is narrowing down the foods you like, foods you don’t like, any food allergies, and foods you haven’t tried. Creating a master list will help you narrow down your recipes and only buy foods that work specifically for your own personal meal planning.

If you need somewhere to start, use my quick cheat sheet below. Pick one food from each category! This quick cheat sheet is also included in my FREE Meal Planning Guide which you can download at the bottom of this post!

Basics of Meal Planning Quick Cheat Sheet
Basics of Meal Planning Quick Cheat Sheet
Quick Tip: Mix and match ingredients to get the most out of your spending. Take inventory of your kitchen to see what you have BEFORE you hit the store so you don’t end up buying double of something you may already have. I’ve been there, done that!

Consider Your Goal

One of the most important basics of meal planning is knowing what your ultimate goal is and what you want to gain from meal planning. For example, are you looking for a way to reduce the stress that can come from cooking for your family? Meal planning may offer you more downtime, more time to enjoy being with your family, and less stress trying to determine what’s for dinner at last minute.

Maybe you want to lose or gain weight and meal planning can help keep you on track. In this case, I’d recommend keeping a calorie count as you do your planning.

Overall, it’s a good principle of meal planning to consider your long-term, short-term, and overall goals to get the best results and make it work for you!

Consider Your Containers

What kind of containers will you be using? Believe it or not, this can make a big difference in how you plan out your meals. Most people do use containers that have several slots for protein, vegetables, fruits, and sauces. If you will primarily be doing full meals, then these are ideal. You may also want to bento boxes, soup containers, or other options. Consider what types of meals you want to have and then make sure you have the containers for them.

Timeframe Planning

Considering your timeframe is something that goes along with meal planning basics. You need to make sure that you are planning for a set amount of days. Most people do weekly meal planning while larger families may do planning for the whole month. The timeframe along with the food lists and goals can greatly affect your budget, so considering a timeframe is vital.

Basics of meal Planning Strategies

  1. Buffet Style. This is the most popular that I’ve seen done. This strategy involves preparing a variety of single ingredient foods ahead of time and storing them in individual containers in the fridge. When it’s time to eat, grab a little bit of everything you stored. It’s a HUGE timesaver and works GREAT with families.
  2. Batch Cooking and Portioning. Prepare or cook larger portions of your favorite meals and portion them out into individual containers. Instead of grabbing what you want at meal time, the meal is already prepared in the containers. This strategy is typically done on Sunday to prepare for the week ahead!
  3. Assembly of Ingredients without cooking. This is my preferred method because I’m so picky about my leftovers. I literally just assemble different food items near each other in the fridge and cook when I’m ready to eat. It also works well with individual packs of food, like greek yogurt.

These basic principles of meal planning can help you get started. Remember, there is no set defined way of meal planning. The idea is to work with the diet you want, plan the meals, and make sure they work for you and your lifestyle. It may take a little time to get things on a solid track, but once they are you will find meal planning to be an easier route on many levels.

basics of meal planning guide


Do you love food, but hate spending time cooking? Are you busy, but care what you put in your body? I’ve cracked the code on healthy eating, the EASY way!

Download my FREE guide and you will get:

  • Exact steps for how to meal plan (without wasting time) 
  • How to quickly grocery shop without buying things you don’t need
  • Everything you’ll need from containers to utensils
  • Effective Meal prep strategies and the 4 different stages you can use so you never get bored or sick of the prep process
  • BONUS #1: 6 easy and mouth-watering make ahead meals so you never have that moment of “I guess I’ll order take out” again
  • BONUS #2: Enhance your meal prep with my other FREE guide, guiding you through 10 Steps to a Healthier You

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