When I first started learning how to cook over a year ago, I was completely clueless on how to make a weekly meal plan. Where do I start? What do I choose to cook? Why do I have to plan my meals in the first place?! Trying to teach myself how to cook was already overwhelming, so figuring out how to meal plan in addition made me feel straight up lost.
Luckily, as time passed and I got better at cooking, I started to figure out why meal planning is important and how to do it. Making a weekly meal plan is important because it helps you figure out exactly what ingredients you’re going to need to get when you buy groceries for the week. I also think making a weekly meal plan is helpful because it sets in stone what you’re going to eat for dinner throughout the week, so there’s no temptation to say, “I don’t know what to make for dinner tonight. Let’s just go out to eat instead!” I know for me and Chris, we can’t afford to go out to eat all the time, so it’s important for us to avoid the “screw it, let’s eat out” mentality.
As for how to meal plan, here are some tips that work really well for me:
- Write out a weekly calendar and fill in the days that you have something planned and you won’t have to cook: I always make my weekly calendar for Monday – Sunday (versus Sunday – Saturday). As for the days I know I don’t have to cook, this is typically when Chris and I have a date night planned (the one time a week we go out to eat) or a special occasion we’re spending with family/friends. For Father’s Day, Chris and I went to the Bay Area with our dad’s, so I was off the hook that day!
- If possible, space out the days you cook so you don’t get overwhelmed: Since Chris and I are the only two people in our household, it can get tiring cooking for me and just one other person EVERY night. Oh, and let’s not forget about having to do dishes EVERY night as well. Instead of cooking dinner every night, I like to cook meals every other night so I don’t get burnt out on it.
- Make enough so you have leftovers: You know those nights I take off from cooking? This is when leftovers come in handy. Pastas and casseroles are great for when you want a lot of leftovers afterward.
- Check your fridge and pantry to see what needs to be used: Whenever I’m trying to think of what to cook for the week, I check my fridge and pantry first to see what foods I have that can and need to be used. I keep a big bag of uncooked brown rice in our cupboard, so almost every week, you can find brown rice as a side dish on our menu. If I have chicken in the freezer, I’ll put a chicken dish on the menu. Making a conscious effort to use what I already have ensures that nothing in our kitchen goes to waste.
- Add in a variety of meals, new recipes and special requests: To prevent my weekly meal plans from getting boring and repetitive, I always make sure to incorporate a variety of foods. I love cooking Mexican and Italian food, so I typically plan to prepare a Mexican or Italian dish a week. Also, I make sure to add in one new recipe a week that I’ve been dying to try. Finally, I like to ask Chris if he has any special meal requests. (Lately, he’s been asking for a lot of salmon and asparagus.)
So that’s how I like to plan our weekly meals. If you’re new to cooking or want to start getting serious about meal planning, hopefully some of these tips will help get you started!
Do you make a weekly meal plan for your household? If so, what tips would you give for making one?