The Busy Person’s Guide to Meal Planning

Optimize your meal planning routine with The Busy Person’s Guide to Meal Planning. Learn how to efficiently plan and prepare healthy, delicious meals, even with a packed schedule.

For additional meal planning tips, explore the beginner’s guide to meal planning or try 17 smart ways to use leftovers in your meal planning

Weekly Meal Planning For Super Busy People
1. Meal planning is essential for busy individuals to stay organized and save time.
2. It helps in making healthier choices and encourages a balanced and nutritious diet.
3. Effective meal planning can reduce stress and ensure that necessary ingredients are always available.
4. Utilizing leftovers creatively can minimize food waste and provide convenient meal options.
5. Meal planning can be customized to accommodate dietary restrictions and preferences.

Start Small

Don’t be afraid to start small. Don’t worry about what other people are doing, or what you can’t do. Focus on the things that you enjoy doing and are good at!

You may find that some of the most rewarding meals are simple ones made with fresh ingredients, like grilled chicken breast and steamed veggies. 

On the other hand, if you like cooking elaborate meals that take hours to prepare—and have all the time in the world to do so go for it! 

The point is not to judge yourself or compare your efforts against someone else’s; instead, think about what makes YOU happy while giving yourself enough freedom (within reason) to express your creativity through food preparation.

Building a solid meal planning routine is essential for busy individuals. Our comprehensive guide on meal planning can simplify your home cooking and help you stay organized with your meals.

Plan For Success

Planning for success means setting yourself up for success by creating a plan, which you can then review and adjust as needed. You can’t plan for everything—but if you plan for the important things, you’ll be on your way to meal planning success!

Write Your Plan Down

Write down a grocery list, and make copies of it to hand out to everyone in your household who can help you with this project. 

This is the first step toward getting more organized in the kitchen and ensuring that you’ll have what you need when it comes time for meal prep.

Next, create a menu plan for the week ahead; then write that plan down on your shopping list. (If you don’t know where to start with this process, here’s a good guide.) 

You should also make note of any special ingredients that might be required from last-minute trips to the store (like fresh herbs) so that they’re added at just the right time. 

Finally, schedule times during which you will cook meals based on their preparation needs—for example: “Monday Sept 12th: Make tacos.”

Are you new to meal planning? Check out our Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning to get started on your journey towards efficient and stress-free meal preparation.

Build A Pantry That Works For You

When you’re planning meals, it helps to have a well-stocked pantry. An organized and well-stocked pantry means that you won’t have to make multiple trips to the store for one meal, which is both time-consuming and expensive. 

It also means that you can use everything you buy, rather than letting it go bad before the end of its shelf life.

Make sure that your pantry has all of the following:

  • The basics: flour and sugar (white or brown), baking soda and powder, salt, oil (vegetable or olive), honey
  • All spices used in your recipes—in alphabetical order so they’re easy to find when needed
  • Any dried herbs or seasonings used frequently (again alphabetized)

Shop Strategically

Shop strategically. If you’re like most people, you probably shop for groceries once a week—and, if you’re not careful, end up spending more than necessary on food that is of mediocre quality and may go bad before you can use it all. To avoid this, try to make weekly grocery shopping as efficient and easy-to-manage as possible.

Use a list: Whether it’s through your phone or jotted down on a piece of paper, make sure to have an itemized list of everything that needs to get bought before heading out the door. That way no one will be left wondering what they need to pick up at the store (or worse—spending time staring at products they don’t need).

Search online: With so many options available these days (think Amazon), it’s important to do some research on deals before going into the store so that items can be purchased at their lowest prices possible! 

Shoppers should also consider using apps like Flipp which allow users to scan barcodes of items in order check pricing across multiple retailers so they know where they’ll find their best deal without having wasted any money beforehand by purchasing something higher priced than expected without knowing exactly how much cheaper something else would cost them elsewhere.”

Learn the secrets of effective meal planning and become a pro in no time. Discover our top 10 secrets to meal planning to maximize your time and optimize your meal choices.

IngredientTips for Strategic Shopping
Seasonal ProduceBuy fruits and vegetables when they are in season for freshness and affordability.
Bulk ItemsPurchase pantry staples in bulk to save money and reduce packaging waste.
Sales and DiscountsTake advantage of sales and discounts to stock up on non-perishable items.
Store BrandsConsider purchasing store brands, which are often more affordable and comparable in quality.
Meal Plan in AdvancePlan your meals ahead of time and make a shopping list to avoid impulsive purchases.
Loyalty ProgramsSign up for loyalty programs or use coupon apps to save money on groceries.
Freeze or PreserveBuy items in bulk and freeze or preserve them for later use to maximize savings.
Local Farmers’ MarketVisit local farmers’ markets for fresh and locally sourced produce at reasonable prices.
Online DeliveryExplore online grocery delivery services for convenient shopping and potential savings.
Comparison ShoppingCompare prices between different stores or online platforms to find the best deals.

Keep It Simple

When it comes to meal planning, you should keep it simple. You don’t have to plan out every single meal for the week, but you do need some sort of plan so that you’re not scrambling in the morning when your alarm goes off. 

Try making a list of all the meals you like and what ingredients they require, then refer to those lists while making a weekly grocery list.

If something comes up last minute (like plans with friends), don’t be afraid to change things up! Remember: no one else but yourself cares if your meals are completely planned out or not—so who cares? No one expects perfection when it comes to food, after all!

Don’t try and do everything at once either; this will only overwhelm yourself and lead to sloppy cooking habits that will eventually end up with burned food and ruined meals (and possibly even injuries). 

Instead of trying all at once, pick two or three things from each category on our list above—you’ll still save plenty of time without any loss in quality!

Simple IngredientQuick and Easy Dish
EggsScrambled Eggs
AvocadoAvocado Toast
Rotisserie ChickenChicken Salad
Canned SoupSoup and Sandwich
Frozen PizzaMargherita Pizza
PastaSpaghetti Aglio e Olio
Salad MixCaesar Salad
YogurtYogurt Parfait

Prep In Advance

One of the keys to cooking well is having all your ingredients and equipment ready before you begin. 

You can’t cook if you don’t have the right ingredients, or if your kitchen is completely disorganized. If you’re planning on using fresh herbs or spices, it’s a good idea to buy them ahead of time so they’re not lost in the back of your fridge when it comes time to cook.

Preparing ahead also means making sure that you have enough time and space for all the prep work ahead of time you don’t want to be stuck running around trying to find missing components while dinner is burning on the stove! 

And finally: don’t forget about yourself! Be kind (and realistic) with yourself when planning out these tasks; take breaks when needed and make sure that each step feels manageable from start to finish so that there are no surprises along the way.

Don’t let leftovers go to waste! Our article on 17 smart ways to use leftovers in your meal planning provides creative ideas on how to incorporate leftover ingredients into future meals, saving you time and money.

Repurpose Leftovers Like A Pro

Leftovers are a great way to save time and money. In fact, the average American family wastes about $2,000 worth of food every year! That’s a lot of good food ending up in the trash instead of on your plate and who wants that?

To repurpose leftovers, you’ll want to make sure you have some containers that are airtight and BPA-free (look for “BPA free” or “BPA free plastic” on the packaging). 

You can also use glass storage containers as they’re easy to reuse.

The best foods for repurposing into other meals include stews and soups. They’re hearty enough that they won’t fall apart in the fridge overnight but light enough that they won’t get too soggy if you store them with their broth or sauce inside a container with a lid so it doesn’t spill everywhere when you open it.

Leftover IngredientRepurposed Dish
Roast ChickenChicken Fried Rice
Cooked VegetablesVegetable Quesadillas
Grilled SteakSteak and Cheese Sandwich
RiceRice Pudding
PastaPasta Salad
Mashed PotatoesPotato Pancakes
Baked FishFish Tacos
Roasted VegetablesVeggie Omelette
Stale BreadBread Pudding
Cooked QuinoaQuinoa Salad

Get Everyone Involved

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the task of meal planning, don’t do it alone. Get everyone involved! Ask your family for input and ideas, then try to make a plan that will meet everyone’s needs. 

This can be tricky because there are often conflicting demands when it comes to what foods people want to eat and how much time they want to spend making dinner.

If you tell them that they’re doing you a favor by helping with the meal planning, that’s not going to go over well and they might not be nearly as motivated as they would otherwise be if they felt like this was an equal team effort rather than something where one person is taking charge.

Save time and money with our 15 meal planning tricks that can streamline your meal preparation process and make your busy life a little easier.

Make Sure Your Schedule Reflects Your Priorities

It’s important to make sure your schedule reflects your priorities. Don’t overbook yourself, and make time for the things that are important to you. If a task doesn’t fit in your schedule, don’t be afraid to say no to it.

Even if something is important, it doesn’t mean it has priority over the other things that matter most to you. 

Work on the things that can get done first before moving onto less urgent tasks and give yourself some time at night or on weekends so they don’t take away from other aspects of your life (like family time).

Find Something Fun!

Find something fun! It’s really important to find a way to make cooking enjoyable. That might mean taking on a new challenge like trying a new recipe, going out and learning how to grill (or not so great), or spending time with family/friends.

Find something you are good at doing. Cooking is something that people seem to either love or hate, but everyone can cook well at least one thing (and if you can’t, just start with that!). Think about what you already know how to make and then focus on making it better each time.

Find something rewarding. This is a very personal thing for everyone, but think about why do you want this hobby? Is it because it will help save money? Is it because it will allow you more freedom in your schedule? Whatever “rewarding” means for YOU – whatever motivates and inspires YOU – go after THAT!

Fun Activities to Make Cooking Enjoyable

No.Fun Activity
1Try a new recipe
2Learn grilling techniques
3Explore cooking with family/friends
4Attend a cooking class
5Experiment with different cuisines


We hope that you found this post helpful, and that it’ll be a useful resource as you start your meal planning journey. 

There are so many different ways to plan meals and we encourage you to find what works best for you whether it’s using an app or website like ours, writing things out on paper at home or work, or even just using spreadsheets! 

The important thing is that when you find something fun (or at least not too painful), you’re more likely to stick with it over time because doing something enjoyable makes it easier to keep going back again and again until eventually the habit becomes so ingrained in your life that it feels normal and natural.

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources and meal planning tools that you might find helpful:

The Busy Person’s Meal Planner: Discover a comprehensive meal planner designed for busy individuals, providing meal ideas, grocery lists, and more.

The Busy Person’s Meal Planner by Laura Ligos: Explore this book by Laura Ligos, offering practical tips and strategies for efficient meal planning to meet your busy lifestyle.

The Busy Person’s Meal Planner: Check out this meal planner developed by Paige Tate & Co for busy individuals, featuring meal organization and planning tools.


How can meal planning simplify my home cooking?

Meal planning helps you stay organized by pre-planning your meals in advance, which saves time and reduces stress during busy weekdays. It allows you to have the necessary ingredients on hand and enables you to make healthier choices.

Are there any benefits to using a meal planner?

Yes, using a meal planner can offer several benefits. It helps with portion control, saves money by reducing food waste, and allows for better time management. Additionally, meal planning can help you stick to your dietary goals and lead to a more balanced and nutritious diet.

How do I create a meal planning routine?

To establish a meal planning routine, start by selecting specific days to plan and prepare meals. Take inventory of your pantry and fridge, make a list of recipes, and create a shopping list. Allocate time for grocery shopping, meal preparation, and cooking.

What are some strategies for meal planning on a budget?

Meal planning on a budget can be achieved by incorporating seasonal ingredients, buying in bulk, and utilizing sales and discounts. Planning meals around inexpensive staples like beans, rice, and vegetables can also help keep costs down. Batch cooking and repurposing leftovers are additional strategies to save money.

How do I handle dietary restrictions or preferences when meal planning?

Consider your dietary restrictions or preferences when selecting recipes and ingredients for your meal plan. Look for recipes that align with your needs or modifications that can be made to accommodate them. It helps to have a variety of resources available, such as cookbooks or online platforms that offer specific dietary options.