The Ultimate Guide To Meal Planning: Simplify Your Home Cooking

Master the art of meal planning and revolutionize your home cooking experience with this ultimate guide. Explore strategies to simplify your kitchen routine, save time, and reduce food waste while still creating delicious, home-cooked meals.

The Ultimate Guide to Meal Planning // macros
Meal planning simplifies home cooking.
It helps save time by reducing daily decision-making.
Meal planning reduces food waste and saves money.
Prepping ingredients in advance can streamline the cooking process.
Planning meals ensures a balanced and nutritious diet.
Customizing meal plans based on dietary preferences and restrictions is possible.
Using a variety of recipes and ingredients adds excitement to meals.
Meal planning can be adapted to fit different lifestyles and schedules.
It helps in achieving specific goals, such as weight loss or a healthier lifestyle.
Meal planning provides structure and organization in the kitchen.

You’ll learn how to upgrade your cooking game with top kitchen tools and discover the power of spices to take your culinary creations to the next level.

Figure Out How Much Time You Want To Devote To Putting Meals Together

The first step toward meal planning is figuring out how much time you have available to devote to it. 

Do you want to cook a meal every day, or just once or twice a week? How many people are in your household? What’s the budget like? How skilled are you at cooking? These are all important considerations when determining how many meals per week and how big those meals will be.

Building effective meal plans is crucial for successful weight loss. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Meal Planning for Weight Loss for valuable tips, strategies, and meal ideas to help you reach your weight loss goals.

Figure Out How Many Times A Week You Want To Cook.

In order for meal planning to work for you, you need to figure out how many times a week you want to cook. 

Do you want to make all your meals from scratch? Or do you prefer cooking once or twice a week and then eating leftovers the rest of the time?

Depending on what kind of lifestyle suits your family best, this may vary. You could even choose an “every other day” plan where one night is homemade and one night is frozen pizza or takeout! It all depends on what makes sense for YOU and YOUR FAMILY.

Find Recipes That Fall Within Your Time Limits.

Finding recipes that fit your time limits can be a challenge, but there are several ways to do it. Many recipe websites offer various time options for each recipe, so you can pick the one that’s best for you. For example:

  • The site Epicurious has a handy filter called “Cook Time”—just choose 20 minutes or less, 30 minutes or less or 1 hour or more and see what comes up!
  • If you use Pinterest (which is great for planning meals ahead of time), search for a specific ingredient like “beef stew” and see what pops up. You may find some great ideas from other cooks who have created their own version of beef stew that fits into your schedule better than others’ versions do.
  • Or try creating your own recipes! A simple way to do this is by using an app like Meal Planning Made Delicious by Cook Smarts ($4). The app takes all of your meal planning needs into account; it helps you figure out which ingredients go well together in terms of flavor profiles and also keeps track of them so that nothing gets forgotten at the store.”

Meal planning is a fundamental skill for anyone looking to simplify their home cooking routine. Our Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning provides step-by-step instructions, useful tools, and expert advice to get you started on your meal planning journey.

If You Have Kids, Include Them In Your Meal-Planning Process!

If you have kids, be sure to include them in your meal-planning process! Making it fun and interesting is key. Let them help with the shopping, chopping and cooking, and discuss how food can help them grow into strong, healthy adults.

Letting them help out will not only encourage them to eat healthier foods but also teach valuable skills that they’ll use throughout their lives (like how to cook).

Make A Master List Of Dishes Your Family Loves And Rotate Through Them

Once you have a list of the kinds of foods your family likes, it’s time to put together a master list of those recipes. 

This will help you keep track of the dishes everyone is most comfortable with and make it easier for you to remember what’s already been tested and approved by your taste buds.

If you have kids, they might also be able to give input on which recipes they want to see more often. If your little ones seem bored with what’s on the menu, consider letting them help choose new dishes or prepare their favorite meals themselves! 

A busy day at school can quickly turn into an exciting cooking lesson when everyone gets involved in choosing what goes into their lunches.

Once again, don’t worry about what others may think about how bland or boring (or whatever) your food tastes—especially if it’s familiar fare that has always been enjoyed by everyone in the family before now!

Take meal planning to the next level with these 10 expert secrets. Discover how to meal plan like a pro and streamline your cooking process, save time, and enjoy delicious meals every day.

Keep A Running List Of Recipe Ideas.

Keep a running list of recipe ideas. You can keep track of recipes you want to try by writing them down in a notebook or using an app like Paprika. 

This is especially helpful if you are cooking for a big crowd, since you’ll have all the ingredients on hand and won’t need to run out for anything last minute.

Save your favorite recipes so you can easily create shopping lists from them!

Keep a running list of recipe ideas
Gather ideas for new dishes and meal inspiration
Maintain a collection of recipe sources and inspirations

Meal Plan By The Season (And Weather)

Meal planning is a great way to keep your grocery costs down and make sure you’re getting enough fruits and vegetables in your diet. 

But sometimes it can be hard to find the time to actually sit down and plan out the whole week’s meals, especially since so many of us are busy with work or school.

Instead of thinking about each meal separately, think about how they fit together. If you look at all of your meals as part of one big cycle (getting groceries, cooking/baking them), it will help guide your weekly meal planning much more easily than if you were just thinking about what to make for dinner tonight.

Here are some questions that will help guide this process:

  • What season is it? Are there any seasonal ingredients available? Are there any foods that should not be used during certain times due to health concerns (like tomatoes from Mexico or leafy greens)?
  • What do I have on hand right now? Use this list as an inventory for when deciding what’s going into a recipe later on—if something isn’t working well in one dish then leave it out! This might include spices or oils too; if something isn’t needed then go ahead and toss it out instead wasting money by using them up every time rather than buying new ones again.

Plan A Potluck Dinner With Your Neighbors Or Friends Once A Month

Potlucks are a great way to get to know your neighbors and they’re an easy way to try new recipes. If you host one, you can make it a monthly event! All you have to do is send out an email inviting other people from the neighborhood. 

Or if there’s something going on in your community center or local school, ask if you can hold it there instead. 

It’s also fun for families with kids because the kids love bringing their own creations and getting them eaten up by adults too!

Getting quality sleep is essential for overall health and well-being. Explore our article on the 17 foods that will help you sleep better to discover the power of nutritious foods in promoting healthy sleep patterns.

Take Advantage Of Leftovers

This tip is a simple one, but it can make a big difference. Leftovers are a great way to save yourself time and money. 

You don’t have to worry about coming up with new meals every night; instead, you can use leftovers from previous days as the basis for your dinners.

Eating leftovers can also help you avoid food waste. The USDA reports that Americans throw away 40% of their food costing them over $200 billion annually! 

This can be really frustrating if you’re trying to save money on groceries or eat healthier than usual, so using up what’s in your fridge first is definitely recommended (and will help with tip #2).

To store your leftovers safely at home:

Keep refrigerated foods cold (between 32°F and 40°F) until they’re eaten within three days; otherwise they should be frozen immediately.* Don’t keep frozen foods longer than one month

Keep Cooking Simple. Remember The Basics!

Cooking is a skill that can be learned the more you practice, the better you get. If you’re new to cooking and don’t want to spend tons of money on fancy equipment right away, there are plenty of simple ways to get started.

Remember this: the basics will always work just as well as anything else. So before splurging on a shiny new gadget or recipe book, remember that all you need for great home-cooked meals is:

  • Good ingredients! (See tip #1)
  • A basic set of knives (or even just one sharp knife)
Practice Makes PerfectRegularly practice cooking to improve your skills and confidence
Basic EquipmentStart cooking with essential tools like a chef’s knife and a pan
Simple MethodsExplore cooking methods such as sautéing, roasting, and boiling
Fewer IngredientsUse a limited number of ingredients to keep the focus on flavors
Master Basic TechniquesLearn essential techniques like chopping, seasoning, and sautéing

Plan For Flexibility. Life Happens!

Life happens! You may not be able to stick to your meal plan 100% of the time. That’s okay. Just take a moment to consider what flexibility you have and build it into your planning. 

Can you make one fewer dish? Can you use leftover ingredients from another dinner in a new recipe? Can someone else help out with dinner one night?

Here are some things that I do when my plans change:

  • Plan for at least one day of leftovers per week
  • Have “open-ended” meals that can be used as leftovers (i.e., soups, salads, etc.)

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive. Our article provides 15 simple tips and tricks to help you eat healthy on a budget, including meal planning, smart shopping, and cooking strategies to maximize nutrition without breaking the bank.

Buy Staples In Bulk So You’re Never Without Pantry Essentials

Buy staples in bulk so you’re never without pantry essentials.

Bulk buying is one of the easiest ways to save money on your grocery bill. Buying in bulk not only saves money, but it also helps reduce food waste and environmental impact.

When buying staples in bulk, make sure you have enough storage space for them. If you don’t have enough room to store everything at once or if your kitchen is already full of appliances, try making a list of what staples you need before going shopping so that when you’re there, all that’s left for you to do is buy exactly what’s on the list!

Don’t buy too much of something because maybe down the road someone else will eat it or give it away like peanut butter which lasts forever but doesn’t really get eaten by anyone else (unless they’re allergic). 

And finally don’t buy anything that will go bad before using it because then there goes another $10 wasted – don’t do this!!

Find One Or Two Food Blogs That Work For You—And Stick With Them!

Finding and sticking to one or two food blogs will keep your meal planning simple.

Try these: SkinnyTaste, Simply Scratch, Brown Eyed Baker, The Pioneer Woman (she has a blog AND a magazine), Smitten Kitchen.

Find recipes you love—and then make them over and over again. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel every time you want to eat something new! Once you find something you love, make it at least twice in a row before switching things up again. 

This allows your taste buds time to adjust and gives them time to get familiar with flavors they enjoy so that when they do try something new (even if it’s just as delicious) they won’t be overwhelmed by its unfamiliarity and possibly dislike it simply because it isn’t what their brains are used to tasting!

Use Apps, Like Paprika, To Save Your Favorite Recipes And Create Shopping Lists!

If you’re going to use an app, then try Paprika. It helps you save recipes and create shopping lists, among other things. 

However, don’t rely on it too much. Apps can be great but they aren’t always accurate when it comes to calculating nutritional information or substitutions for ingredients. 

Also, not all of them are free though some do have free versions with limited features—so keep that in mind before downloading!

Recommended Recipe Apps for Saving Favorite Recipes and Creating Shopping Lists:

App NameFunctionality
PaprikaSave favorite recipes, create shopping lists
MealimePlan meals with customizable recipes and menus
Plan to EatOrganize recipes, generate shopping lists
YummlyDiscover recipes, save favorites, and create lists
BigOvenSave recipes, create meal plans, and generate lists

Relax And Enjoy Yourself! You’re Cooking At Home, After All. 🙂

Relaxing helps you to focus on the food, the process and the company. Focus on what you’re doing rather than trying to remember everything that needs doing. 

This will help with your stress levels as well as making sure that you don’t miss any steps along the way.


We hope this guide helps you make your meal-planning process more effective and fun. It’s not always easy to cook at home, but the payoff is huge: You save money, eat healthier food, and get better quality time with family and friends. 

If you follow these tips, soon enough we guarantee that cooking will become second nature for you!

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources on meal planning that you may find helpful:

Guide to Meal Planning: A comprehensive guide that walks you through the process of creating meal plans, including tips for efficient grocery shopping and time-saving meal prep techniques.

The Ultimate Guide to Meal Prepping: Discover how to optimize your meal preparation with this ultimate guide, covering batch cooking, storage tips, and creative ways to repurpose leftovers.

Ultimate Guide to Meal Planning: This guide offers practical advice and strategies for meal planning, including pantry essentials, recipe organization, and budget-friendly tips.


How do I get started with meal planning?

To begin meal planning, start by assessing your dietary needs and preferences. Then, create a weekly or monthly meal plan by selecting recipes, making a shopping list, and prepping ingredients in advance.

How can meal planning save me time and money?

Meal planning helps save time by reducing last-minute decisions and kitchen chaos. By having a well-thought-out plan, you can reduce food waste, make efficient grocery shopping trips, and avoid unnecessary takeout expenses.

Can meal planning help with weight management or weight loss?

Absolutely! Meal planning allows for portion control and mindful food choices, making it an effective tool for weight management and weight loss. By planning nutritious and balanced meals, you can better control your calorie intake.

Are there any resources or apps that can assist with meal planning?

Yes, several resources and apps are available to assist with meal planning. Some popular options include meal planning apps like Mealime, Plan to Eat, and Paprika. These tools offer recipe suggestions, grocery list management, and more.

How do I deal with recipe variety and avoiding monotony in meal planning?

To maintain recipe variety and avoid monotony, consider incorporating theme nights, trying new cuisines, or experimenting with different cooking techniques. Additionally, you can rotate through favorite recipes, incorporating seasonal ingredients for added variety.