Whole Foods Meal Planning

How To Start Meal Planning


Meal planning is one of my favorite topics to share with others because it’s helped me become a better steward of our finances, a better cook, and a much more calm, sane mother and wife.

I started meal planning about five years ago, shortly after getting married. My husband came home from work around 6:30 every night. He was hungry and deserved a good meal.

Yes, I could have fed him frozen pizza and sandwiches (that’s what he ate during his bachelor years) but that’s not the kind of lifestyle I wanted for our family. Healthy, whole food meals were my goal.

At first, meal planning was daunting. I would stare blankly as I tried to conjure up new ideas for meals. I’d thumb through my favorite cookbooks and pick out meals that looked good with no thought at all to what food I already had on hand or how much time each recipe would take. I ended up spending more time and money than was necessary.

Over time, meal planning became intuitive. It’s a skill, like anything else. I learned that I had to practice planning meals before I could master it. Sometimes when I’m on a long car trip or busy with my son, I’ll record our meal plan for the week using my Voice Memo iPhone app and transcribe it when I have time. Other days, I sit down and crank out a week’s worth of meal planning and our grocery list in less than 10 minutes.

I’ve learned to find creative uses for leftovers, too. We waste less, which means we’re saving more money.

Today, our meals are fresh, fast, nutritious, and tasty. I give myself no more than 30 minutes to whip a meal.


Learning to love meal planning will save you time, money, and get more balance in your life!


It’s a sweet deal, and your body will thank you for it.

How To Start Meal Planning

How To Start Meal Planning

1. Consider your budget.

Ask yourself:

  • How much will you spend on groceries each week?
  • Are you planning to cook meals at home?
  • Will you have an eating out budget?
  • Are there healthy, inexpensive restaurants and takeaway spots that you can visit?

2. Choose a consistent day of the week to plan your meals and grocery shop.

You’ll need to find time in your schedule to…

  • Create your meal plan and shopping list: 30-45 minutes per week
  • Go grocery shopping: 1 hour or so
  • Prep meals, or portions of meals, ahead of time: 1 hour or so
  • Prepare meals on the fly: 15-20 minutes per meal

3. Find a system that works for you.

This might take a few tries. In my Meal Planning Made Simple series, I shared my system for getting dinner on the table every night.

Alternatively, if planning your meals and staying creative just isn’t your cup of tea, check out Leanne’s Real Meals Meal Planning Program.

4. Make your grocery list and go shopping once a week.

I used to go to the store every other day, sometimes even more. My grocery lists weren’t thorough and it caused me to waste lots of time and money. To avoid this, keep a master grocery list of all the items you need during your next grocery store visit. Slowly pick away at stocking your pantry with healthy options, too.



5. Use your freezer to cook once and eat twice.

This has saved me on more busy days than I can count. When I find a freezer-friendly meal, I make a double or triple batch of it and pop the leftovers in the freezer. It makes a hassle-free meal on days that I would otherwise be scrambling to get dinner on the table. Try my Slow Cooker Chicken Posole Stew, Quinoa & Adzuki Bean Veggie Burgers, or Apple and Carrot Breakfast Cake. They all freeze beautifully!

AmyAuthor Bio: A stay-at-home mom, wife, and passionate cook, Amy strives to make each meal healthy and delicious. When she’s not doing laundry, dishes, or caring for her son, she plays around with food in the kitchen developing new recipes, which she shares at Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free. Amy also publishes The Balanced Platter and authored the book Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free: 180 Easy & Delicious Recipes You Can Make in 20 Minutes or Less.

Connect with Amy:

Facebook: Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free
Twitter: @Amys_SSGF
Pinterest: Amys_SSGF

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  1. I like your post, i usually plan my meals in my head but putting it on paper will be better. I need help. I am a runner and i need to drop 8-10 lbs before my marathon in 4 months. HELP PLEASE.

  2. That’s what I am worried about! Getting married and not knowing what to cook for my husband! I’d better start practicing now, but I’m hoping that the womanly cooking side of me will really kick in after marriage!

  3. Love this – sharing with my readers. So many people think eating healthy is a lengthy process.

  4. Love these ideas. I also do all my prep on Sundays for my meals throughout the week. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I have always planned, I would have un matching foods that I wouldn’t know what to do with otherwise.

    • Yes – and sometimes it’s as simple as having a well-stocked pantry. On nights when things are a little crazy or when I need a meal quickly I can grab what I have on hand and we can have a fabulous meal.

  6. Great post Amy! Call me a nerd, but I love meal planning! My Sundays wouldn’t be complete without sitting down with a pile of recipes, cookbooks, and scribbled notes to plan out my meals, then prepping as much as I can in the afternoon. Something about it is just really calming, and I definitely appreciate it later in the week when I don’t have to do the work!

    • LOVE THIS!! I need to start doing that on Sunday’s, Angela :)

    • You are more organized than me….I usually end up doing our meal planning the night before I grocery shop. Before my son was born, I did what you did but now I can’t seem to find the time. It only takes me 10 – 15 minutes. I do prep ahead – there’s no way I could manage all the fresh produce otherwise.