Your Easy Guide to Creating a Good Meal Plan

Whether you're tired of deciding what to cook after a long day at work, looking to lower your calorie intake, or eager to save money, creating a meal plan can help you reach your goal. Here's how to do it.
By: Anna Becker / 07/26/2019 / Stories

Meal Plan written in Scrabble letters in the middle of bright blue plate

Meal planning is easier than you think. Below is a "healthy meal planning for beginners" checklist that includes easy tips & tricks for starting a routine you can stick with.

What's a Meal Plan

A meal plan most commonly refers to a pre-planned menu for the upcoming week or month for a single person, couple or family. Meal plans are often created based off of specific diets like keto, paleo, low-carb, etc. Many people use meal plans to track and ensure that they get the optimal daily amount of calories and nutrition.

5 Reasons Why You Should Learn How to Meal Plan

Planning your meals a week in advance may sound like a lot of work at first, but once you start, you'll find that the benefits far outweigh the costs. Before we go over ways to kick off your new cooking routine, we will go over some of the reasons to start in the first place. Here are the top five benefits people enjoy when keeping with a meal plan:

  1. Save Money. Unexpected trips to the grocery store cost money. When you organize your meals a week in advance or more, you know exactly what you have to buy and when. That means you're less likely to impulse buy needless items or go out to eat.

  2. Eat Healthier. Cooking is the easiest and fastest way to improve your eating habits. Knowing exactly what goes into your food and when you'll eat will help you stick to new dietary goals. Plus, when you have your weekly menu planned out and purchased, there's no need to order takeout.

  3. Save Time. The most significant hurdle that keeps people from making a meal plan is the feeling that creating one will take too much time. The reality is, however, having your meals already planned before the week starts, gives you plenty of time to relax and do more enjoyable things than stressing out about what to cook. Plus, there are plenty of meal plan templates that make getting started a breeze.

  4. Lose Weight. It's difficult to commit to keto, plant-based, or any other diet if you're always pressed for time to get the right meal on the table. A meal plan keeps you reverting to old habits during the busy weeks.

  5. Waste Less. Meal planning is an easy way to reduce your carbon footprint. Prepping your meals ahead of time allows you to know exactly what portions you need to buy so less gets thrown out at the end of the week. If you want to go down to almost zero waste, try cooking with a meal kit.

How to Plan a Menu for the Week

  1. Compile a quick list of your favorite recipes to cook. Avoid adding time-consuming recipes, as this will increase the likelihood that you will find a reason to skip that meal if the week is busier than anticipated.

  2. Get inspired! It can be daunting to scour the internet for recipe ideas, so we've included a few lists of our top 30-minute recipes from our meal kit, like our 10 Tasty Chicken Recipes.

  3. Keep seasonality in mind! Plan recipes which you can easily find the ingredients for. This allows you to save time shopping and to buy locally grown foods.

  4. Once you've found the recipes that meet your dietary restrictions, open up a calendar or download a meal plan app and choose which recipes you want to cook which days. Make sure you have your menu visible or set an alert on your phone so you stick to the menu. If you really want to avoid the pain of deciding which days to cook what recipes, consider trying a meal kit, as they already provide meal plan apps, as well as the ingredients to cook their recipes.

  5. Next hit the store. Be sure to plan recipes which have ingredients that overlap so you don't have to worry about wasting anything. If you have a meal kit, wait for your ingredients to get delivered.

  6. Cook and enjoy—you've already planned your entire week!

After you've planned a few weeks successfully, you'll know what items to have on hand so it will become less labour intensive to plan each time. We suggest (depending on your diet of course) to always keep easy base ingredients stocked, like pasta, rice or couscous that way shopping for the week isn't like stockpiling for the apocalypse.

Popular Healthy Meal Plans for Weight Loss

While it's certainly not necessary to be on a specific diet to create your weekly menu, using templates from various diets could prove useful to making your meal plan a healthy one. Before starting any diet, it is strongly recommended that you do some research or consult a nutritionist, as there are several "fad" or "quick-fix" diets which come backed by little to no evidence. Additionally, many newer diets are still understudied and therefore their efficacy is yet unknown and could potentially be harmful. We looked at the most popular diet meal plans are the top 5 rated by Healthline were:

  1. Low-carb, whole food diet

  2. Mediterranean diet

  3. Paleo diet

  4. Vegan diet

  5. Gluten-free diet

Scientists have indicated that these diets help to lose weight, improve heart health and increase energy. If you're not sure how to prep your meals around a particular diet or want sample a vegetarian diet, for example, before committing to one, we suggest starting with a healthy meal delivery service like Martha & Marley Spoon which offers premium ingredients and a broad range of delicious recipe options.

How to Create a Healthy Meal Plan with Martha & Marley Spoon

Undoubtedly, the hardest part about beginning a meal plan is making one! The best and easiest way to get started is with a meal kit. That way you can enjoy the perks of not having to deal with deciding what to cook each night without the tedious planning. Meal plan delivery services like Martha & Marley Spoon make it super easy to find the type of recipes that are right for you and allows you to plan your recipes 2, 3 or 4 days a week up to a month in advance right from your phone. With varying weekly recipes created by a team of chefs and nutritionists, you can sample different diets and, from there, see what kind of meals you like most. Martha & Marley Spoon also features a vegetarian meal plan as well as plenty of vegan, keto, Mediterranean and gluten-free diet options. So check out our menu and consider signing up if you want to start enjoying the delicious benefits of nutritional meal planning!