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How to Meal Plan For Success

by Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD September 28, 2019 3 min read

 woman preparing meals ahead

Meal planning can feel overwhelming if it’s not something you’re used to doing, but it doesn’t have to be that way. By approaching it with a few key tips in mind, you can make meal planning as easy as possible while setting yourself up for a successful week of healthy eating.

Why Plan Meals?

Meal planning can help save time, money and energy — all of which will reduce your stress around food preparation. It also encourages more home cooking, which comes with many benefits.

Research shows that meal planning can improve the quality of your diet, support healthy weight loss, allow for more variety and get picky eaters more involved and interested in new foods.

Convinced? If so, read on: We've put together some meal planning tips to help you succeed. (If not, bookmark this page just in case you change your mind later!)

5 Tips For Successful Meal Planning

  1. Determine your priorities first. Why do you want to implement a meal plan in your household? Are you looking to improve the nutritional value of your diet? Do you want to save money and use meal planning to stick to a budget? Is it most important that your meals take less than 30 minutes to make? Getting clear about your priorities will help you come up with ideas that align with your goals and needs, making meal planning as streamlined as possible.
  2. Choose a planning method that fits your needs and lifestyle. Do you want to use up a stack of coupons or find new recipes to try in a cookbook? Do you have leftovers to use up, or random boxed items sitting in the pantry? Do you like finding ideas on Pinterest and then personalizing them? Deciding which of these methods — or perhaps which combination — you want to use is a good place to start.
  3. Use an organizational method that already works for you. Now probably isn’t the best time to start trying something you’re not already comfortable with on a regular basis. Do you prefer pen and paper or an electronic list? If you regularly use your phone, or always forget your paper grocery list when you go shopping, an app may be the best way to go. On the other hand, if technology isn’t your thing, a notepad works just fine.
  4. Adjust your plan to your schedule. How many meals (and snacks) you’re going to need and how many days (or weeks) your meal plan will cover may change weekly. Before you start planning, get a good idea of what your schedule looks like. Do you have dinner meetings all week, or do your kids have after-school activities that require grab-and-go items? Do you have guests visiting? Reviewing these factors on a weekly basis will help prevent waste and overspending, while ensuring you have exactly what you need. Using a calendar for your meal plan can be helpful if you have a busy schedule.
  5. Stick to the plan, but be flexible. If meal planning is a totally new concept, give yourself some time to adjust to it. Like any new habit, it can take a few weeks of consistency for it to become second nature. Of course if you find that something doesn’t work well for you, make the necessary changes. Your meal plan doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s; it’s unique to your household.

Your meal plan can evolve and work however you like. Next time you’re looking to plan your meals and snacks for the week ahead, keep some of these tips in mind to make the process as easy, healthy and helpful to your life as possible.

About the Author

 Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD
Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD

Lauren specializes in plant-based living and vegan and vegetarian diets for all ages. She also enjoys writing about parenting and a wide variety of health, environmental and nutrition topics. Find her at

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