How to Start Healthy Meal Planning in Three Easy Steps

Do you grocery shop with intension, buying specific food for each meal of the week? I’m trying to be more fiscally conscious, so decided to meal plan again. I only started this process in the winter, though talked about it for years. Even then, I didn’t stick to a hard budget. I often rationalized that it was ok to make several trips to buy groceries because I ate clean. Now, that we moved into a new home I would rather spend the extra money on decorating rather than unneeded groceries. So, I decided to refocus my clean lifestyle towards making not only healthy, but also economical choices. Today, in an effort to eat well, save money and reduce stress, I grabbed the printable calendar and shopping list from my earlier meal planning experience. I found success in the past by gathering and creating a system with my family. Now, I’m armed and ready for our family meeting tonight to discuss eating clean while on a budget.

Here are some of our strategies on how to start healthy meal planning in just a few steps.

How to Start Healthy Meal Planning in Three Easy Steps

How to Start Healthy Meal Planning in Three East Steps

1. Brainstorm: Gather your family, friends or significant others and brainstorm healthy meals and snacks. Grab cookbooks, smart phones and find recipe ideas that look easy and yummy. Save this master list to plan for future weeks. Some of my favorite resources include Jessica Seinfeld’s Double Delicious: Good, Simple Food for Busy, Complicated Lives, Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Kitchen: 150 Plant-Empowered Recipes to Ignite a Mouthwatering Revolution and

2. Schedule: Make a calendar grid and schedule what you will potentially eat each day. We created a weekly calendar (a table in Microsoft Word) and then scribbled meals and snacks into appropriate boxes. This doesn’t have to be final, it just gives you an idea the meals of the week. Why this is an important step is because it will help you understand how much you need to purchase at the grocery store. When I don’t think about what we actually need for the week, I truly overspend by at least $50. It’s also a huge stress reliever to know what I can prepare for school lunches or dinners beforehand.

3. Create A Shopping List from Your Schedule: Look through the items on your calendar as well as the recipes and write down the ingredients for your grocery shopping list. I’ve found the key to saving money is to only buy what is on my list.

My son and I had a blast with our family brainstorm, skimming through cookbooks and apps. When in a rush, which is often, my 8-year old jots down ideas of his favorite foods and creates the list for me. We try not to overthink it, we just talk to each other and create a quick list.

Here’s a printable of our meal plan and shopping list for the week. Since I’m vegan, my son has food sensitivities and my husband likes meat, we often eat different meals. This meal plan was my way to keep them all coordinated.


What would it take for you to meal plan? Try it for one-week and see how it works within your life.

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  1. My meals are pretty much basic, I don’t try anything too complicated. I try to stay away from the oven, and instead use our Nuwave Oven which I am forever cooking in. One of these days I’ll get into list writing. Thanks for sharing.

    • Caryn Sullivan

      Thanks Jennifer. What’s a Nuwave oven? I actually LOVE to use our toaster aka convection oven. It’s really easy to reheat meals, rather than use the microwave. I also bake pizzas, tortillas and meat in it, too.

  2. I used to make meal plans, now I’m lucky to shower. Thanks for inspiring me to do this again?

    • Caryn Sullivan

      Kristen. I’m “that mom” who loves to look at the other kids lunches at school. I’m not judging at all…just trying to come up with new ideas. So, please start meal planning again, so I can use some of your meals and snacks.

  3. Oh you have me hooked – 3 easy steps! Love this! It just seems you eat better when you have a plan rather than trying to come up with something at 5 o clock!
    Jen recently posted…Fall Treats And How To Spoil A Teacher

    • Yes. Meal planning comes in handy for so many reasons. I really can’t say enough good things about taking 10 minutes (or maybe 20 plus when starting) and just scribbling it all down. I do love spreadsheets but when life is busy and the kid(s) have so many activities, my written calendar works just fine.

  4. I just eat for me – and man friend at times, so meal planning (if it happens) is generally pretty easy! I always crave the same things… Salmon is ALWAYS on the menu! ha!
    GiGi Eats recently posted…The “I Literally Can’t Even” Latte

    • My 6 year old loves salmon, too. Such a quality food. He loves eggs…so that’s one item our family couldn’t live without.

  5. I used to be so good about meal planning and then got away from it, and boy does my budget show it! I find that not only do I save money by meal planning, but I also tend to eat much better as well. Thanks for inspiring me to get back to planning!

    Have a great weekend!
    Patty recently posted…Um, it’s been a month!!!

    • Let me know when you start meal planning again. I do find myself sticking to the same meals, so I would love to see some of your ideas and how you make it work cost effectively. So far, I’m shopping more at Trader Joe’s now that they have more organics. I do still love Whole Foods, but I find myself wandering the aisles and making excuses to buy more.

  6. Meal planning has been on my to do list FOR-EV-ER! Funny how I can never find the time to get to such a time saving device. This Fall, it is my goal to conquer this. :)
    Julie recently posted…Bookbinding Tutorial

    • It seems so daunting to start meal planning or anything for that matter. I say just do it. Try it. Give yourself 10 minutes to just jot things down. It makes grocery shopping much easier and obviously mealtime, too.

  7. Awesome tips! Scheduling definitely helps me eat better :)
    Akaleistar recently posted…Weekend Luxe

    • Terrific. Happy Friday. I agree. Scheduling anything really makes my life easier. I just have to make sure I schedule flexible time so that I’m not just living by my calendar.

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