meal planning ideas

No Fail Meal Planning Ideas For When You Have No Clue What To Do

Are you short on time and wondering how to plan easy meals for the week? Did you know that it’s not that difficult to create your own weekly meal plan? Read on for tips and tricks for cooking on a tight budget and ideas for creating a meal plan that works for you.

Creating meal planning ideas doesn’t have to feel like a chore, it’s actually quite simple if you get into a routine of doing it. It’s kind of like doing your budget, it seems grueling at first but once you get in the habit, it becomes really easy.

Meal Planning 101

Are you interested in learning how to simplify your meal planning process and save money at the same time?  

Meal planning is not something that should cost you a ton of money. If you find yourself spending half of your paycheck every time you try to plan a meal, you’re in the right spot. This is a super basic guide on how beginner meal planning can work for you and your budget.

Did you know that meal planning is something that everyone can do? Yep, families of all sizes can benefit from meal planning! Some people think it’s only for larger families, but meal planning is effective for small families too.

The goal of meal planning is to save you time in the kitchen while also saving you money. I think that everyone can agree that saving both money and time is a bonus.

By putting in a bit of effort into meal planning recipes you will learn what it takes to begin your meal planning adventure. Don’t worry this isn’t a difficult undertaking.  

There are no skills to master and you can begin right where you are today. There’s really nothing special required except a little bit of your time!

meal planning ideas

Meal Planning For Beginners

I’m sure you’ve realized how your grocery budget can cost you a whole lot of money.  The average family spends a ton of money on food. However with a good meal plan you have the potential to significantly reduce your grocery spending.

Here are my meal planning basics for when you are too busy to think about it.

Start with a plan– Grab a FREE meal planning printable (You can print my free one by clicking in the box below).  Really write it out! Don’t try to keep this all in your head.


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    Look at your weekly schedule- what’s going on this week? Do you have a busy night where you will be working late, do you have plans for dinner with friends or a party?  What about the kids are they booked with activities on a particular night?


    5 Meal Planning Ideas To Even Help A Beginner

    Freezer Meals

    When life gets busy, it’s extremely helpful to have your freezer stocked up with some freezer meals.  Freezer meals are great for when you are short on time and are looking for something quick and easy.

    When you have freezer meals you are less likely to hit the drive through on the way home from work.  

    A good way to start freezer cooking is to use a free weekend day to prepare your freezer meals. Freezer cooking allows you to make large batches of your favorite recipes to create your own quick and convenient foods.

    Speaking of convenience foods I have found that it’s always helpful to keep a couple of frozen pizzas in the freezer.  I know this is not the healthiest option but when you are in a pinch you can pull a $6 pizza out of the freezer rather than spending $20 to get one from a restaurant.

    I really enjoy freezer cooking because I’m able create several healthy meals through batch cooking.  I also love that when we eat our freezer meals there is very little kitchen clean up necessary.

    I usually have my freezer stocked with various soups, shredded chicken seasoned for fajitas, and some sort of chicken casserole to make things easier when I’m tempted to go out to eat.

    15 Minute Meal Planning Ideas

    It’s always helpful to have a good list of quick fix meals.  Having a 15 minute meal list will help you when you are working late and may be tempted to pick up some fast food on the way home.  

    15 minute meals are a good option for beginner meal planners because there is no meal prep involved.

    What I like best about these meal planning ideas is that you don’t have to pre-plan pulling anything out of the freezer.  These ideas are great for those nights when unexpected things occur causing you to look for something quick and easy to eat. If you are looking for my favorite list of 15 minute meals click here

    1. Choose Dinner Themed Nights

    When I have time and I’m in the mood to cook something from scratch I love falling back on my themed dinner printable.  We’re all familiar with Taco Tuesday, but what’s next after you’ve taco-ed on Tuesday nights?

    The idea is simple: Assign a food theme to each night of the week After a month’s time, keep with the same theme or change it up for the next month. Even though you’re eating the same types of dishes, you’ll be surprised at how varied your meals can be.

    Here’s my meal planning categories to spark some creative planning:

    • Meatless Monday
    • Taco Tuesday
    • Whatever Wednesday
    • Tomato Thursday
    • Fish Friday
    • Sandwich Saturday
    • Soup & Salad Sunday

    2. Slow Cooker Or Pressure Cooker Meals

    The great thing about the new pressure cookers are they are safe and have a slow cooker feature.  I’ve been able to eliminate my crockpot and rice cooker with the purchase of a pressure cooker.

    At first, I really did not want another kitchen appliance but knowing the pressure cooker could take the place of a couple other kitchen appliances made it a definite win for me. When you are busy, these are a must-have in your kitchen.

     I know that slow cookers and pressure cookers are extremely different in the amount of time it takes to cook your meal. But they both pretty much the same thing.

    Slow cooker meals use a slow cooker function to cook your dinner slowly. I love being able to throw something in a slow cooker and come back 8 hours later to a dinner being done.  

    A pressure cooker has the ability to cook things really fast. So even a frozen piece of meat can be thrown into a pressure cooker and be cooked in a matter of minutes.

    I am all for investing in equipment that will make cooking easier and faster. By having the right tools you will save money in the long run by not eating out.


    3. Freezer To Crock Pot Meal- AKA Freezer Dump Cooking

    Ok, not the most glamorous of cooking styles but freezer to crockpot meals can be another great option for saving time and money in the kitchen.  

    A couple of years ago our lives were super hectic and I did a ton of this kind of cooking, I really liked only creating a mess of the kitchen one time. Combining freezer cooking and slow cooker meals made cleanup a cinch.

    The great thing about this kind of cooking is that you are batch preparing your food.  This saves tons of time in the kitchen; you can prepare about 20 dinners in as little as 2 hours.  

    How does dump cooking work? After you have prepared your food you freeze your meal in Ziploc bags. When you are ready to eat that meal you thaw it overnight and throw the ingredients from the bag into a crockpot in the morning.  

    There’s nothing better than coming home to a delicious dinner already made.

    meal planning ideas

    4. Use A Meal Planning Service

    There are numerous meal planning services out there. I really love $5 meal plans. $5 meal plans is a great resource that has saved me when times get busy.  

    Each week, Five Dollar Meal Plan will send you an email with a printable meal plan.  The meal plan includes five dinners, one breakfast, and one lunch. Plus, you’ll get a random dessert, beverage, or snack each week.

    Each menu includes a shopping list of everything you’ll need to make the meals for the following week. Once you’re a member, you’ll also have access to the backlogs of menus, so you can try out something different if you want.

    You may be wondering if it’s worth paying $5 a month to have meal planning done for you?  For those who live busy hectic lives and can part with $5 a month then I say YES, it’s definitely worth the price.

    Your time is worth money, believe me I am all about saving money where I can but the benefits of paying for a meal planning program is worth every penny for some people.

    If $5 a month can save you an hour of searching for meals then it’s worth it. That is basically $5 so you have time to do more important things

    Best part? You can grab a free 14-day free trial to Five Dollar Meal Plans! After that, it’s only five dollars every month. Trust me, it’ll save you way more money (and time) than the $5/month it costs.

    What’s Next After Figuring Out What I’ll Cook?

    Organize your meal plan. Make your list with the free meal planning worksheet.  Pro tip–If you find a recipe make sure to write down the name and where the recipe is so you can find it later.  I learned this the hard way.

    Keep A Pantry Meal For Emergencies

    Did you notice I said emergencies?  This is a meal you use as a backup when all else fails.

    This is used when you don’t have the ingredients to whip together a 15 minute meal. When you don’t have any meat frozen in the freezer. When you forgot to go to the grocery store… You get it! This is the backup plan before you order delivery to your house.

    Having a pantry meal is something that will last you awhile, so there is no harm in stocking up on a couple. Pantry meals can be as simple as a boxed food like this or something like this

    Final Thoughts

    Do you have any meal planning ideas you’d like to share? I’m always interested to hear how creative my readers are. I’m sure some of you have some wonder meal planning ideas!

    Don’t forget to share and pin for later! While you’re there, I’d love for you to follow me on Pinterest

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