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  • Writer's pictureAllie Henrie

7 Tips to Master Meal Planning

Authored by: Allie Henrie, CEO of AHN Coaching, RDN, CDN

No matter what your health goals are, learning how to meal plan to some degree is a valuable skill worth developing. When we think of traditional meal planning, we often imagine every meal of each day planned out with specificity. However, that level of meal planning is too rigid, unrealistic, and unnecessary. Instead, I recommend a more practical approach that allows for flexibility while still achieving your goals. If you're new to meal planning and want to start, here are some realistic tips to help you get started and stick with it.

Here’s how you can make a meal plan for the week in under 30 minutes so you can save money, reduce food waste, and eat healthier meals all. week. long. Not just Monday and Tuesday when your resolve is the greatest.

1. Pick a consistent meal planning and grocery day

Establishing a routine makes it easier to plan meals and know how long your plan should cover. Whether you plan for a week or more, the key is to have a reliable schedule for meal planning. Block out 30 minutes in your calendar, set a reminder on your phone, and prioritize this time to set your week up for success.

2. Make it enjoyable

Find ways to make meal planning an enjoyable routine. If you're dreading it, ask yourself how you can make it more fun. Consider going to a coffee shop, ordering your favorite drink, and listening to music while you plan. Create a cozy ambiance at home with your favorite candle after the kids have gone to bed, and browse recipe books. Multitask by planning while exercising on the treadmill or having your favorite show on in the background. Make the routine more enticing based on what brings you joy.

3. Plan for the laziest version of yourself

While meal planning, it's tempting to envision cooking elaborate meals every night. However, the reality is that sometimes we're tired and have limited time or energy. Plan for those days by including "back pocket meals" in your plan—quick, minimal-prep dishes that can be ready in 20 minutes or less. Identifying these nights in advance will save you stress and provide an easy solution when you need it most.

4. Take stock of what you already have

Before you begin planning, check your pantry and fridge to see what ingredients you already have. This reduces grocery costs and helps prevent food waste. If you find items that are about to expire, plan a meal early in the week to use them up.

5. Plan for leftovers

You don't need to cook a brand-new dinner every night. Factor in leftovers and know how you'll use them—whether repurposing them or simply reheating—for easy lunches or another dinner. For example, cooking 4-5 dinners each week for a small family of 4 allows for takeout or leftovers on the remaining days.

6. Keep breakfasts, snacks, and lunches simple and repeatable

Simplify your breakfast and lunch options by planning for the same meals throughout the week. Choose 2-3 snack options as well. If you crave more variety, you can plan for additional options, but simplicity saves time and energy when you're busy.

7. Make your grocery list while planning

Use a notebook, piece of paper, or the notes app on your phone to write down your meal plan. As you go through the list of ingredients for each meal, add any missing items to your grocery list. This saves time in the long run. Additionally, next to each menu item, note where you found the recipe (website or page number in your cookbook) to easily refer back to it during the week.

Bonus tip: Establish set meals on certain days

Consider assigning specific meals to certain days of the week for added convenience. For example, designate Fridays as pizza night, have meatless Mondays, or enjoy Taco Tuesdays. This simplifies the decision-making process when planning each week.

Now, set a timer for 30 minutes and get started

About Allie

Allie is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) who has spent the last 7 years in the weight management industry working with clients on a one-on-one basis to help them reach their fat loss goals. As a food lover who never turns down a good taco, Allie believes fat loss should always enhance your life. Allie works side by side with her clients to help empower them to confidently make the healthiest choices for themselves. To work with Allie or learn more from her you can apply to work with her at and follow her on instagram @alliehenrie.rd


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