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How to start meal planning in the new year

Published January 04, 2023

It's the start of a new year, and people are looking for ways to improve their lifestyles — aka new year's resolutions. Here are some helpful tips to start meal planning this year.

Meal Planner App is unashamedly an online meal planner with the goal of making meal planning less stressful and less time-consuming. That being said, we know there are many benefits to having a good meal plan. But did you know that meal planning coincides with many of your other New Year's Resolutions?

That’s right!

Is your New Year's Resolution to be better at budgeting? Maybe you want to adopt a healthier lifestyle through diet and exercise. Maybe you want to increase quality family time and have more meaningful relationships with friends this year. No matter what your New Year's Resolution, meal planning is very likely a piece of the puzzle.

Below we’ll detail a few simple steps to help get started with meal planning this year. Use all the tips or just a few! Even small steps can move you towards your goal of making delicious, healthy, affordable meals at home.

Step 1: Start Small

We said it in our meal planning guide for beginners, and it bears repeating. Starting small is the key to learning any new skill.

Start with one meal, whether it be breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and plan to eat it at home. After you've done that, choose one full day to eat all your meals at home. Starting small will help you achieve those small wins and feel encouraged and accomplished. It will also help you learn cooking skills, as these don’t develop overnight. Unfortunately, cooking at home takes a lot of practice and trial and error to find out what meals you enjoy cooking and eating. But don’t give up!

Step 2: Compile your favorite recipes

Make a list of all the recipes you love to cook and eat. If you don’t already have recipes, do your research! Buy a cookbook or find a favorite food blog. Some of our favorites are Half Baked Harvest and Pinch of Yum. Put all your recipes in one place. You’ll already have them in one place with a cookbook or you can use Meal Planner App to easily add all your recipes to your meal library. 

Step 3: Create a planning rubric

A meal planning rubric is what we call theming meals for each night. For example, Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Leftover Thursday. You get the point! This takes some of the decision fatigue out of planning and you can easily and quickly choose meals based on the daily theme. For more ideas, see our article on how to make a meal planning rubric.

Pro tip: If you’re using Meal Planner App, at the top of each meal you can add tags to easily sort your meals.

Step 4: Plan monthly

This might sound overwhelming but with your planning rubric, it’s easier to plan your entire month! This way you can achieve variety without reinventing the wheel every week. For example, our kids love chili, but we don’t want to eat chili every week, so we plan to make it every-other week.

For more tips and ideas, checkout our article explaining how to make a monthly meal plan.

Step 5: Shop for groceries online

Shopping online has some built-in benefits. You can always see your total before you purchase which takes away the shock of finding out your total was more than expected at the checkout counter. It also reduces the temptation for impulse buying — and, if you have kiddos like us, the nagging and asking for a treat.

If you’re using our Meal Planner App, you can easily pull up the shopping list in your weekly calendar view. Then you can go through your shopping list and add everything to your cart.

In addition to saving money, picking up your groceries or having them delivered saves time! If you’re a busy parent, you don’t have time to be wandering the grocery store with or without your kids. So grocery shop online while enjoying your favorite show or beverage and let someone else do the shopping for you!

These are our best tips for creating and sticking to a meal plan this year. These tips will help you build consistency and practice meal planning in a sustainable way. Again, meal planning and cooking takes a lot of trial and error, but we believe in you! Best of luck meal planning this year!

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