How to Write a Meal Plan

It might sound crazy, but meal planning is one of my favorite things to do. It helps me stick to my health goals, as well as it keeps me organized on even the busiest weeks. 

woman meal planning
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But meal planning can be overwhelming, especially when you’re first starting out. It can seem like there are so many meals you need to plan for, and make sure the meal plan is not only nutritious, but also something your entire family will actually eat.

But don’t worry – I have you covered! In this post I’ll share with you all the tips and tricks I’ve learned how to write a meal plan and how I’ve the exact process I use each week to make meal planning a breeze. 

What is a Meal Plan?

A meal plan is planning out meals for the week. A meal plan can be as detailed as planning every meal, or as simple as just planning one meal a day. 

Meal planning has become increasingly popular in recent years due to the numerous benefits. Not only does it save time and money, but it also promotes healthier eating habits and reduces food waste. Meal plans can be customized according to dietary needs, preferences, and budget.

The great part of meal planning is that it can be as complex or simple as you want it to be. I recommend keeping meal planning as simple as possible when you’re starting out and then adding on as you go.

How to Write a Meal Plan

Ready to get started? Here’s exactly how to create your first meal plan.

Check Your Pantry and Fridge

The first what ingredients you have on hand. Do you have anything in the fridge or freezer that needs to be used up? Anything in the freezer that can be used as a meal? Using food that you already have on hand will not only save you money but it’ll also help reduce waste.

Check the Weather

One step that always gets overlooked with meal planning is checking the weather. Weather can play a huge role in what we feel like eating. I know when as soon as we get snow or the temperatures start dropping, there’s nothing more that I crave than a cozy meal.

Plan Around Events and Holidays

Look ahead at your calendar to see how many meals you actually are going to need to plan for. Do you have an event during the week? That might be one less meal that you need to plan for. Or, do you have an extra busy day? That might be a good time to do a crock pot meal. 

sheet pan chicken fajitas

Benefits of Meal Planning

Meal planning can have a lot of benefits. Here are a few that my family has experienced over the years since we started:

Save Money

We’ve been able to save money since we started meal planning because we only buy what we need now. We’re also not going out to eat as much since we have a plan every night.

Eat Healthy

Meal planning helps you to eat healthier because you are in control of what goes into your meals. You can plan for balanced and nutritious meals that are way more healthy than takeout. 

Tips for Meal Planning

Here are some of my top tips that I’ve learned over the years:

Keep Track of Favorite Meals

Before you start making a meal plan, write down a list of your family’s favorite meals. This can be a good resource to come back to when you need ideas, as well as a good spot to keep family favorite recipes.

I like to keep a simple notebook with my meal plans along with a section in the back where I can write down family favorite meals.

Let Everyone Have a Say

One of my favorite ways to get my family excited for the week is to include them in the meal planning process. I let each person in my family pick a meal that they’d like to have each week. Not only does this make it easier on me so I don’t have to come up with an entire meal plan by myself, but it also teaches my kids how to create balanced plates.

The rules in our house is that everyone can pick a main dish, and then they need to come up with healthy sides. My kids love macaroni and cheese so they’ll often request to have chicken and broccoli on the side.

The best part of this is that there’s no more fighting at dinner time – everyone feels included and happy with the meal plan!

Photo Credit: Champagne and Coffee Stains

Write it Down

You spend all this hard work creating your meal plan, make sure you write it down! Dry erase dinner boards look cute in the kitchen – but once the week is over, you erase it and start over from scratch.

Stop starting from scratch by keeping a notebook with each week’s meal plan. You don’t need to make it fancy – a simple notebook will work. Each week write down the plan. At the end, you’ll have a complete year of meals that you can reference back to. This is especially helpful for holidays and parties so you can remember exactly what you made!

Have Themed Nights

A fun way to get inspired for meal planning is to have a themed night. Some popular themes are:

  • Taco Night
  • Pasta Night
  • Sheet Pan Night
  • Breakfast for Dinner

Get creative and have fun with it! You can even let each family member come up with their own theme for the week. This adds variety to your meals and keeps everyone engaged in the meal planning process.

It’s OK to Keep it Simple

Some weeks are just busier than others. And that’s OK! Remember, meal planning is supposed to make your life easier – not add more stress. Don’t feel like every dinner needs to be a gourmet meal. It’s perfectly fine to keep it simple and have grilled cheese sandwiches or frozen pizza once in a while.

You don’t need to create a new fancy meal plan every single week. If there are recipes that your family really loves, it’s ok to make them every week. 

Repurpose Leftovers

One of my favorite meal planning hacks is reusing leftovers. This can be in the form of taking a protein and using it a variety of ways – like chicken breast. I like to make a big batch of shredded chicken each week and then I can add it to different recipes throughout the week. 

Meal Plan Recipes

Now that we’ve gone over how to write a meal plan, it’s time to start planning! Here are some of my family’s favorite meal plan recipes:





More Meal Planning Resources

Looking for even more meal planning tips? Check out these articles:


  • Ali Van Straten

    Ali Van Straten is the founder and journalist of Champagne and Coffee Stains. She is a Peloton expert, certified running coach and certified nutrition coach. Champagne and Coffee Stains provides information and resources on Peloton Interactive, running and recipes.

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Ali Van Straten

Author: Ali Van Straten

Title: Journalist

Expertise: Peloton, Running, Nutrition, Meal Planning, Parenting


Ali Van Straten is a journalist who writes for MSN, Champagne and Coffee Stains, and Everything Baby Showers. Her articles have been featured in Wall Street Journal, Parade, Yahoo! Lifestyle, and MSN. She is a mom, meal prepper, recipe developer and runner and loves training with her Peloton treadmill and bike.

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