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Meal Planning 101

Posted on March 14, 2018 by Kathryn Kitchen

It’s National Nutrition Month, and the theme for 2018 is “Go Further with Food.” This phrase is pretty versatile as it can mean different things for different people. For example, it could mean starting your day off with a healthy breakfast or fueling before a sporting event. It could also mean preparing food to “go further” at home by only buying what you need and not letting perishable items spoil. Today, I’m going to focus on the latter, specifically with meal planning.

Weekly meal planning is my saving grace. When I do this every week, it results in a more organized grocery trip, healthier meals for my family, and a cheaper alternative to take-out or frozen pizza. Oh, and it takes the guess work out of the three most dreaded words to my ears, “What’s for dinner?” With my handy-dandy meal plan, meals are posted on the refrigerator so everyone in my house knows what’s for dinner and when.

Never meal planned before? Don’t know where to start? Having a mild panic-attack at the thought? Lucky for you, I consider myself somewhat of a meal-planning expert and I’m going to outline my steps and tips for you below (free of charge):


Step 1: Get out your calendar. First things, first – you have to know what’s coming up in the week so you can plan for success. Do you have any appointments, kid’s sporting events, meetings, etc. that are taking place in the evening? Will you be out of the house all day, and not arriving home until dinner time? Those are days that you want to plan on a slow cooker meal, freezer meal or leftovers. Having a plan and preparing in advance will simplify your evenings and mitigate your stress when it’s dinner time.

Step 2: Find Recipes that work for YOU. Thanks to the internet (and Pinterest), there is no limit to the different kinds of recipes you can find. Stick to recipes and meals that are tried-and-true, and add in new meals that you know will be a success in your house. Not every meal needs to be complicated. Keep it simple, and keep your sanity!

Step 3: Craft your grocery list. This one seems pretty obvious, but let me elaborate. Your grocery list can make or break your trip to the store. If you have one giant list of items in no particular order, chances are you’re going to overlook something and leave the store without it. And nothing, nothing is worse than having to make a repeat trip to the store for the one essential item you forgot. Therefore, I find it helpful to break my list up into categories specific to how I move about the store. I use the following categories:

  • Produce
  • Meat/Poultry
  • Pantry
  • Dairy
  • Frozen
  • Miscellaneous

Breaking your list into categories also prevents you from having to back-track into aisles or areas you’ve already been, thus saving you time! I’ve found that by using this method, my grocery trips are quicker, less stressful, and I’m less likely to forget an important item.

Step 4: Follow the plan. Another obvious step, but one worth mentioning. Life happens, and it’s very tempting to skip prepping or cooking the meal that you’ve planned. This happens to all of us now and again, so it’s okay to build a night or two into your week that’s designated as a restaurant, take-out or frozen pizza night. Be realistic with yourself and set goals that are reasonable for you and your family.


And there you have it – my steps and tips for weekly meal planning. If you’re so inclined, you can also view a video on meal planning that is posted to our Thrive Facebook site here. I hope this is useful for you and your family. Send me a message at [email protected] if you’d like some resources for recipes, have questions, or want to share your successes.

Kathryn Kitchen's picture

Kathryn Kitchen

[email protected]
Kathryn Kitchen is the health and well-being manager for OMES and leader of Thrive. She is a Certified Health Education Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer whose passion is creating an optimal environment for organizational health and employee well-being. Kathryn enjoys spending quality time with her family, cooking, hosting social gatherings and being an active member in her church. Her favorite motto is, "If you don't like the way something is, do something to change it."