How to Create a Healthy Meal Plan

Benjamin Franklin said, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail,” and that philosophy can apply to most all aspects of life—including a healthy diet.

One of the best ways to follow a healthy diet is to plan out what you’re going to eat. With a meal plan, you can put a stop to those times where you stare blindly into the fridge, hoping something will magically appear, and instead, have something ready that’s delicious and nutritious.

Making a meal plan can seem intimidating, but it really isn’t too bad once you know a few tricks of the trade. Here’s how we recommend getting started:

1. Check your calendar

Don’t you have Great Aunt Mildred’s birthday party next Tuesday? And aren’t you going out to eat with your college roommate on Saturday? And, oh yeah, don’t forget you’ll be home late on Thursday because you have a PTA meeting after work.

A great meal plan works around your schedule. So sit down, pull out your calendar and note any days that might impact your food. Take out a separate piece of paper, and label it with the days of the week, and then fill in the day with food-related events. Mark off Tuesday and Saturday because you’ll be eating at the birthday and out at a restaurant. On Thursday, make a note that dinner should be a slow cooker meal (perfect for when you are crunched for time).

2. Look for what’s on sale or in season

If you’re looking to save a dime, check your local grocery store circular to see what’s on sale. Make a note of anything that looks good. Or, if you are more of a farmer’s market shopper, make a note of what’s in season this time of year, so you can build your meals around that.

3. Find your recipes

You probably have a Pinterest board (or two) full of recipes that you pinned but totally forgot about – don’t you? Now is the time to go visit those! Look for recipes that use the ingredients you found in step two and make a list of what recipes sound good. You can also check out your favorite cookbooks, the Anytime Fitness blog, and food submission sites like Yummly, Foodgawker, and Healthy Aperture for great ideas.

4. Fill in the days

Now that you have your calendar and recipes, start slotting them in where you think they’ll fit best. Remember to keep in mind what “kind” of day you’re going to have when you plan the meal. You probably want to save that two hour lasagna recipe for a Sunday, instead of slotting it in for after work on Wednesday. Don’t forget to put a vegetarian dish for Meatless Monday!

Download our healthy meal plan template!

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5. Make your list and go shopping

Now that your menu is done, you’re ready to make a grocery list. Start off with the first recipe for the week, and look for items you need in the ingredient list. If you find something, write it down on your list—easy peasy. Then head to the store, stock up, and enjoy the blissful feeling of being prepared.

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Cassie Johnston is an award-winning food writer and recipe developer living and working in Southern Indiana. Her work has been feature in national publications such as Gourmet Magazine and The Huffington Post. Cassie’s a big fan of strenuous hikes, cheese, watching sports, Brussels sprouts, and craft beer, and she’ll talk your ear off about her love of local food and seasonal eating. She’s obsessed with social media and loves connecting with new friends!