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10 Easy Meal Planning Hacks You Need to Know

Food you can prep using 10 Easy Meal Planning Hacks

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One of the biggest pitfalls in diet and healthy eating is the rushed dinner, pizza order or drive through pick up because it’s been a long day and we simply want to relax rather than cook a whole dinner and all the effort needed to pull that off. This is where meal planning comes in!

One of the best habits for eating healthy, avoiding poor food choices, and weight loss is meal planning. But it isn’t always easy to get started…


Image of the Free Mastering Meal Prep & Planning Guide along with the benefits you will gain from the guide



Use these 10 meal planning hacks as soon as possible to make meal planning easy, inexpensive and a functional part of your healthy lifestyle!

You might also want to check out my other blogs to help you with tips on finding and saving recipes, mapping out a plan that will fit your family’s needs, and then putting it all together.



10 Easy Meal Planning Hacks


#1 Cook Once Eat Twice

Always be on the lookout for ways you can make two meals by cooking only once. You could cook a large roast for dinner and use it later in the week for soup or sandwiches. The same thing with a whole chicken it can be roasted with vegetables one night and another night used for chicken tacos. This meal planning hack will save you time and money that is why I put it at #1.


#2 Only Try 1-2 New Recipes a Week

It is bad enough if your family hates the 1 or 2 new recipes you made this week. But a whole week of dinner flops would be disastrous!  Just try a new recipe or two each week while sticking with the ones you already know you enjoy the rest of the week. This will keep you from starving all week!


Meal Planning Hack themed dinner Taco Tuesday could look like


#3 Try Themed Meals

Plan out themed dinners for each week. It helps to have daily themes that your family and you will remember.  Less thinking = more time!

Some ideas are Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, and Waste “Less” Wednesday [Leftovers night]. Routines are very helpful when meal planning while the themes still allow for trying new things.



#4 Leftover Night

Have leftover night the day before grocery day. This will help you get your fridge cleaned out so it is ready for fresh new groceries. Plus you will know what you have on hand and not overbuy at the store. Another option is to have leftovers the night of grocery shopping.



#5 Eat Before You Shop

Grocery stores put things they want you to buy at eye level. They expect you to purchase things on impulse. You will make a lot more impulse purchases when you are hungry. Eat before you go so you will be less tempted. This works well with hack #4!


One of the many heathy meals you can make using the 10 easy meal planning hacks



#6 Involve Your Kids in Meal Planning

If you are stuck on ideas, don’t be afraid to ask your kids for help! They might have some suggestions that are not only healthy but help you put a varied list together for the following weeks’ meals.

Besides if they help pick out recipes to try, find the ingredients at the store, and help prepare it that almost guarantees they will try it.



#7 Don’t Cook 2 Different Meals

You don’t have to cook 2 meals for Meal planning to work in your house (1 for you and 1 for your family). That will actually drive you insane, trust me I know! I’m a mom of a large family and there was always someone that was not pleased with dinner.

Instead, think about ways you can tweak the meals your family already enjoys to make it healthier. Try adding an extra cup of veggies to the soup.

Swap out ground turkey for the hamburger. Or better yet sneak in some ground mushrooms in place of a pound of meat it has the same texture and takes on the taste for the other ingredients. Check out my blog for more ideas on How to Eat More Vegetables the Sneaky Way.

Have a “taco” bar so everyone can choose their own ingredients.  You can offer spaghetti squash as an option instead of pasta. Or try cauliflower instead of rice. I have found that when I offer options they tend to at least try them.


woman cooking kitchen using meal planning hacks


#8 Be Strategic with Your Meal Planning

When you’re trying out new recipes for the first time schedule them for your less busy days. Same goes for the more complicated recipes.

When you have little to no other obligations you will have the time to devote to the preparation without becoming overwhelmed. Avoid the soccer practice nights or softball tournament weekends.


#9 Let the Tools Do the Work for You


Crockpots and Instant pots will be your new best friends when it comes to meal planning! If you don’t already have these two tools you might just want to look into getting them ASAP.

Ah, popping the ingredients for dinner into a crockpot that will cook while we’re your away from home (or just busy) is the best! It makes for a great option when all we have to do is just serve and eat dinner.

The thing about crockpots though is you need to remember to start them early in the day. So, when you forget or just can’t make a recipe in the crockpot that is where the instant pot comes into play. An Instapot cooks things quickly!

Both of these cookers are fantastic investments and with a little creativity can make some very tasty meals as well!


#10 Be Patient

Remember with anything new it takes time to get into the swing of things before it really shows how helpful it is in your life.  Take baby steps and be patient with yourself.

If you are eating all your meals from a box or drive-through window, planning a week’s worth of home cooked meals will be overwhelming.  And you will quit before the week is up!

Just try one or 2 nights at first and keep adding on as the weeks and months go by. Once you have a few weeks under your belt make a Master Family Favorite’s list to reflect on when you are ready to plan again. Keep adding to this list as you try new recipes. You too will eventually have a month of things to choose from like I do at my house.

You also don’t have to clear out everything in your pantry. Buy new things each time something runs out and purchase a healthier option instead.


Now it is time for you to go plan! 

Which tip was the most helpful to you? Do you have a meal panning hack that works in your house? Feel free to share below.

I’m planning an upcoming free challenge in my Journey in Wellness Facebook Community (click on the link if you would like to join!). I do free challenges every month along with daily resources, strategies, and support.


Image of the Free Mastering Meal Prep & Planning Guide along with the benefits you will gain from the guide





30 Responses to 10 Easy Meal Planning Hacks You Need to Know

  1. These are such helpful tips to start meal planning! We use themes in our meal planning as well! Meal planning has helped us save a lot of money in the long run.

    1. Shannah Holt says:

      Do you have any different themed nights? I’m always looking for fresh ideas.

  2. Tamra Cater says:

    These are great tips for meal planning. I definitely love using my crock pot to make meals. I think I want to try a themed night as part of meal planning. Good post!

    1. Shannah Holt says:

      Thank you! Let me know if you come up with any other themed nights we need some fresh ideas too.

  3. Sarah says:

    Those are amazing meal planning tips! The one I forget most often is eat before you shop! I hungy shop way to often!

    1. Shannah Holt says:

      I get that when I’m hungry and shopping I buy so much more!

  4. I loved tip #8. Meal planning will help me to avoid trying to prepare meals when we have practice, church or when I work late. Thanks for the reminder.

    1. Shannah Holt says:

      Yes it will really help! I had 2 children in all-star cheerleading and 2 in soccer and if I hadn’t planned and prepped ahead of time we would have definitely hit the drive-through.

  5. Kyrie says:

    Thank you so much for these tips! One thing I need to get better at is making just one meal.and not multiple. This is something I’ve been working on for a while. I’ll definitely be using these tips next time I meal prep.

    1. Shannah Holt says:

      Perfect! Check out my other meal planning blogs for tips and recipes for each meal.

  6. Tisha says:

    Great list! I just did a post on my blog about meal planning! It is essential to saving on your grocery bill! I would add, shop online for groceries if you can (even ordering online and pickup up). This is a way to double check your list and hopefully catching any missed ingredients!

    1. Shannah Holt says:

      You know I just tried the shopping online with delivery and pick up this past weekend. We were having car troubles, but it went so smoothly.

  7. Katie says:

    These are all great ideas! Love the cook once, eat twice ootion. I always try and cook extra so there will be leftovers! Some nights I cook two meals at the same time so I only have one night of clean up but two different meals that will last us 3 or 4 days.

    1. Shannah Holt says:

      Thank you! That is a great idea too especially when you don’t want to have leftovers.

  8. This is very helpful!! I am currently on maternity leave and I am struggling to plan meals for our family. I will bookmark this as a reference for next week’s lunch and dinner! <3

    1. Shannah Holt says:

      Congrats! Oh, I know how much meal planning helped me when I just had a baby hope these tips help you as well.

  9. These hacks are so helpful, I always try to start meal planning and then will give up halfway. Thanks for sharing this

    1. Shannah Holt says:

      I hope you are able to take these tips and make it work this time!

  10. Racheal says:

    Great Tips!. I love meal planning & budgeting!. This is like the number one money saver for us.

  11. I always make a big batch so my hubby has lunch the next day!

    1. Shannah Holt says:

      I bet that is a time saver!

  12. Han says:

    Great post with great tips. I always fall into the trap of not planning and then ending up with pizza ?

    1. Shannah Holt says:

      I used to as well! Hope these tips give you what you need. Be sure to check out the blogs for each meal for more tips and recipes!

  13. Kristin says:

    I have to confess, I REALLY hate cooking, so any hack I can find is great (besides begging my husband to cook). We’re big here on having leftover nights to both save money and clear out the fridge. I also agree with involving the kids in dinner planning. When my crew was younger, I used to let them pick the veggie (as long as it wasn’t corn every night) and this seemed to help. Although my youngest has never gotten over his hatred of peas – not sure how you can hate something that barely even has a taste! Lol!

    1. Shannah Holt says:

      Yeah, I don’t LOVE to cook either and we have leftovers every week as well! I totally get that about the no taste we tell my husband all the time about how veggies have barely any flavor but he hates them all still.

  14. Anne says:

    These are great tips! I dread meal planning every week especially during the year. I love every one of these, especially the Themed Nights and only trying one to two new recipes a week. Having patience is my biggest struggle. Nothing is more annoying than using your valuable time to cook a healthy and yummy meal and then you hear “what’s that, I’m not eating that.”

    1. Shannah Holt says:

      So true! I’ve started letting my kids find healthy recipes for new meals to try then I know they will at least try it.

  15. Will be using these! Thank you!

    1. Shannah Holt says:

      Awesome I have quite a few more meal planning blogs that might interest you too!