• How To Meal Plan for Beginners + Free Meal Planner
  • How To Meal Plan for Beginners + Free Meal Planner

    Meal planning is great as it helps you to get organised, minimise food wastage and save money on your grocery shopping. It’s also perfect for when you’re trying to lose weight or eat healthier as it removes the guesswork and ensures you have healthy meals throughout the week. If you visit a nutritionist or a personal trainer or buy a workout plan online, they will often give you a meal plan or give you guidelines to create your own. What you eat can either magnify or scupper your results when trying to lose weight or build muscle, so it is vital you have a plan.

    To ensure you can put the tips in this post into practice, I have created a free printable meal planner that also acts as a workout planner. Get your free meal and workout planner here.

    I strongly believe in the phrase ‘Failing to plan is planning to fail‘. I always eat better when I have a plan as it helps me to avoid temptation. I plan and prepare my meals on a Sunday for the week ahead. When I have healthy meals and snacks in the fridge I am less likely to reach for quick, not-so-healthy meals like jam on toast (my weakness) or ready meals or takeaways etc. Creating a meal plan can seem like a daunting task at first but now that I’ve been doing it a while it has become much easier and faster. I feel like I’ve got meal planning down to a tee so today I’m sharing my tips with you so that you can become ace meal planners too.

    How to meal plan for beginners. Get organised, minimise food wastage and save money on your grocery shopping with these handy meal planning tips by Simply Cantara - a healthy lifestyle blog

    1. Decide which meals you need to plan for

    This will depend on who you live with/cook for and your schedule for the week. If you live with your parents and they cook dinner for you, then you may only need to plan for your breakfast, lunch and snacks. If you live alone then you may need to plan for all of your meals. If you live with a partner or housemate then you need to take into account any meals you share. Your schedule for the week will greatly affect your meal plan tool; are you eating out any days this week? Do you have any lunch meetings? How many hours will you be out of the house for?

    2. Assess your budget

    Whilst many of us would love to eat steak and asparagus every single day, our budgets may not stretch to it. It’s very important for me to consider my budget when I’m meal planning so that my meal plan is realistic. It’s all well and good writing our dream meal plan but if it’s not affordable then it just won’t work. Meat is on the pricier side so I limit the different types of meat that I buy each week. For example, one week I’ll have chicken, salmon and tuna, the next week I’ll have chicken, beef and cod. Instead of having them all in the same week I spread them out to spread the cost. I also check special offers online before writing my meal plan. If lean minced beef is on offer then I’ll buy that instead of turkey mince that week. Utilising leftovers and meals that can be made from the same ingredients can make a huge difference to your budget too. I’ll buy salad ingredients that can be used for multiple salads and just change the meat/topping to keep things interesting.

    3. Minimise food wastage

    Check your food cupboards, fridge and freezer to see what you already have in your kitchen. Still, have a whole bag of spinach in the fridge? Cod fillets in your freezer? Make sure you include them in your meal plan so that they don’t go to waste. When writing your meal plans include leftovers and repeat meals. If you fancy porridge for breakfast, then it’s no good to buy a whole box of oats and only have porridge once. I like to pick two breakfasts and repeat them each week. If you cook for yourself then repeat Monday’s dinner on Wednesday or freeze the extra portions for the next week. If you’re having chicken for dinner then use the leftovers in your lunch the next day and make a salad.

    4. Think about the season

    For most of us, what we eat in Winter is different to what we eat in Summer. Different foods will be in season and what we fancy when it’s cold isn’t the same as when it’s hot. In Winter I like to eat stews and heartier dishes such as chilli con carne whereas in Summer I prefer salads and soups. Make sure you take into account the season and which type of meals you’ll fancy when writing your meal plan.

    5. Gather recipes together

    Once you’ve worked out how to make your meal plan work for you, it’s time to collect recipes! I love trawling food blogs, Instagram, magazines and Pinterest for inspiration. I save recipes on Pinterest in my Healthy Recipes board and refer back to it when putting together my meal plan. Having a collection of recipes to hand makes it easier to meal plan in the weeks when you’re lacking inspiration or feeling bored about cooking the same meals over and over.

    6. Don’t try too many new things at once

    As fun as it is collecting new recipes, it can be overwhelming if you try to do too much at once. Stick to introducing 1-2 new recipes a week and mix them in with your old favourites. This will ensure you don’t have to spend too long in the kitchen, learn too many new cooking techniques or need to buy too many new ingredients that will only be used once then left to be forgotten about in your kitchen cupboard. If your meal plan becomes too difficult to put into practice then you won’t stick to it.

    7. Fill in your meal planner

    Now the fun begins, now you’re ready to actually write your meal plan! Because I love you guys and because I love to share, I’m giving you the meal planner that I use! It also has space to track your workouts too. Get your free meal planner here, print it off then sit down and fill it in, utilising the tips in this post.

    Once you’ve got your meal plan together, write a grocery shopping list for all the ingredients you’ll need to create your meal plan. I like to meal prep on a Sunday for the week ahead using my meal plan then I don’t have to worry for the rest of the week. Let me know if you’d like me to do a post on how I meal prep in the comments below.

    Are you excited to start meal planning? I’d love to see what plans you come up with, tweet me, tag me on Instagram or email me at simplycantara@gmail.com. Do you meal plan already? If so share your tips in the comments below.



    1. Gemma LouLou Keith
      July 7, 2015 / 10:06 am

      Love this post…. thank you! I always start off the week so well & meal prep on a sunday for the frisrt 3 days of the week, but then it seems to all go down hill from Thursday so will definitely be using your planner! About to check out your Pinterest boards now x

      • July 14, 2015 / 9:23 pm

        So glad you like it Gemma! I used to do the same then I started meal planning and it’s so much better. I hope you find this helpful, let me know how you get on! xx

    2. emily couture
      July 7, 2015 / 10:45 am

      This is such a helpful and useful post! I love meal planning as it saves time during the week :)

      emily xx


      • July 14, 2015 / 9:19 pm

        It saves so much time! Glad you like the post lovely xx

    3. July 7, 2015 / 6:28 pm

      Great post – especially the don´t try out to many new things! I always tend to do take on too many changes at the beginning and that makes me give up really quick.

      X M. / http://nevermindnm.blogspot.com/

      • July 14, 2015 / 9:18 pm

        Ha I wrote that after learning from experience. I got too excited, tried to do too much at once and felt overwhelmed. Just add in 1-2 new recipes at a time and enjoy the process xx

    4. Pixie
      July 7, 2015 / 6:54 pm

      Love this! Why don’t you share some of your filled in ones? That would be a fun way to share meal ideas and get the template going :) I know you sometimes post what you’ve eaten the whole day but this would be an interesting way of bringing the different elements together xxx

      • July 14, 2015 / 9:16 pm

        I have plans to share actual meal plans in the future. Watch this space ;) xx

    5. July 7, 2015 / 10:17 pm

      Hi Cantara,

      This is such a good idea – and thank you for sharing your planner with us! I’m really quite organised, so it’s actually surprised me that I don’t already do this. I’ll give it a whirl and see if I can save money as well as help save on waste!

      Besma (Curiously Conscious)

      • July 14, 2015 / 9:15 pm

        I’m so glad you like it! Meal planning really helps me save money (no more buying biscuits at the supermarket just because) and save on waste. Let me know how you get on xx

    6. July 8, 2015 / 3:12 pm

      I will be using this! Such a good idea xx

    7. Theycallhermon
      July 14, 2015 / 10:52 am

      Cantara thanks so much for this, I’ve been meaning to meal plan but feel quite daunted by it. But this post has really made it seem easier! Well done!!

      • July 14, 2015 / 9:15 pm

        You’re welcome hun! So glad you like it, let me know how you get on with meal planning. Once you’ve done it a few times it’ll be a breeze xx

    8. Shen
      July 18, 2015 / 10:05 am

      I have a magnetic meal planner from wilkos that comes with a little shopping list! :) It’s really useful, meal planning is the way forward definitely. Less worry and thought mid week. I often spend a bit of time making something big, healthy and freezable so I have some healthy quick meals in the freezer. xxx

      • July 25, 2015 / 4:19 pm

        Aw the magnetic meal planners are so cute, if I had my own fridge I’d get one of those. Making big batches and freezing meals is a great way of doing it xxx

    9. Bryanne
      October 29, 2015 / 6:19 pm

      Hi Cantara! I really admire your blogging style, dedication and individuality! I was wondering if you had any tips for those struggling to promote their blogs. I started a blog a year ago and I have this exact problem even though i’m constantly using social media and word-of-mouth to promote. Any tips? My blog is —–> http://bestbodybybry.com/ x

      • November 7, 2015 / 11:21 pm

        Hi Bryanne, thank you so much for your lovely comments! Your blog (and your body!) look great. Keep doing what you’re doing. My tips would just be stay present, talk to your readers, be active on social media as you are doing, leave genuine comments on other blogs and focus on building a community x

    10. Xotic Events
      September 18, 2017 / 12:00 pm

      The trick has been to mix nourishment, time saving & money saving all in one. I’ve never had an example like you to follow who values all of those. So I’m giving it another go with baby steps. Thanks!

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