Time and time again we hear that meal planning is the way to go to set yourself up for an easier week full of nutritious meals.  But, it can be overwhelming to plan days in advance when you are already treading water to get through each day.  So, I thought it might be helpful to create a busy-person’s guide to weekly planning using myself as an example.  Today, I’m sharing my plan for the week ahead for breakfasts, lunch, snacks and dinners.  I’m also including my tips for what you can prepare in advance and how to shop for the week.  I hope this inspires you to plan out your meals a bit more.  I find when I do, my week goes a lot more smoothly and I end the week feeling nourished and calmer.  

Tips for Meal Planning

First things first, write it down.  Write down what you have in your fridge, freezer, and pantry and use that to build your meal plan.  Prepare a list of your family’s favorite meals and work off that list as you make your plan.  Try and pick recipes that are easy to prepare (think one-pot, 30-min meals or Instant Pot when possible) and also recipes that make enough for leftovers.  Plan your meals so that one sauce, dip or dressing can be used in 2 or more recipes for efficiency.  Be sure to check out my round-up of my 25 Easy Weeknight Meals.

Look at your pantry and then make a shopping list.  This helps prevent food waste and also means you won’t have to run last minute to the grocery store.  Be sure to check out 40 Easy Recipes Using Pantry Staples.

Highlight on the meal plan what you can prepare in advance.  The weekend before I usually make sauces/dressings, make soups/stews, prep veggies, make a batch of hummus and bake breakfast muffins for the week.  I also make smoothie freezer bags for easy breakfasts or prep overnight oats or chia seed pudding in advance. 

Smoothie Freezer Bags

Elaine Gordon making smoothie with smoothie freezer bag

Energy balls/energy bites are also a great on-the-go snack option to help get you from one meal to the next.  I make a big batch and use throughout the week for myself and in school lunches.  My kids think they are dessert.

Elaine Gordon Making Cookie Dough Energy Bites


Stay flexible.  Leave some wiggle room in your meal plan and have a backup plan in case your week gets extra crazy for whatever reason.  One of my favorite recipes is this Easy Mexican Quinoa that keeps well throughout the week and is so good!  I enjoy it for a quick and easy lunch or sometimes dinner if I don’t have time to cook.  It uses mostly pantry ingredients and fresh ingredients I usually have on hand (lime, bell pepper, cilantro, onions).