How to Meal Plan

It all seems so simple when you’re a kid:
Friday is pizza day at the school cafeteria, so on Friday, you eat pizza. As an adult, planning what to eat and
when can be really tough. We can eat just about anything. Woo! Gas station taquitos all the time! Can’t tell me what to do, Mom! But, humans cannot live on gas station taquitos
alone. Your mom may have had a point when she told you to eat a vegetable every now and then. Unless you’re a wizard and healthy dinners
just appear on your table– and if you are, actually, please call me– try this idea on for size: Meal planning. Imagine setting off for a busy work week while
knowing that you’ll have tasty things ready to cook and eat when you get home from a rough
day. Meal planning saves you cash money and can
help you make sure that you eat some veggies. Or live the dream and eat homemade pizza every
day. Learning how to meal plan is like building
any other good habit: set yourself up for success and practice until
it’s second nature. You can find a ton of recipes and apps and
online guides to meal planning- we’ve linked to a few of our favorites in the doobly-doo. But meal planning is not just a science. Meal planning, my friends, is an art. Here we’ll guide you through the zen of
meal planning. Step one: grab a pen and paper. Or wait. It’s the 21st century. Pull up your phone’s note-taking app. Now, think. What do you like to cook that you also like
to eat? How often do you think you can cook at home? Make a list of your favorite five to 10 meals
that you can easily cook in a short time or mostly make ahead of time. Here are a couple ideas for meals that come
to mind: Roasted chicken thighs with pasta, and chickpea curry with rice. Now, we’re going to talk more about these
specific meals later, but remember, the best thing you can do to plan your meals is to,
uh, actually plan your meals. Decide what you want to eat next week before
you go shopping and prepping over the weekend. Step 2: Lower your expectations. Weird, right? But if this is your first time trying to cook
for yourself more often, it’s okay to start simple. Save the souffle for another time. Use shortcuts when they make sense for you. It counts as cooking if you buy pre-made pizza
dough and add your own toppings. It even counts as cooking if some nights,
all you can do is crack a couple eggs into a pot of ramen noodles. Step 3: Here’s the thing: Clean your kitchen. A tidy kitchen is the first step toward cooking
more often. If you have to spend half an hour cleaning
up your kitchen before you can start to make dinner, you’ll be hungry and crabby by the
time you get to your recipe. I can’t stress this enough: Do your dishes
and wipe down your counters, like, every day. If you really hate dishes, try to make it
as fun as you can using the theory of “temptation bundling.” That means to do something you like to trick
yourself into doing something you hate. Put on some tunes, a podcast, or YouTube
video to listen to while you do the dishes. Buy a fancy dish soap. Or knock back a shot of whiskey before you
start the dishes. If you make it a regular habit to keep your
kitchen clean, you’ll notice a huge difference in how motivated you feel to get in there
and start cooking. Step 4: Go grocery shopping! Preferably when you’re not hungry, or else
you’ll buy everything in the store. I’ve definitely done that before. When you’re out at the store, remember this
life-changing, super intense, really helpful secret about meal planning: Build in lots
of flexibility. The biggest mistake in meal planning is coming
up with all your meals for the week and then not feeling like eating them. This, my peeps, is the path to dialing the
pizza delivery guy. So try to plan meals based around ingredients
that can be really versatile. Things like: Frozen veggies, kale, rice, pasta,
canned tomatoes and canned beans are all great to grab extras of. And don’t forget the sriracha! Step 6: Get creative in case things don’t
go as planned, because to err is human. Let’s say that we bought the ingredients
for roasted chicken with pasta for dinner on Monday and chickpea curry with rice on
Tuesday. But what if you get home on Monday and realize
you forgot to thaw the chicken! Oh balls! But you totes got this. Just roast the chickpeas instead and serve
them with the pasta, and then use the chicken the next day in your curry sauce. Step 7: Cook and eat your meal! High five! You’ll be a master of meal planning in no
time. Thanks for joining me on this meal planning
adventure. If you have any meal planning tips or tricks,
or have a topic you’d like us to cover, leave us your thoughts in the comments below. …and don’t forget the sriracha. I’m sorry, I don’t like sriracha, so… So it’s hard for me to say that one— [off screen]
No you can—what do you usually put on your— Sam’s like, you have to say sriracha. You’ll have to to, ah… connect with your audience. …and don’t forget the sriracha! Like that? [off-screen, laughing]
Yes, but don’t break down immediately after And don’t forget the s— Unthaw the chicken. Oop! What am I saying? Unthaw? [off screen]
It says unthaw, but I didn’t even really… [off screen]
… think about it. You can’t unthaw a chicken. [off screen]
That didn’t occur to me. Forgot to… Oh! THAW the chicken! Step Seven: Cook and Eat Your Meal! High Five! You’ll be a master at— bleh bleh bleh bleh

100 thoughts on “How to Meal Plan

  1. Some beginner meal planning tips:

    *Steamers are GREAT. Not only do they cook rice wonderfully, but you can also use the little shelf to simultaneously cook food (even still frozen) like fish and veggies. Any spices or sauces you add to said meats and/or veggies go down into the rice. So bonus! This is especially great if you're cooking for yourself. Steamers can also be used to make soup and even pasta (so I've heard–haven't personally tried it).
    *Some places have little menu pads that you can use to plan out your weekly meals. I got mine from World Market and do meal planning for my whole household every Sunday when I'm sipping on coffee.
    *It's helpful to take a cookbook with you to the grocery store–especially if you have one with an index sorted by ingredients. Then, if something is on sale, you can take a minute to flip through your cookbook and find a recipe that sounds good! (You can also do this with, but I personally like having the book with me.)
    *Check out farmers markets before going to the store. Sometimes they're cheaper or will actually bargain with you! Then whatever they don't have, get at the store.
    *Try to stay on the outer areas of the store as much as possible. It's an easy way to keep you from getting too many high-preservative foods.
    *That being said, though, it's not all bad. Buitoni, for example, has really good easy-to-cook pasta dishes that, again, is great if you're just feeding yourself!
    *Cooking is DEFINITELY good podcast time. Plus, Hank and John will always remind you if something is burning. 😉
    *Leftovers are your friend!! Last night's dinner often makes for a good lunch today! I plan for leftovers in my menu, and it is great!
    *Bonus adulting tip! Some grocery stores have credit cards that can help you build credit AND save on groceries. My only credit card is the Kroger 123 Rewards Card (not a sponsor–haha), and I use it just for groceries, gas, and any big expenses like maybe plane tickets. I pay it off every month, but I get bonus savings on Kroger brands, get personalized coupons and even checks every month, and a magazine with recipe ideas! It's great, I love it, and I have a great credit score because of it!
    *And finally, clean as you cook! I learned this trick from my mom, and it's great to know that when I sit down to eat, all I have to do later is take care of the dishes I'm using right then.

    Hooray for adulting!!

  2. I have a bad habit of buying way more food than one person could ever eat. Especially fresh food with a short shelf life. I'll buy a bag of baby spinach for one specific recipe, and then never touch that bag again until it goes bad. So I guess another good tip would be to buy ingredients that can be used in many recipes, rather than just one.

  3. Always make one or two portions extra – either you can have them the next day (maybe even take them with you as a lunch) or you can freeze them for later. Thawing your own home-cooked meal does kind of count as 'cooking' IMO, because that's exactly what you did – just a couple weeks ago. ^_^

  4. I don't really meal plan, but I make sure I always have things I cook often with. I stock up on pastas, rice, veggies, garlic and spices/herbs to make sure I can put a relatively balanced meal every night. 🙂 I never follow recipes completely, so it doesn't really matter what I have, as long as I can create something with what I have.

  5. One extra quick tip when you are cooking is to clean as you go, So while you are waiting for something to cook clean the rest of the items you used to cook with this way there will be less dishes after dinner is over and the dishes that do need to be cleaned sill wont seam so overwhelming.

  6. the tupperware is the best thing you can have in your kitchen, it serves as a container but is also a reminder that it is never too much if you can keep it and eat it the next day

  7. tip for washing your dishes!!!

    when you're cooking, make sure you have soapy water ready so you can immediately wash your dishes as soon as they've been used!

  8. I always clean my kitchen WHILE I'm cooking. I put the food in for 20-40 minutes to cook and instead of going on the computer I get the cleaning out of that way so I don't have to worry about it after dinner.

  9. Ugh. This seems like way too much work just to put edibles in my face hole. All I do is grab random shit from the meats and veggies aisles and mash it together in a skillet or the goddamn microwave. With a side of beer or cheap wine to class it up. So far I haven't puked yet. I'm not busting open a spreadsheet or a calendar for this shit.

  10. I was just discussing meal planning with my mum today, I'm the one that tells her to stop buying food we won't eat and to start a meal plan, this is what I'm going to do over the weekend when I have time! thanks everyone xxx

  11. You can find meal planning templates as well. I shop for groceries biweekly and make sure I have enough simple meals as well as enough leftovers to sustain me

  12. Thank you!! I struggle with this so damned much 😞 I think keeping my kitchen clean and lowering my expectations will help!

  13. When I was home, I made myself a book of recipes I like from the cookbooks my parents use – I use my collection of recipes to figure out what I want to eat when I'm not sure, so that I know what to get when I go to the grocery store. I also like to look up what fruits and vegetables are in season, and then find recipes that use those. Fresh vegetables (and lots of herbs and spices) make food taste good without too much fat & sugar 🙂

  14. this video came at just the right time lol i've been meaning to start meal planning, but didn't have an actual plan haha

  15. I tend to listen to/watch youtube videos when I'm doing chores. Guess who happened to be doing the dishes when this video came on?

  16. A lot of this is about smart cooking habits, not really meal planning. I'm not saying that's not worth a "how to", just that the title and the contents are a bit off.

  17. My "trick" for keeping the kitchen clean:
    clean everything up decently every 2 days!
    -Make food "quickly" (because you had a long day), leave everything covered (prevent bugs) but don't waste let that food get cold! Let future-you deal with that.
    -clean the 2nd day whilest preparing the meal/oven/pizza, finish up as you set the fire to low to give yourself an extra 5 minutes.
    -A small extra burst of effort leading to a more satisfying meal knowing you left the kitchen 99% clean and have a delicious meal!

    Saving at least 30% effort in the long run!
    I'd say 50% but someone'd prove me wrong..

  18. might i also suggest mind over munch here on youtube? she's a meal prepping genius. 5 different meals for every day of the week? budget shopping- $50 a week? $30 a week? 1 hour meal prep if you're short on time? she's got it all covered in addition to super healthy and easy but delicious recipes, bento boxes, and all sorts of other resources. totally recommend her!!

  19. And to prevent eating the same 5 things over and over again, plan a few new recipes to try out every other week or so, that way you can add to your repetoire and eat a variety of meals. I have a good 10 recipes I know by heart, but I scan through recipe sites or those free magazines from supermarkets that are half ad, half recipes for new ones. That way you can also try out new dishes that you might never eat again, so you can be a little adventerous. If it's good it goes in your recipe folder, if it's bad you never have to eat it again. 🙂

  20. Some great tricks are to learn how to make homemade versions of easy-cup meals like Cup-O-Noodles. Just buy some mason jars and look up some recipes and you can just fill up your jars ahead of time and just add hot water when you don't feel like cooking. You get way more delicious and healthy instant noodles/ramen/soba/etc. (and you get to show off the ones you bring to work).

    Also buy a brush with an elongated neck for washing dishes. That way as soon as you're done pouring your food you can do some pre-cleaning on the dirty dishes so all it takes is about 5 to 10 seconds of using the sponge and rinsing it off per dish.

  21. This is how I work:

    I use my freezer. A lot. I spend a few hours in the kitchen one day every two, three, or four weeks, and I cook loads of stuff. Then I portion them out into takeaway tubs or freezer bags, and keep them in the freezer until i want them. Most stuff can be taken out and put in the oven or a pan to heat up whenever you want. Yeah, it means you may have to wait an hour or so for food, but you don't need to think about cooking after a long day at work.

    Bulk it out with cheap veg. When making a stew, curry, lasagne or something, add in loads of inexpensive stuffs to make it go further. My mum used to get a 500g pack of diced beef and make enough stew for six of us, simply by adding in a bunch of carrots, potatoes, swede, and whatever else she had lying around.

    Chop up everything. I like sausage casserole, but most people would leave the sausages whole, so you'd need roughly two for each portion. If you chop it all up , you'll find you don't worry about it too much and you can probably get another two or three portions out of a batch.

    Always look in your fridge to see if there is anything that can be used. If possible, do not throw anything away. Most veg can go in a stew with little effect on the outcome, so that's a great way to use up anything left in the fridge. Also, if you made too much for a Sunday roast, then put all that in a casserole, or stew, bubble and squeak, or whatever. Just do not throw it away.

    All in all, I think i spend around £30-£40 on food a month, while only cooking for about six-eight hours total, and I still manage to eat well.

  22. I found putting a meal plan on my phone I was more likely to forget about it. Having a chalkboard/whiteboard so I was always walking by it helps me a lot more. I will say, on the other hand, having shopping lists on my phone do help. There are two types of shopping lists I use: stuff I always get/is cheapest at a certain store, and specific ingredients I have to remember to pick up. Stuff Thats Cheapest lists goes in the Notes app organized by store, and the specific ingredients list goes in the Google Keep note I share with my husband.

    Also, for starting off, it helped me to attack one meal at a time. So rather than planning all breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for the week, just attack your dinners. I usually have similar things over and over for breakfast and lunch, but for some reason adding those into planning as well was too overwhelming for me.

  23. As a freebie-only couponer, I play Chopped basically every time I cook, and it's kind of fun, but also I just have trouble making decisions. There are just too many options of what to cook! It's nice when I have perishables that I need to use up, because at least that sets a limit if I have to use that ingredient. I'm just really bad at committing to making something more time-intensive for several meals when I could just whip up some pasta or a quesadilla or something and eat RIGHT NOW.

  24. URGENT Request!! Can you make one about organizing/planning out chores to keep a tidy home? I work in the medical field on graveyard shift and my apartment is an absolute mess. I hate living like this but I'm so exhausted when I'm home. I also live alone which for some reason the stupid part of my brain thinks its okay to be a little messy since no one else is around. I need a gameplan!

  25. I'm going to university next academic year so this is really useful!!!!! Could you make a video on how to budget? I want to be able to save money each week/month but I'm not really sure how to start.

  26. The hardest part for me is actually gauging the portions. This just takes time and practice until you can eyeball how much you'll need for a single meal but until then, expect to sometimes end up with sparse meals you'll need to complement with a snack later, or with very large meals where the extra will have to go in the fridge or freezer.

    Speaking of snacks! Try to keep 'naughty' foods for treats, and mostly snack on healthier things. Find snacks that are healthy and that you actually enjoy. For me that would be carrots, some fruit, raisins, nuts, etc.

  27. What I like to do is to make a family sized meal that easily reheats. That way I get leftovers for dinner or lunch for that week without a ton of effort. My favorite recipes have been homemade pasta sauce and oven baked fajitas.

  28. I was kind of expecting this video to have /r/MealPrepSunday kind of advice, to be honest, or advice about meals that work well in packed lunches.

  29. One of my standbys is a large pot of soup. I'll just throw some veggies in a pot with some seasoning, some type of broth or tomato sauce, and some combination of beans, barley, pasta, rice, and/or meat, any of which can be leftovers from previous meals! The possibilities are endless! If you're advanced in your cooking skills or feel like doing something fancy, you can experiment with stuff like using thickeners, making homemade noodles/dumplings, cold soups, blended soups… there are so many things to try and so many ways to learn! Since my fridge is small, I store the soup in a tall pitcher so that it uses vertical space, and ladle out a portion to take to work in the morning.

  30. Here I am thinking about meal planning and realizing I eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch most days.

  31. i used to ate the same thing everyday on the week, loving it. i'm a simple girl. i cooked on the weekend and reheat my meals. Unless i needed deserts, sauce or dough (i usually froze them) that's how i got track of my portions and my healthy diet. I lost weight like that.

  32. Additional tips if you have hypoglycemia:
    *PROTEIN PROTEIN PROTEIN! It's a slow-burning energy source that doesn't cause a crash like sugar does, though sugar is good if you need energy quickly. Meat and beans are the best sources.
    *Plan for smaller, more frequent meals. 5 or 6 a day.
    *Eat something small before you start cooking so you don't make bad decisions because your blood sugar is low.

  33. The biggest thing that helped me meal plan is getting a pad that goes on the fridge that I write down all the meals for the next week on.

  34. Here's a few tips that I found by accident.

    1) My roommate and I sometimes have the problem of not eating all of our leftovers. So I've started once a week or so to include a meal with leftovers that can be re-purposed in another meal. Ex: Make Tacos on Tuesday, or whenever live your best life. Use any leftovers of your protein of choice and cheese to make enchiladas or make some rice use all the leftovers for burrito bowls… although I'm always a fan of just more tacos too.

    2) This one sounds obvious but it goes along with the first one, if you're planning your meals for a week plan a day to eat your leftovers. Or take them for lunches on different days. It saves valuable fridge space and you don't end up wasting food. (Side note, I hate cleaning the fridge of old containers that become "science projects". So anything I can do to avoid it I do.)

    Hope this helps someone!

  35. i used the mealime app for a week (three meals, since i was only cooking for myself and had some busy evenings), but realized too late that when it gave me the three meals, they might have been in a specific order for a reason. instead i started with the third one it gave me, then the second, then realized that the salmon it had me get for the first meal probably wasn't safe to eat a week after buying it. oops. also the tofu fried rice thing it had me make for the second meal made me sick the second time i ate it 🙁

    then i started working after having been unemployed for a while and realized i wasn't actually very hungry for dinner very often, so i kinda gave up. except today i do want dinner and i have no reason not to cook the frozen salmon i still have except that i have no vegetables to put on it ugh

  36. One thing I've found to help save food is to concentrate on making dinner varied and interesting, whereas breakfast and lunch can both be same-old for a good long while. This allows me to go look around for who has the best deals on my preferred breakfast and lunch foods so I can save a few dollars. You can also probably go lean on one of those two meals just fine, whether it's rushing out the door with a bagel for breakfast or eating a simple sandwich at your desk.

    If you do either of the above, though, you NEED to make sure your dinner is extra portioned and tasty to compensate, or you'll end up going hungry and unhappy throughout your time and quit.

    Finally, for those who hate veggies (like me – super bitter taster, here) or other important foods (got a friend who despises fruits of all things), I've got a few tips:

    1) Experiment with cooking or preparing them in different ways then you've experienced before. When cooked normally, I dislike spinach about as much as Garfield the cat (yep, the only food besides raisins he hates – feel free to check!), but give me a pile of fresh Baby spinach and a little Honey Mustard drizzled over it, and I'll eat it just fine. And while onions pieces on burgers or pizza are nasty, I do like pan-seared chunks on my grilled kebabs!

    2) Look for lesser known varieties of a vegetable. I was convinced I hated all squash near the end of high school thanks to butternut, only to discover I liked banana squash when a friend made some years later. But you are an adult, so feel free to ban one or two if you absolutely must (still hate butternut), so long as it's only a few so you can still easily get proper nutrition.

    3) If you just can't stand it in any way but really need it in your diet, try and hide it in something. If you have a blender, you can puree just about anything and add it into either a chili, pasta sauce or curry without altering the taste. Going back to the spinach, I could just throw it into a big bowl of cheese and have some spinach-cheese dip as a side dish to something.

  37. I took the advice to knock back a shot of whiskey every time I start doing the dishes. And you are so right…now I love doing the dishes so much I do it 15 times a day.

  38. I literally avoid cooking because I hate doing dishes so much. And by doing dishes, I mean loading and unloading the dishwasher…

  39. I just meal planned for the first time and am in LOVE with it. I did all my cooking on Sunday and now am just eating the results. It's so nice to not have to stress about making dinner or having to go buy it, because if I just made it there would be a LOT of PB&Js and microwave soups

  40. Could you make a video about like trying to find hobbies after college? I've got lots of friends starting their first real jobs and like all they do is work go home and sleep…also maybe about depression and how to handle like medical expenses?

  41. Sunday evenings I make a big batch of food to take to work. One batch usually lasts four days so I can go out on Friday. What I usually make is:
    1 lb ground or diced meat
    4 carrots diced
    2 onions diced
    4 ribs celery diced
    other veg
    Which meat and other veg you use varies depending on what's on sale. Remember, you can freeze meat so don't be afraid to buy the value pack. Just be sure to bundle together and freeze what you won't use right away. The other veg can be squash, greens, cauliflower, green beans, etc. Frozen veg works too (one package of chopped spinach works well for this). You want to switch things up so you don't have the same thing each week.

    Stews are also good during colder months.

  42. I cook for my family cuz my parents can't (and I just love to cook), and one thing I'm trying out and finding helpful is keeping an inventory of what ingredients you have, especially if your freezer is somewhere besides your kitchen. I have a google doc that I can just edit to keep it updated. I can also access the list when I'm away from home so I don't accidentally buy doubles

  43. Double the meat! I got this tip from Clutterbug and yeah, totally brilliant. If you buy chicken for one meal, plan to have another meal with the leftover chicken (cooked or uncooked). So, I made some roasted chicken breasts and thighs one night, now I can make chicken burrito bowls another night this week.

  44. Crock-pots and slow cookers are a god send! You can turn the food on before you leave for work and come home to cooked food!

  45. Before watching this video I spent $300+ on fast food each month. Cooking your own meals at home really saves you money and is WAY healthier. Thanks for teaching me something that nobody even told me about.

  46. A tip I learned when I was just starting out: when going grocery shopping, round the price of everything you pick up, up to the nearest dollar to keep a running total in your head – you'll end up spending quite a few dollars less than you thought, by the time you get to the check out. Also, if you don't have a car, keep some money aside to get a cab home with your groceries 🙂

  47. 0:31 If you are a healthy dinner wizard, please advertise your services. Quite a few people will hire you! Lol!

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