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Life hacks: Three steps to meal planning

April 28, 2020

Meal planning can be intimidating. In the past, I have spent hours on Pinterest trying to put together a meal plan and every time I would come across the same three problems.

Problem one: Too expensive.

I would put together these lovely meal plans and then remember that I am a student and cannot be spending $100 every week at the grocery store on dinners alone.

Problem two: Time consuming.

I was already procrastinating by spending hours looking through Pinterest. I could not spend hours every night preparing dinner.

Problem three: I am not Gordon Ramsay.

As much as I have watched Master Chef and judged the contestants like I was Gordon Ramsay, that is not me. I needed easy meals to make.


After a while of going through this cycle of trying, failing, and giving up, I finally found a meal planning process that works for me. Here are my steps for meal planning, and some tips and tricks for how to stick with it.

Step one: Plan everything!


One of my issues was that I spent too much time scrolling through Pinterest and no real time actually putting a plan together. I have found that the best way to ensure that I get it done and stick with it is by planning everything ahead of time.

I will usually sit down to make my meal plans Friday mornings and limit myself to an hour. In that hour, I look at the store flyers to see what is on sale, I will look for recipe ideas online, and I will look at my school/work schedule to see what I have on the go in the upcoming week. I will also figure out what my budget for groceries is that week and prepare my list.

Tips for this step:

  • Plan meals around what is on sale
  • Plan to have leftovers on days where work/school is really busy.

Step two: Shop till you drop!


A trip to the grocery store can be overwhelming, especially as a student on a budget. The best way I have found to reduce this stress is by always having my grocery list with me. I will only buy items that are on my list and try to avoid going down aisles that I don’t need to go down to avoid impulse buys.

I will usually go to the grocery store at the same time every week. I like to go Saturday or Sunday evenings because it is less busy.

Tips for this step:

  • Shop the sales, price match if you can, and don’t be afraid to use coupons.
  • Don’t be scared of generic brands. Generic brands are usually half the price of the name brand and taste the same.

Step three: Get cooking!


Like I mentioned before, I do not have time to spend hours cooking dinner every night, so to save time throughout the week, I will prepare meals and ingredients ahead of time. I will usually do this step Sunday afternoons which means that I can safely prepare dinners for Monday and Tuesday. I may not be able to cook dinners for the rest of the week on Sunday, but I can prepare and organize all of the ingredients that I will need for those meals. I can chop vegetables, grate cheese, measure out quantities of spices, etc. This prep work saves me a lot of time when I actually go to make those meals.

Tips for this step:

  • Read up on food safety rules. This will help you determine what you can safely make ahead of time and how to store and heat leftovers.
  • If you are unsure about something, there are lots of great YouTube tutorials and online resources that can assist you in the kitchen.

There you have it! Three steps to meal planning.

Bon appetit!

By Megan McCutcheon