Meal Planning Guide:

Meal Planning for One Week

Part 1: Preparations

by Josh Day

Cooking dinner isn't hard; it's cooking dinner consistently that's the problem.

You know how it goes. You go grocery shopping and buy enough for a couple of meals, but after you make one or two dinners, it's leftovers for the rest of the week. Or, if you live a particularly unhealthy (but very common) lifestyle, you'll just go out or eat fast food.

This five-part article series will detail one week and cover a fresh meal (often using leftovers or the same ingredients you've used in past dinners) for every day.

Let's begin with the basics.

You're going to need the following:

  • A crockpot
  • Counter space in your kitchen that's comfortable for prep work
  • A good cutting board
  • Sharp, high quality knives
  • A magnetic pad of paper and pen or pencil for the fridge
  • A comprehensive grocery list that covers everything for the week
  • A positive attitude about cooking
  • Dedicated time every late afternoon or early evening for cooking

And finally, we come to the most important thing for consistent home-cooked meals...

A plan!

You know what they say about planning... those who fail to plan, plan to fail.

Over the course of this series, I'll provide a number of recipes I've personally been making and tweaking for years now.

I've chosen these recipes because they are adjustable and are ideal for launching your own culinary creativity. You do not have to use my recipes, or even the ingredients I list... the idea is to get you to the grocery store with the right frame of mind and a plan in your head.

I try to use only fresh herbs and clean, organic meats and fish, but feel free to substitute with what your local stores have to offer.

I live in a rural town in the American South, so chances are, if I can find this stuff, then you can too.

The Plan

Okay, let's get started.

When you write your meal plan, you'll need to take several factors into consideration:

  • When do you finish work, and is there a time you can consistently begin to make dinner?
  • Are there any days you'll be working late or be otherwise engaged?
  • What recipes can be made from the leftovers of old meals?

Once you've answered these questions, you're ready to create a daily meal primer for the week.

Here's one I've created as an example:

First, and most important, include a large salad before every main course. Your evening salad shoud contain many diverse vegetables and lettuces.

  • Monday: Red beans and rice
  • Tuesday: Chili with leftover red beans
  • Wednesday: Spaghetti (vegetarian or with leftover ground beef from chili)
  • Thursday: Crockpot Italian roast
  • Friday: Homemade pizza with leftover tomato sauce
  • Saturday: Free night*
  • Sunday: Leftover roast with fresh roasted vegetables, mashed potatoes, and gravy

Do you see how the meals build off leftovers, while creating something new and completely different?

(* Free nights are one of the most important parts of weekly meal planning. Think of a free night like an free bingo slot you can shuffle anywhere -- this helps keep your week open and not so regimented, and you can move meals around as you wish.)

In our next article we'll deconstruct your grocery list and discuss grocery shopping, as well as provide a recipe.

Disclaimer: Throughout this entire website, statements are made pertaining to the properties and/or functions of food and/or nutritional products. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and these materials and products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.