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If you’re looking for a one stop shop for everything meal plan and prep, look no further–you’ve found the right place. This four part guide teaches you the basics of how to meal plan. It’s written for beginners and will walk you through the easiest meal plan and prep first–all of your snacks for the week ahead.

image with text for pinterest about how to meal plan

Over the years, I have received a lot of questions on everything from why to meal prep to how to meal prep, which is why I wrote this four-part series to guide all levels of experience through the process. Each section includes a video to supplement and a step by step guide.

This is level 1. A perfect place to start for beginners!

The following guides build off of these principles and adds another layer:

Check out my free meal planning printable sheets at the bottom of this page or click here to subscribe and download

It’s important to note that meal prepping is not an “all or nothing” concept. You can start where you’re comfortable and go to the next level only when you’re ready to.

The difference between meal planning and meal prepping:

Meal Planning is when you make a plan for what you will eat for the day, week, or month.

Meal Prepping is the doing. You can prep just the ingredients or the entire meal–it’s up to you.

Why you should meal plan:

People meal plan to save money, eat healthier, and reduce the risk of impulsive snacking or turning towards fast food.

Learning how to meal plan is very helpful for sticking to diet programs like Weight Watchers and the 21 Day Fix.  Having a meal plan that works and knowing what to eat and when is important for achieving your goals.

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How long does it take to meal prep?

This is the most common question I’m asked, and it totally depends on:

  1. How many people you’re prepping for
  2. How many meals are you prepping
  3. If you’re using a slow cooker, Instant Pot, or the stove and oven

One of the reasons I created this series was because I wanted my readers to see exactly how long it took me to prep for different levels. This snack prep took me about 15 minutes to plan and 45 minutes to prep.

The rights tools can not only save time, but make meal prep easier. Here’s the list of my kitchen essentials:

How to Meal Plan: For Beginners

To ease our way into meal planning, we’ll start with snacks. Having snacks planned is always a good idea, and helps to keep me from reaching a bag of cookies at 3pm. First, let’s figure out how much you will need.

Step One: How much do I need to prep?

  1. Are you planning for yourself, family members, or anyone else? How many people will around each day and night? Think about your busy week, sports, days off, half days, field trips, and work schedules.
  2. When do you usually snack? Are you a daytime snacker, nighttime snacker, or both?  
  3. Are you on a diet program? Look through your program for specific guidelines on what you can eat and how much.

Step Two: What foods do I prep?

  1. What does your family enjoy snacking on? 
  2. What will last for the week? 

Step Three: What extras should I have on hand?

  1. If you’re only prepping for yourself, consider if your significant other, kids, or friends are likely to eat your snacks.
  2. What happens if you or your kids are extra hungry between lunch and dinner one day? Do you have flexible plans for that?

Keep in mind that extras can be as simple as granola bars, nuts, and fruit. Things that won’t go to waste if not eaten that week are always a great idea. Over time you’ll get a better feeling for how much extra you’ll need, and which snacks get eaten first

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Let’s get planning!

I’ll walk you through my planning session:

  1. I open my meal planning printable and family calendar and fill it in based on who will be around each day. Having a plan helps me save both time and money.
  2. I know that protein balls are a family favorite and usually disappear first, so I’m making those. I also know that if there are cut and washed veggies, I have a better chance of my kids grabbing those instead of something unhealthy.  So, I want to make sure that I have plenty of those prepped.
  3. Think: Is there anything special or out of the ordinary that’s happening this week? Are you hosting a happy hour, or going to one? Sports practice or games? How many days per week are you prepping for?

Here’s my list of snacks, with ingredients for your grocery list:

  • Protein Balls
    • 2C quick cook oats
    • 1/2C chocolate chips
    • 2/3C unsweetened coconut flakes
    • 1/2C peanut butter
    • 1/3C honey
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • ¼ tsp salt
  • Chips and Salsa store bought tortilla chips and fresh salsa from the grocery store
  • Hard boiled eggs are eaten as is, or deviled. Hard-boiled are super easy to store and take with you for an on the go snack.
    • Eggs (number based on your family size and preference)
    • Mayo
    • Seasonings: Salt and Paprika
  • Nuts We buy unsalted mixed nuts from the store and I separate them into 1/4 cup serving grab and go bags. 
  • Raw Veggies Raw carrots, cucumbers, and celery are great snacks. Having these cleaned, peeled, and cut are a great way to control what you snack on.  
  • Stuffed Mushrooms For these, I take raw turkey sausage and stuff inside the mushrooms and bake them. These take just a few seconds to heat up (or you could eat them cold) and it’s an easy way to get some protein and veggies in.
    • Packages of white or mini-portobello mushrooms
    • Turkey Sausage, one package will be more than enough for two packs of mushrooms
    • You can use some olive oil on these so they don’t stick, but I’ve found that the turkey sausage is usually enough!

I always take stock of what’s in my pantry before making a list for grocery shopping, and I use meal ideas that are designed for meal prep so that if I make too much or our plans change, I can stick the extra food in my freezer and use it another time. I find that having freezer meals is so helpful during weeks that I don’t prep!

hand holding an oatmeal bite

The Process of Meal Prep

  • Prepare the Protein Balls, and place the mixture in the refrigerator to firm up.
  • While the mixture is in the fridge, begin making your stuffed mushrooms and get them in the oven.
  • Pull out your Protein Ball mixture and form the balls.
  • Remove the stuffed mushrooms from the oven and allow them to cool while you peel and cut your raw veggies.
  • Portion out your veggies and put the mushrooms into meal prep containers.
  • Portion out your nuts into 1/3 cup servings.

You can watch this video to see this meal prep:

What’s next?

When you’re ready, check out the next steps:

Fill out this form to subscribe to my Meal Prep Quick Start guide and download your weekly meal planners and grocery lists.

Meal Prep and Planning + Printables

Overwhelmed with prepping? I can help! Recipes and meal prep tips delivered weekly. (Multiple emails the first week, then weekly emails.)

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If you don’t see a subscribe box above, please click here to sign up. The information will be used to provide you with updates according to our privacy policy, found on our website. We will never sell your info. If you don’t receive your sign up link or printables, please check spam. If you still don’t see it, please email me at beccaludlum@gmail.

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One Comment

  1. janice alonge says:

    thank you for your help in meal planning and ideas

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