How to Plan Meals Quickly & Easily

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites. We participate in other affiliate programs as well. For more details, please see our disclosure policy.

Sure you’ve heard about meal planning. Everyone says it will help you. But, how do you do it? And more importantly, how do you plan meals quickly and easily?

printed meal planner on clipboard

Pictured: FREE Printable Meal Planner to Get You Organized

Word on the street is that if you have a kitchen or a family or simply like to eat, you should meal plan.

You’ve probably read all the ladies magazines and websites that tout the importance of meal planning. Sometimes they even provide you with a meal plan to follow. But, if Lentil Salsa Soup and Fried Green Tomatoes aren’t your bag, their plan might not exactly suit you. You need to know how to meal plan for yourself.

You know what they say, “Give a girl a meal plan, she can cook for a night. But teach her to meal plan and she can cook for a lifetime.”

So, here’s my quick and dirty guide to planning meals quickly. It’s the process that I follow every week. I sit down with a piece of paper and I ask myself a series of questions.

How to Plan Meals Quickly & Easily

Use this method to get your feet wet planning meals and you’ll find that you can get dinner on the table every night this week without breaking a sweat.

canned goods in pantry

1. What do you have?

By taking inventory of what you have in the cupboard, fridge, and freezer, you can make good use of what you have, allowing you to buy less at the store and save your grocery money for a future trip.

Planning pantry meals, those based on regular pantry staples will free up lots of time and make your meal planning easier.

If you have mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, pasta sauce, spaghetti, noodles, and canned tuna, you know you can serve pizza, pasta, and tuna noodle casserole without having to add anything to your grocery list. 

2. Is there a special event this week? What’s on the calendar?

If there are holidays or special occasions in the forecast, you’ll want to make sure you plan for those events, for sure, but what else is on the calendar? Check out what your week is going to be like so that you can plan accordingly.

Have you got evenings to spend at sports practices or games? You’re going to want to plan some on-the-go meals.

Do you have a late night at work? Will you even have time for meal prep? If you’ll be crunched for time, make sure you can make some things in advance or prep some easy meals.

grocery store ad

3. What’s on sale?

Once you’ve planned meals based on what you have, check the grocery ads. Meal planning from the sales will allow you to stretch your grocery dollar a little further and offer you seasonal availability. 

4. What’s a no-brainer meal?

Everyone needs some simple meals that are low-fuss. Beans and Rice and Asian Bowls are both easy ones at our house. Work those into your plan to give yourself a lighter load during the week.

5. What sounds good?

Once you’ve chosen meals from your inventory and the sales, choose something that sounds fun to make and eat. Meal planning is only as good as the meals that land on the table. 

Through this process you can make your dinners budget-friendly, easy to prep, and delicious!

cover for Meal Plan Makeover

Consider a Meal Plan Makeover

Do you feel like you’ve lost that loving feeling when it comes to meal planning? Getting a little bored?

Maybe you need a little refresher on your different options and some specific strategies to implement that work for you in this season of life.

Meal Plan Makeover is a new, live, 2-hour workshop taking place in May to help you finally get the meal planning mojo and make dinnertimes (not to mention breakfasts and lunches) so much easier!

Register for the workshop here:

Plan Meals Quickly & Easily

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

Subscribe to Good Cheap Eats
Read Newer Post
Read Older Post


  1. BusyMom says

    I find that in menu planning that letting the family participate makes the meal plan more of a success. My husband is more willing to eat one of my favorites if one of his is included as well.

    Sometimes, I make a split meal – but never two separate meals – like this week, we will have #54 (a favorite from a local Mexican restaurant), which with Pablano Pepper and a Chipotle Pepper sauce is rather spicy, so I will pull out some chicken before adding the peppers and sauce and since I am cooking up rice and beans, those that don’t want the spice will have chicken tacos instead.

  2. Amanda from Faith, Food and Family says

    Great post! I totally agree about even if you don’t completely stick to your plan it still helps to have a plan. Last week was my first official planned week and even though I didn’t stick to it 100%, I felt more organized and less stressed about meal times. I can’t recommend having that plan in place enough.
    God bless,

  3. Katie @ goodLife {eats} says

    Those are some great tips! I usually try 1-2 brand new recipes each week, cook 1 meal using leftover random things that will otherwise end up going to waste. We eat leftovers on busy nights since we are a small family, most recipes make more than enough. I also look at the adds to get ideas for ingredients I want to cook with. I use to help me plan my grocery lists.

  4. LaVonne Long says

    Thanks for the tips. I just started MPM and in my post I linked to this post. you gave such great tips. thank you.

  5. Kara says

    Great tips! I’ve meal planned my dinners for years, but I’m in awe of those who meal-plan lunches, too. I need to start that, as lunch is all-too-often a scramble at the last minute with hungry girls peeping at my feet!

  6. Sherry says

    Love to meal plan! I incorporate a beef/pork day, no meat day (fish or pasta), breakfast for dinner, chicken day, pizza night, kids cook one night, and dh grills on sunday after church. 😀

  7. FishMama says

    Great ideas, ladies. And GLE, I gotta check out that cozi thing.

  8. Christina says

    Thanks, that was really helpful. If you can believe it, I never have gotten this down and still fly by the seat of my pants. Now that laundry is under control, maybe this is the next area?!

  9. Meal Planning Mommy says

    Mmmm, Beans a rice, one of our favorite protein meals! I used to plan my meal on paper, etc. but I have been using a meal planning website called plan to eat over the past month and have found it extremely helpful. It's nice because it creates the shopping list from the meal plan and it keeps all of our favorite recipes in one place which is a huge time saver.

  10. TheRoosterChick says

    I'd be a total wreck if I didn't plan my meals. It's one less thing that I have to think about.

Share Your Thoughts