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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Millersville chapter.

To preface this whole article, I want to shout out and thank one of my best friends, Jane Lambert, for requesting this article be written! I really appreciate article inspiration and I love sharing my tips, viewpoints, or ideas that want to be read about! So, without further delay, let’s get into it all!

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I got into meal planning when my boyfriend and I got our apartment in 2021. Meal planning is really important for organization, budgeting, and for making a conscious effort to cook good food! Meal planning definitely doesn’t have to be a chore, in fact, I feel worst during my week if there isn’t a clear plan for our dinners as well as lunches since my boyfriend and I both pack lunch to go to work.

A great resource that I have found to help me meal plan when I am out of ideas is to look on Tik Tok actually. If you were to scroll through my saved you would see 4 main topics – animals, wedding, teaching, and COOKING! Being able to get recipes so easily is amazing but actually getting to watch the meal be cooked, see the ingredients, and know what the finished product should look like gives me peace of mind. Now remember – meal planning isn’t just saying “okay we are eating chicken” and that is the end of it. There are actually a few steps that go into the process beginning to end so here we go! Let’s get into my meal planning routine, hopefully you find it helpful or at the very least, fun!

*Note: I will add a mock-meal plan at the bottom to give a visual representation of what we really do*

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Step 1: commit to meal planning each week

This may seem like an obvious step, but meal planning is a choice first and foremost. Whether you’re planning for just yourself, you and your roommates, you and your partner, or a larger family, a commitment to meal planning is essential to be able to follow through. Now, it won’t be perfect, I have definitely had meal-prep slip-ups and that is totally okay. However, the goal is to make a conscious effort every week even if there are some obstacles or things that come up unexpectedly.

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Step 2: designate a meal to each day

My boyfriend Andrew and I have meal planning down to a simple science at this point. What we find works best is to go through each day of the upcoming week and plan our meals according to timing of schedules, events, and obviously, what we love to eat. For example, Andrew is a firefighter so on training nights we need to plan a quicker dinner or if it’s a day I’m student teaching vs. on campus the meals change. Making sure you are planning meals that make sense for your schedule and that are feasible to make is key to not getting off track. You can definitely be even more in depth as well with other meals; we just plan dinner and then loosely plan things we may want or breakfasts or lunches. This also gives room to designate a take-out night or a date night in the plan itself which really helps me stay on track.

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step 3: make your shopping list

This step is super important because making a list allows you to stay on track within the store as well as be able to better budget how much it will cost. When you have a list that you are crossing off as you go it is way easier to pass on unneeded items or extra costs. This aspect is to be done after the meal planning for each day. This helps me because then I can make my list meal-by-meal and stay organized. I tend to put any non-meal plan but needed items at the top, like trash bags, Ziplock bags, butter, milk, apple juice, snacks, etc. This helps me distinguish between dinner-specific items and other items needed. The same goes for breakfast items or lunch items; since those are not specifically planned out in our house like dinner is. After all the extra or random things have been written down, I go meal-by-meal to write what I need for each one.

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step 4: go shopping

Going shopping may seem obvious but it is much smarter to meal plan right before or very close to the time you want to go shopping. Since grocery shopping does take time out of your day, planning it out really helps me execute the process. When shopping, take the list along with and cross things off as you go. Minimalize extras and once you have a routine down, shopping is super quick. My boyfriend and I have a good system worked out as well where we alternate paying each week. This helps with budgeting for the shopping and reducing stress!

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Step 5: organize your groceries in your fridge

This step is pretty quick but important. When you get home with all your groceries you have to put them away right away anyway…but don’t just throw them in the fridge and slam the door. I take a little extra time to organize the new food in the fridge, so I know where everything is. You will thank me later when it’s time to eat.

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Step 5 1/2: make & eat your meals

Now the best step of all – -EATING!!! I love cooking, it’s super therapeutic for me and I enjoy it (most of the time). Making the meals is an important step in meal planning as a whole because although sometimes plans change and life happens, it’s all too easy to waste food and eat takeout. In order to combat this, plan meals you love! Trying new things is also something that can combat eating out. Try and make your go-to Chinese food or have a make-your-own pizza night! And of course, after the cooking is done you get to sit down and enjoy your food which is just the greatest feeling sometimes – to enjoy something you made. The possibilities are really endless so go get cooking!

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Step 6: clean up your meals**

I wanted to add a quick blurb about clean up because this is what usually leads to my downfall. I strongly dislike cleaning…who am I kidding, I HATE cleaning. When dishes pile up from cooking it becomes so easy to throw the meal plan out the window and grab something else. Make sure to be mindful of the clean up and get it done in a timely manner. I may dislike cleaning and dishes, but I truly feel so much better with a clean sink and everything available to use.

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Real Example of Our Meal Planning System:

Yours may look different compared to mine based on what you like, your budget, where you shop, how many people are eating, and so on.

Meals this week:

Monday: Garlic Parm. Chicken in the Crock Pot

Tuesday: Pizza Crescents

Wednesday: Chicken Fajitas

Thursday: Smash Burgers

Friday: Steak & Potatoes

Saturday: Lemon Chicken

Sunday: Out to Eat

Shopping List:

  • Milk
  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Kitchen trash bags
  • Apple juice
  • Yogurt
  • Bagels
  • Bacon
  • Turkey (sliced)
  • Sea Salt Dark Chocolate
  • Chicken (large size)
  • Potatoes
  • Pepperoni
  • Cheese
  • Crescent rolls
  • Tortillas
  • Onion & pepper mix
  • Guacamole
  • Taco cheese
  • Burgers
  • Burger buns
  • Mushrooms
  • Steaks
  • Salad mix
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Chicken broth
  • White wine
  • Penne pasta
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I hope that some of these tips, tricks, examples, and explanations are helpful in figuring out your meal planning routine! Meal planning really has helped me eat better, budget my money better, and organize my life. I hope you enjoyed a little glimpse into my meal prep system and that hopefully, it can be a starting point or a road map for anyone who wants to start meal planning as well. Happy Planning!

Until Next Time,

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Maddie Engleman

Millersville '24

Hello! I'm Maddie Engleman; A bit about me: I am a super senior at Millersville University this year, graduating spring '24. This fall is my 7th semester writing for HC which is so cool! I am an Early Childhood Education major and am minoring in General English. I absolutely love kids, writing, reading, cooking/baking, and crafting with my Cricut. I also enjoy spending time around animals! I love being a part of such an empowering platform and get to write pieces that impact people anywhere. HCXO ~ Maddie "Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic." - Albus Dumbledore (J.K. Rowling)