Meal planning can be an excellent way to upgrade your relationship with food. There are a number of benefits to figuring out (and prepping) what you’re going to be eating in advance.

First, you get to minimize the amount you spend on food shopping. With meal planning, you can buy a bulk ingredient (like chicken) and use it in a number of different meals.

You can also give yourself a clear list of ingredients to follow when you go to the grocery store. This means you’re less likely to go “off-budget” than if you were just browsing the aisles.

Plus, meal planning can help you to stick to your diet. If you’re trying to cut down on how much fast food you eat, having your meals already prepared is a great way to get started.

So, where exactly do you get started with meal planning?

Start With Your Go-To Meals

Successful meal planning doesn’t mean you have to spend hours scouring a cookbook every night to come up with new affordable recipes. While it helps to look for new ideas from time to time, you can also start with some of your go-to favorites.

Pick meals you’re going to be happy to eat any time and that are relatively easy to make. It’s also worth focusing on food that isn’t going to cost a fortune too.

Starting with the meals you already feel comfortable with means you don’t have to learn how to cook something new from scratch.

Find a Designated Place for Recipes

You may find yourself stumbling across the occasional recipe you want to check out. Find a designated place where you can store those recipes to come back to later.

For instance, you might have a folder in your kitchen you can turn to when you’re running out of ideas. You may want to use a Pinterest board so you can visually browse through your options at a glance and see what makes your stomach rumble.

Use Building Blocks

At the beginning of each week, choose a couple of different types of protein, one or two grains, and a vegetable collection. You can prepare all of these foods in advance, then look for ways to incorporate them into different meals as you go.

For instance, if you start with bacon and sweetcorn, you can have a pizza on Monday, wraps on Tuesday, a pasta dish on Wednesday and so on.

This is a fantastic way to take your meal prep time down to a minimum. It can also save you some serious cash, as you can buy a selection of items in bulk rather than paying for a wide range of individual ingredients.

Leverage Frozen Ingredients

Frozen ingredients are your friend because they can be easily distributed into different meals according to your needs. You can divide a bag of frozen vegetables between a number of meals throughout the week and get them prepped in no time.

Not only do frozen products save you a lot of time, but they can save a lot of cash too. It’s usually more affordable to buy frozen food than it is to go fresh every time. You don’t need to stick to frozen for every meal, but you might find it makes your meal prepping easier.

Get Input From The Household

When you’re trying to get meals sorted for the whole family, it’s easy to get hyper focused and forget about simple things, like asking your loved ones what they want. Talking to your roommates and family about what they might like to eat will give you some inspiration if you’re running out of ideas.

You’ll also get the extra benefit of knowing the meals you cook are ones your loved ones will actually look forward to eating. This can make life a lot easier if you’re a parent and you’re meal planning for kids.

Schedule a Lazy Day

Meal prepping and planning are great ways to get control of your budget and your time. However, it’s not always easy to follow a schedule. There are going to be times when you feel your planned meal for the evening just isn’t the right choice given the circumstances.

With that in mind, give yourself the freedom to skip that day and cook whatever you like.

Plan a lazy night every week where you can make whatever you want without having to worry about using pre-prepped ingredients and recipes. If you make your pre-prepped meals freezer friendly, you can always eat them another day without waste.