How I Meal Plan in Just 30 Minutes a Week

If I sat down and thought about all the time I spend buying food, cooking food, storing food, and washing dishes, I think I’d have to lie down for a bit…

(Mom life, am I right?)

But ONE good thing that saves me a lot of time (and headaches) is my 30-minute meal planning routine. Every week, once a week, I complete 3 simple steps that save me HOURS on grocery shopping, looking for recipes, and worrying about what to make.

In this article, I’m going to share my favorite way to meal plan. This is an easy system that you can implement in your home right away to help you save more time every week.

Table of Contents

  1. Save hours in your week with a meal plan system
  2. Step #1 – Inventory your kitchen
  3. Step #2 – List up favorite recipes
  4. Step #3 – Make a shopping list
  5. Conclusion

Let’s dive in!

Save hours in your week with a meal plan system

I highly recommend creating your own meal planning routine that works well for you and your family. You don’t have to do it like me (or anyone else).

I hope this guide can give you a starting point or a little bit of inspiration for your own system.

The power of creating a routine is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every single time you plan out meals. I like to make lists and checklists to effectively automate most of the process.

You’ll see how I’ve automated most of my meal planning with a few tools and techniques that help me save even more time.

I cannot take credit for these ideas. I was originally inspired by The Minimal Mom’s Simple Meal Planning video. Please check out her video and consider subscribing because she has great tips!

I’ve taken what I’ve learned from her and other content creators and have tweaked it for my own use. Let me walk you through my routine step-by-step:

Step #1 – Inventory your kitchen

Before you can plan out meals and a grocery list, you want to know what you have on hand. You’ll also need to figure out what you need to buy just to stock your pantry for the week (whether you’re going to use it for a recipe or not).

To do this, I have an inventory list in Notion that contains all the grocery items and necessities we need to have in stock.

This includes milk, eggs, all of our oils and seasonings, extra food for quick meals, diapers, toothpaste, and things like that. I divide the list by where the items are stored.

I take this list, walk through my house, and check to see if we need to restock anything. I like to carry a notebook and write down each item I need to buy. (I usually like to restock things before they run out, so I’m not running to the store for an emergency trip.)

Next, I go through my fridge and pantry and see what I need to use up or some ingredients we haven’t used in a while that I could make a meal out of.

Finally, I list any meals we are craving or seasonal foods that sound good right now.

With this, I have the beginnings of a shopping list and some ideas for meals already swirling in my head.

Step #2 – List up favorite recipes

Next, I go through my list of favorite recipes to see what I want to make.

I also open up my digital calendar to see what’s on the schedule for this week—that helps me to know if I can make a more elaborate meal, or if I need to make something quick and easy. Some nights we already have plans to eat out with friends, so I don’t need to plan anything for those days.

I usually stick to our favorite recipes. Once every few weeks, I might try something new, but with small kids and a lack of time during the week, I find it easier to make things I already know how to make (and that my kids will eat).

I use just ONE recipe app (it’s a Japanese app called Cookpad, because we live in Japan) and I save all of my favorite recipes to my account. That way, I’m not trying to go through tons of cookbooks or websites to find things—I just search for “chicken,” “pork,” “potato” or whatever I’m looking for, and all of our favorites come up.

Some recipes I do use books for, but I usually remember where they are and go looking for them. I don’t sit and ruffle through cookbooks to try to find something. I find it takes too much time.

To plan meals, I create a calendar appointment at dinner time each weekday with the meal name and recipe link. That way it’s in my calendar and I can always remember what I’m going to make.

Step #3 – Make a shopping list

Now that I’ve got my meals for the week, I’ll jot down all the ingredients I need to make them onto my makeshift shopping list.

I keep a shopping list inside of Notion so I can always have it with me wherever I go, so I take a few minutes to type everything in and mark which stores I want to go for each. (This is optional of course!)

Then I’ll place an online grocery order and run to the store sometime during the day for anything I need to get in-person.

And voila! In just 30 minutes (give or take a few 😉 ) I’ve got all the meals planned out and my fridge is stocked with everything I need. I don’t have to worry about going to the store or what we’re going to eat during the week anymore!


I cannot recommend this enough—having a meal plan and making it simple with checklists and a list of favorite recipes will save you SO much time during the week!

This can help you to feel less stress, enjoy mealtimes more, and even save money as you use things you already have at home.

If this article helped you, consider sharing it with a friend so they can have better mealtimes, too. And I’d love to hear a recipe you’re loving right now—share it with me in the comments!

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