MEAL PLANNING: how to meal plan not prep (+free printables)

Meal planning… you need this in your life. Forget meal prep. Meal planning has helped me stick to healthy eating way more than prepping ever has. I am going to teach you exactly how to do it (it’s super simple) and I am sharing free Meal Planning and Grocery List printables.


meal planning printable



I won’t sit here and say “I don’t think meal prepping is beneficial.” Oh my goodness… it totally is. You know how I feel about Plan As and Plan Bs though.

PLAN A = let’s get in an hour workout 6 days per week. Let’s do it at 6 am before the kids wake up / before I have to be to work or school. Let’s also squeeze in 10 minutes of stretching and foam rolling after because that’s good for us!

…that sounds wonderful but the problem with Plan A is that it’s typically too lofty of a goal… something that becomes very difficult to stick to long-term. What ends up happening is that we fail at Plan A once. Then, the feeling of failure eats at our confidence and  slows our momentum so we continue to fail until either 1) we give up or 2) just feel really badly about ourselves

PLAN B = let’s squeeze in an intense 30 minute workout. Let’s have both home and gym options so one day if I make time to go to the gym, great but on a busy day, I have an at-home option to stay on track. Sounds like my fitness plans, right?! The reason they’re so effective is because I’ve mastered the combo between intense fitness and knowing how women stick with programs.

Ladies, life is about how we handle Plan B.

Of course, let’s still make a Plan A and set big goals. BUT, I also like to have a healthy Plan B in place.

Meal prepping aka getting all your groceries ahead of time, cooking the meals and organizing them into containers in your refrigerator for easy reheat and enjoy meals is great. But, it requires a lot of prep and a considerable amount of time.

So, I have an amazing Plan B (that is really like Plan A) option… meal planning.



Meal planning is meal prepping minus the cooking ahead of time. You’ll have your meals for the week mapped out. You’ll have a fully stocked refrigerator and pantry complete with all the necessary food items. You’ll know exactly what to eat when. Yet, it takes you a fraction of the time. 

I find greater success with meal planning than meal prepping for these reasons…



LESS TIME: the obvious is that meal planning takes about a quarter of the time

CONSISTENCY: just like why I love 30 minute workouts (more on that here), I prefer meal planning because I stick with it since it’s less of a commitment

FRESH MEALS: there is nothing like a freshly cooked meal and with meal planning, you enjoy more of that

FLEXIBILITY: so often when I prep, I get tired of the meals I’ve already made but I don’t want to be wasteful with the food so I’m forced to eat something I’m not really in the mood for

RESULTS: because you’re still eating the same healthy meals you would have meal prepped, you’re seeing the same great results



So, how exactly do you meal plan? It is so easy and I’ll walk you through it.



This is the fun part. I literally open up my Meal Plan Cookbooks and flip through them as if it’s a restaurant menu. I’ll jump on Pinterest and search new recipes. I’ll text my girlfriend, asking, “what was that meal you made and sent me a picture of the other night?”

The key here is to find meals that you’re craving. What looks good for this week?



I find that meal planning works best when you get out a pice of paper and a pen to map it out. Scroll down for my free printables if you’d like them. I seriously have a stack of these printed and I keep them in one of the drawers in my kitchen. You’ve probably seen me at the grocery store with these a million times! They work and I love that they’re cute… a cashier once asked me: “where did you buy your grocery list paper?” haha.

I cannot suggest these printables enough… they’re so helpful in planning your meals and eating healthy.



As if I am putting in my order with the waitress or waiter, I pick out 5 dinner options and 3 breakfast meals. My cookbooks are super organized… breakfasts, smoothies, entrees, sides, snacks, sweets, etc. so flip to the exact sections you need.

5 dinner meal ideas and 3 breakfasts options are where we begin.

Here is my time-saving trick… every night when you make dinner, double the quantity. My husband and I have done this for years. Dinner = tomorrow’s lunch. It takes care of 2 meals with the time of 1.

Now 3 breakfast ideas is because I am pretty low key in the AM. I don’t mind repeating breakfast a few days in a row. Track these in your meal planning printable!



Now that you have your 5 dinners and 3 breakfasts mapped out, take inventory. Based on the recipes, look at what items you have on hand and what you need to pick up at the store. From that, you’ll make your grocery list for the week.



This is where you’ll use both the weekly meal planning printable and your grocery list side by side. Get smart with this step. A lot of the time, you can repurose items on your list to make new meals. 

For example… if one of my breakfast ideas is an egg scramble, I know that I’ll get at least a dozen eggs and I’ll have eggs leftover to hard boil, which is something I LOVE as an afternoon snack/meal.

With add ons, I map out additional meals for the week as well as extra things I need to get at the store like veggies, milk, snacks, etc.



Shop and stock up. Then, you are done. This is the great part of meal prepping! When you get home from the stores, there aren’t additional steps. You’ll know exactly what’s on deck next to eat and the preparation of that helps you stick to your healthy meals.


OPTIONAL: my protein prep is something I’ll occasionally do if I have a really busy week to get me one step further with my food


I really hope this helps you with your nutrition game. I am don’t sugar coat anything with you ladies and I want you to know that my results didn’t come until I changed the way I was eating. I tried to outtrain a poor diet for years and it never worked.

It’s why I am so crazy passionate about my Meal Plan. It’s maintainable, realistic, easy and IT WORKS! Check it out if you haven’t already and I’ll link additional blog posts below to further help you!



“Protein Prep” – the Modern Day Meal Prep – here

this is one step up from meal planning, one step down from meal prep. It’s my fav way to get some things cooked without doing a full prep

Meal Plan Binder – here

this post walks you through how I organize 

Intermittent Fasting Mini Guide – here

IF is so hot right now and I created a mini guide on it to teach you exactly what it is and how to implement if you’re interested in trying out this nutrition tool effective at fat loss



Click the links under each photo to download a free PDF copy




meal planning printable





  • Reply
    September 3, 2018 at 6:53 AM

    LG, it’s like you read my mind! I was just thinking last week that I needed to get on here and search for an old post with these printables amd here they are! I’m with you- I’m totally a pen and paper girl when I’m planning. I have to map things out too! 🙂

    • Reply
      September 6, 2018 at 3:46 PM

      Hope! Hi!
      Aw, I’m so glad we were on the same page (literally! lol) with this. I couldn’t agree more about the old school pen and paper… it’s the best way to plan! XO

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