A Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning

Is cooking more meals at home one of your goals for this year?  Great!  Now the next question:  where to start?  Standing in front of the fridge at dinnertime hoping to find some inspiration might work for some, but if cooking at home is new for you it’s probably a good idea to adopt a habit of meal planning.  Essentially, meal planning helps answer the question “what’s for dinner?” for the whole week.  If done regularly, it can help reduce some of the stress of cooking weeknight dinners and save money.  Begin your meal planning practice with these tips:

Plan:  Set aside time to devote to meal planning.  The weekend is usually a good option as you can plan your meals for the following week.  Decide how many meals you will need to prepare, choose your recipes and make a grocery list.

Shop sales/shop in season:  Read through grocery store flyers and plan your menu around what’s on sale.  Fruits and veggies are less expensive (and more flavorful) in season.  Also, look for opportunities to use the same ingredient(s) in more than one recipe.

Stay organized: Get a calendar and fill in the menu for the week.  Keep it someplace you can see it easily (like on your refrigerator).  Save all your recipes in one place so you can find them easily.  If you find recipes online, a Pinterest board may be a good option.

Prep ingredients:  Do as much of the prep work as possible ahead of time.  This is another reason it’s helpful to do your meal planning over the weekend.  Chopping the veggies you need for each recipe or making a big batch of quinoa on Sunday saves time during the week.

Use leftovers:  Practice “cook once, serve twice” when possible.  Make extra servings and bring some for lunch the next day.  Soups and chili can also be frozen for later (just thaw and reheat).

Have a backup plan:  There’s always the chance something unexpected will happen to throw off your plans.  Keep a couple of simple recipes on hand to fall back on in a pinch.

If you’re just starting to cook more at home, start small.  Maybe plan for one or two meals a week.  As you gain more confidence in the kitchen, you’ll be able to do more.  Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to do meal planning.  The most important part is finding a system that works for you and that you can stick with.

Post content reviewed by Melanie Pearsall, RD, CDE



Feel like you could use some help with your diet? Tell us how we can help!

Massachusetts General Hospital’s Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support (DSME/S) Program and Emerson College are offering a survey for adults with diabetes. We want to understand the challenges people with diabetes face when cooking healthy meals and following a recommended meal plan.

  • Anonymous survey.
  • Only takes 20 minutes or less!
  • Your feedback will help create a cooking and diet tool for patients with diabetes at MGH.
  • After completing the survey, you will be eligible to win a raffle for one of five $10 gift cards to MGH’s Coffee Central!

To take the online survey, visit:


Handling the Holidays Twitter Chat

Thanks everyone who participated in Monday’s Twitter chat. The transcript is up here.  We hope to host more chats after the New Year; if you’d like to suggest a topic, e-mail us at

Join us on Monday, December 10 from 12-1pm (EST) for a Twitter chat on healthy eating during the holidays.  Katie Andrews MS (Nutrition Communication), Dietetic Intern will again be leading the discussion and answering questions from the audience.

If you’d like to submit a topic for discussion, please e-mail (note: this chat is for educational purposes only and is not medical advice.  For any personal health questions, contact your healthcare provider).

The hashtag for this chat is #MGHDSME.  You can also follow us on Twitter: @MGHDiabetesEd

If you missed our chat back in October, you can read a transcript here.