minimalist meal planning, how to create a minimalist meal plan

Inside: Use this simple method to create your own minimalist meal plan, something that will save you precious time, energy, and sanity! As busy moms, we have better things to do with our time (can I get an “amen”?!).

If you hate meal planning as much as I do, you are probably constantly on the hunt for a miraculous meal planning hacks. You scour Pinterest and Google searching for the meal planning magic bullet.

You want something – anything – that will make meal planning less of the massive time suck and hair-pulling experience that it is.

I’m pretty sure prior to discovering minimalist meal planning. I tried every meal planning system known to man. And no matter what the system, I still hated meal planning. I dreaded having to come up with 6-7 meals my husband and I would actually enjoy eating – he is picky eater, not me.

And after an hour or two of frustration, I would come up a meal plan.


Only to have to repeat the same awful process all over again a week later.

meal planning with cookbooks spread out

food arrange artfully in kitchen, meal prep

What’s even more maddening about meal planning is the absolute necessity of it. Unless you have thousands of dollars, and hundreds of extra minutes for that matter, at the disposal of your every craving to spend randomly walking the grocery store aisles or trying the newest restaurant in town, you need to meal plan.

Without a meal plan, you grocery bill goes through the roof, and even though you’re spending money like crazy, there never seems to be any real food in your house.

Let’s face it. If you live on a tight budget (welcome to middle class America trying to raise kids on salaries that aren’t keeping up with inflation), meal planning is essential.

Even if the cost of not meal planning doesn’t get to you, the decision fatigue probably does. Especially by the time dinner rolls around, you have most likely used up all of your best decision-making energy. What we put in our bodies should get some of our best decision-making energy, not the leftovers.

So, as with anything that is essential, minimalists try to determine ways to simplify and declutter what cannot be eliminated.

Thankfully, minimalist meal planning does just that: it declutters your pantry and your fridge. It streamlines the entire meal planning process.

What I discovered how to apply minimalism to our food, not only did we start saving money, but my stress level around preparing food and grocery shopping also dropped dramatically.

What mom doesn’t want less stress?! 

I wrote another post all about the benefits of minimalist meal planning for busy moms, but I never shared exactly how you can create your own minimalist meal plan. This is not the only way to do it, just the basic principles you can use however works best for your specific circumstances.

Keep in mind that even my minimalist meal plan is constantly changing.

I’m learning, tweaking, adding more kids to our family and the occasional new recipe to our list of favorites. A few years ago, we literally ate the same seven meals every single week. Eventually, we couldn’t handle that anymore. Now we eat a couple meals every week and rotate through several others.

Especially if variety is a priority to you (and the rest of the people you’re feeding), be sure to check out this course by my friend Elisa from Meal Planning Blueprints.

Learn how to create a seasonal “capsule” meal plan every three months and only meal plan four times a year. Her tips for cleaning out your pantry, choosing meals that work together and creating a master monthly grocery list are pure genius.

Her helpful videos and beautiful worksheets walk you through everything step by step, making creating your minimalist meal plan ridiculously easy and fast.

If you love having someone lay everything out for you in an easy to understand, systematic way, you’ll love Capsule Pantry!   

picture of kitchen with text overlay

How to Create Your Own Minimalist Meal Plan

This process will give you what you need to get started: it’s how I got started two years ago. Work your way through these simple steps to create your first minimalist meal plan.

1) Make a list of the recipes you make on a regular basis.

Pull out your recipes books, recipe folder in your internet browser, and any other meal or recipe lists (many of my recipes are stored digitally on Plan to Eat).

Look through your recipes and make a list of all the meals your family will eat regularly, semi-regularly, and any time you feel like making it. Favorites are great if you have enough of them, but you may need to round out your meal plan with a few meals you love and they tolerate once a month.

This is your giant brain dump. Brainstorm away and get all those meals on one piece of paper, in one giant list!

2) Group meals by similar ingredients, especially fresh ingredients.

Part of the beauty of minimalist meal planning is reducing waste and shortening your grocery list. By cooking meals with a handful of similar ingredients in the same week, you will be able to use up fresh ingredients and avoid buying them every week.

I’m not saying you need to eat the same type of meal every day for a week, but mostly look for one or two similar ingredients that you’d love to avoid wasting.

For example, we love Cajun Chicken Pasta, a meal that calls for fresh parsley (substituting dried isn’t worth doing – you’re better off skipping the parsley altogether). Another family favorite is a modified version of this risotto, which also requires fresh parsley.

These meals are very different, so my family wouldn’t mind eating them back to back. I would schedule both of these meals in the same week in order to use up the parsley.

Be sure to list any prepared or convenience foods you rely on regularly.

For instance, I buy a rotisserie chicken every other week or so, and the occasional Stouffer’s lasagna from BJ’s (it’s so dang good!). Those count as meals, too!

Once you have your meals grouped, you can move on to step 3.

3) Determine how many weeks to include in your minimalist meal plan.

How many weeks in your basic meal plan will depend primarily on two factors:

  • How many different recipes/meals you have.
  • How often you want/can eat the same meals over and over again.

As a fair warning, I would be extremely cautious about using only 7-9 meals.

I lost a couple of our favorite meals because I overused them and my husband was severely burned out after eating the same things for weeks on end. He literally can’t even stand to see them on the calendar anymore.

I don’t know about you, but once I find a favorite, I like to keep it a favorite! Less work for me in the long run.

Know yourself, and know the family you’re feeding.

Know what they can and cannot tolerate.

If you need more recipes, start with Pinterest, reach out to friends, dig through your favorite food blogs. Elisa, creator of Capsule Pantry, the course I mentioned earlier, also offers a service where she will listen to what your family eats and loves and then give you two weeks of recipes.

Coming up with stuff your family will eat can be the worst part of this process, am I right? Capsule Pantry also offers multiple ways to make coming up with those recipes easier.

4) Schedule your meals.

Once you’ve grouped your meals by common ingredients, add them to a 2-4 weeks template, depending on how many weeks you decided to use (you can print out a blank month template or draw one up on paper).

Each group should be together in a series of days or an entire week if you have that many meals in the group. I generally group by week because I grocery shop once a week and no more if I can help it.

Once you have them written in, you’re done.

Congrats! You’ve created your first minimalist meal plan!

This is the meal planning template that you will use over and over again, every “X” number of weeks that are on your plan.

Welcome to not needing to think about what’s for dinner for several weeks – until you decide to reevaluate your meal plan (i.e. you get tired of the meals or you find new recipes you want to incorporate) or some big life change forces you to rework it.

Need more recipe ideas to add to your minimalist meal plan? Or just need a little more variety?

This bundle is CHOCK FULL of recipe ideas for various theme nights (think Mexican Monday, Simple Sunday, etc.), complete with clickable links to every single recipe. It’ll give you ideas for months. 

Check it out HERE.

Creating a Minimalist Meal Plan: How Capsule Pantry Can Make It Even Easier (yes, it’s possible!)

Before Elisa showed me her Capsule Pantry course, I thought I was doing pretty well in the meal planning department. I created my plan using the method I shared with you.

Meal planning and grocery shopping were much less stressful compared to life before minimalist meal planning.

But then I started working my way through her course, and I saw potential for both meal planning and grocery shopping to become even easier and even less stressful!

Elisa not only walks you through creating your own minimalist meal plan, but she also teaches you how to:

  • Declutter your fridge and pantry
  • Keep your now decluttered fridge and pantry organized
  • Offers several ideas to make coming up with meal ideas so much easier
  • Decide which meals to cut from your plan
  • Make a master monthly grocery list
  • Bonus: How to save money on food WITHOUT using coupons

The accompanying workbook will help you get everything down on paper and make this process as fast as possible.

I will be working my way through this course over the next month to see how much more time I can save (I’ve watched the videos but haven’t actually done the work yet)! I’m excited to see meal planning and grocery shopping become even more efficient.

I’ve got baby number five coming, I homeschool, and I work from home. I need to save time wherever I can! Even if this course saves me just a couple of hours a month, it’s totally worth it.

A minute saved is a minute earned? Or something like that…

Click HERE to check out Capsule Pantry today, while the course is still open! 

More Ways & Reasons to Simplify Your Life:

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  1. Thank you for your post. What an interesting concept!
    I thought I’d share a meal planning idea which I used for years. We were paid a monthly salary so I shopped once a month for non perishables or freezable items. I would plan on having a meal with ground beef, one with pork,, one with chicken,one night each week for a protein non meat dish, another type of beef( not ground), one vegetarian style, and one “inside out” meal which was for example, homemade pizza. So I bought four times each of those each month, but planned four different meals with the ground beef, such as meatloaf, tacos, spaghetti, shepherd8s pie. Next month would be four other choices etc (gtg will text again later with more info)

    1. Author

      Thanks for sharing Teresa! It’s always helpful to hear more meal planning solutions.

  2. Hello! Thank you for sharing this. Meal planning has always been this scary monster for me and I feel like you really simplified the process down in this post. We get paid bi weekly, so I always try to “plan” our food for that amount of time, but we always run out of food a few days before next payday. anyway, thanks for the great tips!

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