Minimalist meal planning is the same as simple meal planning. It’s about finding the simplest way to meal plan that works for you and your family.

There are lots of different ways to go about meal planning like a minimalist.

The key is to find a way that not only makes the process of meal planning simple, but more importantly, makes actually using and implementing your meal plan simpler.

After all, the whole reason we try to meal plan is to make our weekly meals easier (not just to create another thing on the to do list by making a pretty and super organized meal plan that we struggle to actually use anyway).

This article outlines a few different ways of simple, minimalistic meal planning. Take a look at each one and see which is best for you!

minimalist meal planning top view woman's hands on salad bowl in front of laptop and food

Scoring of the Minimalist Meal Planning Types

In this article I go over several common meal planning styles and rate them on several different factors:

  • time to plan
  • effort to plan
  • time to shop
  • effort to shop
  • time to prep & cook
  • effort to prep & cook
  • money spent

I rated each way of meal planning by these factors from 1-5 stars.

They get 1 star ⭐️ if it makes it harder to complete or 5 stars ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ if it makes it easier.

You’ll notice most of the styles of meal planning are rated similarly overall, but are stronger or weaker in certain areas.

The best type of minimalist meal planning to choose is the type that works for you!

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7 Different Ways to Meal Plan Like A Minimalist

Thematic Day of The Week ⭐️⭐️⭐️

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  • effort to prep & cook ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • money spent ⭐️⭐️⭐️

This way of meal planning helps simplify the decision of what to eat each day of the week by setting arbitrary rules about what you’ll have.

To be honest I’m not the hugest fan of this style of meal planning as it falls short in too many other areas. But don’t write it off for yourself – everyone is different!

Sure, this system can make it a bit easier to pick out your meals for the week, but it doesn’t really account for other factors in life such as busy vs quiet nights of the week.

It also forces you to cook 7 nights a week which isn’t really ideal for most families who don’t really have time to cook a new meal every night.

It also doesn’t create a good way to use up special ingredients.

For example, if you plan to have Asian, Mexican, Western and Italian dishes in the same week you might find there is a lot more food waste than if you narrow your cuisine a bit throughout the week to use similar ingredients.

This doesn’t mean you can’t eat all sorts of different cuisines, just instead of having many in one week, you would have a couple per week then switch it up for other weeks.

A better way to implement this type of meal planning would be to categorize the nights based on cooking method or time.

For example, say you work Monday to Friday and you don’t have time to cook an elaborate meal during the week, you can plan for more frequent leftovers (like every second day).

Also plan for quicker and more hands-off cooking methods on the days you do cook. This includes slow cooker, InstantPot, freezer meals, and sheet pan meals, as well as super easy things like sandwiches.

With this method, your meal plan might look something more like:

Sunday roast
Monday leftovers
Tuesdays sheet pan meal
Wednesday leftovers
Thursday slow cooker meal
Friday Pizza
Saturday Leftovers

You can see how this same principle applied in different ways can completely simplify your meal planning.

Rotation Meal Plan ⭐️⭐️⭐️-⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • time to plan (initially ⭐️) ongoing ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • effort to plan (initially ⭐️) ongoing ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • time to shop ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • effort to shop ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • time to prep & cook ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • effort to prep & cook ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • money spent ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is a major meal plan that is planned out week by week and then repeated again after a certain time period (usually 4-6 weeks).

A meal plan based on a preset rotation like this can take a lot of work out of meal planning once you have it set up.

The downside is that it can take A LOT of work to get it set up! (like a lot!)

Another downside is that it’s hard not to get bored of the meals.

A meal plan that repeats your favorite meals too often runs the risk of ruining those meals for your family by making them sick of them.

If you choose to do a rotating meal plan, make sure it’s AT LEAST 4 weeks long and updated frequently.

When I worked as a Dietitian in long term care homes, they had a minimum 6 week menu cycle that was updated seasonally to try to avoid the people that lived there getting bored of the food.

Let me tell you, there are a lot of meal ideas needed for 6 weeks planned in advance!

If you really want to make this work, one way to do it is just start meal planning one week at a time and save your meal plans.

Once you have multiple weeks, try reusing them. Make changes as needed as you learn what works and what doesn’t.

This type of meal planning is quite rigid and doesn’t easily account for incorporating food you got on sale, or seasonal changes.

Theoretically this is quite a minimalist way of meal planning because once it’s done and you have a good system set up, you should only need to do minor tweaks here and there.

But that’s theoretical and real life is a lot more complex and changes so much I really don’t think that theory is applicable to real life.

By putting so much effort into making a complex, rigid meal plan like this, you could have spent that time doing other things that would set you up to succeed rather than setting yourself up for failure.

This could be like:
Meatless Mondays
Taco Tuesdays
Pasta Wednesday
Leftovers Thursday
Pizza Friday
Slow Cooker Saturday
Roast Sunday

Recipe Formulas ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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  • time to shop ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • effort to shop ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • time to prep & cook ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • effort to prep & cook ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • money spent ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Recipe formulas are like making a stir fry. You would just add 3 parts vegetables to 1 part meat or protein. Then add a sauce, and serve with rice or noodles.

This means you don’t really need a recipe to follow, you just combine what you have on hand to make something unique and creative every time.

The benefit of this type of meal planning style is that it really simplifies the way you cook.

You don’t have to really plan everything in detail because it’s a more mix and match style of meal planning.

You can start by choosing the protein you want to serve then come up with the side dishes or the main flavoring the day of.

When creating the meal plan, you just write down the main ingredient you plan to eat, then use the food ratios when you’re actually cooking.

This style of meal planning is better for people who have at least some experience cooking and don’t need or want to follow a recipe every time.

Meal Plan Subscription Service ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • time to plan ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • effort to plan ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • time to shop ⭐️⭐️⭐️
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  • money spent ⭐️⭐️

A meal plan subscription service could be the most minimalist of all types of meal planning because you actually don’t have to do the planning at all!

Generally these types of services will send you the recipes and grocery lists for all the meals for the week and all you have to do is grocery shop and cook.

The downside to this that you don’t have the chance to incorporate your family’s favorites.

You will also have to be cooking new recipes almost every day which can be a lot more work compared to cooking meals you’ve already made before and are familiar with.

Plus then you will be on a subscription plan that you will have to pay for continually. And since you never learned to meal plan yourself, you will be in the same position you started with if you ever decide to stop subscribing to their services.

That being said, this style of meal planning works really well for people who will follow a plan once it’s made and would rather just pay a small amount for a done-for-you service!

These meal planning services are run by Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (like me!) so you can be sure all the meals are healthy and balanced.

Peas & Hoppy Meal Guide Membership

I really like how this one is made to be a guide and not a pre-set meal plan. You get the recipes and grocery list each week, but you’re also encouraged to incorporate your own favorite meals and not cook a new meal for dinner every night – you choose how and when to make each of the meals.

It includes options for regular and vegetarian meal plans.

Click here to get a 2 week free trial from Peas & Hoppiness!

PrepDish Meal Planning & Prep

I also like PrepDish. They’re a meal planning service with a focus on helping you meal prep too.

They teach you how to prep a lot of the ingredients in advance (in just 1 hour per week) to make putting the meals together really fast on busy weeknights!

I recommend choosing their “superfast” meal plan that includes recipes that are all very quick to make.

Click here to get a 2 week free trial from PrepDish

Meal Kits ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • time to plan ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • effort to plan ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • time to shop ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • effort to shop ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
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  • effort to prep & cook ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • money spent ⭐️

Meal kits like HelloFresh, Chef’s Plate, GoodFood and Blue Apron can help simplify meal planning big time.

The benefits of these kits include eliminating your need to actually plan the meals, and limiting your grocery shopping and prep work too!

The downside is that they can be quite expensive, they’re always new recipes which is more work than cooking meals you’ve made before, and most come with quite a lot more plastic waste than regular groceries.

And again, you will rely on them forever instead of learning the skill of meal planning and just doing it for yourself.

Based On a List of Favorite Meals ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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  • money spent ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This type of meal planning involves writing a list of all the meals you like to cook. Then when you go to plan your meals each week, you pick and choose from the list.

The benefit if this style of meal planning is that it’s very simple and quick to use (like have your meal plan done in 5-10 minutes tops!)

There are no headaches about finding new recipes because you’re already choosing from meals you’ve already made before.

Of course you can always add a new recipe to your meal plan, but new recipes will be fun additions rather than the core of the meal planning process.

This is the style of meal planning I use in my minimalist meal planning workbook. It comes with a printable list of meal ideas that you can add to so you don’t have to start from scratch! Check it out below ↓

The Minimalist Meal Planning Workbook completely simplifies meal planning and takes you step-by-step through the process so you can stick with it once and for all!

It also simplifies grocery shopping a lot because you’re already cooking with ingredients you’re familiar with so don’t have to waste time trying to find specific ingredients for new recipes all the time (not to mention spending money on them and not knowing whether you will even use the rest of it again or not!)

No Meal Planning ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • time to plan ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
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  • time to shop ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
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  • effort to prep & cook ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • money spent ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Is not meal planning a type of meal planning?

Some people may argue it’s not, but not planning is still a valid way of going about it and can work for many families. Why try fixing something that isn’t broken, right?

In order to make it work, buy a variety of proteins, vegetables, fruit, and other fresh foods at the grocery store each time you go shopping. When you go to make dinner, simply mix and match them to make a meal.

If you like to shop the store sales, this is a very easy way to make use of the specials!

The downside to this is that sometimes you may be eating odd combinations of foods or have to substitute ingredients when you don’t have the ingredient you usually use.

There’s also a higher chance that you might buy too much or too little food resulting in either food waste or having to go to the store more often, but over time you’ll learn how much is the right amount for your family.

Minimalist Meal Planning Tips

As mentioned above, minimalist meal planning looks different for each family. The style you choose depends on what are the main roadblocks you face in order to stick with meal planning and actually enjoy it.

If you’re good at following a plan once it’s made but your main hangup is the actual act of making the plan, try a type of meal planning that simplifies the planning process, or even eliminates it altogether!

If you’re struggling most with actually using the plan you have, finding a different way to meal plan or getting a premade meal plan isn’t likely going to help you. Instead, look for options that make it easier to do the shopping and cooking!

For instance, choosing meals that are simple to cook, use simple recipes that you already know and like can help.

If you’ve ever cooked a brand new recipe you’ll know it takes a lot more time and focus to do than cooking a go-to meal that you’ve cooked many times before.

Most of us are already short on time and mental energy so I think this factor is extremely important in minimalist meal planning.

Even if a recipe says “30 minute meal” plan to spend at least 45 minutes if you’ve never made the recipe before.

That extra time will be spent reading and double checking the recipes, or figuring out cooking techniques you’re not familiar with.

Read more about minimalist cooking in this article.

Meal delivery kits can also help make meal planning, grocery shopping, and meal prep easier but might cause you to spend extra time and effort to actually cook the meal.

Read through these different minimalist meal planning options to find which way will work best for you.

As with all types of minimalism, minimalist meal planning is a personal choice.

Figure out what part of meal planning you seem to get most hung up on, then make your choice based on what style of meal planning will best help solve that problem!

Whether you hate meal planning and do best without it, or you like to have your meals planned out in detail weeks in advance, or whether you just want to pay for a done-for-you meal planning service, there are so many options to choose from!

Read more about meal planning:
3 reasons why you need a minimalist meal plan
Minimalist Meal Plan Printable
Simple Meal Planning Ideas
Totally free meal planning printables
Minimalist Meal Planning Workbook

7 minimalist meal planning techniques to simplify meal planning: theme day, rotation, recipe formula, subscription, fav meals list, meal kit, no plan. Which is best for you? image of meal planning with woman's hands on salad bowl in front of laptop and food

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