15 Meal Planning Tips for Beginners (+ Template)

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by Alena Schowalter
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Are you interested in eating healthier but feeling overwhelmed? These meal planning tips for beginners take you through each step of the way! Find easy recipes, a 3-day meal plan, and a free printable template in this guide.

Meal planning can seriously change your life. No matter if you opt for weekly or monthly planning, you’ll notice that there will be so much weight lifted off your shoulders!

Creating tasty and easy recipes from common ingredients can not only improve your health but also help you stay on a budget and discover new meals.

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Find out what meal planning is, what the benefits are, some real-life tips, and what recipes work well for meal planning!

We’ve also included a 3-day vegan meal plan and recommend that you check out our collection of vegan meal prep recipes for more ideas.

Be sure to learn more about meal prep so you’ll reap even more benefits from meal planning. Although this article is focused on plant-based meal planning, most of our tips for beginners apply to all diets. Enjoy!

What is meal planning?

Meal planning means that you take some time each week to plan out any upcoming meals for yourself or your family.

You can do so only for dinner if that’s what you’re struggling with the most, or for the whole day starting with breakfast.

From using tried-and-true family-favorites which you just rotate each week to including new recipes, there are many ways to do your weekly meal planning.

We’ll share our top tips for beginners in just a bit — here’s why you should consider starting your plant-based meal planning routine!

Reasons for meal planning

Meal planning is the perfect tool for some people and is way too stressful and inflexible for others. 

Even though we love being spontaneous when it comes to food and whipping up what we’re really craving that day, we still do some basic plant-based meal planning each week — because it can offer a lot of benefits!

  • Less decision-making and overthinking meals
  • Easier shopping and a lower grocery bill
  • Effortlessly sticking to healthy habits
  • Being conscious about proper nutrition
  • Trying new recipes
  • Eating out way less often
  • Reducing food waste
  • Repeating what works best for you
  • Keeping yourself accountable
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15 meal planning tips for beginners

Before we’re getting right into the vegan meat of the matter, there are a few tips to consider that can make your plant-based meal planning journey a lot easier, less frightening, and much more exciting!

We really want you to succeed and this means that you’re enjoying the process as well as the results here.

Choose your meal planning type

As mentioned above, you can choose to just plan out any upcoming dinners and then write a grocery list accordingly.

If you need even more structure, you can also print out a meal planner with 3 slots each day to get really clear on what you’re going to make — this helps if you want to stick to a specific way of eating.

Then, you can add some meal prepping to the mix and make some of the components like rice or sauces in advance for your upcoming meals!

We recommend that you don’t plan every single meal for the week and have some fallback food like canned soups or frozen meals during busy times.

Gather your favorite recipes

Keep a food journal to track which meals you and your family liked as well as how much effort or time they require, so you know if and when to include them in your next meal plan.

If some family favorites are non-vegan, simply replace the animal-based foods with vegan counterparts like mock chicken and cashew cream cheese.

Find our favorite vegan food swaps here!

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free 7-day vegan meal plan

Your next week of eating is planned out with these quick and delicious vegan bowls, meal prepping steps & full grocery list.

Know your vegan foods

Since this is an article about vegan meal planning tips for beginners, we assume you haven’t been eating a plant-based diet for very long!

A vegan diet consists of five basic food groups: fruits, veggies, grains, legumes as well as nuts and seeds. Try to incorporate all of them into each day and keep your meals as varied as possible!

Healthy meal planning tips

Make your daily meals delicious and healthy by keeping some things in mind. Don’t cut out any food groups and try to have either fruit or veggies for each main meal.

Eat the metaphorical rainbow, fill up on fibrous foods, add those satiating staches and ensure your meals are overall satisfying to you.

Here’s our full vegan nutrition guide for more information!

Keep it simple

Go for easy meals at the beginning with not more than 4-5 ingredients each. An example would be rice, beans, broccoli, and avocado. 

These dishes don’t require a lot of cooking skills or time to prepare and can be batch-cooked easily.

Don’t overcomplicate it; repeat the same recipes after a few days so you know how to cook them in your sleep!

Batch cooking

Speaking of which, start to batch cook single ingredients for fast meals. For example, beans can be eaten with rice, in a soup, salad, or pureed, and grains can be used for stir-fries, salads, stews, bowls or breakfast porridge.

No matter if you’re batch-cooking individual ingredients or crafting whole meals, there are countless ways to make mealtimes less stressful and time-consuming. 

Bonus tip: Make extra food to freeze!

Work with leftovers

Look out for recipes you could easily double for leftovers to use for next day’s lunch, like chili, soups, or bean burgers.

This helps you save so much time and requires you to grab lunch outside way less often!

We love to get creative here and use leftover rice from a chili dish to roll up in a quick homemade burrito the next day.

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Don’t forget snacks

No matter if you’re looking to make your own vegan snacks at home from scratch or need to pick up some tried-and-true snacks from the store, there will be times when you need something to eat sooner than later!

From quick homemade bliss balls to oat bars or edible cookie dough made from chickpeas, you can prep a few vegan snacks ahead of time or mid-week to never go hungry.

Kitchen equipment

If you haven’t been cooking your own meals for very long, you may be lacking some helpful kitchen tools that would make things a lot easier!

From knives to cutting boards, pans, pots, and baking sheets, you may also think about getting a blender, food processor, electric pressure cooker, and a bunch of food storage containers for your leftovers.

Find our full article about essential kitchen tools here.

Smart shopping

Once you’ve put together all meals for the upcoming days or week, write down everything you need to make them. Check your kitchen first, so you know which staples you can already cross off your list!

If you aren’t able to find specific items at the store, go for similar foods to replace them; this can mean one type of beans for another, apples instead of oranges, etc.

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Involve your family

Ask your partner or kids what they would like to eat so that everyone’s happy with what will be on the table.

Also, keep a list of recipes that work well for yourself and your family so you can remember what to plan for the next few weeks.

Raising Vegan Kids (Guide)

Collect new recipes

Keep collecting recipes that look interesting and try a new one every week. You can use the internet and our easy recipes for some inspiration!

Finally, get creative with new combinations and think outside of the box to keep things exciting! Soba noodle salad, anyone?

Try new combinations of food items, new spices to create variety.

Plan ahead

Anything coming up that means you have to work late or cannot cook for some reason? Having guests over or going out for brunch on the weekend?

Evaluate your upcoming days and take into consideration anything that might clash with your meal plan and don’t forget about any appointments or parties your kids may attend.

You can also plan specific shopping days for the week as well as dedicated meal planning days!

Flexibility & consistency

Don’t have super high expectations because nobody is able to stick to their meal plans at all times.

Unexpected events come up, you get sick or feel too burned out to prepare anything at all. Food can go bad and you’ll have to improvise with what you have on hand.

Try your best to follow your vegan meal plan by sticking your written or printed sheet to your fridge to remember what you planned on eating!

Evaluate & repeat

If you’re a meal planning beginner right now, just know that things will get a lot easier over time! Perhaps your first few plans turn out to be a bit unrealistic or you need smaller or larger portion sizes.

Meal prepping is something that could be too overwhelming in the beginning and you might want to add that later on! You’ll also learn how long food items or cooked meals stay fresh in the fridge if you’re working with leftovers.

Save or highlight recipes that have been working well for you and definitely utilize previous meal plans! No need to cook 10 completely new meals each week.

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Meal planning recipes for beginners

If you need some help finding great beginner-friendly recipes for your first vegan meal planning session, browse these articles!

Adjusting meal plans

If you decide to follow a vegan meal plan that’s already been created by someone else, chances are they didn’t meet your preferences 100%.

While it’s super helpful for beginner vegans or those trying to eat healthier to start out by following a pre-made plan, it can be frustrating if it’s impossible to find one that’s perfect for you.

Here are some meal planning adjustment tips for you!

Taste preference

We’re all very individual when it comes to which foods we like and dislike, so if you’re not keen on broccoli, kale or mushrooms, feel free to use another vegetable instead. 

If the portion sizes seem too large for your appetite, cut back on the amount of vegetables overall to ensure sufficient calorie intake.

Allergies & food intolerances

Some common swaps are wheat pasta for gluten-free pasta, choosing seeds instead of nuts or getting almond milk instead of soy milk.

If you’re following a vegan diet, you’ve already cut out common allergens like dairy, eggs and fish!

Budget-friendly choices

If any of the ingredients are rather expensive where you shop, go for more affordable and cheaper options. 

Quinoa can be swapped for another grain, seasonal produce can replace more expensive or exotic ingredients and you can definitely buy items in bulk when they are discounted and incorporate them into your meal plans!


Similar to adjusting any meal plan to your budget, simply check what’s available at your local grocery store and don’t sweat it if you cannot find some specific ingredients — simply grab similar ones that you already know you like. 

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Weight goals

Although most adults need around 2000 calories per day, this might not be the case for you personally! If you’re looking to gain some weight, focus on high-calorie vegan foods in your meal plans.

This can mean snacking on nuts, adding creamy nut-based sauces to your meals, or having chocolate for dessert. 

You can find lots of ideas for high-calorie vegan meals here — they are perfect if you want to bulk up or just have a small appetite but still need to meet your requirements for the day.

On the other hand, those who want to lose weight can make small adjustments like cooking their vegetables in water instead of oil, increasing the amount of veggies on their plate, and going easier on dried fruit and nuts.

Find lots of tips and recipes in our guide on easy plant-based weight loss!

3-day meal plan sample

We encourage you to get started with all the information you have and write down your first vegan meal plan! Should you be a little overwhelmed or intimidated now, here’s a sample 3-day meal plan for you.

Beginner meal plan day 1

Beginner meal plan day 2

Beginner meal plan day 3

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Complete Vegan Starter Kit

Our 7-part eBook bundle “From A To Vegan” will answer all of your questions and help you achieve long-term success. Here’s what’s inside:

  • Main guide: nutrition 101, stocking your kitchen, troubleshooting, vegan staple foods, transition tips, and much more
  • Recipe book with 40+ whole food plant-based recipes
  • 14-day meal plan with 56 recipes & shopping lists
  • Meal formulas for creating your own quick vegan bowls
  • Restaurant Guide to find plant-based meals anywhere
  • Worksheets, printables & FAQ eBook

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We hope you found our meal planning tips for beginners helpful! Be sure to check our other guides & freebies, comment below and Pin this article here.

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Alena sitting in a cafe with a bowl of fresh plant-based food and a glass of coffee in front of her

About Alena Handwritten FontAlena Schowalter is a Certified Vegan Nutritionist who has been a vegetarian since childhood and vegan since 2012. Together with her husband, she founded nutriciously in 2015 and has been guiding thousands of people through different transition stages towards a healthy plant-based diet. She’s received training in the fields of nutrition, music therapy and social work. Alena enjoys discussions around vegan ethics, walks through nature and creating new recipes.

13 thoughts on “15 Meal Planning Tips for Beginners (+ Template)”

  1. I’ve eaten all plant based food for almost two I years, but this article has clarified some things. I will begin now to add fruit to my breakfast, which has often been coconut yogurt and peanut butter toast. Thank you for your carefully organized information.

    • Thanks so much for the feedback, Lori! Glad I could shed some more light on plant-based meals and food combinations for you with this article.
      Feel free to reach out for more support and tweaking! So great that you’ve already been plant-based for 2 years now, way to go :)
      Best wishes,

  2. Another amazing article Alena! Meal planning was the most important aspect of my vegan transition. I felt a certain degree of security that I’m getting all my nutrients and also gave me an opportunity to try something new each week (it kept things interesting and encouraged me to experiment) so I can determine what I like. When I got more comfortable with new ingredients and vegan substitutes I started prepping food for the entire week usually on Sundays. Now with kids that proved to be the wise move! Temptation for something fast and unhealthy on a hectic day is trampled by all the work I’ve put into meal prepping already.

  3. Hello, I would like to get the recipes for the 3 Day Plant Based meal plan. Vegetable curry over rice, I am very new at this need all the help I can get.

    thank You

  4. Replacements for tofu and sriram? I absolutely can’t eat either of these-texture issues.
    Thanks so much..

    • Hey Tammi,
      in the meal plan shown above, you can just replace tofu with chickpeas in both recipes :)
      Generally, it depends on how tofu or seitan is used in recipes if you want to know how to replace it. I personally almost never eat these foods, so it’s very possible to consume a varied and delicious vegan diet without either of them!
      Hope this helps. Stick to wholesome legumes like beans or lentils for your plant-based protein.
      Best wishes,

  5. Hello! I stumbled upon your site a few days ago. I am new (about 2.5 weeks) in a whole food/plant based diet (prefer to use the word lifestyle). I appreciate both of you as a couple providing such valuable information and doable options for those like me that are new, still learning, and not sure how to buy and what to buy.

    So far, I’ve been sticking to foods that I already liked and ate before taking the leap (sweet potatoes, strawberries, berries are examples). Thank you also for breaking this down in a way that is not overwhelming. Looking forward to more learning.

  6. Hello,

    My husband and I are new to plant based diet. We found out he has Prostate cancer and we are trying to do this for health reasons for both of us. Is there a way to download or have a pdf version of diet pan for free? Just wondering. We have been doing the plant based diet for 2.5 weeks now easing into doing. Thank you for the information you have so far. Just wondering is the course free?

  7. I love this guide! However, just so you know under lunches/dinners blueprint you have fruits but I think you mean vegetables.

    • thanks so much for letting us know about this, Mikaela! already corrected this ;) so happy to know that you like our article!


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