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How to Make a 5 Minute Meal Plan

Zero Waste Kitchen

Last Updated on January 23, 2024

Happy zero waste week everyone! This year’s focus is food waste. If you can’t tell by my blog, I am kinda obsessed with food. I think about it all the time.

What yummy treat do I get to eat today!? I went through a huge energy bite kick, then chocolate truffles, and now I’m on green juice.

How to make a 5 minute meal plan from #mealplan #zerowaste #sustainable #plantbased #simple

Zero waste week started in 2008 and was recognized by Parliament last year. Each year has a new theme, and this year is food waste! Which is great; because, I love food.

I get asked about food a lot. Some of you have access to bulk – awesome! Some of you don’t. But, that’s ok! There are still so many things you can do like composting, bringing a reusable bag, and water bottle. That’s 75% of the battle right there.

You should also check out my post on how to shop if you don’t have bulk available. 

Even if you can’t buy your food in bulk – you can still make sure you don’t waste the food you buy. Americans waste 50% of their food!


Do you know how many people we could feed with 50% of what we buy? Do you know how much money you’re literally throwing away!?

We’ve covered food waste several times on the blog. From chatting with the first head chef at Google, to making garbage stock, to how to store food properly, and of course fun ideas to use up scraps.

This time we’re talking about meal planning! Yes, meal planning.

If you’ve been reading for a while, you know I’ve attempted to spell out my weekly meal plans for the last six weeks.

I try to get these posts up the day before the work week begins. They involve a rough outline of what I’m going to eat and my process for going about it.

But, I haven’t really spelled out how I meal plan. Here are my top tips at meal planning from someone who has failed at it multiple times and doesn’t enjoy it. 

We’re going to make this as quick and painless as possible.  I’ve always failed at meal planning due to specificity.

On Tuesday we eat lasagna! But, what if Tuesday rolls around and I’m not feeling lasagna?

Then I’m stuck eating a whole bunch of meals I’m not craving. Meal planning suddenly becomes a punishment.

So, how do we ditch this meal planning system doomed for failure? WE IMPROVISE.

Being an actor who kinda hates improv, this should be scary. But, it’s freeing. And, down right exciting.

How to Make a 5 Minute Meal Plan

I highly reccomend a list app on your phone. You can cross and uncross ingredients and meals in an instant.

step one: make a list of all of your favorite meals 

When Justin and I first started cooking together, I realized he’s picky. I mean PICKY. Quite possibly one of the pickiest eaters I’ve ever met. So, I started making a list of all the meals we both like. Meals that can easily be made vegetarian/omnivore and vegetarian meals we both love. 

I recommend trying to get at least 20 meals ideally 40 on this list. Some of our favorites are below: (If you’ve been reading our meal prep posts, I bet you can guess what they are!)

  • Shepherds Pie
  • Burgers
  • Pizza 
  • Pot Pie
  • Mac & Cheese
  • Quesadillas 
  • Fajitas
  • Nachos
  • Spaghetti
  • Chicken/Eggplant Parm
  • Lasagna 
  • Fried Rice 
  • Beef/Mushroom and Broccoli
  • Cheese Steak/Balsamic Mushroom Subs
  • Sloppy Lentil Joes
  • Caeser Salad

step two: organize by flavor profile

We have about 40 meals and 15 sides we like on our list. I have it broken down and organized by flavor profile. This helps A LOT. So, it’s organized by American, Italian, Mexican, and Asian.

And, most of these flavor profiles call for the same ingredients! 

step three: figure out frequency

You might not be able to tell what you’ll be craving on a given day, but you should be able to figure out the fequency of your cravings.

Like I know I want pizza at least once a week. I also know that I want mexican food every day. 

Based on our cravings we’ve come up with 2 american dinners, 2 mexican dinners, most likely one dinner out/leftovers and Pizza. 

step four: go shopping

Now you have freedom. You can eat what you want on any given day of the week! And, you have complete flexibility with ingredients. 

Since I know that I’ll be making at least two American dinners I make sure I’m stocked up on potatoes, lentils, chickpeas, butter, and flour. Then I buy a couple of in season vegetables.

So, if I want to make a pot pie in the winter it may have potatoes, butternut squash and carrots. If I want to make a pot pie in the spring, I’ll use peas, carrots, potatoes, and kale. 

If I’m shopping for Mexican food I make sure I have tortilla chips, tortillas, pinto beans, and salsa on hand. In the summer I use plenty of peppers and corn. In the winter I use potatoes or sweet potatoes and kale. 

extra tips: 

shop your fridge first: 

Before you embark on your shopping trip cross off the foods you already have on your list. Make it a priority to eat those first. That always helps to shape my list. 

store your food properly: 

I wrote a whole post about it here

keep a stocked pantry: 

I wrote a post about that too

don’t underestimate your freezer: 

I should write a post about this. If it’s starting to look a little limp, put it in the freezer. Freeze it on a baking sheet all spread out.

After it’s frozen, put it in a jar or bowl or bag and put it in the freezer. This will prevent it from clumping together and you can use exactly how much you need for a recipe. 

It’s a great way to keep all sorts of things past their season. I still have three jars of peas! Pot pie here I come. 

take an hour: 

Take an hour to wash, chop, and properly store your vegetables when you come home from the store.

It will make all the difference when it’s time to cook a meal or pack lunch. I wrote an extensive post about that here

I hope this has been a helpful post! Especially for those of you that struggle with meal planning. Sometimes it’s easiest to keep it simple. 

Stick to similar flavor profiles; keep a stocked pantry and freezer. Then you’re able to buy a little bit of in-season produce to prevent spoilage.

I will be coming out with an average grocery list for two soon to help you guage produce levels.  

What are some ways that you combat food waste? Do you meal plan? 

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  1. Can you link your list of meals to the recipes? I’m especially curious about zero waste sloppy joe lentils. Do you eat them with hamburger buns? That’s an item that I can’t find without a plastic bag and I haven’t ventured to try to make it myself.

  2. Hi Kathryn! I’ve just started my transition towards zero waste, I’m very excited to find your blog! It is really informative but best of all entertaining 🙂 I am just wondering what APP you use for the lists above??

  3. This is pretty much what I do too, though I pick a flavor profile for the week (or at least a handful of meals) so that I can buy (and use up) stuff like parsley and feta (mediterranean week) or cotija and cilantro (mexican week). I use a combo of allrecipies and AnyList for my meal planning and shopping list integration. This way I can import the recipe and ingredients to AnyList with just a few clicks. I just take any veg in the recipes as suggestions and replace them with comparable seasonal veg. I’m so glad you focused on this for a blog post!