5 Tips to Meal Plan Like A Pro

Spicy Mango Sloppy Joe

Meal planning. We all know we should do it, and when we do it makes life so much easier. But life gets hectic, and sometimes the thing that we know would help ease a little of the chaos seems like it adds to it. One could argue that it almost seems overwhelming. Sitting down to plan a whole week's worth of meals? You may not even know what you want to eat tonight, let alone 5 days from now. 

But meal planning really does help. It helps with saving money (because it's cheaper to cook and eat from home), food waste (hello leftovers!), and time management. Once you get into the groove of planning, it also becomes less daunting. Here are 5 tips to help you meal plan like a pro:

  1. Plan your menu. This is the biggie. No one is excited about eating things they don't like. So, taking the time each week to plan your menu with recipes you and your family enjoy is so important. The key to this is finding recipes you enjoy making AND eating, but that don't take an entire evening to make (unless that's your thing!) or that have so many special ingredients that you break the bank buying things you may never use again. Simple. Inspiring. Tasty. Find what works for you, then go with it. Keep a book of your favorite recipes, so you have recipes you can always fall back on that you know you love. But don't be afraid to be adventurous and try new things either!
  2. Write it down. Once you have found some recipes that you like or know you want to try, start a calendar. Go old school with a handwritten plan or use your digital calendar. There are also great apps that have a calendar, grocery list, and a digital recipe box that can be customized to your liking and will even allow you to import online recipes. The calendar and lists can also be shared with other people in real time. 
  3. Plan for shopping. There are so many different ways to do this part these days. Jot it down with good old-fashioned pencil and paper and head off to the grocery store yourself or shop online from your favorite grocer and pick up or have your groceries delivered right to your door. Some apps allow for seamless sharing of grocery lists and plans, so that you can also make the grocery list, but someone else does the shopping or online shopping.
  4. Prep, prep, prep. You've planned, you've written it all on your calendar, you've shopped. Then you just wait for the days you've planned. Just kidding! Once you get your groceries, one of the best things you can do for yourself is prep what you can! Wash and chop the veggies, brown the meats, etc. Store them where they are ready to go when you need them. Bonus points if you can plan and prep stuff that can be used for multiple recipes (for example browned ground beef can be used for tacos, lasagna, soups, etc.). Thursday You will thank Sunday You! 
  5. Plan for leftovers. You don't have to cook every night! And even if you do, some of that can also be used for lunches. But make your efforts work for you as much as you can. We love leftover nights on weeknights we know are going to be busy, or on clear the fridge the night before trash day.

Check out some of my favorite Zephyr Foods recipes using 1 Source ground beef - and I can prep the ground beef ahead of time!

And for some more ground beef fun, here's one more recipe that you can use those pre-prepped ground beef crumbles in! This one is sweet and spicy and delish!

Spicy Mango Sloppy Joes

4-6 Servings
Prep Time
5 Minutes
Cook Time
25 Minutes
Total Time
30 Minutes
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • ½ medium green bell pepper, diced
  • ½ medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 lb. 1 Source ground beef
  • 4 Tbsp. Allegro marinade
  • 8 oz. tomato sauce
  • ¼ c. brown sugar
  • 1 - 2 Tbsp. pickled jalapeno, chopped
  • 1 medium mango, diced
  • 4-6 buns
  • 4-6 slices white American cheese
  1. Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Sauté bell pepper and onion until translucent, about five minutes.  
  2. Add ground beef and brown, crumbling with a spoon (about 8-10 minutes or until meat is browned and cooked through). Or add those crumbles you meal prepped earlier in the week!
  3. Stir together marinade, tomato sauce and brown sugar and pour over cooked beef mixture. Cook until caramelized, about 10 minutes. 
  4. Toast buns and melt cheese on bun before piling high with Sloppy Joe mixture.
  5. For a fun twist, serve on slider buns instead!

Written By

Keri Layton, MS, RD, LD, CYT-200

Keri Layton is a registered dietitian and yoga instructor living in Oklahoma with her husband, two young kiddos and sheepadoodle dog. She enjoys traveling, camping, cooking, swimming, running, hiking, and lots of yoga!


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