How do You Stick to a Meal Plan When You Don’t Feel Like It?

So you’ve carefully planned your meals for the week and Wednesday rolls around and you’re just not feelin’ it… What do you do?

You’ve already spent all the time and money buying and preparing everything on your list and you promised yourself that this week you really would stick to it!

But spaghetti sounded a lot better Saturday morning, when you were making your meal plan, then it does right now. And this seems to happen every week. How do you get pass this block you seem to be running into every week?

These tips below will help you stick to your meal plan. After all, you worked hard to make it! Now let’s use it!

You really can stick to a meal plan! Just follow these easy tips and you’ll see it’s easy!

1. Decide What Your Goal is and Why You Want to Meal Plan

When you have a goal in mind it’s easier to stick to the tedious little tasks, even when you have no motivation.

Imagine you’re practicing for a marathon. With the end in mind, it’s easier to get up and run first thing in the morning, because you have a purpose for what you’re doing and you’re not just doing it because others have told you it’s good for you. It was your decision and your goal.

Meal planning (or any goal setting) is really the same way. Write down your goals for meal planning and why you want to to it. Here are a couple of goals and reasons I meal plan.

  • Meal planning saves money
  • It gives you more time together as a family
  • You can build healthier eating habits
  • You’ll have less stress during the week (my personal favorite!)

These aren’t the only reasons! I’m sure you can think of some reasons on your own! So when you’re tempted not to stick to your meal planning menu, remind yourself why you’re doing this.

2. Have a Regular Routine for Meal Planning

Having a regular routine for your meal planning each day is good for a couple reasons. First, when you’re into the routine of something it’s much easier to do it without much thought.

When that alarm goes off, either on your phone or in your head, telling you it’s time to get everything onto the table and eat what’s on your list, you’ll knows exactly what to do, without second guessing. 

A regular routine for meal planning makes sticking to a meal plan even when you don’t want to so much easier!

3. Don’t Choose Meals You Know You Won’t Cook

Why do we do this, anyway?! Scrolling through Pinterest seems to awaken a desire in me to become a gourmet chef! But not every recipe I come across is practical.

It’s fun to find new recipes to try but make sure they’re not too complicated. Even if you think you might have time at the end of the day to try something new and exciting, if you’re tired, and the recipe is long, you might find yourself not even wanting to start. (Been there, done that – a thousand times!)

Also avoid meals that never seem to sound good to you or recipes that take too much time. If you’re gonna dread preparing it, it’s gonna be much harder to stick to the meal plan you’ve set for yourself. 

4. Don’t Choose Meals You Know You and Your Family Don’t Like

It seems like a no-brainer and yet, I’ve done this a thousand times as well.

It’s easy to be over anxious about meal planning and you try and plan meals that will save you lots of money or are super easy and fast. (And if you can find these recipes, please pass them along!)

But remember to make sure your family likes what you’re cooking. It doesn’t save you any money or time at the end of the day if no one will eat what you’ve cooked for dinner and you have to end up finding something else for everyone to eat. 

5. Don’t Think of Meal Planing as Restricting – It’s Actually Freeing!

I know it sounds restricting to say “you have to eat this certain thing every night!” But don’t look at it like you’re being forced to eat something you don’t want or like.

Instead, look at all the pro’s you’re receiving for already having dinner bought and planned and waiting for you to throw together. You don’t have to stress about deciding what you need or want for dinner at the last minute.

You have extra time to get everything else done. And if spaghetti really doesn’t sound good to you tonight you can always switch it around with the tacos you were going to eat tomorrow night.

Just remember to still eat the spaghetti and not let it go to waste. If you’re feeling restricted, go back and look at the list of why you’re really doing this and you’ll realize just how much you’re already accomplishing. 

6. Keep an Eye on Your Schedule and Factor it in When You’re Making Your Plan

When you’re making a meal plan at the beginning of the week, make sure you know what’s going on during the rest of the week. If you’re constantly running around from soccer practice to band rehearsal and more, don’t plan a dinner that’s gonna take an hour to cook!

It doesn’t matter how dedicated to meal planning you are, if it doesn’t work with your schedule, it can’t be done. Also take into consideration days you just might be too tired or overwhelmed.

By Friday night, I’m done cooking and I need a break from the kitchen. So add that to your plan. Don’t try and force yourself to do what you know you can’t or won’t. (I’ll bet nobody will complain if you sneak a frozen pizza or some Chinese takeout into your menu plan! You’re welcome! ;))

7. Find an Accountability Partner

With any goal, it’s easier to stick to it when you have someone there with you. So who do you get to help you stay motivated?

Maybe your husband is gung ho about you saving money, so make sure he follows up with you and let him know you need his encouragement.

Or maybe you have a friend who also wants to start meal planning. Do it together! Keep each other accountable and motivated. You could also get together once a week to plan your meals and go shopping. It will make the whole process more fun.

Finally, ask your accountability partner to regularly check in with you to make sure you’re staying on track. I don’t know about you, but if I know my friend is gonna be asking me how I’m doing with my menu plan, I’m gonna be much more diligent to do it!

8. Plan Your Grocery List and Your Meal Plan at the Same Time

When you sit down to write out what meals you want for the coming week, make sure to write out your grocery list at the same time.

This way you just get it done all at once and you don’t find yourself going to the store without a list, thinking you can remember everything you need. (I’ve done this, many times, and I ALWAYS forget something…)

9. Plan a Variety of Different Meals

Don’t always plan the same meals each week or meals that are similar.

Don’t eat spaghetti tonight, meatball subs tomorrow and pizza the next day. They all sound yummy right now! But they are similar enough that by the end of the week that pizza might not sound so good and any leftovers will probably go untouched.

So try spaghetti tonight and tacos tomorrow and a salad bar the following night. And then by the end of the week those meatball subs or pizza will still sound good! 

10. Batch Cook as Much as You Can

Batch cooking can save you time and money and make the meal planning process that much easier.

There are different ways to batch cook. You could double the size of a recipe and freeze half of it for dinner either next week or later in the month. You could also cook ground beef for your spaghetti and tacos at the same time and then divide and season when you’re done cooking.

Both of these methods save you time on cooking and also allow you to buy items in bigger bulk, saving you money.

11. Post Your Menu in a Central Location in Your House

Having your menu plan in plain sight will help keep you on track so you know what to expect. And this way, when you’re hungry, you don’t start day dreaming about all the food you could be eating and then get disappointed when you pull out your list and see that dinner isn’t what you were dreaming about.

Not only will you be able to easily check it each day, but the rest of the family will happily remind you of what’s on the menu – trust me! And when you’re not cooking it, they’ll wanna know why!

12. Switch Up the Meal Plan if You Have To

Like I said above. If you don’t feel like spaghetti tonight, it’s ok to eat the tacos you were planning on eating tomorrow. But make sure you eat the spaghetti tomorrow!

The meal plan is set up to help you not waste time or money and gives you the freedom of more time in the evening with your family.

But it can be flexible too, and not every meal has to be eaten on the exact night you originally planned. Just make sure you only eat the dinners you planned for and you’re not going out and buying more stuff in the middle of the week.

Also, don’t push more complicated recipes off until a night when you just don’t have the time or the energy.

13. Have Realistic Expectations – Both When Making Your Plan and Also When Executing It

Don’t think, because you’ll have most of your meals prepped on Saturday night, that you’ll be able to serve those fancy dinners every night or even be home for dinner every night.

Also don’t expect to always buy everything on sale and cut your food budget in half the first week of meal planning. Setting goals is good, setting goals too high is detrimental.

Don’t discourage yourself. If you’re hoping to cut your food bill in half, (which is a very good goal, by the way) don’t plan on doing it your first try. Instead teach yourself to go through ads and plan meals around sales. Then after time you will start to notice your grocery bill will go down, almost on its own. 

14. Make Sure to Have a Backup Meal or Two in the Freezer for When the Unexpected Comes

You never know what life has in store. Sometimes everything is going according to plan and then you get a flat tire and you sit on the side of the road for an hour waiting for help.

Or maybe someone gets sick or you burned dinner again … (we’ve all done it…) Life happens!

So don’t find yourself working so hard to stick to a meal plan just to have the whole thing fall apart in one day! Keep extra dinners in the freezer for just such occasions. They can be leftover you’ve frozen previously or even a frozen pizza, but make sure you have something, just in case!

Anything is better than ditching the plan!

15. Don’t Feel Like if You Missed One Meal the Whole Menu Plan is Ruined

You can try your hardest to stick to your meal plan as much as possible, but sometimes it’s just not possible.

Like I said above. Life happens. But if you missed a meal, don’t stress and don’t scrap the rest of the meal plan for the week! Just pick up where you left off and finish the week on the right foot!

Also, save the meal you didn’t use this week for dinner next week or at least be sure to use up all the ingredients in some way before they go bad. 

16. If You’re New to Meal Planning, it Will Take Time to Build the Habit of Sticking to It

Just like practicing every morning for a marathon, meal planning takes time to really get into the habit. The first couple of weeks can sometimes take real motivation and diligence.

But stick to it! Don’t let yourself get discouraged over any stumbles and make sure you have your goal list where you can see it everyday!

You can do this, just stick with it!

17. The More Effective and Realistic Your Meal Plan is to Begin With, the More Likely You Will be to Stick to It

If you’re in the habit of only cooking once or twice a week already, making a meal plan that has you cooking every night is going to be hard to stick to.

Maybe having home cooked meals every night is your end goal. This is great! But you have to stand before you can walk. Start with the basics. Only plan to cook a couple of times a week and slowly increase how many meals you cook each week.

But go as slowly as you need to. Also, don’t plan dinners that intimidate you. The more your meal plan fits your lifestyle already, the better chances you have of not burning yourself out.

18. Give Yourself (or the Whole Family) a Reward at the End of the Week if You Stick to Your Plan

You did it!

You made a meal plan and you’re sticking to it! All those goals you’ve set are slowly coming true.

But sometimes you need a little extra motivation. Reward yourself at the end of the week with a dinner out or maybe even ice cream. Give yourself some sort of reward to keep you motivated. But remember, the reward is only for if you stick to your menu plan.

If you ran to McDonalds three times this week instead of making the meals you had planned, then you haven’t earned that nice Saturday night out dinner. 

Make the reward real! Only use it if you’ve earned it!

Use The Meal Planning Binder to Make a Meal Plan You Can Stick To

Last, but not least, meal planning does require organization. You have to plan your meals, make a grocery list, etc.

But no fear! I’ve put together the perfect Meal Planning Binder, to help you stay organized and keep your meal planning simple!

My Meal Planning Binder has places not only for your weekly menu and grocery list but a place to list out everything in your pantry, fridge and freezer. It also has a spot for your budget and dietary needs, a calendar so you can keep track of what crazy things are going on during the week and more! 

Quickly print out The Meal Planning Binder here and see for yourself how much easier it makes meal planning!

Other Related Meal Planning Articles:

How about you? Do you struggle with sticking to a meal plan once you’ve made it? Comment below and tell me how you stick to a meal plan when you don’t want to!


Learn how to stick to a meal plan when you really don't want to. Not sure about the tacos you planned for Tuesday? See my best tricks for sticking to your meal plan!


How to Stick to a Meal Plan {Even When You Don’t Want To}