Indian Meal Planning 101 – A Complete Guide

Note: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Meal planning 101 – Check out this essential guide to meal planning Indian food and learn all the tips that’ll help take the stress out of making homecooked meals.

A collage of recipes and a text that reads The Meal Planning Guide - tips for meal planning success
Indian Meal Planning 101

If you prefer eating homemade meals to frozen food, this meal-prepping and planning guide is for you. Learn all the tips and tricks to make cooking weeknight meals a breeze.   

Many of us who grew up in India might find the concept of leftovers unfamiliar. Why? Two main reasons:

  1. Most middle-class families in India had the luxury of affordable labor, ensuring daily help with cooking or at least assistance with chopping vegetables.
  2.  India’s warm climate meant we usually cooked just what was needed for the day, as food tended to spoil rapidly, even with refrigeration.

When you are used to fresh homemade food, all hell breaks loose when you have to travel abroad for work or studies. Suddenly, you’re the chef, sous-chef, and the dishwasher all rolled into one. Add in the pressures of long work hours, seemingly endless commutes, and kids’ packed schedules, and the luxury of a fresh homemade meal every day starts to feel like a distant dream.

Having gone through the same grind, I have some tips and tricks for you that’ll help you cook homemade food without waking up at the crack of dawn.   

What is meal planning?

When it comes to meal planning, everyone has their own style.

Some folks like to plan, shop, prep, and whip up all their meals over the weekend, turning the weekdays into a simple reheat-and-eat affair. Others, meanwhile, might prep and shop on the weekend and churn out fresh meals every day from the prepped ingredients.

Personally, I’m in the second camp because I like cooking fresh food every day.

Irrespective of which method you prefer, here are the steps to follow –

Step 1 – Meal planning 

Let’s begin with planning first.

Note: In this post, I’ve focused solely on dinner options to keep things simple. Begin with planning just one meal daily. Once you feel you’ve got the hang of it, the same strategy can easily be applied to other meals.

Here’s my weekly meal planning process in a nutshell:

  1. Start by categorizing – think dals, biryanis, pulses, curries, side dishes, rice dishes, and one-pot meals. Add your family’s favorite recipes under each category. 
  2. Assign a theme for each day of the week. Use the categories above to pick a theme, and then, for each day, pick one recipe from that category. Here’s an example of a 7-day Indian meal plan.
  3. Load your meals into meal planning software such as Prepear (affiliate link) and generate your grocery list, or you can grab my 4-week meal plan. The other option is to use an Excel meal planning template and update it weekly.
  4. Make a shopping list – Make sure to check for existing ingredients in your pantry. Here’s a helpful article that will guide you on how to track your pantry items and create a grocery list efficiently.

Pro tips

  1. I like to meal plan once a month – it takes me less than 30 minutes using Prepear. Grab my 4-week meal plan from here.
  2. Grocery shop either late Friday evening or Saturday morning so that you have enough time for your next step – Meal prepping.

Step 2 – Meal prep 

There are several chores that you can do over the weekend to make weeknight cooking less time-consuming. Here are some things I do over the weekend to plan for the week.

  • Chop vegetables and freeze them – Ever tossed veggies because they began to spoil before you could use them? Here’s a pro tip: dice and freeze! Beans, cabbage, cauliflower, and okra (bhindi), among others, retain their flavor well when frozen. I use frozen veggies most of the time for side dishes such as beans poriyal, cabbage poriyal, bhindi do pyaza, etc.
  • Make curry sauce – This basic onion-tomato sauce is a life-saver. They store well for a week in the refrigerator (and freeze well too). It is a versatile sauce that you can use as a base for curries, including Makhani gravies, chicken curries, and even dals. Here’s a detailed post on how to make and use curry sauce 
  • Chopped onions – When I am not using curry sauce, I keep a week’s worth of onions chopped in the refrigerator. While the onions are being fried, I use the time to cut tomatoes, mince ginger/garlic, etc. Also, it is a rumor that stored onions turn poisonous
  • Peeled Garlic – You can either buy store-bought peeled garlic (available in Costco or most grocery stores) or peel them over the weekend. 
  • Roti dough – Roti dough stays perfectly well in the refrigerator for a couple of days. You can always make extra dough and store it in the freezer. For detailed instructions, read this post on how to make and store the perfect roti dough.
  • Homemade ginger garlic paste – Don’t like the taste of store-bought ginger garlic paste? Make a big batch of homemade ginger garlic paste (or ginger paste and garlic paste separately) and refrigerate for a week. Need it to last longer? Blend ginger and garlic, freeze the paste in an ice-cube tray, then transfer the frozen cubes to a Ziploc bag or freezer-safe glass container. It’ll keep for around a month!
  • Coriander chutney – Whip up some coriander chutney over the weekend. It pairs wonderfully with many breakfasts and snacks and retains its zesty flavor for several days. For bulk batches, freeze and store it just like the ginger-garlic paste method mentioned earlier.

Storage solutions – You can store your frozen veggies in a freezer-safe Ziploc, but my preferred option is these glass containers that are safe for you and the environment.

Equipment needed for meal prepping

Here’s a list of my preferred tools that I use to work in the kitchen efficiently

Tools

Devices

Want to take a peek into my kitchen? Here’s a list of all the equipment and tools that I have in my kitchen. 

Note: You don’t need all of these tools, but they do shorten your chopping and cooking time considerably.

Storage

New to Indian cooking? This complete guide to Indian cooking is a comprehensive post that will get you started in no time!


Helpful meal planning resources

  • How to stock your kitchen – Learn how to create a master grocery list, track your pantry items, and have a well-stocked kitchen to cook delicious meals anytime you want!
  • How to meal plan – A detailed guide on how to start meal planning.
  • Meal themes – how to use them – Check out these 20+meal themes to help you create delicious meals that your whole family will love.
  • How to meal prep Indian food – Meal prep is the secret behind stress-free weekday meals. Learn how to meal prep like a pro, even if you are a beginner.
  • Pantry staples – Considering meal prepping? Make sure you have a few pantry staples always available in the kitchen so that you can meal prep whenever you have time.
  • 30+ tips for meal planning success – Review these easy-to-follow tips and strategies that will help you meal plan and prep like a pro.
  • Out of milk app – Learn how to use your phone to track your pantry items and create shopping lists by store.

Meal planning is designed to simplify your cooking routine. If things don’t go precisely as planned, give yourself a break. Consider designating a day for leftovers or your favorite takeout. Remember, flexibility can be a key ingredient, too!

Before I sign off, let me quickly mention the meal planning app I use – Prepear.

Meal planning app

Prepear is an app that allows you to easily organize your recipes, plan your meals, and create your grocery list.

While I have my recipes and meal plans on Prepear, you will also find 10,000+ recipe ideas from other bloggers. Meal planning has never been this easy.

Find out more at Prepear.com.

iPhone displaying the prepear app with text overlay

This post was originally published on January 19th, 2019, and was updated on April 03, 2020, and October 03, 2023, with new information. 

Get dinner on the table faster!

Learn my meal planning + prepping secrets to make fresh Indian food without spending hours in the kitchen.

An overhead shot of Gujarathi kadhi along with rice, rotis and a side of lemon

FREE EMAIL COURSE

Simmer to slimmer logo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

3 Comments

  1. Dear Anushree,

    Your website is absolutely amazing!
    Thank you for detailed effort on meal preparation.
    I have a question, how do I store veggies in zip lock or glass? Do I wash them, fry completely and then put it in air tight for up to a week?

    1. Glad to be of help, Tresa. Yes, that’s what I do – wash, dry and freeze it for a week or 2 to 3 days in a refrigerator.