Looking to streamline and simplify meal planning? This Weekly Meal Planning Template will help!! Start off easy with a Meal at a Time, then plan a Week at a Time, and eventually you’ll be ready to plan a Month at a Time!
Would you like to answer that darn question, “What’s for Dinner?”, for each day this week, for several weeks, or even months into the future? This meal planning system will help! I’ve used it for years (since my kids were little). It’s my solution to conquering the whole mealtime process… from planning, to shopping, to cooking! I create a bunch of Weekly Meal Plans (using my template), store them away in a folder, then pull one out and plug it into my calendar as I see fit. Voila… dinner is done (or at least the idea of dinner is done)!
Getting organized does take a small investment of your time in the beginning. But, your future self will thank you as you save time, energy, and even money! (Plus, you’re apt to eat more healthy!) Even if you prefer spontaneity, it’s still nice to have a few of these plans for back-up when life gets crazy.
Read on to see how easy meal planning really is! Then you can PRINT THE free TEMPLATE and start creating your personalized meal plans today!
*Just so you know, I only apply this process to dinner time. I have a Breakfast, Lunch and Snack Rotation that I follow for the rest of our meals. That’s just how I roll! (Mostly because there are only a few meals for breakfast and lunch that we like. Whereas, for dinner, there’s a billion more options!) If you’d like, go ahead and apply this method for planning all of your meals.
Plan A Meal At A Time
Before you begin meal planning it’s (obviously) necessary that you actually have some meals to plan! Do you have a bunch of “go-to meals” that you enjoy making? Do you have some cookbooks stored away with recipes that you’d love to try? Have you saved a bunch of recipes on Pinterest, or from other websites (like mine!), that you want to make?
Gather all of your recipes and any new recipes you’d like to try. (I keep all of my favorite recipes in a binder and all of the new recipes I want to try in a folder.) Take a moment to organize all of these recipes into categories (i.e. grill, slow cooker, chicken, seafood, frequent family favorites, dessert, etc.).
Create a Weekly Meal Planning Formula
Once your recipes are organized, think about and answer these questions…
- Are there any categories of recipes that stand out to you that you definitely want to prepare weekly? For instance, do you want to have Seafood once or twice a week, use the Slow Cooker, make a Casserole, Grill, etc. etc.? Or, are you fine with just mixing it up with any type of recipe?
- How many days a week (in general) can you commit to cooking at home?
- How many days per week do you prefer to eat out or get take out?
- Do you like to use pre-made or frozen meals from the grocery store once in a while?
- How often would you like to make dessert at home?
- How about making extra’s, like muffins, breads, snacks?
Now, keeping all this in mind, ask yourself, realistically, what an ideal week would look like for you? A meal at a time, a day at a time, for seven days. Here’s the “formula” that I came up with to plan my dinner meals:
Day 1, 2, and 3: I make 3 Recipes each week, ideally getting leftovers out of one of them. I’ll use a variety of recipes from different categories (i.e. poultry, casseroles, seafood, etc.), often trying something new.
Day 4: I like to Grill at least once a week (usually Sunday).
Day 5: I make a Family Favorite once a week. These meals are so simple I really don’t need to follow a recipe!
Day 6: I rely on a “healthy” No-Cook Meal once a week which helps me out, especially when I’m short on time!
Day 7: We usually Eat-Out or get Take-Out once a week (usually Saturday).
As you can see, I actually only cook about 3-5 DAYS a week!! The remainder of the days I give myself a break and keep meals extra easy.
This weekly meal planning formula works for me. Your plan might look a little different. Maybe you like to use the slow cooker once a week or eat out more frequently. Think about it for a minute and then create your own formula. Jot it down on a sticky note, index card, or type it out. It’s not etched in stone, you can change it anytime!
Interested in giving my Weekly Meal Planning Formula a try and/ or keeping for reference…
Plan A Week At A Time
You’ve gathered a bunch of recipes, created a “realistic” formula, and you’re ready to plan! This is the fun part! I’ve made it super easy by creating a Weekly Meal Planning Template that you can PRINT and start using right away. Or you could just use index cards or a notebook. The point is to write it down somewhere.
Simply follow your Weekly Meal Planning Formula and fill up the days with recipes!
When I print this template I use both sides of the paper (for a total of 4 weeks) then I write in my recipes using pencil. You’ll notice I’ve used Day 1 through 7 instead of using the days of the week (Monday through Sunday). This provides flexibility so you can use each plan again in the future. Decide on the specific days of the week when you’re ready to plug it into your calendar and use it. Take into account appointments, family activities and other commitments.
Complete as many weeks as you want ahead of time and store them in a folder or ring-binder.
You can stop here and simply use your Weekly Meal Plans over and over again in a rotation, creating more as time goes on. All that’s left to do is complete a weekly grocery list, shop, cook, eat and enjoy! However, if you really like to pre-plan, move on to the next step…
Plan A Month At A Time (Optional)
I know… this may seem like too much pre-planning! But, the weeks go by sooo fast. Before you know it, a new week is starting and it’s time to plan and grocery shop again. Of course, you can always just pull out a Weekly Meal Plan that you’ve pre-done!
Or, you can cover yourself for an entire month by choosing 4 to 5 weekly meal plans and filling in your calendar. (This will work if you already know what the rest of your schedule looks like for the month.) It’s a nice feeling to have your meals planned for the whole month. One less thing to think about!
I print free Monthly Calendars online from Vertex42. But you could also just use the calendar on your phone, tablet, or any other place where you keep track of your life.
My monthly plans are constantly evolving. Therefore, I don’t always reuse them year after year. I still like the flexibility of plugging in any weekly meal plan I want, trying new recipes, and taking into account what’s going on in our lives. Although, I have found that there are seasonal recipes I like to make during certain months that are constants. For quick reference, I label my Weekly Meal Plans by month so I can look back and repeat if I want.
It’s As Simple As That!
So, there you have it! Sounds doable, right? Yes… you can do this! If you search online you’ll find all kinds of meal planning templates, plans, etc., but you don’t need anything fancy. Keep your plan simple and realistic. Personalize your plan to suit your needs, capabilities and schedule. Don’t get overwhelmed! And don’t overextend yourself! Start off easy and set yourself up for success. Don’t be hard on yourself if your plan falls apart once in a while… it happens to me all the time. Just go with the flow.
Print the free Weekly Meal Planning Template, fill it in and get cooking!
Don’t forget to check out the Breakfast, Lunch and Snack Printable, so you can have all your meals covered!
For even more Meal Planning inspiration, take a look at my Meal Planning Guide and Checklist!
No time to plan? Take a look at my Pre-Done, Ready-To-Use Meal Plans, which even include Shopping Lists.