Creating a weekly meal plan

In my mind, there are two types of meals: utilitarian and everything else. Utilitarian meals are weekday lunches and dinners when my top priority is supplying my body nutrients for survival. Everything else meals are dinner parties and meals prepared when I have leisurely Saturday afternoons to craft a gourmet plate.

The utilitarian meals, the ones that often begin with phrases such as “What’s for dinner?” and “I’m starving, let’s see what we have in the kitchen,” are where disorganization can work against you. If you don’t have an organized meal plan, it can be easier to head to a fast food joint than to create a nutritious meal at home.

To help with meal planning organization, I created a Meal Plan worksheet (links to the worksheet at the end of this article). To use it, I start most Saturday mornings with a cup of coffee, a stack of cookbooks, and a pad of post-it notes. I flip through my cookbooks, flagging all of the recipes I want to use for the week.

My next task is to put an “X” on the worksheet through any of the meals that I know will be eaten out of the house for friends’ birthdays or whatever is lined up on our calendar. Then, I match up recipes I’ve marked in the cookbooks with openings on the schedule. If any of the items need preparation hours or days beforehand, I’ll list those under the “Prep for Tomorrow” section to help with managing my time. (For example, dough for homemade pizza crusts needs to be made 24 hours in advance of use … so if I want pizza tomorrow, I have to make the dough today.) Also, having at least two snacks listed on the worksheet ensures that I’ve got healthy snack choices available.

When matching recipes with meals, I’ll review the recipe and write down any ingredients on the grocery list section of the worksheet. This helps me plan out what I need from the store and my local farmer’s market. Sometimes, I’ll make two grocery lists for a mini-run on Wednesday night to get fresh produce.

Creating a meal plan takes a little time when it is written, but ultimately saves time and stress during the week. You also may find that a meal plan helps you to eat better and completely eliminate fast food from your diet.

The Unclutterer Meal Plan:

111 Comments for “Creating a weekly meal plan”

  1. posted by mer on

    thanks for posting the template, it’s just what i needed :)

  2. posted by Saving Money: Meal Planning « Beautiful Chicken on

    [...] came across a template to use here which also talks about Meal Planning, so I wanted to [...]

  3. posted by Meal Planning for the Uninitiated « More Than Mary on

    [...] check out one of these websites: Real Simple Everyday Meal Planning, Meals Matter, Dinner Planner, Unclutterer, Organized Home, or see a sample meal plan I [...]

  4. posted by Michele on

    I too have used http://www.savingdinner.com for my menu planning for years. As a busy mom who works full time I just didn’t have the time to figure it all out myself and I was tired of spending money for “good intentions” that never got cooked. Not only have the menus from Saving Dinner saved me money, time, and my sanity LOL but I have also lost weight! YAY! Nothing beats a home cooked meal that’s for sure! I’m pretty sure you can get a free sample if you sign up for her newsletters (which are excellent by the way and almost always include great recipes and information)!

  5. posted by Jenny on

    Meal planning saves me a lot of time and stress. Before I was always wondering what to make every day, and spending a lot of time getting groceries. Once I started making a weekly plan and one main trip to the store, I was surprised how much easier things got and that I saved money as well, as less food was going to waste.

    I have tried several different meal planners, and I like the one at http://www.saymmm.com because it is easy to use and I like how it connects my meal plan to my grocery list.

  6. posted by emma on

    Life is too hectic for most of us to cook different meals every single night not to mention breakfasts and lunches.
    I meal plan for the week but I cook a huge batch of something Sunday or Monday night and we eat it until it’s gone-usually it lasts until Wed or Thursday night.
    If the family doesn’t like eating the same thing, I invite someone to do the cooking.

    By the way everyone is responsible for creating and making their own lunches.

  7. posted by Health is Easy » Uncategorized » Need a Weekly Meal Planner, a Grocery List, or Price Books? We Have 36 of ‘em. on

    [...] Unclutterer Available in spreadsheet or PDF form. Clean and efficient. [...]

  8. posted by DiAnne on

    One suggestion that a poster on Lifehacker mentioned was using Google Calendar for menus, especially in multi-member households.

    I’m lucky in that when my mom retired, she moved in with me and offered to take over the cooking, but hates deciding what to make. So, I made a Google Calendar just for menus. She can access it and make changes as well as my teenage daughters. Everyone can look at a glance on any Internet-connected computer to see what supper will be for the week.

    As a bonus, we can have meals repeat once a month (or every 6 months).

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