There are lots of ways to plan for this daily task, cooking and eating, and none of them are right or wrong, it just depends what works best for you. If the ideas you see below scroll down to see them all inspire you -- and I hope they do -- I urge you to take the Healthy Meal Planning Challenge yourself, which is part of the 52 Weeks to an Organized Home Challenge.
When you do, or if you already do meal planning in your own home, and want to share how you do it, I would love to see what you do. You can share your methods in the Home Organization Hall of Fame here , and I'll feature the best here on the site. Click here to post comments. Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. Close up of two cards; meal. Notice the week A marked in the top corner. Debra has shared her system for planning meals, using menu cards, and I have to say it is a pretty awesome idea!
Did I mention that it works? And it's easy to boot! First off, I am a coupon diva.
I go shopping every week and only hit up deals with coupons and the rare exception to get a few missing ingredients for dinners. And we will have left overs for lunches or in case a friend drops in. I made weekly planner cards. These are 3x5 cards that have every meal my family typically eats on them.
I pick out a weeks worth of cards they rotate, see below , from that I pick out each night's meals the day of. Here's the steps I took to make them. I decided that I would have my cards repeat every 4 weeks. DH and I decided that we would eat out only 1 time for dinner each month. And I decided that I may want to try 1 new meal a week. That left us with 27 dinners that needed accounting for.
I filled in these with our staple dinners and repeated favorite ones, like spaghetti a couple of times. I wrote these all on a list. Then I transferred my list to 3x5 cards. One meal on each card. I wrote the ingredients for each meal on the back of it's card. I broke them down into weeks. Each week gets 8 cards so there's even more built in flexibility.
Not repeating on one week no grilled cheese 2 times a week. And trying to keep perishable ingredients that don't freeze well all on one week Enchiladas and tacos on the same week since they both use sour cream. Also, one big meal ones we usually have left overs per week. This is cooked early in the week so DH has leftovers for lunches.
Once the weeks were broken down I marked them with A, B, C and D so that one week doesn't fall into the other. Each day, pick one meal from that week's cards.
A Stress-Free Month of Dinners
By the end of the week you only have one or two meals to pick from, but it gives lots of options early on in the week. This gives me the flexibility that we needed. If I ran out of time for the enchiladas one day, that's ok, we still have tacos. If Aunt Sally drops by and wants to take us out to dinner, as long as she's paying, I don't have a problem with that.
I'm not getting off of my meal plan. I also save a TON of money doing this. It lets me know exactly how much of any given item I'm going to need for a year. For example, I know that my family is going to eat about 6 lbs of pasta a month. That means that when pasta goes on sale and I have coupons I know my family will eat about 70 lbs of pasta in a year pasta has a long shelf life and I've got the space for it. So I can get up to 70 lbs of pasta for free or nearly free.
It saves me a TON of time because I don't have to make up a new menu every week. I did it one time and it's done. Some things have changed, but mostly stays the same. Like when we find a new meal that I tried and we really like it. It will replace a meal that we eat a lot or don't like as well. Taylor says: Thanks so much for sharing this awesome method for making yourself a weekly meal planner Debra.
It sounds like you've got a great system going for you, and that you've coordinated it with your recipe organization and your couponing. I especially like the aspect of this system that you did the majority of the work once, and then it is easy each week to repeat it. Meal planning can take a lot of time, if you let it, so this method is great for those who need to save time.
Comments from other readers on the card menu planning method: Julie says: I think Debra's method is brilliant. Putting the ingredient list on the back of the card will be so helpful. Thanks for the great tip, I'm gonna try it. Sue says: I love your idea with the cards. This makes it so simple and easy to shop for. I also shop with coupons and stock up on items I use a lot.
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I'm going to try this myself. Thanks so much for sharing! A reader, Amanda, sent in this photo of how she uses post it notes stuck to a kitchen cabinet to help her plan her family's meals. She's added three columns, for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and then has seven rows, one for each day of the week.
She explained that her "menu is filled in with a base line menu my kids like, and doesn't include husband substitutes or snacks. Jennifer from Life of Reilly shared how she displays her meal plan for the week. She explained, "I love this mini clipboard - I got it a few months ago at Michael's in the dollar bin and it is just the right size to hold my recipes and my menu planning sheet. I take this with me along with the current week's recipes when I do my grocery shopping. If you'd like a free one, I've created two different ones including a printable weekly meal planner template for breakfast, lunch and dinner , and another weekly meal planner with attached grocery list.
I also like that she displays the list of weekly meals for her family to see. I find it really helps lessen the questions of "what's for dinner? I've got lots of ideas for displaying your family's planned meals in your home on the Menu Board Ideas page of the site. Megan from Life of the Lorenzens shared how she plans her meals.
$/Month Menu Plan for Our Family of 5
She does her planning weekly, and explained that she uses "a printed version of my iCal monthly calendar that includes our family schedule so I can plan around various events. She also explained: "Meals are penciled in to allow for flexibility within the schedule. Your meal plan is supposed to make life easier, not harder, so being able to move things around a bit as events occur is important.
Finally, she posts the menu plan on the refrigerator so everyone in the family can see it, and know what's for dinner. Similarly, another reader, Ronda, keeps her meal plan for the week in a spreadsheet on the computer. She explained, "Here's the one I did tonight. We have a vegetable and fruit CSA, so I meal plan to try to use up all the goodies! Anna B. She said: "I tried a meal planning system before, with planning out a weekly menu for breakfast, snack, lunch, snack and dinner.
I have to admit, it was too overwhelming. Now, I have a monthly meal plan with just dinner ideas. I am not too restrictive, if we don't follow the plan I don't beat myself up over it. Some days I just write "chicken with veggies" or "quinoa with veggies" and just throw together what is left over. Once a week I try a heirloom recipe of my husband's family or share with him one of my German recipes, -he loves those! We save about USD a month since we started meal planning! I got my meal planner from www. I put it in a sheet protector in our family binder.
My husband sometimes peeks into the binder to check out when it's finally "taco day" again. Kim explained how her family meal plans electronically. She said: "I've always planned meals but it was a huge chore each fortnight to do the plan, make out the shopping list etc. I realized that since my husband is on a six week cycle of rotating shifts our needs are roughly the same every six weeks. We also already use Google calendars to synchronize our family appointments, work shifts, etc.
This means it syncs to my phone, my husbands, the ipad kitchen machine and our computers. I can check the calendar each fortnight, make any adjustments for if I want a different meal or we have different commitments like dinners out, holidays, etc. I just check that we have what is needed for each meal, and if not add it to the shopping list, and add things that we've used up that are on the little whiteboard on the front of the fridge. You can do something similar electronically, even without Google calendars. For example, another reader, KJ, makes a note in Evernote and then send it to everyone.
Here's a screenshot of her weekly plan. Top photo courtesy of googlisti. Above a reader suggested using a Google calendar for meal planning, but you could use additional types of electronic calendaring systems as well. For example, a reader, Sarah, sent in this screenshot, saying, "I use the iPad calendar as it's synced with both mine and hubby's iPhones. Julie says: I plan a 2 week menu so I only have to shop 2 times a month except for milk.
I write the plan on our family calendar. I get the 2 week menu from a 12 week list of recipes that I keep rotating for the winter. When summer comes I will do another 12 week menu based on more grilling type recipes or summer fruits. Taylor says: Thanks for sharing this idea Julie. I really like that you pull ideas from a bigger list. This can be such a time saver when your creativity is just now flowing and you don't know what to plan for the week's meals.
List the recipe source and time to thaw on your meal plan.
I've created a free printable menu planning ideas form that everyone can print out and write their family's favorite meals. Then, you can use it much like Julie and reference it for inspiration while you're actually planning meals. Another reader, Meisha, sent in a photo of how she meal plans with a spiral notebook, with the grocery list on one side of the page, and the recipes listed on the other.
Using a spiral notebook or binder just for your meal plans can keep you from recreating them all the time. Work on a few weeks worth of them, or seasonal meals like Julie mentioned above, and then just use them over and over. If you have a large enough rotation you still won't get tired of what you're eating, but after you make the initial menus your work is done!
A reader, Carter, showed how she plans her meals after recently being diagnosed with a medical condition that required her to change her diet. She explained, I use a "recipe subscription service. I decided to buy a monthly subscription service for recipes suited to my recent diagnosis of PCOS. My biggest hurdle to planning meals is just making a decision, and I'm happy to pay a bit of money each month to get those decisions made for me for a few months.
Beside, this is a major shift to a low-GI, dairy-free and mostly gluten-free lifestyle. I'm happy to be told what to do for a while until I get into the swing of it! Ferris from The Hamman Family Blog also participated in this week's challenge, sharing how she plans her family's weekly meals. She uses a weekly meal planner worksheet that she found on the Internet. The pictures above are of some of her filled out forms. Using this form she is able to write out her meals for the week, and also has room for a corresponding grocery list so she can list the ingredients for each item that she needs.
Further, to keep within her budget she adds the price of each item on her grocery list next to it, so she can anticipate how much she'll spend. You can keep track of grocery prices with this grocery price book worksheet from this site. In addition, she highlights all items on her grocery list that she has a coupon for, so she doesn't forget to use her coupons when she gets to the checkout counter. As I mentioned above I provide some worksheets you can use for this purpose links are above here in this article but feel free to use any type of worksheet that works for you.
Here's additional examples of other worksheets that other readers have been using successfully.
Here's a photo, below, from Adamilka. She explained, "I use a weekly shopping list not organized enough for a monthly one, plus my refrigerator is small. I use the list all the time but my goal this school year is to consistently follow the menu!! She said, "I have been planning my family's meals for years, plus when I've done the list I shop online, which helps me not to impulse spend because I can't smell the aromas of the supermarket. I hope these ideas from other participants of the 52 Weeks to an Organized Home Challenge for how they use a weekly meal planner for their family's meals has inspired you to try it for yourself.
As you can see, there are lots of methods for meal planning and none are right, or wrong, you just need to find which one works for you and your family. Once you've got your system in place or if you already have one set up , share it with me in the Home Organization Hall of Fame. I'll feature the best ones in the hall of fame! Some links on this page are affiliate links, meaning that if you purchase a product through them I receive a small commission which helps me provide this information to you for free, plus support my family.
My integrity and your satisfaction are very important to me so I only recommend products I would purchase myself, and that I believe would benefit you. To learn more please see my disclosure statement. Click here to add your own comments. Let me help you put the pieces of your home puzzle together.
Join over , others and get tips, articles and organizing challenges sent directly to your inbox to help you get your house in order. Plus, you'll get a free 12 month Declutter calendar for ! Ultimate Productivity Bundle. Close up of two cards; ingredients. All of my menu cards. Meal Plan Using Post It Notes A reader, Amanda, sent in this photo of how she uses post it notes stuck to a kitchen cabinet to help her plan her family's meals. Electronic Calendar Planning Can Keep Recipes Right With Your Plan Above a reader suggested using a Google calendar for meal planning, but you could use additional types of electronic calendaring systems as well.
I use a spiral notebook by: Barb I use a spiral notebook for weekly meal plans and grocery lists. I fold the pages in half. On the left-hand page, the first column is a running list of what we need. The second column is the meal plan for the week. On the right, I sort the grocery list by aisle. It's not gorgeous, but it works for me!
I have trouble with this by: Karen I struggle every week with this. I never stick to the plan or I forget items! It's my downfall. With some variations when I make new recipes. I sit down on Sunday Mondays are my shopping days and write out the weekly menu, always including 1 easy simple quick meal, and then write my grocery list from that. Saves money too. And I am flexible that if its been a rough day or something came up I have that quick meal to make. This also helps as my daughter has Celiac Disease. Fourth, this is a budget friendly meal plan.
Without further adieu here is the printable family friendly Menu Plan. Grab your copy here. I simply add boxes of chicken stock, some fresh sliced spinach, ginger, and tablespoons of soy sauce to make my soup. Super easy! Same for the tilapia cakes. Then form into cakes and saute in a a pan. This looks wonderful! Do you have the recipes available as well, please? Particularly for the dinner options. Thank you! There are several on the menu plan that do have recipes linked to them though. Hello so I downloaded ur menu. But I have a big question how do I adapt it for a 11 month old.
Do I just steam the veggies for her. Plz help. You can sign up for the newsletter in the sidebar of any post. Enter your name and email address and you will start to receive the weekly newsletter. Thank You!! I have two picky boys who are growing and hungry. This was just what I needed. This is awesome, just the help I need right now to get me organized and on track. Feel free to share more anytime lol. I love the monthly menu when I can sit down and pull one together, lol.
This one is April; do you have one for May ? You can easily just adjust the dates on this one though and use it for May. I saw your email from signing up for the weekly newsletter, which is great!
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Click the box to get your free 5 page guide right in your inbox! Get inspired, plan your meals, or just copy the done for you meal ideas with this awesome printable for toddlers and babies! Benefits of Meal Planning Still on the fence about this whole menu plan thing? Let me tell you about some of the advantages: Saves me a TON of time in the long run. It can be work up front unless you are using mine! My family eats more variety and more nutritiously. Saves money!