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Weekly meal planning doesn't have to be rocket science. Check out our super simple method that keeps us on track every week.

Weekly Meal Planning Isn’t Rocket Science

by Regan

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For years I have been telling my husband that we need to get it together and start meal planning. He agreed and still, we never did it. Instead we spent our weeks grocery shopping without purpose, wasting money, and wasting time. Add to that, eating out too often due to our poor planning which is more money wasted with a healthy dose of a lot of extra calories. 

I am excited to say that five weeks ago, we finally did it! I’m also excited to say that it’s been surprisingly simple. I expected that we would stick to it for a week or two and then be back to our old habits, but we’ve been on a roll. We have also enjoyed the process of sitting down to plan out our menu for the week. 

Weekly meal planning doesn't have to be rocket science. Check out our super simple method that keeps us on track every week.

The tools

I see some meal plans on Pinterest that seem to be overly complicated, but that’s not how I roll. If I’m going to stick to meal planning (or anything, really), it needs to be simple.

I don’t use a binder, printables, or a “system”. Instead, we purchased two small magnetic dry erase boards at Target in those bins of inexpensive goodies at the front of the store. One has the days of the week for the fridge and one for our chest freezer to keep an inventory of what’s in there. Add to that a notebook for working out our weekly meals and shopping list.

Weekly meal planning doesn't have to be rocket science. Check out our super simple method that keeps us on track every week.

For us, the freezer became a black hole and was a big source of our problem. We didn’t always know what we had or how much so it was a mess trying to figure out what we were going to have for dinner during the upcoming week.

Weekly meal planning doesn't have to be rocket science. Check out our super simple method that keeps us on track every week.

Planning

Instead of flying by the seat of our pants and maybe remembering to take some things out of the freezer, we now  go into the week with a plan. Our week starts on Saturday since that’s when we do our grocery shopping, so on Friday evening or Saturday before heading out to the store, we sit down and talk about what we would like for dinner during the week. 

We then write a list of meals on notebook paper along with what we need at the store for our menu and bring it to the grocery store. When we get home we decide what meal we want on a particular day and write in on the dry erase board on the fridge. That’s it!

Weekly meal planning doesn't have to be rocket science. Check out our super simple method that keeps us on track every week.

How it works

Our simple meal plan has been working out so well for us. We now know what we’re making ahead of time so we remember to take food out of the freezer, we no longer have the stress of it being 5:00 with no idea what to make, and my teenage son has liked being able to look at the fridge to see what we’re having that night.

Sure, we still get pizza occasionally, but now we plan it instead of it being a necessity because we forgot to defrost something for dinner. 

Meal ideas

  1. Buy a good cookbook or two. I love The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook and The Make Ahead Cook. Both of these cookbooks have easy recipes with a lot of flavor along with a wide variety of meals to choose from. 
  2. Websites like allrecipes.com and food.com have just about any recipe you want to make and I find that their ratings are pretty spot on. 
  3. Find recipes on Pinterest by using the search bar. In general I prefer to find recipes that have ratings, but if you are pretty good in the kitchen you can tell which recipes are probably good to try by reading them. 
  4. You can also check out some of my recipes. In general they are easy to make and hey, my family likes them. 

 

Weekly meal planning isn't rocket science. Our method is very simple and effective.

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32 comments

Lena Tatum April 29, 2016 - 8:31 pm

what if you have two or three cook in the kitchen

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Regan April 29, 2016 - 8:52 pm

My husband and I share cooking duty and every once in a while my teenage son also cooks. We involve the whole family in meal planning so it hasn’t been an issue for us.

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Breana Wooley April 29, 2016 - 9:29 am

Thanks for the tips. I need to start doing this.

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kayla sheehan April 27, 2016 - 9:57 am

I’ve recently started doing this. Also helps me to not splurge on random items at the store!

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Katie Hall April 23, 2016 - 10:48 pm

Love this post!! I am about to have my first child next month and I hear from a lot of moms that meal planning helps so much. My fiance is always sick of eating the same meals so this way I could try some new meals each week.

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Amber Ludwig April 20, 2016 - 3:31 pm

I struggle with not having to buy a separate meal item for every day!! I like to be able to use a rotisserie chicken one night and then use it for soup or tacos the other night. Otherwise I feel like Im spending SO much money!!

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Jessica C. April 19, 2016 - 7:56 am

Great ideas! But I’m not sure how well it would work with people who ask what’s for dinner, then say, “I don’t feel like eating that tonight,” when you tell them.

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Regan April 19, 2016 - 8:35 am

We don’t allow that in our house. The kids have input on the menu as well and know that I don’t make multiple dinners so they can eat it or not. The only exception is if my husband and I are in the mood for something that we know one or both kids aren’t crazy about. Also, our youngest doesn’t eat beef so he gets leftovers or something easy on those nights.

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Leah E April 15, 2016 - 8:12 am

I too need to start meal planning, the few times I have its worked tremendously well but it’s hard to stay in the routine of it.

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Jessica April 14, 2016 - 8:04 pm

My husband and I have been wanting to meal plan for ages. This is very helpful in getting us started. Thanks!

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wendy browne April 14, 2016 - 3:17 pm

Thank you for this step by step article. We keep talking about it but not doing it as well.

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Anne Patton April 14, 2016 - 3:01 pm

I definitely need to meal plan! My deep freeze is a black hole. I always have plenty of meat to choose from, but I don’t always know what I have!

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Regan April 14, 2016 - 3:14 pm

That was always our problem! The dry erase board on the freezer has been the biggest help. We wouldn’t be able to plan meals without it.

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Courtney south April 14, 2016 - 2:51 pm

Ooh this sounds lovely if only we could get it together.. I will try this seems easy enough! I love America’s test kitchen I bet the cookbook would be so awesome!

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Regan April 14, 2016 - 2:59 pm

I’ve never seen the show, but I am in love with their cookbooks!

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Amanda Felton April 14, 2016 - 8:38 am

I have so many recipes saved online, on paper, magazines, etc. I really need to sit down and plan to try them out. When my husband wasn’t’ travelling for work we used to sit down on Sundays and plan our weekly meals. It was fantastic! But we got away from it. I am now inspired to get back into it. I fly by the seat of my pants for so many things in life, but it would be nice to know what’s happening for dinner and not have to stress about it. Plus everyone looks forward to the meal they know is coming. Thanks for the post!

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Dr. Chris Webber April 13, 2016 - 1:59 pm

Great post. We just started meal planning ourselves at my house.

A different take for people having a hard time starting: pretend you have an allergy to a certain food (eggs, nuts, peanuts, etc.) We tried this with peanuts and in just one shopping trip I learned more about label reading and meal planning than anything I tried earlier. Plus, it helps you relate to your friends who have food allergies.

Thanks for the post!

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Alicia C April 11, 2016 - 9:25 pm

We do the dry erase board thing in our house, but we also have a section dedicated to what’s in the freezer (as complete meals) and a grocery list for all our favorite stores. We are pretty good about having meals ready but our problem is having too much food in the freezer. The dry erase board helps us to eat the food in a timely manner.

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Laura April 11, 2016 - 4:07 pm

I always struggle with meal planning. I write lists, but sometimes will fail to stick to them.

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Jamie Daniel April 11, 2016 - 3:25 pm

I meal plan every week but I learned some good tips from this.

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Felicia D April 11, 2016 - 9:08 am

I’ve been doing monthly meal panning for the last 4-5 months, and it has helped tremendously! I don’t really like cooking, so knowing what I’m making and that I have all the ingredients has reduced my stress a ton. Plus it’s a lot easier to stick to a budget when you know exactly what you need to buy!

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Regan April 11, 2016 - 9:45 am

I don’t mind cooking, but I don’t always want to do it. I agree that having a plan helps to keep it from becoming a huge chore. I have enjoyed cooking more now that I know what’s going on every day.

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Kristen Kaeberlein April 11, 2016 - 8:28 am

This sounds like a really good idea, especially the white boards telling what’s in the freezer, I usually forget and sometimes I forget to check before writing what I need from the store.

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Regan April 11, 2016 - 9:54 am

The white board on the freezer has been a game changer. That is where we have been going wrong and knowing what we have and how much has been the key to sticking to a meal plan for us.

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Deborah D April 11, 2016 - 8:20 am

Thanks for the great tips. IZ am going to try this

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Sondra Richardson April 11, 2016 - 4:46 am

We have tried a couple times to plan meals, but it always falls apart. Hubby usually ends up shopping 3-4 times a week because we nevwr know what we want, and don’t have the stuff on hand that we decide on!!

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Regan April 11, 2016 - 10:00 am

That was also a big problem for us. We wouldn’t have a plan and didn’t always know what we had on hand or how much each week. The dry erase board on the freezer has helped a ton with that. We also have a lot of different places where we get inspiration for meals which also helps, though we do still get in a rut every few weeks.

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Kristin mensch April 11, 2016 - 3:46 am

I need to get better at meal planning

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Barbara Brooks April 10, 2016 - 11:46 pm

I like your simplified way of planning meals we always forget what is in the fridge/freezer in the garage. We seem to only stick to it when we write it down. We will try this next week.

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katie April 10, 2016 - 11:30 pm

I find new recipes on a lot of sites. I like the kitchn site for new recipes. I have our usuals for the weekly meal planning but I try to have a new meal to try out once a week so we don’t get into a rut of having the same stuff all the time.

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Leslie April 8, 2016 - 1:46 pm

I plan on doing the 21 day fix in a few weeks so I need to get my menu’s planned for this. I can’t wait. I think it’ll be a lot of fun. My meals will consist of lunches instead of dinners though.

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Regan April 8, 2016 - 2:06 pm

I’ve looked into that and it looks like a great way to get portions under control. Good luck!

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