This post may contain affiliate or referral links, meaning I may earn a sales commission at no extra cost to you. Please see my full affiliate disclosure here.
Have you been doing your weekly grocery shopping without a plan and wasting money, time? Or even worse, are you eating out too often? Let me help you with planning a weekly menu, simply.
Just like you, we spent our weekly grocery shopping without purpose, spending too much money on groceries without a plan on how to use them. This led to food and money waste as well as time wasted at the store buying food that we didn’t know what to do with.
Ultimately, this also led to eating out way too much. That was more money wasted along with a healthy dose of a lot of extra calories.
I know that planning a weekly menu might seem intimidating. There are many incredibly organized people out there who have it down to a fine art. But what about if you’ve never meal planned before?
I’m excited to tell you that meal planning for beginners doesn’t have to be hard. Figure out what works for you with other tasks and take baby steps at first.
Are you a list maker? Do you need binders and printouts to be successful? Are you more of a digital person or a pen and paper person?
Figure this out to get started making your grocery trips more productive, then build on it and fine-tune it if you feel like you need even more of a plan.
Simple meal planning tools
Some meal plans on Pinterest seem to be overly complicated, but that’s not how I roll. I don’t use a binder, printables, or a “system”. If that works best for you, then, by all means, get some binders or digital lists and fill them out instead of using paper.
The tools that I use are just to get you to start planning a weekly menu. Meal planning for beginners is meant to start simple, then tweak it as you get used to it. This is what works for us:
Stock up on food staples
To make weekly menu planning a breeze, keep your fridge and pantry full of staples.
Think of all of the things you use most when you cook and when you run out of that item, immediately put it on your grocery list dry erase board to restock it then next time you go shopping.
Common food staples
- Condiments like mayonnaise, mustard, olive oil, vinegar, sauces, etc.
- Dry goods like flour, sugar, cornstarch, grains, pasta, beans, etc.
- Canned goods such as diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans, tuna, etc.
Getting your freezer organized
When you don’t have a plan, the freezer became a black hole and a big source of the problem. If you don’t write it down, label things well, and organize your freezer space, you might forget what you have or how much. This makes it difficult to figure out what you’re going to have for dinner during the upcoming week.
Having a magnetic dry erase board on your freezer can be a menu-planning lifesaver! When you come home from the grocery store each week, write down what you put in the freezer, and be sure to erase food as you use it.
Meal planning for beginners
- Discuss what your family would like to eat for the upcoming week and write the meals down on a weekly magnetic dry erase board or calendar.
- Write out our shopping list of everything we will need to make all of the meals on the menu. If you have your kitchen stocked with food staples, getting the remaining things you will need to make meals for the week will be painless. Just don’t forget to bring your shopping list to the grocery store!
- If something needs to be defrosted, put it in the refrigerator with enough time to thaw.
- Anything from the store that needs to be frozen, divide it up how you normally do for individual meals and put it in the freezer.
- Don’t forget to update the magnetic dry erase board on the freezer when you add or remove something.
Tips for planning a weekly menu
- 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.
- 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.
- Find recipes on your favorite food blogs or Pinterest by using the search bar. Some of my favorite blogs are Damn Delicious, America’s Test Kitchen, and Skinnytaste.
- You can also check out some of my recipes. In general they are easy to make and hey, my family likes them.
Weekly menu planning is a game changer. Knowing what you are going to make each day removes so much stress and saves time and money.
Now getting take out is a treat instead of a necessity because we forgot to defrost something for dinner.