Weekly Meal Planner: Why You Need One

I learned how to meal plan years ago and it was a game changer for me. There was nothing worse than 5:00 hitting and me being in a panic because I still have not decided what I was making for supper that day. A weekly meal planner is the tool I can’t live without.

weekly meal planner

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Learning how to meal plan saves you time, money, and stress. Anything that helps us be more prepared on a daily basis with running our homes is a plus.

Having a meal plan can save you money in a few ways. First, it helps you avoid running to get fast food because you don’t know what to make for dinner. When you have no plan and 5:00 hits, it often feels easier just to go eat out. But this adds up.

It can also help you save money by making a meal plan that co-ordinates with the sales. You decide what you are going to cook that week or month based on what you can get cheaper at the grocery store on that shopping trip.

So, let’s talk about how to meal plan.

I have two ways I do it.  Sometimes with a monthly template like this one HERE. You can print one out for yourself if you like.

how to meal plan

Or, if you want something a little prettier, check out the meal planning template that comes with a few other kitchen printables to help you save money in my printables shop.

kitchen printables


You can see the weekly meal planner template in the front of that picture there for an idea of what it looks like. I was sure to make it bright and cheery because, let’s face it, it is A LOT of work to feed children multiple times a day, and we all need something to brighten our day while we are thinking about it. 🙂


I’ve been known to meal plan two ways – by month, and by week.  It really just depends what season of life I am as to which one I use. All I know is, I aim for a meal planner on a budget.

Then I grab my flyer and take a look at what is on sale. Usually my go-to grocery stores are either No Frills or Walmart. I didn’t always shop at Walmart, but since they started the option where you can shop online, put your order in, and pick it up at no extra charge, I’ve been using their services along with using No Frills still sometimes. If you want to know more about how grocery shopping online can save you money, check out the post I wrote about it HERE.

When I do my monthly meal planning I fill it out for the entire month but often only shop for two weeks at a time. That means I might change some things around for the last two weeks if I don’t like the prices. I would love to go to once a month shopping with a few smaller runs in between for fresh produce, but I just haven’t managed that one yet!

For this menu plan, in the flyer that week cheese was on sale. Cheese at full price is not cheap and we love cheese here, so I am sure to take advantage of the fact that it is on sale by including tacos, pizza, and pasta (we love cheese on our pasta!)

Also, side note: Did you know you can stock up on cheese when on sale and freeze it? Just make sure you grate it before you freeze it or it will become all crumbly.

Pork loin is on sale too so I am sure to add our favorite marinated pork chops to the list. Pork loins are great for cutting up into individual pork chops for the BBQ. From one pork loin I will get three meals for our family.

I am not sure if you can see it in the picture above or not, but I am sure to include leftovers once a week. I have chosen Mondays for leftover days because I am usually driving my kids around to extra-curriculars, so I know I need something quick for those days. In the past Mondays have also been our crockpot meal days. Anything that is fast and easy.

Some people prefer to not have a leftover day and eat them for lunch. That works well too.

In this meal plan I’ve also picked meals that are better suited for Spring. Winter has finally ended and we’ve had our fill of soups and stews. I have kept those to a minimum on the plan, opting more for BBQ type meals and warmer weather meal ideas.

I only meal plan for my dinners. The reason being, here in our house we don’t have a huge variety for breakfasts and lunches. We are a busy household who loves good food, so we try and keep our first two meals simple allowing for more effort and energy being poured into a delicious made-from-scratch dinner. Breakfasts are usually oatmeal, cereal, cinnamon toast, and once in awhile pancakes. Lunches are usually either a type of sandwich (peanut butter, egg salad, meat and cheese, or grilled cheese) or a plate mixed with assorted foods (fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats, pickles, hard-boiled eggs, raisins, crackers, etc.).

At the bottom of the free monthly printable page you will notice a section for snacks. This is just a running list. This allows me to have an idea of what to feed to the kids for snacktime (which they ask for 8765 times a day) but doesn’t run on a strict schedule. This works well when you have fruits and vegetables because sometimes snack needs to be whatever is going to go bad soon!  With the weekly planner I have a spot for each day to write out my snacks.  This sometimes changes, but at least I have a general idea of what I am going to give them when they ask for a snack. 🙂

As you go along writing in your meal plan, be sure to write down a grocery list. There’s nothing worse than taking all that time to meal plan only to discover you forgot to buy one of the ingredients at the store.  In the planner I created that I shared above, there is actually a grocery list printable, as well as a pantry, freezer, and fridge inventory printable to help you keep track of all those types of things.

While I write out these meal plans, I always allow for flexibility. Something may come up during the week that I decide needs a quicker or simpler meal than what is originally written in the space. Therefore, I just switch them out to make it work for our family. Or maybe I just don’t feel like eating what I wrote down in the space and decide to switch it with something from another day. No big deal. When learning how to meal plan, you want to do what works for your family.

The other option you can do with both the printable monthly meal plan and weekly meal plan is to print out a blank copy, and leave the dates blank. You would then proceed to fill out the squares with your meal ideas. The benefit of doing it this way is that when you are done with the meal plan, you can put it in a binder. After you’ve done this a dozen or so times you can easily go to your binder with all your meal plans and just pull one out instead of writing a new one. You could even divide it by seasons so that your menus would be full of meal ideas that are perfect for the weather.

Learning how to meal plan is something that can benefit anyone. Whether you are a single person or have a huge family, it will take the guesswork out of what you are making for dinner every night. And let’s not forget to mention that you can post the menu on the fridge and instead of your little munchkins asking you 7 times a day what is for dinner that night, they can just go look at the menu schedule.

Don’t forget to get your free blank monthly printable to start your own menu plan, or the kitchen printables pack with the weekly meal planner along with a few other templates to help you stay organized in the kitchen and to save money.

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