Creating a weekly meal plan will save you so much time! Learn some great tips to develop a meal plan for your family to save time and money each week. Plus download your free printable menu planner to make planning simple.

photo of completed meal planner on a clipboard with a glass of mint tea.

I’ve always made a meal plan each week, starting when I was 19 and in my first apartment in college. Honestly, I never realized other people didn’t meal plan until a friend commented on how organized I was.

And then I was kind of shocked!

I mean, how do you know what to buy at the grocery store if you don’t have a meal plan?! And who wants to go (or has time to go) to the grocery store every single day?

It’s SO. MUCH. EASIER. to make a plan for the week. Then use the plan to make a grocery list. Save yourself time and money by only going to the grocery store once a week.

Let’s make YOUR life simple and get dinner on the table!

You can download our weekly menu planner from our subscriber printable library by clicking here or on the button below to sign up.

  Click Here to Access Your Free Printable!

Getting started with Meal Planning

There are so many different ways to go about planning your meals for the week! Some people like to plan every meal and snack. Personally, I prefer a little more flexibility.

photo of meal planner printable on a clipboard with a coffee cup and open cookbook.

I like to go into greater detail planning for dinner. It helps me if I plan the main dish, and the sides to go with it. The more I’ve got planned, the less I need to think during the busiest part of my day!

Close up photo of printable meal planner showing main dish section

Breakfasts, lunches, and snacks are based on how I’m feeling that day. After all, you never know how hungry you may be! Or when a craving might strike. 😉

Close up photo of printable meal planner showing breakfast, lunch, and snack section

Simply keep certain foods that you use regularly stocked in the pantry and fridge every week and replenish them when you run out. 

Some of my staples are almond milk, Greek yogurt, eggs, cottage cheese, uncured deli meat, sliced cheese, berries, frozen fruit, frozen okra, sprouted bread, and Wasa crackers. Plus, leftovers for lunch happen a LOT!

photo of the meal planner printable styled with fresh vegetables

  Click Here to Access Your Free Printable!

Three Meal Plan Methods

1. A Standard Rotation

During the busy school year, I started using a meal plan method where each day of the week was always a certain kind of food. It went like this:

  • Monday – Mexican
  • Tuesday – Instant Pot or Slow Cooker
  • Wednesday – Sandwiches
  • Thursday – Soup and/or Salad
  • Friday – Italian or Out
  • Saturday – Casserole/Skillet Meal or Out
  • Sunday – Leftovers

Sundays are always leftovers (or as I like to call them: The Week’s Greatest Hits!). Why Sunday? Because it lets me clean out the fridge on garbage night. Plus it makes room for fresh groceries on Monday when I do my grocery shopping.

This method helps take some of the guesswork out of meal planning. After all, sometimes just deciding what to put on the plan can feel overwhelming! Set types of meals for each day of the week helps you quickly narrow down your choices. 

2. Family Choice Meal Plan

During the summer I love using a more flexible meal plan style where my family is more involved. We have five family members so at dinner on Sunday I ask them to each give me one dinner request for the week. Add in leftovers one night and I only need to plan one more meal. Talk about easy!

My kids are also old enough to start preparing dinners. During the summer I let them take turns preparing dinner too. After all, at some point in the not too distant future, they’re going to need to know how to feed themselves!

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3. Free Form Meal Planning

This type of meal planning is exactly how it sounds: free form. You pull out cookbooks and/or Pinterest and pick meals and sides that appeal to you. This is how I did my meal plans for years. 

If you’re in the need for some new meal inspiration, check out our Pinterest boards! We’ve put “Recipe” in front of the name of all our food boards so you can easily find them grouped together alphabetically.

Flexibility in your Meal Plan

Over the years, I’ve learned my meal plans don’t always go EXACTLY the way I write them down. Life happens, right? Sometimes plans need to change.

photo of completed meal planner on a clipboard with a glass of mint tea.

Even though I shop for specific meals, sometimes I switch what I’m making.🤷‍♀️  You can read about how that led to me creating a brand new recipe here: Mongolian Beef Egg Roll in a Bowl. It’s also easy to swap meals to a different day. But some nights, life just gets crazy and we end up eating out. 

If we end up eating out, I move the meals that I bought ingredients for and didn’t prepare to the beginning of the next week’s plan. It just makes planning for the next week easier, in the long run, right?

  Click Here to Access Your Free Printable!

Save your Meal Plans!

If you haven’t planned meals before, I know it may sound a little overwhelming at first. One thing that can make your life super easy is to save your meal plans each week. Put them in a binder and store the binder with your recipe books.

You can always pull out an old meal plan and use it again a few weeks (or months, or years) later! How’s that for making life simple?

Once you’ve been meal planning for a year, you could just use the same plans for years to come!

A Printable Weekly Menu Planner

Meal planner styled with a pen and decorative orbs

Our printable weekly menu planner helps you plan your week. And if you follow Trim Healthy Mama, there’s a spot to track what type of meal it is. We’ve even included a grocery list section so you can jot down what you need to make the meals you have planned!

Close up photo of printable meal planner showing completed grocery list section

Let’s beat that 5 o’clock scramble together and get dinner on your table more easily!

You can download our weekly menu planner from our subscriber printable library by clicking here or on the button below to sign up.

  Click Here to Access Your Free Printable!

Do you have any meal planning tips or tricks? Share them with us and our readers in the comments section! We love being inspired by you. ❤

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8 Comments on How to Meal Plan: Three Ways

    • Same! I actually do my meal planning in a notebook now so it’s really easy to flip back and get old plans. And we’re the same way: find a new recipe that the family loves, make it often, get sick of it and move on to newer recipes and forget the first one. It’s great to re-discover some of our old favorites this way!

  1. 3 weeks ago I followed a meal plan and loved it. Last week and this week I didn’t do it and have hated it. So, next week I will be planning my meals and taking the guesswork out! Your printable sheet will be awesome to help me. Thank you!!

    • You are very welcome! Anne did this printable and I really need to use it too. She’s so much better than I am at meal planning. But when I do sit down and plan it out I feel more accomplished. -AnnMarie

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