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Weekly Meal Planner Hall Of Fame: How Readers Plan Their Family Meals

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Below you'll find the weekly meal planner hall of fame, where I've gathered ideas from readers who have shared how they plan their family meals each week.

healthy meal planning challenge
You may be wondering why its even important to plan meals. Well, the short answer is that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

It may not be quite that harsh when it comes to meal planning, but if you don't plan what you'll eat with your family each day you will either not eat as well as you could, or it will take you way too much time to prepare meals each day.

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.

Lots of real life ideas for how to make a weekly meal plan for your household {on Home Storage Solutions 101}use this Pin it button to save to Pinterest

Top photo courtesy of LizMarie_AK

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Using Menu Cards For My Weekly Meal Planner

by Debra Wyza

Close up of two cards; meal. Notice the week A marked in the top corner

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!

Debra says:

I started this system a little over a year ago and it's worked really REALLY well for my family. 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.

For example, this week I will feed my family of 3 humans, 1 dog and 1 cat for less than $30. 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.

1. 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.

2. 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. Even the small ones, like needing butter for grilled cheese or salt for mac&cheese.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. Each day, pick one meal from that week's cards. 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. Or if we don't feel like spaghetti, that's ok we can pick the mac & cheese with fish. 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. I'm going to try this myself. Thanks so much for sharing!

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Meal Plan Using Post It Notes

Use post it notes as a weekly meal planner in your kitchen on a cabinet door {featured on Home Storage Solutions 101}use this Pin it button to save to Pinterest

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."

Taylor's Review Of The Eat At Home Meal Plans

If you struggle to make menu plans and would love for someone to make them for you, plus make a grocery list for you, it’s well worth spending a few dollars every week to let Eat at Home do the work for you.

Check out my review of the Eat at Home meal plans here, and why it's one of my favorite family meal planning services.

Taylor's review of Eat At Home meal plans

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Mini Clipboard To Hold & Display Meal Planning Sheet For Week

Jennifer from Life of Reilly shared how she displays her meal plan for the week.

Menu board ideas for your home
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."

Using a form that you fill out each week when you're meal planning can be quite helpful. 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?" here in our house.

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.

You can get the free printables in this site here:

meal planner template
Weekly Meal Planner Template
menu planner template
Menu Planner Form + Grocery List

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Use A Printed Version Of Family's Calendar To Plan Around Family's Schedule

Megan from Life of the Lorenzens shared how she plans her meals.

family calendars hall of fame
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."

Megan is a prime example of someone who combines meal planning with other activities we've also done in the 52 Week Organized Home Challenge already, because as she plans meals she also clips coupons and makes her plan based on what items are currently on sale for the week.

She also explained: "Meals are penciled in to allow for flexibility within the schedule."

I think planning which still leaves flexibility is key, because life happens. 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!"

Meal planning using a custom spreadsheet on the computer {featured on Home Storage Solutions 101}

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I Meal Plan A Month At A Time & Now We Spend Way Less On Groceries

Anna B. wrote in to explain her monthly meal planning system. 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 spent way less money on groceries, it's astonishing. We save about 200 USD a month since we started meal planning!

I got my meal planner from because it has nice colors. 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."

Similarly, another reader, Maureen, sent in a photo of her monthly meal plan that she keeps in a spiral bound calendar.

You can use a spiral bound calendar to plan your family's meals a month at a time {featured on Home Storage Solutions 101}

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We Use A Google Calendar & Plan In Six Week Cycles Corresponding To Husband's Shift Schedule

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. so we decided to set up a menu plan google calendar.

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.) and it's done in no time.

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.

On the google calendar you can tell it to repeat an event every 6 weeks so my whole year (& beyond!) is already done!

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.

Plan your meals using a simple note in Evernote, and then share with your family {featured on Home Storage Solutions 101}

Top photo courtesy of googlisti

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Electronic Calendar Planning Can Keep Recipes Right With Your Plan

Plan your meals using an electronic calendar, like iCalendar, and keep the URLs to the recipes you'll use right with your meal plan {featured on Home Storage Solutions 101}

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. If I will be using an online recipe I add the URL so I can click on it that day."

That's a great way to keep your recipes and meal plan right at your fingertips, isn't it?

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I Keep A Couple 12 Week Lists Of Recipes For Seasonal Rotation

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.

menu planning ideas form
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.

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.

Meal planning doesn't have to be fancy, it just needs to get the job done! You can use a spiral bound notebook for planning your grocery list and meals for the week, and then reuse it for a rotation of meals.

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!

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I Use A Subscription Service To Make Meal Planning Decisions For Me

Real life ideas for weekly meal planning {featured on Home Storage Solutions 101}use this Pin it button to save to Pinterest

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!"

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Planning My Family's Meals With A Weekly Meal Planner Worksheet

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 write the dish under the day and check what "extra/special" ingredients are needed. I use the list all the time but my goal this school year is to consistently follow the menu!!"

Meal planning worksheets can help you stay organized with your family's menu plan {featured on Home Storage Solutions 101}

In addition, here's another form used by a reader, Leigh. 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."

Meal planning worksheet for weekly menu planning {featured on Home Storage Solutions 101}

Are You Inspired To Get Organized Now?

organized home challenge
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.

I'd encourage you to read the steps in the Healthy Meal Planning And Grocery Shopping List Challenge, and then tackle meal planning yourself.

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!

Cook Great Meals In Less Time With An Instant Pot: Free Course To Learn How

Do you have an Instant Pot hiding in your cabinet? Want to learn how to use it? Sign up for Instant Pot School! It's free, and it will help you put that time-saver to work!

Learn more about this free course, and why I'm recommending it in my article all about Instant Pot School.

Taylor's review of free Instant Pot School course

Lots of real life ideas for how to make a weekly meal plan for your household {on Home Storage Solutions 101}use this Pin it button to save to Pinterest

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.

Related Pages You May Enjoy

How To Make A Grocery List That Works: Hall of Fame

Printable Weekly Dinner Menu With Premade Grocery List Sample

Free Printable Grocery List Form

Go From Weekly Meal Planner Hall of Fame To Home Page

Comments for Planning My Family's Meals With A Weekly Meal Planner Worksheet

Click here to add your own comments

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!

best things ever
by: Anne Marie

I have done this for years and count this as the best thing a busy family can do.

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.

rotating plan now
by: Stephanie

I did a month to month one year and now I have a rotating yearly menu. With some variations when I make new recipes.

weekly menu with 1 easy simple quick meal at least
by: Lorie

I do a weekly menu, as I learned from my mom and grandma. I have a 3 ring binder with all of our favorite and new recipes (that I either print or tear out from a magazine) organized by salad, soup/stew, chicken, beef, etc. 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.

Pinterest helps me plan
by: Melissa

I plan out my weekly menu on Saturdays and shop Sunday after church (we only have one car and the hubby works 6 days a week right now). I use Pinterest as my cookbook!

I have a private board that I put that week's meals into to keep myself better organized. I then write up the menu for the week and post it on my fridge.

This eliminates the "what's for dinner?" I get daily x's 3. It also helps me remember if I need to pull something out of the freezer to thaw. I've forgotten in the past and it ends up expensive.

I plan an easy meal, a "hubby" meal and a breakfast dinner (usually the hubby dinner) into each week.

I always have some meal musts
by: Susan

One thing that I've started doing is I have 3 meal musts each week - 1 breakfast, 1 meatless, and 1 fish. This helps to narrow my choices of what to make. If I didn't have a gluten issue and diabetic to content with, I'd add a pasta night. One thing I do every few years is sit down and ask the family what their favorite meals, sandwiches, soups, salads and desserts are - then I make sure they get into rotation. Since our household has had to make a few dietary changes - diabetic, cancer-recovery, gluten-free, vegetarian and still satisfy a teenage boy - I am currently in the process of revamping my entire recipe collection.

saves so much money
by: Carrie

I've been meal planning for years! It saves SO much money! I never have to draw a blank because I get my teen involved and have her help come up with meals. I come up with 5 meals a week and I let her decide in the other 2 days. She's just now getting interested in the shopping aspect.

2 week planning
by: Jean

I have made a decorative plan of my own for a 2 week period by using the menu planner under glass in a picture frame. I then write my menus with dry erase markers. But your comment about looking back over old plans for inspiration gave me this idea - take pictures of the completed plans and keep then on my phone! Thanks.

how I plan
by: Kimberly

I plan on Sundays by pulling everything out of the fridge/freezer and pantry. (Except staples...I only pull out things that can expire quickly) and I piece together meals out of what's there. Then I only add to my shopping list things I need to make complete meals. Example: today I had a little less than a lb. of hamburger from the other days meatloaf, a few mushrooms, peppers, and half a pack of tortillas. So I will use that and have one night be Mexican and I only need chicken broth to make Mexican rice so that's the only thing on my list for that nights dinner I had a lb of dried beans, so il buy a ham hock and one night will be soup beans and cornbread. (Great cause i can mash and make refried beans for that Mexican night) I will make honey mustard dressing out of a half container of Greek yogurt for salads this week....all left over veggies I will chop and put into Masson jars along with a head of lettuce I'll buy to have salads to-go for my lunch at work. I have a bag of Fritos that I will use with chili out of the freezer I made a few weeks back to make petros. And a full bag of potatoes that are looking close to going bad so I'll make hash browns to freeze with those and baked potatoes I'll put with fish I'll buy this week. Then we always eat out one night so I do nothing for that day!! I love doing it that way because I might spend $50 at the store this week

what I do before I start planning meals
by: Dorene

Before I even start meal planning (kinda fell off that bandwagon more than once) I write on the calendar what we eat every day for about 2 weeks. That gives me something to work with when I do start planning in advance. It also encourages me to cook more in that 2 weeks because I don't want to see a bunch of take out meals written out. lol

comment re my menu planning ideas form
by: Jenifer

You could take this one step further and have several recipes for different types of meat or protein so that when something goes on sale, you know what to do with it. This works especially well for ground beef or chicken breast. For instance, you could buy 3 lbs. of ground beef, brown the entire thing on Day 1, then split it into 3 equal portions. Put two portions in fridge or freezer, on Day 1 make spaghetti, Day 2 sloppy joes (bonus--mix left over spaghetti sauce a bit thicker using more meat & add some BBQ sauce for super easy sloppy joes. Perfect for a 10-12 year old to take a turn making dinner), and on Day 3 make tacos. What about when nothing seems to be on sale? Soup & sandwiches, couscous & black beans sprinkled with feta, vegetarian pizza using refrigerrated biscuit dough, and topping with lots of healthy veggies.

what I do
by: Linda

I look through the sale ads for where I shop for that week and then my family favorite recipes. I also look for new recipes we would like to try. I cook that meal and one for the freezer so we always have choices no matter how busy we are.

making meal plans ahead of time
by: Kristin

We sat down as a family and made an excel spreadsheet with ideas on it. The categories are: breakfast, snacks, weekend lunches, breads, desserts, lunch sides. Then main dishes are: soups, chicken, beef, pasta/italian, mexican, pork, quick & easy. Then I made 2 week plans out of the list. Next I want to make seasonal plans and add the side dishes in. (4 helping of lasagna is GOOD but not a balanced meal.....)

way to keep kids from complaining about the dinner choices
by: Nicole

I don't know about anyone else, but I always get complaints about what I'm making from at least one person in the family. So I started a new routine-each person in the family gets a turn to pick dinner through the week. I will make whatever they want, but the catch is they can't complain about someone else's choice. Has been working pretty well!

Key questions I ask when meal planning
by: Anonymous

1. What do we have on hand?
2. How many meals at home and away am I planning?
3. Which evenings need to involve quick dinners?
4. What is on sale?
5. For which items can I print and download coupons?

In the past I used a spiral notebook, like Barb. These days, I use a sheet of paper just after my weekly calendar in my planner.

online grocery deliverey
by: Carly h

Just me and my hubby to feed. But living with chronic pain, working is just about all I can manage. In Australia I have the ability to shop for my groceries online. They get delivered for a small fee, they collect items from the aisles, then deliver them and bring them into our kitchen at a time slot I choose. I have 3 weeks worth of shopping lists set up with everything I could possibly need for that weeks meals. Plus I have a basic list ready for all the non meal related items. I rotate my meal plans around every three weeks and am working on a fourth. I shop fortnightly and only buy fresh ingredients on the way home from work. This has been a godsend!

Cozi Meal Planner
by: Amber

Last year I discovered the free online app/website called COZI ( which along with a family calendar and to-do lists, it also has a menu planner, recipe box and shopping lists. You can download any recipe into the recipe "box", assign it to a day and it will even import the ingredients into your shopping list. I don't know what I did without it! Highly recommend it!

I'm new to this, and it's hard
by: Anonymous

I'm new to menu planning. It been hard. I just don't have big recipe list. Any suggestions?

Picky eaters
by: Saula

Ok I am need of help, with going through a separation and some children returning home to their own country I am no longer cooking for a family of 7 but now a family of 3, of which all three of us are extremely picky eaters, meaning that my 17 year old son will only eat corn, my 21 year old special needs daughter will only eat green beans, my daughter has textures issues but lives on any type of pasta plain or dressed doesn't matter. The only meat that the three of us CAN eat is very dry white meat chicken breast, if it's moist we can't stomach it. Neither of them eat any type of potatoes and I could go on and on. Does anyone have suggestions on how i can do a meal planning with our eating issues? Thanks for the help.

Just started planning
by: 4boysak

I've just started meal planning as I've started back to work after 13 years. I look at what I have in the freezer before planning. I have to have at least one crockpot meal on Tuesdays, so I start there. I get input from my 4 boys so I can be sure there's at least one meal a week that everyone likes (not always the same meal, though!). I usually designate one meal later in the week as leftovers.

I simply use a small white board on the fridge to write my menu. My method isn't fancy, but it works for us so far.

Also, since it's pretty much a guarantee that SOMEONE won't like one of the planned meals my kids each have a "get out of dinner free" card they can turn in and have something else (of their own making). The white board menu is great for this, as they can see the week's meals.

meal cards
by: Micki King

I like the card idea for menus. It is working well with my "Tickler file".

Using ingredients on hand
by: Shandry

I was inspired by these meal planning ideas. I checked my pantry, freezer, and refrigerator for meal ideas. Easily came up with 30 dinner meals. Enough lunch and breakfast meals for 30 days. Only had to purchase 2 cans of cream of chicken soup and 4 more cans of chicken broth to complete ingredients needed. My husband does lots of the cooking but says he needs suggestions. He now has them and is very pleased. Will only need to pick up fresh bread, fruits, and milk for the next month. I did point out we could actually make the bread as we have flour, shortening, and yeast. Meal planning complete for the month.

reply to Shandry re using items you already have
by: Taylor

Sounds great Shandry. You basically did your own Eat From The Pantry & Freezer Challenge like the one I run here on the site twice a year! Great job!

Love Your Ideas
by: czarinakat

I love this idea! Many years ago (when I still cooked every night!) I had worked out a very basic schedule so that I didn't have to rack my brain over what to make. On Sundays I would make a roast (or meatloaf) that could be used for leftovers on Tuesday. Monday was some kind of chicken, or a meatless meal if the roast on Sunday had been chicken. Wednesday was always something with pasta and tomato sauce (including American Chop Suey). Thursday was pork or ham. For us Fridays and Saturdays were flexible, but many times hot dogs, beans, and brown bread were our Saturday night meal (an old New England tradition). I would use this formula to fill in a monthly calendar, using my stand-by recipes and any new ones I wanted to try. Then I could see what we had had recently and what had worked well when I tried a new recipe. I kept the monthly calendars and sometimes used the whole month all over again. I never thought of putting ingredients on the back of the calendar for my grocery list. A brilliant idea, Debra, and a great system that I would have enjoyed trying.

Love this!
by: Rachael

I am going to try this! Thank you so much for posting!

Smart Idea
by: Lisa Marie

Planning a month's meals in advance allows for wide variety of meals, as well as the opportunity to repeat favorites as often as you like. I'll really consider switching from a weekly format to a monthly format like this one.

Card idea is great
by: LT

I love to be organized and I like this card system a lot. My kids are all grown now and my youngest is about to leave home. My husband never cares what we have for dinner and is very agreeable so this system will allow him to make some choices when he chooses some cards to put in the pot. I think I will set my printer to index card size and print front and back because I like it neat and my handwriting is not.

we don't assign each meal a day
by: Andrea

Rather than assign each meal to a day, we make a list of 10-12 meals we would like to have. Then create a shopping list to go with the menu. Each day we choose what we want to eat and cross it off the list.

This way we can try new recipes and include our favorites, control the shopping list, and use what is in the house, which cuts way down on waste.

Post-it Notes
by: Bernetta

Using post-it notes on a cabinet door is a great and easy to alter weekly planning board. I think I will try that!

How I use my tickler file
by: Kim

I made a tickler file (for free - I already had everything I needed!). Then I made a list of all the meals my family likes, divided into sections - a list of Mexican meals, a list of Crock Pot meals, a list of Italian meals, etc. That helps with the variety - I try to pick one from each category each week. I plan from Monday thru Sunday, so I don't have to worry about Sunday dinner. That list goes into my (wonderful!) tickler file each Saturday. Makes it so easy and convenient to set the week's meals (on a small magnetic whiteboard attached to the fridge), that I actually DO it! It also reminds me to take inventory BEFORE I go to the store - I've saved quite a it of money in not buying duplicates. Thank you for all your wonderful tips, especially on ways to motivate myself!

Post it
by: Adrienne

I love this post it idea, as I do plans for other people, I use the post it idea with the card idea, so that I can re-use the 'post-it' card. I have laminated the card and then I pin them to a board. It works really well.

menu cards idea - I love it!
by: Cathy

This is an awesome idea and it puts structure into my kitchen. Without structure I am lost.

Huge thank you
by: Anonymous

Thank you so much for the ideas! I am a single person working to become a foster parent so in the next month my family will be going from 1 to 3. And I know I need to start meal planning and you've given me some great options.

love the card system
by: Mrs. Talbot

I spend a lot of time cooking and menu planning. I love the simplicity of this idea once you have set up the card system. Will give it a go. Thanks for sharing.

Protein, Carb, Fat chart
by: AJ

Thank you for the great meal planning ideas. I stink at this.I have started for many years with no success. Today I am using a simple Protein, Carb, Fat chart that I pluck our favorite foods from on a weekly basis. I add a veggie and call it dinner. I feel good about covering the important nutrients. I use weekends to cheat or jump out of the box and try new tasty recipes. Thanks again.

Seasonal & Weekly Rotation
by: Anonymous

I created an excel sheet of all dinners using the following categories. Sun. Mexican/Hispanic, Mon. Italian, Tue. Leftovers, Wed. Chicken, Thurs. Beef or Pork, Fri. Dinner Date, Sat. Leftovers or New. I printed it and put it in a plastic sheet for a binder. I just pick which meals we’ll have from this master list and cross off using a dry erase marker. If week is busy I plan easier meals or move a specific dinner to a different day. It’s helpful when cleaning fridge the night before trash day. I know when a particular dinner was made and now I rarely have science projects growing. Some meals I use year round but I use a different excel sheet every 2 months. Changing every 2 months allows me to change dinners so we don’t get tired of them. Summer we’ll grill more and winter we’ll have more soups. Since I’ve started doing this we have more variety, save money and husband can’t complain since I ask every week if there is something he really wants. He also knows to expect a new recipe on Sat. or he’s welcome to leftovers. I love to cook and have organized my Pinterest boards in this manner as well. I put my grocery list together after planning meals and looking through my pantry. I know most of my meal ingredients by heart at this point and I stockpile with coupons and sales. Most of the time I just need produce, dairy and new recipe ingredient items. I feed my family of 3 and can donate items to my local food pantry on a $50 grocery budget per week. If I don’t use my full $50 for the week it gets rolled over to next weeks budget. That allows me to take advantage of great sales when they pop up. I used to hate planning meals before I started doing this and we used to eat a lot more processed foods. I’ve now stated to build breakfast, lunch and snacks sheets. I started with dinner first since I found that to be the most difficult to satisfy everyone. My budget already includes there’s items I just need to get a better game plan together .

Meal Planning
by: Susan

I use a 6 hole binder, with a week on one page.
I place a piece of paper between two weeks
My list is written in the order as I walk the aisle.
(Deli meat is at the end of the pasta/rice aisle but before canned goods)
This cuts down on the time spent in the supermarket and allows me to miss large chunks of aisles without forgetting anything.

Items are added during the week, as I use up items, ie mayo jar nearly empty.
Once I have shopping for two weeks, i just throw the shopping list away and keep the weekly pages to look back on.
We also have no repeat month's (we may have burgers more than once, but it has to be a completely different recipe, ie turkey and leek, pork and Apple, Asian flavoured pork)

meal planning using index cards
by: Debra

This was a multistep process, so bare with me.
1. Make a list of your favorite recipes and mark how often you want them in a given month. Keep in mind how often you'll eat out and how often you want to try a new meal.
2. Mark each meal 1, 2, 3, 4 to designate which meals will be on the same week. I kept in mind chicken all one week, so I could just buy chicken and use the same pack of chicken all week, vs buying chicken beef and pork in one week.... It just worked for us.
3. In 3x5 cards write out each meal with a different color for each week. A different card for each meal. Make sure you have at least 7 meals for each week, but I recommend at least 8.
4. On the back of each meal card write down the ingredients you'll need. It makes grocery lists so much easier! And if you have kiddos (or So) helping with meal prep they can get out ingredients for you.
5. Each night of the week you can choose any of those meals. That way if your kid's soccer practice runs over you can cook something quick on the cards, or adjust meals throughout the week depending on what you want that day. Sometimes we just get to dinner time and don't want grilled chicken, we want fish instead. This gives flexibility to a degree.
6. Once a meal has been cooked for the week, rotate that card to the back of the stack. At the end of the week start with the next color - group of meals.
On the "new meal" cards I write what meal we tried on the back. In our house, we try the same meal 2-3 times before deciding if it should be added to the regular line up.

Color coding
by: Anonymous

One trick I like to do when I make my grocery list is to add color. Anything I’m purchasing just as a staple is in black. Each ingredient I need for a particular recipe is in color, different for each recipe. This alerts me if I’ve got all the ingredients. Nothing I hate worse than getting home and finding I’m missing a key ingredient!

index cards
by: Bonnie

My mom had an old index card file. On the front of each card was the meal. On the back was everything she needed to make it. She would simply pull 7 cards and shop for the week. Then the cards would rotate to the back. There were at least 100 meals.

Paprika App does it all
by: Teresa

I use the Paprika App. I store my recipes in it and can download recipes from the internet. I go to recipes I plan to cook and drop them into a menu calendar. I create my shopping list with one touch on each recipe. I can edit or customize as desired. My shopping list is set up to sort each ingredient by aisle in the grocery store. The android version allows me to check off ingredients as I am shopping or look up a recipe. I store recipes, plan menus, and create my shopping list in one app. I love the Paprika App.

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