Today I’m going to be sharing how I quickly meal plan one week at a time for my family of four. I’ll also be sharing the printable menu plan I made to stay organized and focused throughout the week.
I am by no means an expert at meal planning. But, I have found a system that works for me and my busy family. Hopefully a glimpse into my meal and menu planning process can help you find a meal plan that will work for you.
Why I Meal Plan for a Week (and Not a Month)
I like to keep my meal planning simple. One way to simplify meal planning is to plan seven days at a time.
Reason #1: Fresher Food
We don’t shop at Costco or in bulk because our grocery store is actually relatively inexpensive and we don’t have a ton of storage space. But, the tradeoff is the food has a shorter lifespan. Breaking the shopping up into weekly chunks helps us to buy fresher food and waste far less. We only buy what we’ll actually use that week.
Reason #2: Shorter Shops
We have a 4-year-old-boy. He starts kindergarten next fall. Enough said.
Reason #3: Simpler is Always Better
Coming up with 30 dinners for a massive Costco shop may work for some families, but not ours. Having a short list of meals and knowing we don’t have to plan out a massive shop takes the stress out of shopping. It helps to keep us on track during the week.
How I Plan Our Shop…
Every Saturday morning, I take about an hour to plan out our meals and grocery list for the week.
I make myself a cup of coffee, grab my computer, and go to work planning with my notebook and DIY meal chart I designed.
My weekly meal plan goes like this:
- Three easy “go-to” meals
- One frozen “rescue” dinner
- Three new meals
In each week’s menu, I include three meals that are easy family favorites. If I choose too many meals for the week that are experimental or too complicated, I find that I run out of time in the evenings, and the hubby ends up picking something up for us on his way home from work.
So, I stick to a few go-to favorites each week like spaghetti, tacos and chicken tortilla soup.
Next, I always include one frozen meal. This is our “rescue meal”. Without fail, there’s always one day during the week where something comes up and I need a meal that I can just pop into the oven. Think Chick-fil-A style chicken sandwiches or fish & chips.
For the remaining three days of the week, I like to try something new. My main source for new meal ideas is Pinterest.
The first meal I’ll always search for is a crockpot recipe. These are great for nights when we have soccer practice or theatre, and don’t want to eat out.
Next I’ll search for “family dinner ideas”. I look for two more meals that look yummy and somewhat simple. It was seriously so simple and was a huge hit!
Once I write out the ingredients for each new meal, I save the recipes to a Pinterest board named “Dinner Ideas”.
This is a temporary board designated for only new dinners for the current week.That way, the recipes are easy for me to find.
At the end of the week, if we really liked one of the meals, I’ll move it over to my Pinterest board labeled “dinner favorites”. Now this new meal will make its way into one of our three go-to meals in the future.
Once I have my meal ingredients and other grocery items written out, I rewrite them in order of my grocery store.
Some might think this is unnecessary. This step is seriously so important because it helps to get me in and out out of the grocery store as quickly as possible. Plus, having my list oriented in order helps to keep me focused and prevent impulse purchases.
Post That Meal Plan!
After creating my shopping list, I write out my meals on my the meal planning chart I designed, and hang it on the refrigerator.
I use this chart to plan out which days we will be eating what meal. This chart is great not only because it allows everyone to know what to expect for dinner, but my husband can jump right in and figure out how to help if he gets home before me.
I also, love the flexibility of this chart! I designed it to be used with a dry erase marker so if something needs to be adjusted during the week, it’s no big deal. Plus, I can use the chart week after week (just like the kids’ morning routine charts).
How to make a DIY meal planning chart
If you would like to create your own DIY meal planning chart, assembly is easy! Start by downloading my FREE printable PDF meal planning chart below.
DIY Meal planning chart Instructions
- For best results, print the PDF on bright white cardstock
- Cut and insert chart into 5×7 frame. I found mine at the Dollar Tree. I also, took the project a step further and spray painted my frame white to coordinate with my kitchen.
- Glue small magnets to the back of the frame. The great thing about dollar tree frames is that the “glass” is actually plastic, making the frame much lighter than a standard frame.
- To keep your dry erase marker handy, I use a small strip of Velco and attach it to the frame.
Download your Free Printable Here
Well, I hope you found my meal planning techniques helpful. Meal planning is so important for families, and I know my meal plan chart will really help you to stick to your weekly plan!
I love this! I like your Pinterest board ideas! It’s just my husband and I, but we’ve been saying since we got married (3 1/2 years ago) we should meal plan each week. Well, just this past weekend I finally tried it! We have a chalk board in the kitchen so I wrote out 5 meals (1 was frozen!) for the week. Now I have something to follow, instead of staring at the pantry wondering what I should make each night. Thanks for sharing!
Julie Swansen says
Hi Samantha! A chalkboard is a great idea and so smart to add one frozen meal. It really does come in handy, plus there are some pretty good options out there for frozen meals. We really like the Stouffer’s Lasagnas. Good luck with your meal planning and thank you so much for reading!!