Sweet Pea’s Side Dish: Weekly Meal Planning

Welcome to the sixth edition of “Sweet Pea’s Side Dish”, where once a week I share with you what’s going on in my life besides food. This is a place to share with you what is going on in my life, baby stuff, our traveling adventures, and whatever else I feel like rambling on about that week. This week I want to share with you my Weekly Meal Planning tips and tricks and how planning your meals can save you time, money and stress.

Weekly Meal Plan

There are two types of people in the world: those who plan and those who wing it. For the longest time I was one of those people that would never plan our meals for the week, I would just wing it, going to the grocery store multiple times in a week. I’d usually just pick whatever looked good only to come home with nothing to cook for dinner. My refrigerator was always packed so full and I would always end up throwing out groceries that had spoiled simply because I had forgotten about them.

Weekly Menu Planning  

Cooking at home during the week can be extremely difficult if you don’t have a plan, that’s why I like to sit down every Sunday morning  and plan out our meals for the week. I usually choose five meals that are staples in our house, tried and true recipes that I know everyone will love. For the remaining meals I go through cookbooks, magazines, and my Pinterest boards to find 1-2 new recipes to add into the rotation. I also check out the local grocery ads and try to plan around sales in order to save a little bit of money. Not only does planning out the weekly menu ensure that you are going to have a home cooked meal (instead of quick run to a fast food joint because you didn’t plan) it also has the added benefit of saving time, money and your sanity!

Weekly Meal Planning

The first thing I do before I plan my meals for the week is go through our pantry and refrigerator and make a list of perishables that need to be consumed. Then as I am writing down the recipes for the week I can incorporate those perishables into our menu so that I don’t end up throwing anything out. While I’m writing down the menu I keep a separate list of ingredients that I might need to pick up at the grocery store. I then look through our pantry, freezer and refrigerator to see if we have the ingredients or if I need to pick them up. I keep an updated list of all the items in our chest freezer so that I don’t end up buying an unneeded pack of chicken or ground beef while at the grocery store. By writing down a grocery list of only what I need for the menu plans, I can stay focused at the grocery store and only buy what we need.

Weekly Meal Plan

Our Weekly Meal Plan is pretty straightforward, it includes what’s on the menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. One day of the week we plan on going out to eat and another day we have our weekly Xena Night with friends, if we are not hosting Xena Night for that week that only leaves us five dinners to plan. After writing out our Week Meal Plan, I place it on the refrigerator so that there is no question as to what to eat for each meal.

Weekly Meal Plan

Listed below is an empty Weekly Meal Plan. Print it off and add your own dates and recipes.

Weekly Meal Plan Template

Do you plan your menu for the week? Do you have any tips or tricks that make for a better weekly meal plan?

7 Responses to “Sweet Pea’s Side Dish: Weekly Meal Planning”

  1. #
    Heather Busig — February 10, 2014 @ 9:29 am

    I plan a menu for my family every week as well. I have 3 children who have become super involved and we eat at home almost every night of the week in spite of having scheduled activities anywhere from 3-5 nights per week and most weekends as well. I would add a few suggestions.

    I try to schedule dishes with more perishable ingredients earlier in the week so that I can be sure that ingredients don’t go bad before I cook.

    I keep my grocery list on my smartphone with the Wunderlist app. This way, I can add something to the list as soon as I know we are out (such as baking powder), without worrying about losing my list.

    I try to leave at least one meal that can easily be expanded to accommodate more people and I almost always plan to use left over suppers for lunches.

    I try to get my 3 kids involved in meal planning and prep. This has made them much more willing to try new things and all of them have pretty good kitchen skills for their ages (13, 11, 10).

    Finally, for 1 week every 1-2 months, we have “Survivor week.” We try to use up stuff in the freezer, refrigerator and pantry without much shopping, aside from milk, eggs, bread and fruit.

    I don’t often actually plan breakfasts and lunches, but need to start doing that more consistantly. Thanks for the post! It’s always good to see how other people make it work!

  2. #
    Jennifer — February 10, 2014 @ 12:24 pm

    I’m a menu maker as well. I’m a Weight Watchers member, and it helps me stay on plan. It’s so much easier to stay focused when you know what you’re eating every meal. I’m also single, so it helps me make certain that I am choosing meals that will use my perishables. If I’m buying peppers for one recipe, I know that Tex Mex Chicken Salad is going on the menu for lunch that week and veggies with hummus is being added to the snack column. Using this method, I’m able to keep my groceries under $60 a week and my weight loss goals on track.

  3. #
    Pamela @ Brooklyn Farm Girl — February 10, 2014 @ 12:50 pm

    I always want to make a dinner menu and I try really hard but I usually never stick with it. I always love reading about others who can create these plans! Maybe one day…

  4. #
    sarah k @ the pajama chef — February 10, 2014 @ 5:17 pm

    I love meal planning! it keeps me on track. :) i don’t really meal plan breakfast and lunch, but i should.

  5. #
    Lisa — February 10, 2014 @ 5:31 pm

    I’m a meal planner too. I LOVE grocery shopping! I make my meal plan on Thursday night since I have Fridays off work. I found the cutest magnetic notepad at Target with the days of the week. Breakfast is either smoothies, oatmeal, or cereal. Lunch is leftovers usually.

  6. #
    Maria M — February 10, 2014 @ 10:15 pm

    I used to wing it, too, but like you, I got tired of perishables going bad or buying things I already had. A few months ago at an office supply store, I found a 7-day chart that I posted on my kitchen wall. I write our dinner plans on it with an erasable marker (love the erasability b/c I change the plans often), and it keeps me a bit more focused. When I see something that needs to be used up, I jot down a meal idea on the calendar. It really has helped me to use our foods more productively. We also chop a huge salad loaded with healthy goodies that we use throughout the week for both lunches and dinner. That’s a huge timesaver! Thanks for sharing your method. Love seeing how others handle meal planning.

  7. #
    Laura Dembowski — February 15, 2014 @ 11:26 am

    I’m a huge planner when it comes to everything, especially meals. I also love having extras like eggs and vegetables on hand. That way when my big idea of some fancy dinner goes wrong, I have a backup I can easily rely on.

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