Let’s Plan Some Meals (+ A Whole Slew of Meal Planning Templates!)

making meal planning fun + meal planning  templates

meal planning templates If you follow me on Instagram you know that I’ve been having a major sweet-tooth lately. There’s something about cold weather and baking that I just love! While I would eat brownies for breakfast everyday I try to resist the urge and instead I’ve been making this amazing blueberry, banana, cinnamon, and walnut baked oatmeal. Also, while I am definitely not even close to being a “foodie” I have been trying to get more into cooking actual meals and not resorting to my go-to’s: eggs and toast, a bowl of cereal, or just eating the other random foods I find in my cupboards.

I’ve found that if I actually make plans on what to eat I not only save money at the grocery store but I make way more creative and healthy meals. I’ve acquired a nice collection of cookbooks (most of which have been given to me as gifts) so a couple of days ago I pulled them all out went through them with a pad of little sticky notes and marked which ones look both tasty and like I might be able to pull off.

I looked for recipes that had common, everyday ingredients. If a recipe called for something exotic (to me) like: farro, pepitas, tarragon or harissa then they were no longer an option. I hate buying uncommon ingredients for recipes and then only using them once, twice, or never again. It just bugs me too much to waste food and money like that.

I started compiling a list of all of the meal ideas organized by type of meal: breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snacks, and sides so I could easily reference them when I started planning our meals. I found that by doing that extra prep work in the beginning it saved lots of time when it came time to do the actual pen-to-paper planning.

Next, I made up some meal plan charts (I’ve provided the links to my 10 meal plan templates for you below). I started by putting the date over the day of the week noting if we had any special events or guests coming into town because that will impact what we want to eat and cook.

I then started filling out what I knew. I know that my husband only wants to drink smoothies for breakfast so there’s no point in planning out breakfasts. For me, recently I’ve really been into making that baked oatmeal that I mentioned above so I make it in the beginning of the week and eat it all week with my coffee.

Then, I started filling in the dinners and made note of which meals we would likely have leftovers from and those would be lunch for the next day. Also, I tried to keep with the same types of ingredients. For example, I’m going to try Sweet Potato Enchiladas on Saturday and Sweet Potato Quesadillas on Sunday. Look at that sweet potato mania!

Initially, my plan was to map out 7 dinners and then I quickly got overwhelmed with that idea since we’re not used to cooking every night so I decided I would start with planning out 3 dinners and see how that goes and gradually work up to planning more meals each week. I also think that once we get some recipes down it will be even easier to plan meals for a longer period of time, like a month out, which would be nice to be able to do eventually.

Here’s what one of my meal plan charts looks like: example meal plan template Below are the Printable Meal Plan Templates. They are all 8″ x 11″. Be sure to print in the landscape setting and draft mode to save money on ink.

 

Do you meal plan? And if so, do have any tips for me? 

Also, I’ll be giving away a copy of Beth Moncel’s new book Budget Bytes: Over 100 Easy, Delicious Recipes to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half next week so be sure to check back about that giveaway!

22 comments

in Food & Recipes, How To

22 Comments

  1. Betsy // February 12, 2014

    You might find that meal planning for 5-6 days is easier than just 3. Once you get rolling, having more meal ideas and ingredients on hand is better for buying groceries and for resisting the temptation to eat out.

    I like to pencil in 2-3 weeks worth of meals at a time on a calendar to keep on the fridge. It’s easy to switch around meals for what I “feel like” making that night, and we usually do a “breakfast for dinner” once a week. I just cross off the meal once we have it. Having it on the fridge is another bonus–my husband likes knowing what we are having and looks forward to a yummy meal at the end of the day, and since he knows what the plan is he often will help out with setting out meat to thaw ahead of time or offering to help cut up veggies.

    Finally, once a new recipe has been approved as a usual favorite, I write down the ingredients that I would have to buy fresh on a half of an index card. I have a whole stack of these cards to spread out on the counter for meal ideas — pick around 14 of my favorites using the weekly sale flyer, what I have left in the pantry, and coupons… And I’m done!

  2. Casey M // February 12, 2014

    Hello Anna! I just recently started weekly meal planning myself, and found that I needed extra squares on my planning sheet for snacks each day. I took an ugly looking super basic boring template I found through Google and added in 2 extra squares per day for “snacks”. I don’t use the “grocery list” part since I make my list on my phone usually, so I used that extra space. Adding in the snacks section makes it easier when I am meal/snack prepping on Sunday, I have a better reference of what I need to prep.
    Just my 2 cents about what helped me! Good luck with your prepping, it really does help!
    I love your templates too, super cute!!

    • Anna Newell Jones // February 13, 2014

      Great idea Casey! I might have to make some modifications to mine;)

  3. Kym // February 12, 2014

    I am obsessed with Budget Bytes! I never cooked because I was intimidated my recipes that called for ingredients I never heard of and I didn’t even know how to begin cooking. Her step by step photos helped me so much!

    • Anna Newell Jones // February 13, 2014

      I love her cookbook! I agree, she makes the recipes completely relatable and easy to follow. She makes me feel like I can tackle any recipe.

  4. andee // February 13, 2014

    The single best thing I ever did to reduce our grocery budget was use cash. I don’t buy things I’m not absolutely sure we’ll use anymore. Yes it is a pain to carry around cash and at first I felt unsafe but it dramatically changed how I spent money at the grocery store. I’m going to have to check out Budget Bytes!

  5. Kate // February 13, 2014

    I think once you have some more meals down you’ll like meal planning for a longer period of time!

    I like to do meals back to back where I can save time & money. For example, I’ll do tacos the first night and cut up and cook up extra ground beef and veggies and then the next night use the leftover ingredients for pizza or a salad or something! It also requires less effort the second night which usually helps me from eating out or being lazy :)

  6. melanie // February 13, 2014

    I don’t do what I consider to be meal planning because it usually turns out that I don’t want to eat whatever I have planned for the week. Instead, I’ll throw something in the crock pot before I leave for work or the night before and I’ll eat that. It’s amazing what you can make in that thing. Also, I eat almost the same thing every morning– an egg casserole that I’ve made the night before. It takes the guess work out of mornings.

    • Anna Newell Jones // March 3, 2014

      Crockpots sound amazing. I had one but put it in storage before I really got into using it and then when we cleared out the storage unit it fell on the ground and busted! D’oh! I haven’t gotten around to replacing it yet. I should get one off of Craigslist and find a few solid vegetarian recipes. Do you have any that you like?

      • Khard10 // April 29, 2014

        I’ll chime in to say that it’s the best budget saver for us, and it doesn’t matter what brand. We have several, and they all work the same!

  7. Carrie // February 17, 2014

    Would love the recipe for your baked oatmeal please!

    • Anna Newell Jones // February 18, 2014

      Hi Carrie, I’ve been making the baked oatmeal recipe from the Super Natural Everyday cookbook. It’s amazing and the recipe is super forgiving. I made a strawberry and apple version because I didn’t have blueberries and it was tasty too but I do have to say that the strawberries might have been a little too moist or something because there was water pooling at the bottom of the pan. The banana base layer has proven to be the best option and then using whatever fruit that is on sale is great for the other fruit in the recipe. Also, it’s easy to eat a ton of the oatmeal so I’m getting into the habit of doubling the recipe.

  8. Jacinta // February 17, 2014

    ZOMG!! You have the budget bytes cookbook!! I just ordered mine on Amazon this morning and I’m so stoked to get it! I’ve been following Beth’s blog for a couple years and freakin’ love it to pieces. My favorite reasonable, normal person food blog, ever.

    • Anna Newell Jones // February 18, 2014

      I got an advance copy so I could review it and do a giveaway;) It’s really great. Totally relatable and easy recipes.

  9. Crystal // February 17, 2014

    We have erratic schedules, so meal planning has become a more general thing. For example, this week we decided to defrost an extra turkey from Thanksgiving and will cook it tomorrow. We have frozen meals and sandwiches to fill in whatever blanks that the turkey, potatoes, and carrots don’t fill up. :-)

  10. Noel // February 23, 2014

    At our house we’ve kind of gotten into a routine. I don’t usually make a grocery list, but rather make a list of items I have available and plan around those. We use a formula that goes like this: I buy 4 meats (fish, chicken, sausage, etc), 4 veggies, 3-4 kinds of what I call “hand fruit” for snacks, and a huge box of salad. I usually have some sort of grain stocked at our house that I’ll restock once a month ish. Every day dinner is a protein, a veggie and a serving of salad, sometimes a grain too. Lunch is leftover protein and veggies over lettuce for a salad. Snacks are fruit or nuts (once in a while I’ll buy trail mix). Breakfast is either oatmeal or fruit. It’s an easy way to eat healthy and not have to worry about planning more elaborate dishes. I use cookbooks for special occasions as buying multiple ingredients for a single dish seems to be more expensive. Just my two cents. It’s such a great system I just had to share.

  11. Vicki // February 25, 2014

    I have a small white board on my fridge and every Sunday I go through and choose recipes for dinners and put them on my board so that each night I know what I’m making for dinner (I eat the leftovers for lunch the next day). I then make a list of ingredients I will need which really helps with my shopping and ensures that everything gets used. In total it takes about a half hour. This way I get good meals, the right ingredients and a balanced budget!

  12. Stephanie // July 28, 2014

    I have been following this web site for a while and am very impressed:

    Don’t waste the crumbs . Com

    Enjoy!

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