Meal Planning Tips and Free Template

meal planning sheet and grocery list free printables

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If you’re reading this, I will assume that you are considering meal planning or just looking for a meal planning template. Either way, welcome! When I originally discovered that people were planning their meals ahead of time, I thought, WHY?! There was something about sitting down and thinking about what I would eat days ahead of time that seemed insane and stressful. But as someone who has stuck to meal planning on and off for years, I can tell you that I feel much less stressed when I plan out our weekly meals than I do when I don’t.

It’s important not to get meal planning and meal prep confused. While these two things may often go hand in hand, they are not the same. Meal prep is preparing your meals and ready-to-eat days in advance. I have been unable to find a healthy balance with meal prep for weeks; I just don’t have the time. But when it comes to meal prepping, an hour out of my week helps me to save time, money, and headaches.

Meal planning is simple once you get the hang of it. All you need is a meal planning sheet I created for you below! I include a printable grocery list as well.

Why Meal Planning?

  • Save Money – Meal Planning means you will only buy the groceries you need instead of spending money on things that may go bad or go uneaten.
  • Save Time – Meal Planning means you aren’t frantically trying to figure out what to eat and then rushing to the store to buy everything you need, which typically results in eating way later than you should.
  • Less Stress – Meal Planning means you have the plan ready when it’s time to eat. Just review your meal planning sheet and eat what you plan to eat.

Meal Planning Steps

  1. Check Your Fridge/Pantry – Check your fridge and pantry to see what you have already purchased. It’s best to plan meals around those things first so that you aren’t allowing any food to spoil. Chicken breasts in the freezer? Excellent, chicken for dinner it is.
  2. Create Your Menu – Print out our free meal planning template and create your menu for the week. Write in each of your breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for each day. Include the meals you regularly eat and search the internet for something new. Don’t forget to add a healthy variety of protein, grains, fruits, and veggies to your menu!
  3. Create Your Grocery List – Write down everything you need to make the meals for the week, and double-check your pantry, freezer, and refrigerator to ensure you don’t already have the ingredients. Use our printable grocery list (included with the meal planning template above).
  4. Go Grocery Shopping – Depending on your menu and budget, you may want to shop for the entire week at one time or every 3-4 days. I find that if we have a lot of fruits and veggies on our meal plan, it’s best to shop every 3-4 days to ensure that the produce stays fresh.
  5. Prep Your Food – I find it saves time to spend 10-15 minutes once I get home from the grocery store prepping the items. For example, if you purchase a large package of chicken breasts, split them into separate bags and freeze the ones you don’t need immediately. I also cut up the fruit and veggies and store them in Tupperware containers, so they are easy to grab when it’s time to eat.

Meal Planning Tips

Here are a few extra tips that make meal planning easier and faster.

  1. Make Extra Servings – Always make a few extra servings every dinner. Save those extra servings for lunch the following day. Leftovers will save you so much time.
  2. Invest in Containers – I purchased some freezer, dishwasher, and microwave-safe containers, which help me to portion and have lunch ready for the following day. I separate all the leftover dinner servings into the containers and fill them with salad or veggies and a snack. 
  3. Print our Meal Planning Template – Download and print our meal planning template, fill it out, and stick it to the refrigerator. It will save you the dreaded “what’s for dinner” every day. You can thank me later.

Have you tried meal planning yet? What have you found to be most and least successful? Comment below and share.

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We are sharing our tips and steps for successful meal planning, plus a free printable template for you to use each week.
We are sharing our tips and steps for successful meal planning, plus a free printable template for you to use each week.

Share with a friend!

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Hello There!

I'm so honored that you've found us! I'm Heather, a Mom of 3 who blogs about parenting, food, occasional travel and how I overcame my daily struggle with anxiety. I miss sleeping and rely on coffee and laughter to get me through the day. I hope you enjoy and visit often!

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  1. Meal planning and writing the grocery list save me so much money. If I go in the store with a mission, I’m good. If I go in without one I always overspend.

  2. School is coming and meal planning is a must. We do it all together, we establish some weekly menu and than we alternate!

  3. Definitely, an essential thing to do, to help any household with what is put on the table on a daily basis! Thanks for sharing this with us!

  4. I could definitely use this. I go to the grocery store all the time and I am a bit unorganized. It is nice to have a plan!

  5. I try to meal plan in my head but something always comes up and I can’t fix everything that I want to. For example, I was going to make potato soup and I still haven’t done it. Need to see if my celery is too old and just make it.

  6. I love your cute template. I think I have one somewhere I made a long while ago. I do like yours better! Ha!

    1. These are all really great tips! I think I need to start making a Meal planning for a whole week!

  7. Oh gosh, I need to start meal planning. I hate to cook so this will be helpful for me to stay organized in the kitchen.

  8. I started meal planning a few years back and it does save money! Keeps me from buying too much each week and just buying what I need for meals that week.