How to Create a Weekly Meal Plan for Your Family
Are your mealtime routines often chaotic, leaving you stressed and struggling to make family dinners happen? Do you wish there was a more organized way to handle grocery shopping and cooking?
You’re not alone. But there’s a much better way to handle all of the stress and chaos – meal planning.
In this post, I’ll show you how to simplify family meal planning with a free printable calendar. Say goodbye to last-minute grocery trips and blowing your grocery budget.
Let’s get started!
Why Meal Planning is Important
Before I started meal planning, my meal routine was chaotic. I had no strategy for grocery shopping or meal preparation.
Every week, I would head to the grocery store armed with a haphazard “list,” buying whatever crossed my mind.
It felt like I was just guessing my way through the aisles.
During the week, I’d struggle to come up with meal ideas, often missing a crucial ingredient when I tried to cook something.
As the days passed, the fresh produce I’d bought would spoil, resulting in a lot of food waste.
The lack of a plan made my weeks feel disorganized and stressful. Sound familiar?
I realized there had to be a better way to manage our family’s meals. I needed a reliable system that I could use consistently to handle our food requirements.
That’s when I discovered the power of meal planning.
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Meal planning has become my secret weapon for staying organized, sticking to a budget, and reducing stress.
When I map out our meals in advance, I know exactly what I need to purchase at the store and what to cook for each meal.
Now, my weeks run much more smoothly and are far less stressful.
I know how challenging it can be to get started, so I’m excited to share my meal planning and grocery shopping process with you.
Free Meal Planning and Grocery List Printable Calendar
The first step to getting started with meal planning for your family is to get your hands on my all-in-one meal planning and grocery shopping printable.
This simple yet powerful tool allows you to plan meals for up to two weeks at a time and make your grocery list in one place.
The free printable weekly meal planner is designed to keep things organized.
At the top of the sheet, you’ll find a two-week calendar. I’ve already included the days of the week in different colors.
At the bottom, you have grocery lists for each week, making it easy to separate your shopping trips.
If you prefer a different layout, check out my Deluxe Meal Planning Bundle.
This bundle includes a variety of different designs of the meal planning printable calendars, as well as a master list for groceries so you can choose whatever fits your family’s needs.
Related: Free Printable PDF Calendar
How to Meal Plan for a Family
Step 1: Look at the Family Schedule for the Week
Before you start thinking about all of the recipes you want to try or the ingredients you’ll need, first open up your calendar.
I keep a digital family calendar using Google Calendar. That way I can access it from my phone or computer. It also syncs with my family members, so we can see the entire family schedule at a glance.
Start by jotting down any upcoming scheduled events for the next two weeks and any useful notes about your family schedule.
Family Calendar Tips
- Be Realistic: It’s essential to align your meal plan with your family schedule. While we’d all love to have home cooked meals for the whole week, life often gets in the way. By being realistic about your commitments, you’ll create a meal plan that’s achievable and stress-free.
- Plan for Eating Out: If you have a night when you know you’ll be eating out or getting fast food, write that down on your meal plan calendar.
- Plan for Busy Nights: Maybe there’s a night where you have a lot going on and you’ll have limited time for cooking. Make sure to make a note so you know to plan something easy or have leftovers that night.
- Meal Plan Two Weeks at a Time: Some people prefer to plan all the meals for an entire month, but I never seem to be able to stick to that type of plan. That’s because I don’t know our schedule that far in advance. In my experience, planning for two weeks works the best for my family and allows me to create a more accurate meal plan that aligns with our needs.
Step 2: Choose Meals and Recipes
Now that you have everything from your family calendar on your meal planning printable, it’s time to start choosing meals.
Choose a few meals or recipes that you would like to make during the week.
Create a List of Family Favorite Recipes
Having a list of family favorites is a great resource and makes for easy planning.
I also find it handy to have a list of super easy meals like pizza night, freezer meals, a slow cooker meal, and leftover night. These quick and simple meal options make menu planning a breeze.
Paprika Recipe App
Ideally, you will have a central location for all of your recipes. I personally like to use the Paprika app for this.
Paprika is a fantastic recipe management app that can help you organize recipes from various sources.
I use it to keep all of my recipes from books, family, websites, Pinterest and more organized in one place. This is a great way to store and organize any new recipes that you find online.
If you’re new to Paprika, check out this post to get started.
How Paprika Helps You Organize Your Recipes
Paprika lets you categorize your recipes and favorite meals, making meal planning a breeze.
You can create your own custom categories to best organize your recipes. This allows you to have quick access to your favorites with less time spent searching.
Here are some ideas of categories to use:
- Main Dishes
- Side Dishes
Feel free to create as many different categories as you like to best organize your recipes.
The main category that I use is “Main Dishes.” This is where I keep all of my easy dinner recipes for quick access.
Step 3: Plan Meals and Include Notes
Now that you’ve got your recipes all in one place, you can start populating your meal planning calendar printable.
Use your schedule notes to determine which meals fit best on specific days.
This may take some trial and error, depending on how busy your schedule is for the week.
The notes that you wrote during the scheduling step will help to guide you as you pick which meals should be made each day.
For example, if you know you will need to have leftovers on Friday night, make sure to plan a larger meal on Thursday. That way you will actually have leftovers to eat.
Don’t forget to include any special notes for recipes, like thawing meat or prepping slow cooker meals in advance.
This is also a great time to include any meal prep that you want to accomplish during the week.
If there is a specific day where you prep lots of healthy meals for the week, make sure to include on the family meal planner that so you don’t forget.
Step 4: Make Grocery List
After you have filled in your calendar with recipe ideas for the entire week, it’s time to create your grocery lists.
Creating a well-organized grocery list is a crucial step in the meal planning process.
You’ll find two separate lists at the bottom of the printable — one for each week of your meal plan.
The lists are separated by grocery store sections to help you stay organized as you shop.
Look through the meal plan you have created, and the recipes you have chosen, and write down any ingredients you need to buy.
Take Inventory of your Pantry, Fridge, and Freezer
Be sure to keep in mind anything you already have in your pantry, fridge, and freezer so that you don’t overbuy.
After you’ve gone through all of the meals for the week, you can add any other necessary items to complete your weekly shopping.
After going through these steps, I end up with two weeks’ worth of completed grocery lists.
Step 5: Set Up Your Meal Calendar and Gather Your Grocery Lists
The last thing you’ll need to do to finish your family meal planning is to set yourself up for success during the week.
You’ll want to display your meal plan somewhere that everyone can see it and so you can quickly see the delicious meals coming up during the week.
The best part about this printable is that, after finishing my meal planning, I simply grab some scissors, cut along the dotted lines, and split the meal plan from the grocery shopping list.
I place the calendar on our fridge, and the two grocery lists go into my purse. And that’s it – I’m all set!
With my complete two-week meal plan in the kitchen, I know what to cook each night. Plus, having my two grocery lists ready means I know exactly what to buy at the store. No more guesswork involved!
Walmart+ Grocery Shopping
These days, I like to do online grocery shopping with Walmart+. I can order everything online and have it delivered to my door for free!
It’s an amazing program, and has saved me so much time because I don’t have to go grocery shopping anymore.
Meal planning doesn’t have to be overwhelming. With the free printable family meal planning calendar, you can bring order to dinner time chaos, reduce food waste, and save time and money.
Now that you have the tools and knowledge to simplify your family’s meal planning system, give it a try and see the difference it makes in your daily life.
Whether you’re a seasoned meal planner or just getting started, these tips and tools will help you make mealtime a breeze.
FAQ: Your Meal Planning Questions Answered
Can I use this meal planning method for breakfast and lunch too?
Absolutely! While the example focuses on dinner planning, this method can be adapted for all your meals. Feel free to customize it to suit your family’s needs.
How far in advance should I plan meals?
The recommended planning time varies for everyone. Planning two weeks in advance, as described here, works well for many families. However, you can adjust based on your schedule and preferences.
Do you have any recommendations for managing a monthly meal plan?
If you’d like to plan meals for an entire month, consider using a similar method but with a monthly calendar instead of a two-week one.
What if I forget to plan a meal or have missing ingredients?
Don’t worry; it happens to the best of us. In these cases, you can either improvise with what you have or make a quick grocery store run. Flexibility is key in meal planning.
How can I involve other family members in the meal planning process?
Encourage family members to suggest their favorite recipes or ingredients they’d like to see on the menu. Meal planning can be a collaborative effort that everyone enjoys.