I love to meal plan! Mapping out a weekly dinner plan in advance is the only way I’d ever get a homemade meal on the table 5 to 7 nights every week. Trust me—life is better with a meal plan! It takes the thinking out of what to cook and it allows you to streamline your daily meal prep. With a weekly dinner plan, you can also organize your grocery shopping once during the week, instead of having to run to the store every other day (or daily!) for what you need.
The key to creating a weekly dinner plan that brings more ease to your daily routine is to make a meal plan that works for you! Incorporate family favorites, existing ingredients in your pantry and recipes you enjoy making. Ideally, you want to schedule a weekly date in your calendar to complete your dinner plan and make your grocery list. You want to select a date that allows you enough time later in the week to grocery shop and meal prep. For example, I create my meal plan and grocery list on Thursdays, shop on Fridays and meal prep for the week on Sundays. (I call that Batch Cook Sunday).
When it comes to actually creating a weekly dinner plan, follow these steps.
1. Review your schedule for the week.
Make your meal plan a working document. You can set up your weekly dinner plan in your calendar or create your own worksheet to map out your meals. (I offer a free blank dinner plan template in my Dinner Plan Challenge.) Add notes to your dinner planner to include info about meetings and activities that will affect your meal prep and cooking time.
2. Assign a night off from cooking.
Whether you work leftovers into your weekly dinner plan or plan to dine out or take in, give yourself a night off from cooking. Maybe it’s a night where you’ll have little or no time to prep, or a night that follows an active day where you’ll appreciate an easy reheat and serve meal.
3. Assign meal ideas and / or themes to each night.
Looking at the schedule notes you put in your planner, assign meal ideas or themes to each night that work for your schedule. Meal themes help organize your thoughts about what to cook by giving you some structure to narrow down your recipe choices. Some of my family’s favorites include Taco Tuesday and DIY Pasta Bar. Check out my Pinterest boards for ideas and inspiration.
4. Gather and select recipes.
Once you have your meal ideas completed in your planner, review your recipe library and select a few that fit the categories or themes you assigned to each day. My library includes recipes from email newsletters from food brands I love, Instagram food feeds, Pinterest, food blogs, cookbooks and magazines.
5. Complete your prep plan
Once you’ve created your weekly dinner plan, spend a few minutes to plan how you’re going to cook it. Review your recipes and look for parts of the meal that you can prep in advance on a lighter day during the week (such as a weekend) to speed up your cooking during the week.
If a soup or casserole is on your menu, for example, maybe you’ll make that on Sunday to eat on Monday or Tuesday. Also look for ingredients such as salad dressings and roasted vegetables that you could batch cook on the weekend to simplify your prep during the week.
6. Complete your shopping list
The best time to make your list is while you’re making your weekly dinner plan. You have all your recipes in front of you so you can transfer what you need straight to your list.
Need a little help and accountability to create your weekly dinner plan? Take the Dinner Plan Challenge! Whether you’re a novice meal planner or meal planning warrior, this challenge is set up to help you get into a meal planning groove that makes dinner easy and fun. Cooking for your family should be joyful, not stressful. All you need is a proven process and plan—a step-by-step guide to set yourself up for mealtime success. My Dinner Plan Challenge does just that!
- Enjoy healthy, homemade meals: Create a week of pre-planned, home-cooked meals with my step-by-step planner and recipes
- Take the thinking out of what to cook: Learn how to set yourself up for meal planning success each week with my proven process that simplifies meal prep
- Have fun: Create a weekly habit that sets you up for dinner success
Download the FREE Dinner Plan Challenge Guide and get dinner on the table every night with ease.