How To Start Meal Planning | Printable One-Week Meal Planner with Grocery List Freebie

Want to learn how to start meal planning?  Great!  Meal planning saves time, energy, and money but it’s easy to over think the process and get overwhelmed. And when that happens, it becomes a burden instead of a blessing and we tend to give up.  

If this sounds like you, and you’re asking yourself, “why even bother?”, then consider these benefits:

– less wasted food because you create a grocery list and only buy what you need which equals saving money
– no more “what’s for dinner?” craziness at dinner time because you’ll always know exactly what’s for dinner
– lots of variety because can choose the meals that you want
– cuts down on take-out
– because you plan dinner and are avoiding the takeout line, it’s cheaper
– you can plan menus around sales saving even more money
– it’s healthier because you know exactly what’s in your meal

How To Start Meal Planning

How do you know what type of meal plan works for you?  Each month I share a Month of Meals on A Budget and plan dinner for the entire month and it is the perfect fit for some families but not might be what you’re looking for.  Every family is different, and different times of the year call for different schedules.  Maybe in the winter, a menu planned for a week at a time is ideal, and in the summer, a monthly meal plan works better – whatever it is that works for you, just stick to it!

I recommend starting with a one week menu.  This will give you flexibility for the week, and you can start making adjustments accordingly.  For example if Wednesday is a bust night for your family, and you’ll be in and out or you generally eat late, consider making every Wednesday a leftover night or a crockpot meal night.  You shouldn’t have to work around a meal plan, a meal plan should work around you and fit into your families schedule.  

printable weekly meal planner freebie
Click for printable .PDF version.

I have included a printable one-week meal planner for you to get started.  I like to plan meals for 6 out of 7 nights, making one night a leftover night.  There are two things I like about only planning meals for 6 nights a week;

1.  saves money by not having to plan a meal one night a week
2.  leaves wiggle room for when things pop up

Plan meals your family loves, and make adjustments accordingly.  If something comes up, and you can’t have spaghetti on Monday, have spaghetti on Tuesday, and move your meals around.  It’s okay.  Life happens, and if this is the case, and meals keep getting pushed around, next week you’ll have one less day you need to plan and buy groceries for!

Go meatless.  Switch up the main protein in your meal to tofu, or beans or completely leave it out.  There are so many delicious, and budget-friendly recipes out there now without meat, you won’t miss it, and skipping meat one day of the week really saves you a lot of money.  

Stick with it.  Once you find a meal plan and a schedule that works, stick with it.  Consider rotating the menus that you made, and create a one-month meal plan based around your families schedule.  

These tips should get you started planning delicious and healthy meals for your family.  How do you like to plan meals?  Share your tips and menus that work for your family in the comments to give other families inspiration!

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