In a perfect world, we'd have our personal food fairy godmother, and our favorite foods would appear on the table every day (no dishwashing necessary). But, in this real world, it's best to learn how to plan meals for the week. It'll help you save time, money, and your sanity.
There are many benefits to weekly meal planning: You can save money, eat better food at a lower cost, and reduce food waste. When you plan your weekly menu in advance, you can save a lot of money by planning your grocery shopping and only buying the items you need.
Pre-planning and pre-sizing your meals will help you control portion sizes, and also choose better food and balanced meals. Food waste is reduced by buying only what you've planned to use, and only overstocking on non-perishables, like seasonings, spices, grains, pasta, etc.
Here are some ideas you can follow to plan your meals for the week:
Making a favorites list
Begin by listing the meals you and your family enjoy eating. This can include main dishes, side dishes, and snacks. This will be the base of your plan. There's no point in cooking things your family won't eat.
Top tip: Have some recipes you love from around the internet? Make a Pinterest board to save them in one place!
Checking your schedule
Look at your schedule for the upcoming week and note any days or meals you would typically skip, like when you are not home or have other regular meals outside of the home. In the end, you'll have a list of breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals.
Top tip: Have some leftovers in the freezer you can reheat in case some of your out-of-home activities get canceled so it won't throw your day into chaos.
Make a meal calendar, taking into consideration activities, and time available to cook (some days you may be busier than others), Consider factors such as the time you have available to cook, the nutritional value of the meals, and any dietary restrictions you or your family may have.
Top tip: I love having specific days for some of our favorites, like Taco Tuesday, Stew Saturday, Meatless Monday, etc. (yeah, we love alliteration), which makes everyone look forward to those days.
Making a grocery list
Once you know how many meals you need to make for the following week, make a list of the groceries you need to shop for based on the meals you have planned. Check your fridge and pantry to make sure you don't already have some of those. Include any ingredients you need for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.
Top tip: For snacks, try incorporating leftovers. Don't overcomplicate yourself. A hard-boiled egg, some leftover meat in a tortilla, or even some peppers and carrots with hummus can be easy, quick, healthy snacks.
Shopping for groceries
Never go to the grocery store without your shopping list (we use an app for that!) Use your grocery list to shop for the ingredients you need for the week. Try to stick to your list as much as possible to avoid buying unnecessary items. The only time you should toss planning aside is when you find great deals on food that can be stored long term, either frozen or dry goods that last very long.
Top tip: Get those deals! You can work the following weeks around your loot, and incorporate those foods later in the month.
If you have the time, meal prep in advance. For example, you could cook a large batch of soup or chili on Sunday and eat it for lunch or dinner during the week.
Top tip: Rice and beans are a huge part of my food culture, and they keep great frozen. I love making large batches and freezing them in daily portions to save time and energy/cooking gas. This can also save time and help you stick to your meal plan.
If you follow these simple steps, you can create your own meal plan, perfect for your and your family's needs and tastes, and that can help you and your family eat healthy, flavorful, and balanced meals throughout the week.
Also, check my best ideas for saving money on food.
By Tia Clara, published Dec 15, 2022 on