Need a menu plan and shopping list template that will help you to eat a variety of healthy meals every day? Then these free meal planning printables are just the thing!
How’s the meal planning going?
In the summer, I usually live a little bit more day-to-day. It’s more of a French lifestyle (at least that’s what I like to tell myself!). I see what produce we get in our weekly farm share, pick up some fish to grill from our local fish market, and, of course, go to the grocery store a couple of times a week for staples such as milk and snacks. (Ok, so maybe that is not at all a French lifestyle, however, I did live in France for a summer, and the family I stayed with shopped at the local bakery, produce, fish, and meat markets daily! Nothing ever got forgotten in the back of their refrigerator! But, they did not snack. Ever.)
That said, I still find that a little bit of planning helps keep us running smoothly each week. And given that we are still trying to limit our trips to the grocery store, this will be a summer when a little bit of meal planning is essential.
Meal Planning Tips
The key is figuring out a planning process that fits your lifestyle. Make it simple. Don’t be too ambitious (but be a little ambitious). And, have the tools you need on hand.
Here are some of my top tips on simple meal planning:
- Try only 1-3 new dinner recipes per week
- Cook 2-3 family favorite or known recipes each week
- Use theme nights to help you decide what to cook each night
- Eat leftovers one night
- Eat out or get take out once or twice a week
- Batch cook when you can
- Use a slow cooker
- Cook one meal for everyone (read tips on getting everyone to eat the same meal here)
- Plan lunches and breakfasts too!
- Have a system in place for planning, such as using printable forms or just a simple notebook
Meal Planning System
Having a system in place can help set you up for weekly success and the key to any system is that it works for you! Are you a pen and paper person or do you like to add it all to your online calendar? Do you want to take turns planning the weekly meals with your partner? Could you carve out 30 minutes every week to plan? Or do you prefer a super simple system such as planning just a few days at a time and writing the meals on a scrap paper before heading to the store?
Meal Planning Form
When I’m feeling ambitious or need to put some more focus on meals other than dinner, I use this menu plan form. It’s a great way to get out of a breakfast or lunch rut and can help make sure you have a variety of snacks on hand.
Shopping List & Simple Menu
However, most weeks, I use this shopping list and menu. I keep it on a clipboard inside one of my kitchen cabinet doors that holds other organizational items such as my meal planning binder, magazine files (where I store the daily contents of the kids’ homework folders until they get so full that I need to go through them), and other items such as a jar with coins.
I keep a sharp pencil or good pen on the clipboard and write down foods that we need as we run out. Then, once a week, I sit down with a cup of coffee, my meal planning binder and some cookbooks to write up the weekly menu plan and grocery list. Sometimes I miss a week or two, sometimes I plan only 3 days, but most of the time I try to plan at least Monday – Friday.
Sometimes I skip the grocery template and just write my list on a plain piece of tri-folded printer paper. This works just as well and is how I first started writing my grocery lists before I created an official form. (A tip I learned from the Ina Garten cookbook, Barefoot Contessa at Home).
How do you plan your meals? Do you jot your lists on paper? A special planning form? Or perhaps you have it all on your phone?
Note: This post was originally published in September 2015. The text, images, and printables were updated in June 2020.