21/02/2024

Care Health

Prioritize Healthy life

Meal Planning Worksheet to Save Time & Money (Free PDF)

Meal Planning Worksheet to Save Time & Money (Free PDF)

Inside: Get organized with this free weekly meal planner template. It puts your shopping list and dinner menu all in one place.

A graphic of two meal planning worksheets

Reader Review

“I use this every week! I usually sit down and try to plan two to three weeks at a time. It has been a game changer for me.”

Does meal planning sound good–but only in theory?

Desperately scouring the fridge at 5pm while a toddler tugs at your pant leg is nobody’s idea of fun.

Yet meal planning can also feel like one more chore on an endless to-do list–like something other, more organized, moms are doing.

If it feels that way to you, I’ve got a simple system to make it easy. Spend ten minutes on this meal planning worksheet at the beginning of the week, and I promise you’ll spend less time, money, and headspace figuring out what’s for dinner all week long.

How these meal planning worksheets are different

  • They include a spot for your weekly menu plan–but just dinner, the toughest meal for most families to figure out.
  • They’ve got a spot for your grocery list, because planning meals and building a grocery shopping list at the same time just makes sense (and saves you time and money).
  • The grocery lists are organized by aisle. So no more back-tracking around the store.
  • They come in a one-store or two-store version. Depending on your shopping routine, you may hit one store or two (or if you’re like me, that might change from week to week). Either way, I’ve got an option for you.

How to get these worksheets

  • Choose the one or two store worksheet. You have two different options, depending on how you typically shop for groceries. Tap the pink buttons above to get one or both.
  • Get your worksheet: Once you sign up, you’ll receive an email. Click the button in the email to access your free weekly meal planner worksheet. It will be in a PDF format. Download it to your computer. 
  • Print out the planner: You can print as many copies as you’d like so you have a new sheet each week (and if you want to plan the entire month’s worth of meals, go ahead and print out four.)

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A graphic of a meal planning worksheet with a pen and pencil alongside it.

How to use the meal planning worksheet

Step 1: Sketch out a dinner plan for the week

The first thing to do is think about your meals that week. Along the top of the sheet are boxes for the days of the week. This is where you’ll jot down your dinner plan for each night.

Think about what you’ve got going on each night too and what kind of meals work for that kind of night. For example:

  • A crockpot meal for piano-baseball-play practice kind of nights 
  • An extra simple meal idea like breakfast for dinner or sandwiches
  • Basic 30-45 minute recipes for slower weeknights
  • A special, more time-intensive meal for the weekend (this is also a good time for trying new recipes)
  • At least one night of leftovers or clean-out-the-fridge (I call this “Scrounge Night”)
  • Perhaps one night for going out or getting pizza

There’s also enough space under each day of the week to write down what’s going on that night too (like “soccer game” or “late work meeting”).

Then pencil in some dinner ideas under each day of the week. Try to build your meals around what you already have on hand, like chicken breasts in the freezer or broccoli that should be eaten soon.

If you’re having a hard time planning the entire week, map out just a few dinners a week to get started. The important thing is that this system works for YOU and is sustainable.

Step 2: Build your grocery list & shop

Fill in the grocery list portion of the meal planning worksheet with items you need for your dinners, plus anything else for the week. The goal is to avoid unplanned grocery trips to grab forgotten items.

The grocery list is organized by category to simplify shopping and avoid zig-zagging across the store.

The meal planning worksheet sits in a grocery cart.

Step 3: Post your dinner plan

Cut off the top portion of the meal planning worksheet and post it where your family can see it, like on the fridge or on a cupboard door. It’s a great way to let your family know what’s on the menu that week and jog your memory in case you need to pull out chicken to defrost or chop some veggies in advance to save time.

Step 4. Rinse & repeat each week

Print a new weekly planner sheet every time you need it.

Get your meal planning worksheet

A graphic of a meal planning worksheet with paper clips and markers alongside it.

Still not convinced?

Here are five perks of meal planning:

You’ll feel less stress. When you have a dinner plan for each night, you’ll feel more relaxed and organized. 

You’ll eat healthier. Having your meals mapped out means no spins through the drive-thru for fast food and fewer trips for take-out.

You’ll save money. When you plan your meals and make your grocery list at the same time, you can get everything you need in one trip and avoid last minute dashes to the store for a forgotten ingredient–which means a lower weekly grocery bill.  (Ever made a last-minute run to the grocery store where you run in for garlic, come out with $150 worth of other stuff–and completely forget the garlic? Yeah, me too.)

You’ll save time. Scrambling around the kitchen searching for dinner (or dashing out for a pizza) sucks away valuable time. With a plan in place, you can take a moment the night before to put any frozen meat or poultry you need in the fridge to defrost and set out items that you’ll need, like an onion or spices.

You’ll waste less food. About one third of the food we buy ends up wasted. Food waste is bad for the planet and your grocery budget. When you plan your meals, you only buy what you need, so you automatically waste less (and spend less). 

My best meal planning advice

Pick your pain point. You don’t have to plan out every single meal in the day, just the ones that trip you up week after week. For most people, that’s dinner—but you can narrow it down even further. Maybe it’s Tuesdays, when both kids have sports practice. Or Thursdays, when you work late. Start by planning just that one meal, then build from there.

Be real with yourself. Even the perfect meal plan won’t work if it’s not realistic for your lifestyle. If weeknights are crazy, plan for slow cooker recipes or simple meals like sandwiches. Plan more time-consuming meals for weekends.

Meal plan and shop at the same time. When you create your meal plan and grocery list at the same time, you can be sure you’ll get everything you need and won’t need to dash back for multiple grocery trips to fetch missing ingredients.

Embrace “clean out the fridge” night. Build in one night a week for pulling all the odds and ends out of your fridge. Arrange them on a pretty platter, set them out buffet-style, or if you have young kids, serve them picnic-style on a blanket on the floor. You’ll avoid wasting food or spending more money—and everyone can pick what they like best. 

Get more free worksheets

Need help with meal prepping? Grab my free 4-Week Meal Prep Plan

Take it to the next level!

These free meal planning worksheets are a huge step toward feeling less stress every week.

If you’re ready to get organized around dinner for good and have a plan every week (AND a solid back-up plan), check out my No-Stress Dinner Planner. You can get a printed spiral-bound copy or an instant-access PDF download.

It’s built around the meals YOUR family likes best and the schedule you have NOW and includes:

  • a system for organizing your family’s favorite recipes
  • more detailed meal planning worksheets (three different choices)
  • simple meal ideas 
  • a place to create backup plans when things get off track

Grab your copy of the No-Stress Dinner Planner.