Family mealtime is something that hold a significant value in our home. Not only does it save us money on dining out, but it allows us to have quality time together over a great meal. How do we save money and plan our weekly meals? It’s all about being organized! I’m sharing exactly how we do it in our home, with you. These FREE printable weekly meal planner worksheets are a visual way to organize your upcoming meals.
The key is to keep things mixed up so you’re not tempted to dine out. You’ve also got to make it easy on you – the cook! I have about 3-4 meals that are always in my arsenal that I can make in my sleep. So does my Husband. Together, we can cook a week of meals and have leftovers.
Related: Family Meal Prep Made Quick
5 Tips For Weekly Meal Planning
Let’s break down the basics: What is meal planning? It’s a broad topic and can be individual to each household. In short, it’s how you plan and organize upcoming meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. By creating a plan, you’ll know what to shop for. You aren’t buying things at random.
I feel most successful in my meal planning when I can take one component of a meal and re-use it for another meal during the week. It cuts down on waste. For example: I’ll make a pork roast with mashed potatoes and a vegetable in the beginning of the week. By mid-week, I’ll use the leftover mashed potatoes for a homemade shepherd’s pie recipe. Or make pork roast sandwiches! Less waste and more meals for our family to enjoy.
Some people plan months in advanced and stock up their freezer. I do this before my babies are born. Freezer meals are a great go-to when you’re too busy to even cook. I just dump the frozen food into a slow cooker or throw the frozen casserole into the oven.
You have to find out what’s enjoyable and effective for your family. Typically, a mix of advanced planning works for most families. If you’re more busy during the school year, give yourself more advance planning time.
Get Inspired To Cook
You’ll want to spend time looking for recipes that your family will enjoy. Browsing blogs (hey – look at you, you’re already ahead of the game) is a great way to start. Find some delicious blog recipes by searching Pinterest. I like to organize my favorite websites with bookmarks that are categorized via meal type. If I’m looking at cookbooks, I like to put sticky notes in them.
Check Out Your Pantry & Refrigerator
Take an inventory of what you have already and the items that you’ll need to buy from the grocery store. If you don’t cook much, then chances are that you’ll need more things than someone who cooks on a regular basis. Here are some basics that I always keep stocked up on:
- Heavy Whipping Cream
- Sugar/Brown Sugar
- Minced Garlic
- Sour Cream
- Spices (Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, Chili Powder, Oregano, Thyme)
- Bread Crumbs
- Corn Meal
Once you have an inventory, and you’ve thrown out anything expired, you’ll be able to add it to your printable weekly meal planner worksheet at the top. It’s always nice to see a visual of what I already own when I’m at the grocery store or farmer’s market.
Check The Weather & Theme Your Meals
Everyone loves a great cozy meal in the fall. We make my award-winning beef chili at least once a week when it’s cold. That easily translates to a 5-Way Cincinnati Chili night later on with our leftovers. Those would be awful meal ideas during the summer though. I stick with easy salads and grilling during the warmer months. I also know that if it’s raining during the week, I won’t want to run to the grocery store. So I either need to plan ahead and grocery shop myself on the weekends OR use a grocery delivery service.
Check What’s On Sale At Your Store
This part can be much more in-depth, depending on much money you want to save. Ideally, if you’re looking to save money, you plan your meals around what’s on sale. If ground beef is on sale, you won’t want to make a boneless skinless chicken breast dinner. This is entirely personal to each household. Sometimes I plan around what’s on sale and other times I just make what I know our family will enjoy.
Start Making Your Calendar
Now that you’ve got some recipes and know what’s in your pantry, you can plan out your week’s meals. It doesn’t have to be complicated. To be honest, I only really plan out cooked breakfast options for the weekends. I like to cook on Monday and Wednesday evenings. Tuesday and Thursday evenings are reserved for leftovers. Of course lunches can be leftovers too or a simple deli sandwich. For our family, dinners are the most important meals to plan for the week. We’re most tempted to dine out when we’re tired.
You can also think about what meals that you need to be the most healthy. If you’re tempted to grab a donut or sugar laden breakfast pastry, plan out some breakfast ideas. You can cook them ahead of time on the weekend (I do that on Sundays) and enjoy during the week. Nobody has time to cook a full casserole on weekday mornings, but making it ahead of time will prevent you from grabbing something unhealthy. My Blueberry Banana Baked Oatmeal is a family favorite that we can enjoy all week.
Get Your Free Printable Weekly Meal Planner
Ready to get started on your weekly meal planning? Of course you’re ready! Now that you know the basics, print out this handy worksheet that will help you organize the meals before hitting the store. It’s a great way to plan your notes and have the information available. Sometimes I even staple it to the store’s weekly sale flyer!