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Do you want to take control of your meal times during the week? Using a meal planning template is one of the easiest ways to make a plan and a menu for what to cook for dinner and take the stress and overwhelm out of home cooked meals.
By simply taking a few minutes each week to make a plan, you’ll be able to cook more at home, be healthier, AND enjoy the food you’re eating. Doesn’t that sound great?
Below are 20+ options for meal planning templates to take the stress out of cooking.
And if you’re sitting there thinking…but I don’t HAVE a few minutes each week…I’ve got kids and sports and a house that’s border-line chaos. How can I plan out meals for the week, let alone make time to cook them?
If you can’t find 20 minutes of time to sit down and make a meal plan, we’ve got bigger problems than meal planning. But don’t worry, I’ve got a solution for you.
I didn’t even realize how much of a burden I was putting on myself until I heard her talk about all the different areas where her family has created simple routines to take the weight off of her shoulders and distribute it across the family members (including her kids).
If you feel overwhelmed with everything life demands of you, and want to find more margin…
If you’re desperate for more space in your day, please, please, please take a look at the Family Routines course.
If your life is already organized, you have routines in place, and you’re just looking for some meal planning templates to help with the stress that comes from weeknight meals…keep reading.
What is meal planning?
Meal planning (or menu planning) doesn’t have to be fancy. All I mean when I talk about meal planning is taking 20 minutes each week to think through meals for the week ahead.
You make a plan.
One bonus planning out your meals for the week is that you’ll be able to make ONE trip to the grocery store to get all the ingredients for the whole week. Maybe you despise grocery shopping and you decide to get your groceries delivered.
Meal planning ensures less stress around meal times, more time with your family around the table, and more home cooked meals.
You get to plan out meals based on what you already have, what you’re able to get, and what your family actually likes to eat! Plus…when you take just a few minutes at the beginning of the week to make a meal plan, you’re less likely to be stressed DURING the week.
Why should you make a meal plan?
Before you start to meal plan, figure out why you want to in the first place. Do you want to…
- Save money? Don’t miss out on this awesome course (use code STB20 to save 20%) that changed my whole outlook on our grocery budget.
- Eat healthier? Grab these cheat sheets to make it work for you.
- Focus on eating real food again (instead of the processed stuff?)
- Spend more time with your family around the dinner table? Check out this meal planning system that gives you time back into your evenings.
- Try new recipes without being overwhelmed? Check out this course to help your family develop routines and structure to take the burden off of you.
Figuring out why you’re doing this will be a big motivator to come back week after week and continue on your path. Plus, after you do it a couple times you’ll get the hang of it and the question of “What’s for dinner?” will be an easy one to answer.
What is a Meal Planning Template?
Your meal plan template is just a way to organize your meal plan. Following a meal plan is a lot like using a GPS to get somewhere you haven’t been before. Sure, you could just figure it out without any directions, but it’s a little more stressful and sometimes it’s nice to just sit back and just follow the directions. The template is how you keep track of the directions.
I can tell a noticeable difference in my stress levels on the weeks that I meal plan. I’m able to just follow the plan instead of making daily meal decisions. And, since we make so much of our food from scratch, I’m able to plan ahead in case there’s any meal prep I need to do ahead of time.
But I couldn’t do any meal planning without somewhere to keep track of it all.
And that’s where a printable meal planning template comes in handy.
In this post we’ll cover several kinds of templates you can use to get your meals organized.
Click to be directed to that section.
- Pen/paper meal planning templates
- Cute and creative meal planning templates for the crafters and DIY-ers
- Meal planning templates through websites, apps, and software
Best Pen & Paper Meal Planning Templates
If you like having things on physical paper that you can physically see, write on, and touch, these first ideas are for you. Print them out and write out your meal plan. Edit and revise as needed.
Tip: If you like the idea of using a pen to physically write out your meal plan, but you don’t want to print a new sheet for each week, here are a couple ideas:
- Laminate your template and use a dry erase marker.
- Use page protectors to keep your meal planning template as well as recipes you’ve printed out handy. Use a dry erase marker on the page protector.
- Put your meal planning template in a document sized picture frame and fill out your meal plan with a dry erase marker each week.
1. FREE Weekly Meal Planning printable worksheet
I created this simple weekly meal planning template based on the system that I use in my kitchen. Here’s a detailed walk through of how I meal plan with these templates.
This meal planning template provides a space for you to brainstorm, plan out your meals for the week, make a grocery list, and figure out what food you need to meal prep and/or make ahead.
2. Weekly Meal Planning Template – Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner for each day of the week
This meal planning template allows you to schedule out breakfast, lunch, and dinner for each day of the week. There are two versions. One starts the week on Monday, the other starts the week on Sunday.
3. Weekly Meal Planning Template – Breakfast, lunch and dinner plus a grocery list
This template is the same design as the previous one, but provides a space for a grocery list as well. I love making my weekly grocery list while I meal plan. This template allows you to do it on the same page!
4. Weekly Family Dinner schedule
If you’ve got several people in the house who enjoy cooking (or are willing to cook), this template will help you keep track of not only what’s for dinner, but also who’s cooking, and who’s helping.
If you’re starting to think about how your kids can help around dinner, consider assigning them a night to be the “helper”. Depending on the age of your kids, this could mean setting the table, clearing the table, helping cook, or doing dishes.
5. Dinner Meal Plan with Breakfast, Lunch, and Snack Ideas
I like to keep a mental list of ideas for breakfast, lunch, and snacks that I can grab throughout the week. This template provides a space to write down these things so when meal time comes around you don’t have to think too hard!
It comes in three colored versions and a black/white version for an ink-friendly option.
6. Dinner Menu Planner – Build Your Meal
If you have a hard time putting meals together, or are just starting out in your cooking-at-home journey, consider using this meal planning template.
This template provides a box for protein, vegetables, and carbs. I’ve done meal planning like this in the past and it really simplifies the process.
Use this template to brainstorm ways to use up that meat in the freezer, and those veggies that need to be used up! Start with what you have that needs used, and move on from there.
7. Meal Planning Template with A Box for each meal
Use this simple template to plan out breakfast, lunch, and dinner this week! This design provides big boxes for each meal so you can write more details about the recipe if it’s helpful (like where you got the recipe, how long it will take, etc.).
8. MEAL PLANNING TEMPLATE WITH A BOX FOR EACH MEAL + Grocery list
If you like making your shopping list at the same time that you meal plan, here’s the same template as above, but with a box for your grocery list, too! Bring the whole thing to the store, or take a picture of it on your phone.
9. Weekly Schedule Meal Planner
Your daughter needs picked up from soccer practice, and your son from karate class. Then you need to get home and start thinking about dinner.
You’re busy! I get it. You need a place to organize everything you have going on, and plan out how you can get dinner on the table!
10. Dinner only meal planning template
“Mom!!!!! What’s for dinner?”
If that’s a question you hear often, use this template and your kids won’t even need to ask! Just direct them to read the sign. Maybe next time they’ll say, “Mom, how can I help with dinner?”.
11. Monthly meal planning templates
If you’d rather tackle the whole month at once, these monthly meal planning templates will be just what you need!
The first one has B/L/D prompts if you want to plan out breakfast, lunch, and dinner for each day of the month. The second is left blank so you can use it how you’d like.
Get these first 11 printables FREE by signing up here:
12. Weekly meal planning template Notebook On Amazon
Make your own notebook for the whole year by printing out 52 sheets of your favorite printable, or buy this pre-bound notebook with 52 pages of meal planning templates.
I like that this system is contained and you won’t be searching around for single pieces of paper. Put this notebook with your cookbooks so you always know where it will be.
DIY Creative Weekly meal planning
Instead of writing your meal plan on paper, consider using a chalk board or white board and hanging it in a convenient place near your kitchen. Make it simple or make it fancy. Whatever you choose, make it work for YOU.
Here are three clever DIY menu board ideas.
Cookie sheet menu board from Simply simple Stamping
Customize this to fit your kitchen color scheme and personality. I love the menu idea cards that you can just pull from and use each week.
Chalk board dining room menu from Not Just a Housewife
Something as simple as a chalk board works great for a menu plan and display. Keep track of what’s on the menu for the week (and whatever else you need to remember).
Meal planning binder from Simple and Seasonal
I love this idea! Make a binder and keep everything in one place. Keep your printed recipes in here too so you aren’t searching on Pinterest for hours on end.
Pull it out when you have another recipe to add, or to plan your meals for the week/month. I love the color coded sticky notes, too. There’s a different color for breakfast, lunch, and dinner so you can visually see what’s happening from a distance.
Best Electronic Meal Planning Templates (Software, Apps & Websites)
Maybe the thought of sitting down and picking up a pen and paper throws your brain for a loop, but you still want to be able to plan your meals for the week.
I tried out ALL of these options to make sure they have a place to keep track of your meals for the week. Instead of just a folder on your computer with dozens of recipes to try “someday”, you can use these apps to go in weekly and plan everything out. Some of them provide pre-made meal plans for a super easy meal planning experience.
These websites and apps allow you to choose recipes you want to cook (or add your own), and schedule them in their app. Some of them even have the option to send your order to the store and pick it up later. Online grocery shopping and delivery is a huge time saver.
There are both free and paid websites to help you plan your meals. All the options below at least have a FREE trial. Some have a fully functioning FREE plan (with an option to upgrade to their paid option for more features).
Here are the apps/websites I’ll go over below:
Pricing: Free and paid version. Paid version (Prepear Gold) has a 30 Day free trial, then $9.99/month.
Prepear is a great option for a digital meal planning template. Their website and app work well together, providing an easy meal planning experience.
You can choose between creating a 1, 4, or 12 week meal plan. Filter recipes by time to cook, category, skill level, special diets, or allergies. You create a digital meal plan by choosing from a wide selection of recipes. Then they create a grocery list based on the ingredients in the meals.
You can keep track of things you typically have in your pantry in their digital “pantry”. So if you always have eggs, they won’t add it to your grocery list. Pretty cool, huh?
You have a LOT of functionality with just the free plan. The paid version provides the ability to re-use meal plans and use pre-made meal plans.
My favorite things about Prepear:
- Calendar meal planner – keep track of which meal you’ll be making each day.
- Keep track of items you likely already have in your digital “Pantry”.
- Screen lock during cooking and shopping (screen won’t go black).
- You can send grocery list to Walmart from mobile app.
- SO many features with FREE version.
2. Once a Month Meals
Pricing: Free trial then $20/month or $162/year
Once a Month Meals is a website dedicated to helping you cook homemade meals for your family. They are all about freezer meals. If you don’t know what a freezer meal is, it’s a meal that you cook, then freeze, then re-heat when you’re ready to eat it.
They have a bunch of different categories to pick your recipes for the week (see image above).
Once A Month Meals helps you cook all your meals for a WHOLE MONTH in one day, then freeze them for later.
Can you imagine what it would feel like if dinner was taken care of for the whole month?
You can digitally build your menu with a wide variety of recipes. They compile all your recipes into a shopping list so you can print it or download it. They even have the option of sending your grocery list to Instacart and either pick up your order at the store or get it delivered. Could they make this any easier?
They provide a shopping list, prep instructions, cooking day instructions, recipe cards, labels for the freezer with nutritional information, and a thaw sheet.
My favorite things about Once a Month Meals
- I love the idea of making all the meals for the month in one day, then not worrying about it for another month.
- The option to send the grocery list to Instacart is super helpful and makes life that much easier.
- They have pre-made dinner menus to choose from if you don’t want to make your own.
Pricing: FREE trial then $12/month or $120/year
They provide a shopping list for all recipes on your meal plan, along with prep instructions, recipes, labels and a thaw sheet.
My FreezEasy is another freezer meal service with a website and app where you get to pick and choose which meals you want on your meal plan.
My FreezEasy has a wide variety of categories to choose your meals from, and an awesome drag and drop interface that makes creating your meal plan SUPER easy.
They offer pre-made meal plans in any category you choose (and you can customize these meal plans, too). So if you pick the “Paleo/Whole30” meal plan, and want to switch out a meal, you can definitely do that.
My favorite things about My FreezEasy:
- Easy drag and drop interface. Move the meals from the list to your meal plan…no clicking back and forth.
- Use their pre-made meal plans in any category you choose
- Mobile App to build your meal on the go
- Videos to walk you through the recipes
Pricing: FREE trial for 14 days, then 1 year for $59.99 or 3 months for $29.99
According to users on their website, eMeals saves people 2-3 hours each week! Think about what you could do with 2-3 extra hours in a week.
Their website and app provide pre-made meal plans for dinners for the week. For an additional fee you can add the breakfast and lunch meal plans, too.
EMeals has a variety of meal categories to choose from like Paleo, clean eating, budget friendly, etc.). You get to pick your meals, and they provide 7 meals each week for you. You can switch meal plans, but you can’t customize the plan.
EMeals seems like a good service for anyone who:
- Doesn’t want to take the time to pick and choose meals each week
- Doesn’t care about choosing specific meals as long as they fit in your diet/lifestyle.
So if you pick the Paleo meal plan, they give you seven Paleo recipes each week. You can create a shopping list based on those recipes (some or all of them). For the recipes I looked at, they provide a recipe for a main dish and a side dish, which is pretty awesome.
They offer the option to send your grocery list to Amazon, Walmart, Kroger, Instacart, or Shipt. Pretty awesome!
And if you’re a Dave Ramsey fan, he fully supports eMeals (I know this because of his face all over the website with quotes about it saving a bunch of money).
My favorite things about EMeals:
- Send the grocery list to Amazon, Walmart, Kroger, Instacart, or Shipt
- Pre-made meal plans, so you don’t have to think about it. If this is what you’re looking for E-meals is awesome.
- Optional breakfast and lunch meal plans as well
Pricing: FREE and paid version. The paid version (Cozi Gold) has a 14 day free trial, then $29.99/year and covers the WHOLE family.
Cozi is a platform designed to keep your busy family organized and on the same page. As a family, you share a username and password. The whole family can access it from any computer or phone. It has a calendar, to-do list, meal planner, and a family journal your whole family can access and share.
So think about this…you ask your husband to stop at the store on his way home from work. He knows the list is on Cozi. You keep adding to the list throughout the afternoon as you remember more things you need. Then when he goes to the store, he opens Cozi and sees your shared list. Perfect!
The calendar syncs with your google calendar and you can view your schedule for the day along with what meal you’re planning on making that night. I love this part!
The meal planning section is pretty great too. It allows for manual entry of a recipe, or you can import recipes from any website. Store the recipes in the digital “recipe box” and pull from it as you’re making your meal plan.
Also, if you have a recipe open in Cozi, the screen will stay lit, even when inactive. No more worrying about getting your phone messy from unlocking it every two minutes.
My favorite things about Cozi:
- Designed to be shared with the whole family. Easily access the account from any computer or phone.
- Import recipes from any website using the Add to Meals bookmark button.
- It’s an awesome system to organize even the busiest of families.
- Screen stays lit even when inactive, when a recipe is open.
- FREE version has great features. If/when you decide to upgrade, it’s only one fee for the whole family.
11. Weekly meal planning templates from Microsoft Excel
If you love Microsoft Excel, these templates are just for you. Start with one of these meal planning templates and edit it as needed to make it work for YOU. You can print out your template and write on it if you’re a pen & paper loving person, OR keep it as a computer document and edit it digitally. Win/win!
What I love about Microsoft Excel’s Templates:
- You have total control over what they look like and how they work
- If you’re comfortable with Excel already, there’s no learning curve to get started meal planning.
- These are a great option to get started meal planning.
What are good methods of meal planning?
While there are many meal planning methods, you only need one to work for you. When you find what works for you, you’ll be able to be successful and stick with it to get dinner on the table.
- Use a meal planning service and have someone else make the meal plan. All you have to do is follow the plan.
- Have “theme” nights. Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, etc. This can really help you as you’re coming up with meal ideas. You’ve already got a category. Now you just need to fill in the specifics.
- Freezer meal planning. Make your food ahead and keep it in the freezer. All you need to do when you’re ready to eat is defrost. This works well for busy families especially. Get freezer meals here.
These are just a few ways you can approach meal planning. Personally, I always keep one day as a “leftover” day, and one day a week I try to make a double batch of something to freeze for another day when I don’t have time to cook (or I’m just not in the mood).
The important thing is to find what works for you. There’s a difference between needing to revise your strategy and it just not working for you. Don’t give up!
Meal Planning Tips
As you start meal planning and figure out which method works for you, here are some tips that will make meal planning easier.
- Meal prep makes life even easier. Read this article for a beginner’s guide to meal prepping. Have you heard about Prep Dish? They send you a meal plan every week with a grocery list and instructions separated for “Prep Day” (a day where you take a couple hours to prep meals for the week) and the “Dish Days” (when you actually eat the meal). Try it for FREE for two weeks using this link.
- Find a system that works for you. If you’re a planner…plan, plan, plan! If you’re not, just plan enough to keep the stress levels down. Develop a rough guide to get started. Grab these cheat sheets to make meal planning WAY easier.
- Remember your “why”. Why are you meal planning in the first place? This will help keep you motivated and help you make meal planning a sustainable habit in your routine.