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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 for what to cook for dinner and take the stress and overwhelm out of home cooked meals. Below are 11 options for meal planning templates that have incredible features (many are even FREE).
By simply taking a few minutes each week to make a plan for the week, you’ll be able to cook more at home, be healthier, AND enjoy the food you’re eating. Doesn’t that sound nice?
What is meal planning?
Meal planning is taking 20 minutes each week to think through meals for the week ahead.
When you think through meals, you’re able to make ONE grocery shopping trip to get ingredients for the whole week (or maybe skip the store all together and 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!
Why meal plan?
Before you start to meal plan, figure out why you want to in the first place. Do you want to…
- Save money?
- Eat healthier?
- Focus on eating real food again (instead of the processed stuff?)
- Spend more time with your family around the dinner table?
- Try new recipes without being overwhelmed?
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?
The meal planning template is just a way to organize and look at 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 template comes in handy.
In this post we’ll cover several kinds of templates.
- Pen/paper meal planning templates
- Creative meal planning templates for the crafters and DIY-ers
- Meal planning templates through websites, apps, and software
Best Weekly 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.
1. FREE Weekly Meal Planning Templates from Scratch to Basics
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.
Start with the first template and brainstorm, meal plan, make a grocery list, and plan the food you need to make ahead. Then use the second template (optional) to hang it up on your fridge or somewhere to reference.
This is the method I personally use to meal plan each week. It’s helped us have less food waste, cook more at home, enjoy meals at home that our whole family loves.
Tip: If you like the idea of pen & paper but want to be able to re-use your template, laminate it and use a dry erase marker OR put it in a document sized picture frame and fill out your meal plan with the dry erase marker.
Enter your email below and I’ll send you the link to download the template.
2. Weekly Meal Planning Template From Happiness is Homemade
I love the colors on this template. If you just want a place to write down the meals for the week, this template would work wonderfully!
3. 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.
4. Monthly meal planning template from SImply Unscripted
If you’d rather tackle the whole month at once, this is a monthly meal planning template just waiting for you to start brainstorming!
5. 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 Budgeting 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.
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 a paid option if you want more options).
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.
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.
7. 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.
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 testimonials on their website, a meal planning service like eMeals saves 2-3 hours each week! Think about what you could do with 2-3 extra house in a week.
Their website and app provides 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 (see picture above). 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.
So if you pick the Paleo meal plan, they give you seven meals 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.