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Do you want to take control of your meal times during the week? Meal planning (and using a meal planning template) is one of the easiest ways to make a plan for what's for dinner throughout the week.
It's time to take the stress and overwhelm out of home cooked meals...for good.
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 planner templates that will help you put together a meal calendar your family can get on board with.
I created my own meal planning templates after years of fine-tuning my meal planning process. And that's what I'm sharing with you (for free) in this post.
These meal planning templates have been downloaded over 25,000 times in the last few years and I get so many responses from people who have made the choice to meal plan with these templates. My favorite template is the one on page 4, but everyone has their own that they end up using the most.
Below you'll get to see an image of each template (and download all of them!).
What is meal planning?
Meal planning doesn't have to be fancy or complicated. When I talk about meal planning, what I mean is taking 20 minutes once a week to think through your meals for the week ahead - you know, before everyone is asking what's for dinner and you're having a mild panic attack.
You make a plan. A plan. For the meals. A meal plan.
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. And you may even be up to do some meal prep to make your weekly dinner routine even easier.
Why should you make a meal plan each week?
Before you start to meal plan, figure out why you want to in the first place. This will help you stick with it past the first week or two. Plus, your meal planning routine should help you achieve your goals, not make it harder on you.
Think about whether you want to…
- Cook more at home and save money? Meal planning is just one of the dozens of ideas of money saving strategies in the Ultimate Money Saving Cheat Sheets.
- Spend more time with your family around the dinner table? Check out this meal planning and meal prep "easy button" that will give you an extra hour in your evening (at least!).
- Confidently try new recipes? Consider taking cooking classes from chefs around the world to boost your kitchen confidence. Grab $15 off any cooking class with code Chef15.
Figuring out why you’re doing this will be a big motivator to come back week after week and continue on your path.
Best Meal Planning Templates
Your meal planning template is just a way to organize your meal plan on a calendar. 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 "dinner directions".
I don't know about you, but 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 and plan out the meal prep I need to do ahead of time.
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But I couldn’t do any meal planning without a calendar, planner, or chart of some sort to keep track of it all.
And that’s where a printable meal planning template comes in handy.
Types of meal planning templates
In this post we'll cover several kinds of templates you can use to get your meals organized.
- 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
Pen & Paper Templates
Are you one of those "physical paper" people? You know you're a pen-and-paper person if you look around your house and see stacks of papers all over...and anytime you need to remember something you reach for a pen and paper.
If so, you likely use planners on physical paper that you can see, write on, and touch.
These first ideas are for you - plenty of meal planner templates you can physically touch and write your menu on. Print them out and write out your dinner ideas for the week. Edit and revise as needed.
Tip: If you like the idea of physically writing 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. Weekly Meal Planner 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 this template.
This 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 - Make A Daily Plan For Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
This 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. Use the version that works best for you.
3. Weekly Meal Planning Template - Daily Meals plus a grocery list Section
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 one 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.
Are you trying to come up with ways that your kids can help around dinnertime?
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. As they get older, they could even be totally responsible for planning, shopping for, and cooking the meal.
5. Dinner Meal Plan with Breakfast, Lunch, and Snack Ideas
My meal plans are typically more of a "dinner plan", but planning the other meals and snacks can be helpful, depending on how much planning you like to do.
This template provides a chart to write down breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas.
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 a meal planning beginner who wants a balanced meal, 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. You might be surprised at how quickly the meals start flowing in.
7. Daily Meal Planning Template
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. Daily MEAL planner TEMPLATE with a 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 printable
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.
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. This meal plan template pdf can help.
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 this template that's hung up on the fridge. .
Maybe next time they'll say, "Mom, how can I help with dinner?" ;).
11. Monthly meal planning templates
Some people prefer to meal plan for an entire month at a time. If that's you, these monthly menu planners 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.
I used these while in a freezer meal phase and they were such a time saver.
12. Weekly meal planner 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
If you're a crafty person, and writing your meal plan on paper doesn't sound fun, consider going the DIY route. You can use a chalk board or white board and making a meal planning chart, then hang it in a convenient place near your kitchen. Make it simple or make it fancy.
We have a chalk board hung in our kitchen that we write our meal plan on (after it's been brainstormed on paper).
Whatever you choose, make it work for YOU.
Here are three clever DIY menu board ideas.
Cookie sheet menu board from Crazy Adventures In Parenting
Customize this to fit your kitchen color scheme and personality. I love the recipe cards and the box to store them in. You can pull from the recipe box and stick them to your preferred day with a magnet or a clip. Genius!
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 when you're planning 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.
Meal Planning Binder DIY Walkthrough from ME 🙂
I've created my own Meal Planning Binder PDF Templates and I'd love for you to have them. Grab them here and get started organizing your recipes and meal planning process today.
Inside the Meal Planning Binder PDF Download, you'll get:
- Two recipe card styles to keep your recipes in one place
- Templates to brainstorm meals your family will love
- Grocery list templates
- Recipe category divider pages
- 2 Meal planning template styles
- PLUS A video to show you EXACTLY how to put it together exactly how you want
This is a PDF Instant Download so you buy it once and download as many of the sheets as you need to make your binder your own.
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, and you're not in the mood to get crafty. 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, and is more readily available now than ever.
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 recommend where you can plan your meals using digital me:
- Plan to Eat
- My FreezEasy
- Google Sheets Meal Planning Spreadsheet
- Excel Templates for Meal Planning
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. The free version is great and you can use it as long as you like.
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.
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.
3. Plan to Eat
Pricing: FREE 14 day trial (no credit card needed to sign up), then $4.95/month or $39/year ($3.25/month)
Plan to Eat helps busy families get healthy dinners on the table.
Instead of providing recipes, Plan to Eat provides a place to store YOUR recipes.
Use their app to collect recipes from anywhere (any websites, cookbooks, or recipe cards) and plan your meals for weeks or months to come.
You get to decide when you want to eat your recipes by placing them on your calendar.
The Plan to Eat app will automatically create a shopping list based on the ingredients listed in your recipes in your meal plan. Select the date range of recipes you want to shop for and add them to the list or cross them off.
My favorite things about Plan to Eat
- You can easily plan out meals for the week, month, or longer (and only get a grocery list for the dates you specify).
- For those of us who continually forget to take the meat out of the freezer (ahem...that's me), you can set a reminder to do just that (or any other prep work you want to remember throughout the week.
- Easily import recipes from most websites with the recipe clipper, or add 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
6. Google Sheets Meal Planning Template
Are you a spreadsheet lover?
Yeah, me too.
If the paper meal planning templates (from above) aren't your style. That's okay. Because I made a Google sheets template for YOU, my meal planning friend.
When you use this meal planner spreadsheet you'll be able to plan your meals and make your grocery list at the same time, in one convenient place.
This is what it looks like, complete with drop down arrows that you can fill with your favorite meals (and helpful step-by-step instructions to get you started with it).
Sign up here with your best email so I can send you a link to the meal planner spreadsheet!
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7. 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.
Where to find done-for-you meal plans?
If you want someone to make your meal plan for you, there are a lot of places to find done-for-you meal plans.
You can find free meal plans online just by googling for what you want. For example, if you're looking for a specific diet, or length of time, just ask google for what you want.
You can get my free 7 Day Gluten Free Meal Plan here.
Another option is paying for meal plans. If you go this route, you will have a consistent flow of meal plans coming to your inbox. Here are the best meal planning services who will send you meal plans week after week.
You can get my one-time 2 Week Paleo Meal Plan here.
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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
These are just a few ways you can approach meal planning. The important thing is to find what works for you.
If you find that one template no longer works, there's always another way. Continue tweaking until you find the best process and system for you.