Weekly Meal Plans: The Most Useful Tool in Your Kitchen

Quick! What are you making for dinner tonight? And do you have what you need to make it? If you answered, “I’m not sure,” then you’re just like I used to be—before I discovered the beauty of the weekly meal plan. It simplified my life in a way that I can only describe as glorious.

What’s so glorious about planning your meals each week?

  • You don’t have to think about what to make every night. Let’s face it—we all have enough on our minds. Using this simple tool makes the end of a busy day that much easier.
  • You don’t lose sight of your nutrition goals. Planning ahead means you don’t have to worry about hitting the drive-thru when you’re too brain dead to think of anything else. It also means you don’t have to feel bad about it later.
  • Your grocery list a piece of cake. Once you know what meals you’ll be making, all you need to do is check the recipes for the items you’ll need. Plus, you can base your menu on the sales flyers from your favorite stores.
  • You eat a healthy variety of foods. Whether dinner is beef, poultry, or meat free, you can plan on cooking with different kinds of foods during the week.

This is a seriously useful tool in anyone’s kitchen, but especially for families who have their individual likes and dislikes. For example, even though I know how beneficial fish is, it’s difficult to get my family to eat it. There are only a handful of fish recipes that everyone enjoys. It’s no fun putting the energy into making a healthy meal just to have someone at the table turn up their nose at it. So I get everyone involved in the planning. When I include my boys in the process and even let them take turns writing up the master list, they’re more excited to eat whatever’s on it. It also helps to post the menu on the refrigerator, so everyone knows what‘s for dinner that night.

“But what about spontaneity?” you ask. Great question! You can leave it for those nights when you haven’t worked all day. I’m a cookbook junkie who loves reading them from cover to cover, and I’m always excited to check out emails from my favorite food blogs. I adore trying new recipes. I just tend to have more energy for it on the weekends—not to mention more patience when a new recipe doesn’t quite turn out. That being said, we aren’t militant about our meal plan. If we’re supposed to have Sloppy Joes on Tuesday, but everyone’s more in the mood for burgers, we go with burgers. After all, we already have the ground beef.

“It sounds like a lot of work,” you say? Not at all. If you really stop to think about it, you already have some favorite recipes you probably fall back on over and over again. So keep it simple by putting together meal plans for three or four weeks. If you rotate them, you’ll be set for months. This will also give you enough variety so you won’t get bored with your meals. We like to change ours up with the seasons—after all, not everyone enjoys a steaming bowl of chili in July. We also make sure to save the menus for another time, and go back to them when the season rolls around again.

These resources will help you get started:

If you’re interested in a weekly meal plan but aren’t sure you have the time to put one together, there are tons of online resources to help you. This one for a “real food” diet is an easy starting point for tips on how to shift your eating habits, and it even comes with a printable shopping list. But no matter what your nutrition style is, someone online has created a meal plan for it. Internet searches for “Paleo diet meal plans” and “traditional cooking meal plans” bring up a variety of links, including this rigorous meal plan for a Paleo lifestyle. Only you know the one that will work for you and your family. So give it a go!

What are your favorite tips and tricks for keeping mealtime as simple as possible?

Photo from iStock/monkeybusinessimages

Paula Widish

Paula Widish, author of Trophia: Simple Steps to Everyday Self-Health, is a freelance writer and self-healther. She loves nothing more than sharing tidbits of information she discovers with others. (Actually, she loves her family more than that—and probably bacon too.) Paula has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Public Relations and is a Certified Professional Life Coach through International Coach Academy.

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