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Meal Planning 202: Planning Your First Weekly Menu

plan a weekly meal menu

In Meal Planning 101, we covered how to begin your dinner repertoire. I explained how this step is critical in successful meal planning and should not be skipped. Today, we'll chat about what it looks like to make your first weekly meal plan.


Write out your week on a sheet of paper
Include days that you work, any nightly obligations you may have, and any other events that would mean you won't be home for dinner (i.e. date night, dinner with friends). 

For us, this schedule would look like: 

Tuesday: Sarah Work
Wednesday: Sarah Work 
Friday: Sarah Work 
Saturday: Date Night 

Knowing the days that I work are crucial to my meal plan because I am gone from the house for a total of 14 hours, and Alex is usually the one that gets dinner ready. He's a great cook but I try to make it easy on him by planning a crockpot dish, leftovers, or something simple for those days. 

If you know you are going to have an especially long and/or stressful day at work, consider making those dinners easier and simpler.  

Fill in the meals for each day. 
Once you have your weekly obligations penciled in, it's time to pencil in all your meals. When you start out, it's important to not go crazy with the plan and get yourself overwhelmed. This may mean that you only plan three nights of dinners and have leftovers or takeout the rest. Below is a very typical week of meals when we started out: 

Monday: Mediterranean Pizza Skillet (this would be my one, and only one, new recipe for the week)
Tuesday: (Sarah Work) Grilled Cheese and soup (Campbell's to the rescue, y'all)
Wednesday: (Sarah Work) Spaghetti & Meatballs
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: (Sarah work) Breakfast for dinner (this has been everything from pancakes to cereal)
Saturday: Date night! (We go out for dinner) 
Sunday: Leftovers/Family Dinner

You can see above that I only planned 4 meals per week. One recipe was new, the rest were easy to make and off my "Dinner Repertoire". We would go out, and often on weekends we would have one meal at my in-laws house. Don't feel bad about starting out small. Maybe you plan and cook two meals and have leftovers the rest of the week- great idea! The point is to start small, and work your way into more extensive meal planning. 

Write all your ingredients down. 
Here is where I go through each dish individually and write down all the ingredients. Make sure to include any spices that you might need. A lot of times you'll find that you have many of the ingredients on hand (you probably would have bread and cheese on hand for grilled cheese sandwiches) and you only need to buy a handful of other things. 

Once you're done writing down dinner ingredients, add breakfast and lunch ingredients. 
I'll be honest- I don't plan breakfast or lunch (ain't nobody got time for that!) We're okay with repetition on these two meals so we usually just keep some staples around. Breakfast staples include eggs, cereal, oatmeal, and toast. Lunch staples include sandwich makings, fruit, and yogurt (sometimes chips or crackers). Each week when I'm making my grocery list, I just glance through our pantry and refrigerator to make sure we have enough of the staples to last us the week.  

Get shoppin! 
When I lived in a small town, I grocery shopped at three different stores because they each had their separate good deals. Now that I'm in the middle of a city, I often find it's not worth the gas and time to go all over creation to a bunch of different stores so I try to figure out which one or two stores have the best deals for the week and only go to those ones. 

Make sure you take your list of ingredients with you! I find it easiest to sort my grocery list by store just so that I don't forget any ingredient. Find a way that works for you because nothing is worse than having to go to the grocery store more than once! 

Once you've done your grocery shopping- well done! Put everything away, turn on a show, grab a drink, and try to forget it ever happened.

{Ready to try and meal plan for an entire month? Head over to Meal Plan for a Month to find out how!}

What other tips do you have for meal planning one week at a time? Do you plan breakfast or lunch? 
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  1. Haha well when I do it for a month I do it by food group and store (it's easier than it sounds), but I'm totally with you on having all like ingredients together- much easier that way!

  2. Definitely girl! You can do it, especially once you have a solid list of favorite meals!


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