Planning your weekly meals isn’t just about saving time. It can help you budget, choose healthier options and introduce new recipes into your diet. Creating a full 7-day menu can seem a bit intimidating, but with some tips and a printable menu to help get you started, you’ll be able to plan your weekly meals like a pro.
Prep for Perfection
Though having a weekly menu can save time in the long run, it does take a little bit of work up front. Here are a few ways to ensure that planning a weekly menu will help save you time and money.
Shop at Home
The first step to creating a weekly dinner menu should be to take stock of what you already have at home. Build meals around pantry staples such as beans, rice and pasta that you might already have on hand. This is a great way to stick to your budget and avoid buying ingredients you don’t need.
Create a Menu
When creating a menu, it helps to make a list of the meals you already know are a hit. As you work through tried-and-true favorites, don’t be afraid to throw in some new and interesting recipes. If you’re lacking inspiration, consider using different food groups as a guide. Create a meal by choosing your favorite protein, vegetable, whole grain, fruit and healthy fat.
While meal prep gets most of the spotlight, you don’t always have to cook a full week’s worth of meals all at once. Prepping your ingredients can save a ton of time and can be done during any downtime you have in the kitchen. Wash and cut produce when you get home from the grocery or while waiting for your Monday night meal to cook. Trim and marinade meats, cook a batch of grains or make stock in advance to cut down on time in the kitchen later in the week.
It’s easy to think of something that sounds good for dinner when you’re hungry, but creating a weekly dinner menu ahead of time can be challenging. Try these tips for creating a meal plan that will keep your recipe rotation exciting and your tastebuds satisfied.
There are 2 ways to utilize themes when creating a weekly menu. The first is to streamline your process by using themes like Meatless Mondays and Taco Tuesdays. This can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed by choices. The second way is to use themes to introduce new recipes. Have a weekly dinner where you experiment with a new cuisine or use a new ingredient.
Take advantage of that sale on sweet potatoes or that unbeatable deal on frozen chicken. Not only will shopping sales help your budget, but creating a weekly dinner menu with multiple days that share ingredients will save you prep time. For example, have chicken tacos and sweet potato fries 1 night, this Salsa Chicken Sweet Potato Bowl the next, and then finish the menu with this Chicken and Sweet Potato Red Curry.
Mix and Match
When creating your weekly menu, mix and match recipes that you already know you love with new ones you’d like to try. You can also mix and match meals you’ve fully prepared ahead; homemade, freezer-friendly meals for busy nights; and meals that work best when made right before serving.
Fighting Food Waste
Sometimes, food waste is inevitable. However, there are ways to make sure that you’re getting the most out of the ingredients you’ve purchased.
Freezer-friendly meals are a great way to keep food waste low if you aren’t sure what the week ahead looks like. Have a week that’s packed with practices or end-of-day meetings that may run over? Create a menu around recipes that can be frozen. Casseroles and burritos are perfect for the freezer. This gives you the option of just popping something pre-made into the oven quickly.
Prepped, Not Prepared
Another way to fight food waste is to prep ingredients instead of making a whole week’s worth of meals ahead of time. Especially when it comes to heartier vegetables or frozen proteins, prepped ingredients can be kept in the fridge until you need them. Root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, beets and turnips will stay dinner-ready for days. Most fruits can be frozen for smoothies, as can leafy greens like kale and spinach.
Curating Your Menu
Perhaps the most important step in creating a weekly menu is to curate it as you go. If there are dishes you’re adding to the menu that aren’t getting eaten, cut them from the rotation. Maybe you realize that coming home to a big salad in the winter isn’t making you feel satisfied, or perhaps your kids aren’t enjoying their once-favorite dish the way they used to. Whatever the case may be, there are plenty of delicious recipes out there to help you mix things up.
Want More Weekly Dinner Ideas?
Check out other articles that can help you plan and create weekly menus on our blog. Dive further into Weekly Meal Planning, find Easy Meal Ideas for the Week and check out quick, craveable lunch ideas.