Is meal planning one of those things you know you should be doing, but you haven’t found the right meal planning template yet?
Have you ever swore you were going do this whole meal planner thing…only to fail after two days?
We hear how amazing meal planning is for saving money, eating healthier, and feeling less overwhelmed by the dreaded 5:00 PM “What’s for dinner? I’m hungry now!” I even swear by it in my 100 easy ways to save money and paying off debt tips.
But it is hard to stick with IF you don’t have the right meal planning template. And let me tell you: I’ve tried it all.
After getting on and off the meal planning wagon many times, I finally found a meal planning template and system that works for me as a busy mom. And I even created a free version of it, which you can access at the end of the post.
Why Other Meal Planner Templates Failed
Note: This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure for more information.
But first, why is it so hard to stick with meal planning and why did the other meal planner systems fail?
Well, meal planning takes time and forethought. Kind of like creating a budget for the month — only with your food instead of money.
I tried meal planning a bunch of ways, like:
- on my monthly calendar
- in my daily planner
- on plain pretty notepad paper
But all of these failed after a few days or weeks.
So what changed?
Why You Need to Find a Meal Planner That Works For YOU
Once you find the right meal planner for your needs, you’ll understand why all the others didn’t work for you.
The top reasons I am loving this meal planner system are:
- I can plan weekly meals and my grocery list in 10 minutes or less
- This meal planner template includes snacks
- We stick to our grocery budget
- We meet all our all our special diet needs
- It’s so easy I will actually stick with it long-term
- It is cheap, less than $10 for an entire year
- There’s a free meal planning option that’s almost as good
So what’s the secret?
The Best Weekly Meal Planning Template
I was browsing Amazon when I came across the Knock Knock WHAT TO EAT notepad.
At first, I felt a little ridiculous even considering buying it. But when I looked closely at what was actually on this weekly meal planner, I started imagining myself as The Meal Planning Queen I had tried to be several times before.
Since I knew how much money I could save if I could stick with meal planning, and it was only $8 for an entire year’s worth of weekly meal planning templates, I gave it a shot.
And I’m SO glad I did.
Why the ‘WHAT TO EAT’ Meal Planner Works
- It’s magnetic – It sticks to my fridge…where all the food is to cook and where I look when making a grocery list.
- It makes sense. The main space is for planning dinners. We eat the same few things for breakfasts and lunches, so I really don’t need to plan those every day. However, I do plan dinner each day and this meal planner has it laid out perfectly.
- It also has a space for planning SNACKS. My 3- and 1-year-old eat ALL DAY LONG, so I need to make sure I have a never-ending grab bag of snacks for them. This was something all my other meal planner templates were missing.
- One notepad will last ALL YEAR because there are 60 weekly meal planning worksheets.
- It’s cheap. For $8-$9, if it saves you from ordering out even one night you will already get your money’s worth.
- I reuse old meal ideas. I run out of ideas after a week or two. So instead of throwing away old meal planner sheets, keep them somewhere so you can pull them out and easily plan out a new week of ideas from those meals you made 3 or 4 weeks ago. This is a huge timesaver!
What to Do After You Make Your Weekly Meal Plan
After you create a plan of what to eat for the week, create a grocery list with everything you need to make the breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks.
My favorite app for making grocery lists is Wunderlist.
I love Wunderlist for my grocery list because you can:
- check off each item in the store
- uncheck each item to re-add it to your list
- share the list with your husband or teenager…
- who can help you add items to your shopping list when they finish the milk or need to bring something special to school\
- create a different list for each store you shop at
Plus, you always have your phone with you at the store anyway. No more forgetting your list at home! Check it out and see what you’ve been missing.
Why You Need to Try Meal Planning (Again)
If you’ve tried meal planning before or have any of the following goals, make sure you have enough of the best meal prep containers to follow through with your plans.
Then remind yourself of these five reasons why you need to try it again.
1. Save Money with Meal Planning
The amount of money you save by planning your meals and only buying the food you need to carry out that meal plan is in the hundreds for most families. You’ll stop throwing away food you don’t use because you didn’t have a plan for what to use it for.
You’ll avoid impulse buys and buying a bunch of stuff “just in case you want to make that one dish this week.”
By finding the right meal planner template for your family, investing a few bucks and 10 minutes each week can easily save you $2,000 or more this year. You will save even more if you usually go out to eat a lot.
2. Save Time with Meal Planning
I know fast food sounds fast, but when you consider the time it takes for a family to decide, order, wait for the food, and eat, it’s really not faster than what you can whip up at home.
And when you create a system of knowing what food needs to be taken out to unthaw, knowing you have everything you need on hand, and only making one trip to the grocery store per week, you’ll end up saving yourself time by planning your meals ahead of time.
3. Lose Weight and Be Healthier with Meal Planning
Eating healthy and losing weight are goals many of us have. But it is hard!
I struggle with it too.
Eating healthy may never be straight-up easy. But when you create a weekly meal plan and buy the foods on your list, then sticking with a diet can be much easier.
4. Meal Planning for Food Allergies and Sensitivities
Feeding a family can be hectic enough without adding food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances to the mix.
But with 1 in 13 kids have food allergies, the need to find special foods that fit your family’s health needs is more common and crucial.
I have several food allergies in my family, and when you add my extended family, there are even more. Meal planning has become a way for us to more easily make meals, snacks, and treats that work for each family member’s needs.
5. Less Overwhelm and More Joy Around Meals
I know I can’t be the only one who dreads the hangry 5PM: “What’s for dinner? I’m huuuungry.”
Followed by ferociously hoping something yummy, easy and healthy-ish will magically appear in the fridge or cupboards.
The peace that comes with knowing what you’re going to eat and when allows families to experience less overwhelm in the kitchen and more joy around the dinner table.
More Weekly Meal Planner Templates
If you want to find a new weekly meal planner template but for some reason or another don’t think the Knock Knock WHAT TO EAT pad is the right for you, check out these other meal planners:
Free Weekly Meal Planner Template with Snacks
My Weekly Meal Plan Printable – FREE in my Resource Library
The weekly templates are the same as the WHAT TO EAT pad but in a printable version instead of the magnetic notepad. Sign up at the end of this post to get into the Freebie Library, which includes a bunch of meal planners, including a weekly one with a space for snacks.
Monthly Meal Planning Template
I’ve also created an editable and printable monthly calendar meal planner, so you can plan meals for an entire month. You can download those from the Freebie Library.
Meal Planner with Grocery List Template
If you want meals already included in your meal plan with a shopping list, then $5 meal plan is your easy and affordable answer. Try the Risk-Free 14-Day Trial with her delicious and easy recipes. The grocery list is a convenient addition and can save you a lot of time.
Editable Meal Planner Templates
You Can Get this Editable Weekly and Monthly Meal Planner – FREE in my Resource Library
You can find two editable meal planners in the Freebie Library too: one weekly and one monthly. With these you can fill in your meal plans for the week then save it on your computer or print it out. You can download them by signing up to instantly get the secret code.
Printable Meal Planner Templates
My Printable Meal Planner Templates – FREE resource library include the following options to best suit your personal preferences:
- Monday start
- Sunday start
- Pretty font
- Plain font
Special Diet Meal Planning Templates
Meal planning makes sticking with individual diet needs and goals easier. Check out these options if you’re looking for meal plans for your individual diet goals:
Gluten Free Meal Plans – $5 Meal Plan program has a library of delicious yet easy recipes. You’ll get recipes, directions and a shopping list with your plan. Try it FREE for 2 weeks. Continue for $5 per month or cancel if it doesn’t fit your needs.
21 Day Fix Meal Plans – Grab a printable spreadsheet meal plan over here.
Paleo Meal Planner (with Whole 30 modifications) – Check out this Word meal planning template on this page.
Vegetarian Meal Planning – Get four week’s worth of recipes and meal plans to fit a vegetarian diet either in Word or PDF.
Meal Planning Template in Excel
If you need to create your own meal planner in Excel, here’s a step-by-step guide.
Meal Plan in Your Bullet Journal
Finally, if you’re a bullet journal lover, you can create weekly meal plan in your journal too.
Here’s a how-to guide to show you how to create meal plans, shopping lists, and food budget goals with your bullet journal.
Start Meal Planning Today
When you create a habit of meal planning, you will:
- save money
- stop throwing unused food away
- have less overwhelm about “what’s for dinner”
- enjoy family meals more
- avoid restaurant and fast food because you don’t know what to eat
- have a plan prepared ahead of time for your meals each day
- know what groceries you need for the week (and what you don’t)
- stick to your diet goals, eat healthier, and lose weight
The Easiest Weekly Meal Planner
For me, the WHAT TO EAT pad on Amazon has been the key so I could finally stick with meal planning as a busy mom.
An entire weekly meal plan can be created in less than 10 minutes with a quality template. And if planning out all your meals ahead of time with this meal planner saves you from going out to eat just one time, you’ll already get your money’s worth out of it.
Trust me. It’ll save you from going out to eat a lot more than once. So using the What to Eat Pad is a no brainer.
The Cheapest Weekly, Monthly, and Editable Meal Planning Templates
But if you cannot get yourself to spend a few bucks on the notepad, at least grab one of the free meal planning templates in my resource library. Print four copies for the upcoming month and sticking them on your fridge.
Sign Up for My Meal Planning Printables Here!
Sign up below if you don’t have the Library password yet (hint: If you’re already part of The Common Cents Club newsletter, the password is included at the bottom oF any recent email).