How to Plan a Weekly Menu

SilverwareDo you make a weekly menu plan? Planning out a week’s worth of meals is the first step in How to Make a Grocery List, but many of us don’t do it.

I think often we are too busy or overwhelmed with life to take the time and write out a menu. It’s much easier to run into the grocery store on the way home from work, grab a few items to fix for supper that night.

Or …how many of us have done this? … Call the pizza shop and arrange to pick up a couple of large pizzas on the way home? Have you hit a drive thru at a local restaurant on your way home and called that supper?

I’d be willing to bet that nearly all of us have done one of those three options. You know what, it’s ok, too. Sometimes, take out or grab and go groceries are the best solution for the night.

What I’ve had to avoid, is making that the habit. My budget took a pretty serious hit recently, and I have to pay more attention to the money I spend on food (and everything!)

Planning a menu can be as complicated as you want to make it. I sure have some pretty involved menus when I’m planning a large family gathering. But most weeks the menu is pretty simple.

I try to make my grocery trip cover a two week period. It’s easier now that my children are grown and out of the house. When they were living here, it was about all I could manage to get a week’s worth of groceries at one trip.

You could use a printed menu planning sheet, a computer program, the back of a child’s homework, or a white board hung on the fridge door.

I take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle, creating two columns. One column is for each week. Then I draw lines across the page to define the days of the week. I label them with the first letter of the day. See the picture below.

A real too goodness menu and grocery list from my last trip to the store.

A real too goodness menu and grocery list from my last trip to the store.

The next step is to start filling in the boxes with meal ideas. I have a habit of cooking in fairly large quantities, so most of my meals cover two days at a time. For the menu plan, I usually just write the same food on both Mondays (for example). This is a menu plan so I know what groceries to buy. This isn’t cast in stone. In fact, we very rarely eat the food on the day of the week I have it listed!

You’ll want to include a main dish, vegetable or fruit for each meal. Don’t forget dessert if you want to have a treat. Also, remember to include lunches if you’re not planning to eat left overs for lunch. I usually have spaghetti on the list as well as a chicken dish. Those two meals will cover about four nights, and if I’m lucky, a fifth.

Coffee Cup   There, you have your menu planned. Seems simple doesn’t it? The trick is taking five or ten minutes to put it together. I try to make my menu while I’m having my morning tea. You could work on your menu during your coffee break at work. You could plan it out on the transit ride during your commute. Please don’t write and drive your car, though!

When I have an event coming up, I spend more time on making sure the menu for that day is planned. Also, if I know I’ll be having a busy week and need help from the family in getting supper ready, I’ll spend a little more time on the menu and post it on the fridge. I’ll be writing a post on those processes soon, so stayed tuned in.

Update: You can download a FREE PDF copy of my menu planner by clicking here.


This month, I’m participating in BlogHer’s National Blog Post Month. The challenge is to post an original post every day for January. You can read more posts here.

My response to today’s NaBloPoMo writing prompt can be read here.

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About Noel

Noel Lizotte is breaking free of corporate stress with convenience cooking! She writes a weekly syndicated column, contributes monthly to and has authored a cookbook: Apron Free Cooking.


How to Plan a Weekly Menu — 2 Comments

    • Fainthearted,
      Two weeks at a time became much, much easier when I was able to shop for just my husband and myself. I’m afraid I wouldn’t have been able to do it for an entire family. (spending all that money at one shot would give me a guilt trip like you couldn’t believe!) lol