I had lunch with a friend the other day. She’d switched careers a couple of years ago and is now teaching middle school! She’d been self-employed like me for many years and being away from the house for the day has brought new challenges. She said they’d eaten take-out food too many times last year and she was determined to get back on the cooking track this summer. Our conversation inspired me to make a free downloadable weekly menu planner with grocery list.
We talked about the various strategies we’ve used at various times and agreed that it really comes down to planning! If it’s 5pm and you don’t know what dinner is going to be, it’s way too easy to pick up some take-out, even though you know it’s costing you more and is probably not as healthy.
Plan to Plan
But that planning doesn’t happen by itself. You need to plan to plan. Have a certain day and time where you sit down and make your menus before you go grocery shopping.
Menu Planning Themes
I mentioned having themes for each day and she liked that idea. It’s easier than starting at a blank piece of paper. Part of the work is already done for you. There are dozens of theme ideas for menu planning so create one that works for your family. Meatless Mondays and Taco Tuesdays became popular because they take care of the first step in planning. Now you just need to decide what kind of tacos you’re going to make!
Don’t want to be limited to tacos on Tuesday? Just make that a Mexican themed night. If you like various ethnic cuisines, pick one for each day of the week. Whatever theme you choose, it will make planning easier.
You can organize by how you cook something. Maybe every Saturday you grill something and every Sunday you use your slow cooker Crockpot.
- Breakfast for Dinner
- Stews or Casseroles
- Slow Cooker
- Sheet Pan
- Skillet Meals or Stir-Fry
- Food on Bread (pitas, sandwiches, welsh rarebit, burgers)
Or you can organize by type of food:
- Red meat
- Fish or Seafood
- Rice or Pasta
- Eggs and Cheese
- Soups or Salads
Once you decide on your themes, make a list of your family favorites for each theme and refer to that list rather than start from scratch each week.
Free Downloadable Weekly Menu Planner
Here’s a template I made so you can write in your own themes and plan your meals. There’s space to write your grocery list while you’re planning your menus.
Save these weekly menu plans and you can use them for inspiration and remind yourself of some favorite meals. Or if you’re really don’t have time to plan a new menu some crazy week, reuse an old one!
If you want to plan breakfasts and lunches too, you can download this 3 Meal Menu Planner.