Using a template is my favorite way to simplify and streamline meal planning. It takes so much of the decision making pressure off because it makes it more like a fill-in-the-blank exercise.
You can make your template whatever you want it to be and however ‘fixed’ you want. For example, my favorite template is very flexible. I use it to make sure I’m putting enough variety into my meal plans.
My Favorite Meal Planning Template
My favorite dinner planning template is NOT a fill-in-the-blank type. It’s more of a guideline to formulate an overall weekly meal plan. I created this system to prevent me from falling into a dinner rut of making the same things over and over. Here’s how it works.
- I use these two lists.
- List 1: Chicken, Beef, Pork, Fish, Meatless
- List 2: Rice, Pasta, Potato, Salad, Soup/Stew, Instant Pot/Slow Cooker
- For each dinner, I pick 1 choice from List 1 and 1 choice from List 2.
- Each option can be used more than once, but every option has to be used weekly.
To illustrate, here’s a sample week’s meal plan:
- Monday: Grilled Salmon, Rice Pilaf, Steamed Broccoli (List 1: Fish + List 2: Rice)
- Tuesday: Beef Stew (Beef + Potato + Stew)
- Wednesday: Stuffed Portobellas with Angel Hair Pasta (Meatless + Pasta)
- Thursday: Slow Cooker Pork Chops, Baked Potatoes, Garden Salad (Pork + Potato + Slow Cooker + Salad)
- Friday: Chicken Stir Fry with Rice (Chicken + Rice)
- Saturday: Leftovers
- Sunday: Spaghetti & Meatballs with Caesar Side Salad (Beef or Turkey + Pasta + Salad)
Other Easy-to-Use Meal Planning Templates
Day-of-the Week Templates
Each day of the week has an assigned meal or meal type, and every week uses the same template. This really narrows it down and makes planning super simple. Examples:
Day-of-the-Week Example 1 (specific meal assigned to each day)
- Monday: Meatloaf
- Tuesday: Taco
- Wednesday: Spaghetti
- Thursday: Stir Fry
- Friday: Pizza
Day-of-the-Week Example 2 (meal type assigned to each day)
- Monday: Meatless
- Tuesday: Pasta
- Wednesday: Breakfast-for-Dinner
- Thursday: Slow Cooker
- Friday: International
Pick-and-Choose Meal Types Template
Pick a meal type for each night. This is a slightly more flexible version of Day-of-the-Week templates. Instead of having an assigned night, you pick the meal type (Sandwich Night, Soup Night, Pasta Night, etc.) for each night as you’re meal planning. With this template, each week can look different.
As an example, this might be the start of a two week meal plan. Once you have the meal type selected, you would go back and plan the exact meal.
Pick-and-Choose Meal Type Week 1
- Monday: Sandwich Night (Sloppy Joe’s)
- Tuesday: Soup Night (Chicken Noodle Soup)
- Wednesday: Pasta Night (Spaghetti & Meatballs)
- Thursday: Mexican Night (Enchiladas & Rice)
- Friday: Pizza Night (Make Your Own Mini Pizzas)
Pick-and-Choose Meal Type Week 2
- Monday: Salad Night (Salmon Caesar Salads)
- Tuesday: Pasta Night (Chicken & Broccoli Alfredo)
- Wednesday: Asian Night (Pork Fried Rice)
- Thursday: Sandwich Night (Club Sandwiches and Side Salad)
- Friday: Pizza Night (Philly Cheese Steak French Bread Pizza)
Meals List Template
Keep a list of meals you know work well for your family and budget. Pick a meal from that list for each day. This template/method is perfect for really streamlining your meal plan to get all the benefits: saving time, saving money, and happy bellies!
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