Meal planning. We all know it can help you save money and time, not to mention eat healthier. But somehow our best intentions seem to fall by the wayside when the fridge is empty and it’s time for another grocery run.
If you’re like me, you get your groceries, figure out a few good things you can make for the next few days, and then fall back into the trap of “oops, what’s for dinner tonight??”
Not very organized, I’m the first to admit. The answer seems to be in finding a good system for meal planning. I’ve been looking for a system or meal planning template that will fit with my style, personality, and eating habits.
Here are some resources that will help you, too, without requiring you to sign up or log into anything. Explore our roundup of free menu planning templates. Pick the one that says you!
1. Meal planning templates – when beautiful matters
The thing with using a template someone else created is that it may not fit the format you need. Maybe you like to list 3 meals every day, plus ingredients for a shopping list. Or maybe you just want one open space for dinner each day. And honestly, most scribbly menu plans are not a beautiful sight to behold. Rather, they add one more piece of paper to clutter your fridge, right?
If this is you, here’s your answer: The Project Girl makes menu planning beautiful with 2 pretty menu plans in 2 different formats. Available in PDF only, so print it out and mark it up to your heart’s content. Use a pretty pen, too, to make it more fun and pleasing to look at every day!
2. Manage meals in an Excel spreadsheet – list all your recipes, too!
I also like the idea of listing out recipes somewhere for easy access. Going through cookbooks every week is so tedious. So the idea of keeping your menu plans in a digital file, say a spreadsheet or other app you’re familiar with, will let you call them up whenever you do your planning and then easily find things you like to make.
Jon and Maria Wittwer of Vertex42 offer several advanced meal plan layouts, both in PDFs and Excel. If you’re comfortable with Excel, you can even list your main and side dishes, etc., on the other sheets (see tabs across the bottom) for easy insertion into the main menu via drop downs!
While this may take time to set up, and you’ll need to do your planning on your computer, eventually it’s going to save you a lot of time and headaches if you have all your meals and menus saved in a file like this.
3. Super simple meal planning template
If just making a meal plan sounds like an enormous effort, you may want to stick with a simple print-and-fill-in template.
Grab Erin Rooney Dolan’s (a.k.a. the Unclutterer) simple meal planning template as a spreadsheet or printable PDF! Super simple for those who just want a designated spot to jot it all down (and you can go digital later with the spreadsheet option if you wish!)
Tip: Even if you print a PDF and write it in by hand, why not keep each week’s menu in a binder when you’re done with it, for easy inspiration and repeatability?
Tip #2: PDF stands for Portable Document Format. You can open, save and print PDFs using free Adobe Reader software. The page will function more like a graphic, rather than an editable document, so it preserves the format, fonts, layout, etc., regardless of how you access the file.