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How to make a weekly meal plan with Meal Planner App

Published January 18, 2023

For all of the farmers market shoppers and the weekly coupon clippers, here are some helpful tips for making a weekly meal plan.

At Meal Planner App, we've been in the meal planning game long enough to know that people who are adamant meal planners tend to fall into two buckets — monthly meal planners, and weekly meal planners. While there are many benefits to planning monthly, there are some advantages to planning weekly that can appeal to people as well. For instance, many people enjoy shopping for fresh produce and meat at local farmers markets, then plan their menu based on the ingredients they find. Others prefer to clip coupons from weekly fliers and plan meals based on the deals they find.

No matter your reason for choosing to meal plan weekly, you’ve come to the right place for some meal planning tips. Here is our method for weekly meal planning.

Side note: If you're not quite sure which you prefer, check out our article on how to make a monthly meal plan to see which method is right for you.

Define your goal

Decide what success looks like for you. You may take a look at our inspiration page and see people loaded up with a robust, well-rounded meal plan and get intimidated. That may not be realistic for everyone, especially if you’re just getting started. Make sure your goals are realistic for where you are now.

How many meals do you want to plan for a week? How many days at a time? Do you want to plan every meal or just dinners? In our family, our weekly meal plan focuses on planning lunch and dinner. We’ll typically cook one big meal to eat for every lunch (lately it’s homemade chicken salad sandwiches with fresh-baked sourdough), or plan to eat leftovers for lunch. For dinner, we vary the meals based on our meal planning rubric. Our goal is to eat all of our meals at home and one fast-food dinner a week, and we typically plan for 5 days at a time.

Decide what success looks like with your needs and schedule, and you’re off to a great start.

Take inventory

Choose a day of the week to take inventory of your essentials. Your essentials are the back bone of your weekly meal plan. For us, our essentials are ingredients we use nearly every week (flour, peanut butter, oatmeal, maple syrup).

Pro Tip: the Meal Planner App meal index can be used to keep track of essential ingredients. We added a meal called "Essentials", and listed all of our regularly-needed ingredients in its ingredients list. That way, we can add "Essentials" to each weekly meal plan, and automatically have these items show up in our shopping list.

essential ingredients on an iPhone

Pick a planning day

Next, it's time to choose what day of the week you want to meal plan. This can be the same day you shop (for the farmers market shoppers), or the day before (for the coupon clippers). The day of the week or the proximity to when you shop is not really what’s important, but following through with the plan is very important. Try to aim for consistency and routine. These help establish the right kind of healthy patterns that add up to make a successful meal plan.

Choose your tools

Every meal plan should exist somewhere in the physical world, wether it be on a piece of paper, or inside a digital tool like the Meal Planner App online meal planner. Getting the ideas out of your head and into a trusted system are crucial for success. They help you remember what you decided, and they can help optimize the process.

Obviously, we’re partial to using our Meal Planner App, but before using our online meal planner, we would write meals and shopping lists down on paper. Meal Planner App has made the weekly meal planning process so much faster. What used to take us hours now only takes 30 minutes — sometimes even less!

If you’re curious about using an online meal planner, give Meal Planner App a try. Sign up for a free trial.

Consider your calendar

Before you start choosing meals for the week, stop to consider what else you have on your calendar. Be mindful of family and social events for the week. You want to consider what your schedule looks like for each week, so that you don’t overlook a detail and end up deviating from your plan.

Remember, every time you deviate from the plan, you’re more likely to waste the food you’ve already bought, or to spend more money on food you didn’t plan on eating.

Stick to the plan, and the plan will take care of you!

Plan your menu

Finally, it’s time to get planning! Use your meal planning rubric to easily plug your favorite meals into your week. If you’re using Meal Planner App, use our new drag and drop tool in the month view. We’ve made it even easier and quicker to drop meals on the calendar and build a meal plan.

Get shopping

Once you’ve got a meal plan for the week, it’s time to plan for shopping. We typically do most of our shopping online through local grocery stores, then supplement the rest of what we need by going to Trader Joe's. Online shopping is great because it shows you the total before you checkout, so there’s no sticker shock in the checkout line. This can also help you stay on budget by substituting some name brand ingredients for store brand, or changing the plan altogether if needed.

You haven’t committed until you’ve bought the groceries.

Stick to your plan

However, once you have bought the groceries, it’s time to commit! We say it all the time, but sticking to your plan is the only way to get all of the benefits of meal planning. It protects you from wasting food (aka wasting money), and it protects you from unplanned takeout trips (aka wasting money).

Enjoy your week

Now that you've done the hard work of planning and shopping, it's time to relax and be present with the people around you. That is, after all, one of the main benefits to meal planning. A good weekly meal plan will give you permission to stop stressing over food, and start enjoying it with people who matter to you.

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