This Simple Meal Planning Tip Will Make Your Life Easier

woman writing on a weekly meal plan printable and hanging it on the fridge

Making A Weekly Meal Plan Is Easier With A Template

Whether you’re the only one in charge of keeping everyone in the house fed or you share that responsibility with someone else, it’s a lot of work! From budgeting to grocery shopping to cooking, every step takes time, effort, and planning, and the work never ends!

But the good news is that it is indeed possible to keep your family well-fed without losing your mind in the process. ;-) And I hope to prove it in today’s post, where I’ll be sharing a simple system you use to save yourself time and take the guesswork out of planning meals!

woman writing on a weekly meal plan printable

How A Dinner Planning Template Saves You Time And Effort

This system involves creating your own weekly meal plan templates, which is sort of like having a plan for coming up with a meal plan. Instead of deciding arbitrarily what to cook each night, your meal plan template will have a theme or category for each day that will help narrow your options and give you more to work with.

But sticking to the same plan each week can start to feel repetitive, so I recommend having two templates you can rotate through to keep things interesting. I’ve included two of my own meal plan templates below so you can see how it’s done.

Note: I find this system really helpful, but if it’s not a good fit for you for whatever reason, check out my Go-To Dinners List printable instead. It’s not so much a planning system as it is a reminder about meals that you and your family enjoy!

woman writing on a weekly meal plan printable

Feel free to steal/borrow the examples I’ve provided below, or use them as inspiration for your own templates. To make it even easier for you, I also put together a free PDF printable of Weekly Meal Ideas that you can download near the bottom of this post!

Weekly Meal Plan Template – Example #1

Meatless Monday

Skipping meat once a week is great for your wallet and the planet! Try a vegetarian option like my quick and easy meatless lasagna!

Dump Dinner Tuesday

Nothing says effortless like a “dump dinner!” These are meals you assemble and freeze in advance so you can just dump them into a slow cooker or your Instant Pot when you’re ready to cook them.

Check out these three “dump chicken” recipes, then check out this post for 5 more make-ahead-and-freeze meals.

Rotisserie Chicken Wednesday

Did you know that there are over 20 ways to use a rotisserie chicken? From chicken salad to taco soup, it’s the gift that keeps on giving!

Family Dinner Thursday

Thursday dinners are one of my favorite family traditions! I usually stick with crowd-pleasers like Instant Pot pot roast or meatloaf served with mashed potatoes.

Grilling Friday

Another thing the Nystul family loves is grilling! Even during the winter I’ll make things like spare ribs in the Instant Pot or tri-tip in the oven. But during the warmer months, I’m all about that “straight off the grill” flavor!

“Surprise Me” Saturday

Saturdays are for surprises! This could include getting take-out from your favorite restaurant, trying a new local spot, or clearing out the fridge and creating something new out of whatever leftovers you had on hand!

Soup/Salad Sunday

Sundays are for rest, so I like to keep things simple with soup or salad (or soup and salad!) Use up leftover veggies by stirring them into some spring mix or toss together this tasty spinach salad. For something a little more hearty, make a big batch of my Instant Pot chili.

woman hanging weekly meal plan printable on a fridge

Weekly Meal Plan Template – Example #2

Mexican Monday

From ultra-authentic to Tex-Mex and beyond, we love all kinds of Mexican food in this family. There are endless ways to combine Mexican staples like tortillas, beans, rice, etc., so Mexican Monday can always look (and taste) a little different! Try these honey-lime chicken enchiladas one week, then baked tacos the next, and so on.

Breakfast For Dinner Tuesday

Breakfast for dinner (or “B for D” as some like to call it) is super easy to execute and it’s a fun way to mix things up. Keep it simple with scrambled eggs and bacon, or get your protein fix with this breakfast casserole. And since we’re already breaking rules, why not have pancakes or cinnamon rolls for dessert? ;-)

Pizza Wednesday

Dinner on Wednesdays is all about pizza. Whether we order delivery from our favorite pizza joint or we break out my stovetop pizza oven, it’s sure to be a hit with the whole family. (Those with Celiac and or looking to cut back on carbs can always load their tomato sauce and toppings onto a tasty cauliflower pizza crust.)

Casserole Thursday

Casseroles are super easy to assemble ahead of time so you can just pop them in a pre-heated oven for a quick dinner. Our favorite chicken casserole is always an option, though I’m not opposed to spicing things up a bit with a chicken enchilada casserole.

Pasta Friday

Pasta lovers rejoice! Try spooning crockpot ranch chicken over noodles, or jazz up a jar of pasta sauce. Looking to add more veggies into the mix? Try this delicious chilled pasta salad.

Sandwich Saturday

Sandwich Saturday represents an endless sea of possibilities. Pile up the cold cuts, cheese, veggies, and spreads, or break out your griddle to whip up some gourmet grilled cheeses.

Leftovers Sunday

Clean out the fridge and eliminate food waste by eating whatever you didn’t finish during the week! You may even be able to get creative by combining different ingredients—taco pizza, anyone? :-)

woman hanging weekly meal plan printable on a fridge

More Ideas For Your Meal Plan Templates

You can build the perfect templates for you and your family using your favorite kinds of food, your preferred cooking methods, certain types of dishes, or anything else that comes to mind! Here are some more ideas you might consider using somewhere in your templates:

  • Ethnic Foods
    • Chinese
    • Indian
    • Mediterranean
    • Italian
    • Mexican
  • Dish Types
    • Casseroles
    • Sandwiches
    • Soup/Stew
    • Stir Fry
  • Meats
    • Chicken
    • Beef
    • Pork
    • Seafood
  • Dietary Restrictions
    • Vegetarian
    • Vegan
    • Gluten Free
    • Raw
  • Cooking Method
    • Grill
    • Smoker
    • Instant Pot
    • Slow Cooker
  • Bonus & Miscellaneous
    • Leftovers
    • Dine Out
    • Order In
    • Try A New Recipe
woman hanging weekly meal plan printable on a fridge

Download The Weekly Meal Ideas Printable

Download the free printable PDF below, print it out, and use it to create 2 reusable dinner planning templates. When you’re done, hang it on your fridge or inside a cabinet door so you can refer to it as needed!

“Weekly Meal Ideas” Printable

Use this printable PDF to create two weekly meal plan templates that will save you time and effort at dinnertime.

Weekly meal plan printable.


Do you have a favorite method or approach for planning meals?

Read This Next

Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


Bright Ideas

  • My problem is, my hubs is a picky eater, and I’m not. I love to try new things, so I get bored fixing the “same old, same old”, because I know he won’t eat “new stuff”. He won’t eat chicken, turkey or fish, either, and pork is “iffy”. As a result, I hate to cook because it’s the same things all the time! To his credit, he always tells me to fix whatever I want, and he’ll find something to eat. Well, he doesn’t cook, so his “something else” is usually cereal, yogurt with fruit, etc. Then I feel guilty for not fixing him something decent! I could fix two separate meals, but, as I said, I don’t like to cook that much. Anymore, my idea of a great recipe is 6 ingredients or less! Any suggestions?

  • I scour the fridge on Sunday and plan our meals according to what I have to use up. I’ve become very diligent about buying clearance meat and using my hand held Food Saver as soon as I get home. Since it’s just me and my adult Son, I make pre portioned food and label them. Most can simply be popped in the microwave. I can see how the above would be very helpful for bigger families though.

  • I have tried to plan meals, shopping, etc. It is just my hubby, me and our Boxer, Tahoe. I plan meals, buy the food and then my hubby will go, “Doesn’t Wings from Marcos Pizza sound good?” Or, “how about a pastrami sandwich from Jason’s Deli?” I will have meat thawed our, marinating in the refrigerator or a roast in the crockpot. “Why don’t you go to HEB and get a rotisserie chicken for dinner with salad.” I just give up the calendar then, what is the use? and this man detests anything casserole! But he tells me, “if you fix it, I will eat it,” but he bitches about it later. I have just given up on planning anything! But your suggestions are great for larger families though. My daughter has four youngins with her hubby and she plans everyday, what meals they will have. She owns a daycare so those meals are planned as well. I admire that.

    • Same here Deborah! So frustrating. Preparing ahead is impossible when hubs doesn’t know what sounds good until it’s imminent. I do assemble a lot of freezer meals of our absolute favorites as these end up being dinner a lot of the time. Best I can do.

    • I’m laughing right now because my husband won’t eat anything casserole or stew. So when I make a casserole or stew I name it something else like chicken a la Desiree

  • It is just my husband and myself and our two Boxers. I tried creating the meal plan ahead, but we never seemed to follow it, so I stopped preparing the plan. It just didn’t work. My hubby is a “night owl” and I don’t get to bed until late night. As a result, we might have brunch at 11:00 am or later, and then dinner about 7 or 8.

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