How to Make a Meal Plan

I have been making a meal plan for years. I feel so completely lost when I go to the store without a list and a plan. I’ve been using this same four-step formula for making my meal plan for years.

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How to Make a Meal Plan – Four Easy Steps

Check your calendar

As simple as it sounds, this is where I always begin. There are some things that happen every week, like church on Wednesday night and Sunday morning. So for those meals, I know I’ll plan either a crockpot meal or have something preassembled, ready to go into the oven.

The other reason I start with my calendar is to check for playdates, special outings, possible company, or birthdays. Basically, anything that will require special meals and planning.


Checking to see what you already have in the freezer, fridge, and pantry helps two-fold. A weekly inventory helps you clean out any expired food and saves you from unnecessarily buying something you already have. Knowing what you have on hand really helps when it comes down to a pantry challenge or last minute meal ideas.

Check sales ads

Checking the local sales ads helps plan what you’re going to make and save you money. If I see that ground chuck is $2.99/lb at Kroger or chicken breasts are $1.49/lb at Value Market, then I plan my meals around that. I don’t ever buy meats that aren’t on sale, with the exception of smoked sausage. The smoked sausage at my Aldi is normally $1.99. I’m willing to pay that much any time.

Knowing what’s on sale also helps you stock up on staples. Like last week my Kroger had shredded cheese for $1.89 for 12oz. That’s a great deal, so I bought several bags and stored a few in the freezer for later.

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Make your plan and your list!

These may sound like two separate steps, but I do them at the same time. By knowing what I already have and what’s on sale right now, I can easily plan my meals and fill out my shopping list at the same time.

For example, if I know that I already have the canned goods needed for chili, then I just write “chili” on one of my days and write whatever else I need for that meal on my shopping list before filling in the next day.

Below you’ll find the pages that I use when meal planning. I’ve made both a weekly and monthly version. Sometimes I plan monthly, and sometimes I do it by weeks, I guess it just depends on my mood. If you’d like to use the same pages, just enter your email below!

Those are the simple steps I take each time I meal plan.

Do you have a regular planning routine? Tell me about it in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!

Looking for a sample menu with price breakdown?

Check out my Large Family Meal Budget (Feeding 8 people on $150/week) With a Sample Menu


11 thoughts on “How to Make a Meal Plan”

  1. I have such a tough time sticking to a meal plan. Thanks for sharing your tips – things I know but have trouble doing, so this was a good reminder and hopefully a good motivator! LOL

  2. I always find it so difficult to find sale prices. We shop mostly at Walmart and they don’t have a weekly flyer delivered like the markets like Acme around us. I appreciate the reminder to always check the pantry first (I forget to do this before shopping).

  3. I don’t know why meal planning is such a difficult thing for me. Fortunately, The Hubby has taken over this task (and most of the cooking as well), so I have respite 😀 But thanks for the tips!

  4. I am a monthly meal planner and use a system very similar to yours – it keeps me sane, definitely lowers the stress level around here! Thanks for the tips. It’s always a good thing to get some new input.


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