How To Use A Meal Plan TemplateOct 29, 2021
Can I let you in on my favorite meal planning secret?
I used to struggle week after week with what to cook not only for dinner, but also for breakfast, my lunch and my kids' lunches. I loved the ease and freedom that my meal plan brought me every day, but I dreaded the once-a-week grind to sit down and map it all out.
Then, on one such dreaded evening, I had a revelation. As I drew out yet another chart with space to fill in our meals for the week, it hit me: All I needed to do was make a template that I could reuse.
I know you know that euphoric feeling that fills you up when someone asks, "Whats for dinner?" and you know EXACTLY what you're serving AND you've even got a few things prepped and ready to go for the meal. But that euphoria is sucked away immediately when it comes time to put pen to paper and you have to actually sit down and figure it all out.
Here's the thing: You can keep that euphoric feeling even when you're putting your plan together. My meal plan template made this weekly task significantly easier and it will do the same for you!
What is a meal plan template?
A meal plan template is a reusable grid that outlines all your meals for the week. It includes meal ideas so all you have to do is plug in a recipe. Meal plan templates are as close to a "done-for-you" meal plan you can get without me doing it for you every week! (If that's what you want, book me to be your dinner fairy godmother here.)
I love working with templates in life in general. I have one for my family's pack list whenever we travel and several that I use in my weekly work tasks. Just like those templates, my meal plan template significantly reduces the amount of time I spend on the task.
Creating my family's menu each week only takes about 15 minutes with a template because the ideas are already outlined in the grid. It also makes recipe searching easy because it focuses you on a specific category.
When I work with my meal plan audit clients, we create a robust list of 10 meal ideas for breakfast, lunch AND dinner so that they can swap them out in their meal plan template weekly or bi-weekly for variety.
How to create your own meal plan template.
To help you get started, I have set up the framework for you in a free Canva template that you can customize. Just fill it in according to your family’s preferences and needs. Collect and plug in recipes to make it your own. Change the meal ideas and recipes weekly or bi-weekly to use the template again and again!
Once you've made a copy of the template, started editing it to make it your own:
1. Pick 2 breakfast meal ideas. (For example, smoothies and breakfast burritos.) Insert them into your template, rotating them every day.
2. Decide if you're going to enjoy leftovers for lunch for 1 or more days during the week. If so, add that to the grid. Then, choose 2 lunch meal ideas and input them into the template, rotating them like you did for breakfast. (For example, Buddha bowls and lettuce wraps.)
3. Decide if you're going to enjoy leftovers or do takeout for 1 or more days for dinner. If so, plug those into the nights you have designated.
4. Brainstorm a list of dinner meal ideas your family likes and choose however many you need to fill in the remaining open dinners in your template. Meal themes are one of my favorite ways to fill in this part of my template. For example, "Taco Tuesday" is a weekly occurrence in my house and during the summer months, we've always got a "Grill Night" in the plan.
5. Once you’ve created your weekly dinner plan, spend a few minutes to plan how you’re going to prepare it all. Review your recipes and look for parts of the meals that you can prep in advance on a lighter day during the week (such as a weekend) to speed up your cooking during the week. Download our free Batch Cooking Planner for our step-by-step system and worksheets to help you do this.
How to get more mileage from your template
One of the greatest benefits of a meal plan template is that you can reuse it again and again! You can choose to do this in a couple of ways:
- Rotate the recipes in your template every week. (Check out our Pinterest boards for hundreds of recipes in a range of meal idea categories.)
- Rotate the meal ideas. Make several versions of your meal plan template and input a variety of ideas every week or twice a month. For example, the first and third week of the month can follow one template and the second and fourth week of the month can follow another.