My Tips for Weekly Dinner Menu Planning & Shopping List Writing

In a post back in September titled "My Tips for Keeping Life Organized" I got pretty personal and talked about how chaotic things can become when you leave things messy and disorganized. Many of you seemed to really like that. I've lived in it and I know how much happier I've become since getting things in order. A large part of being healthy and having things around me running smoothly is my weekly menu planning and shopping list writing. Whenever I discover new ways to optimize my system and get things done in a simpler, quicker way I like to tell you all about it because sharing is caring right? But for real, I do really care about helping my readers out!

Here are my tips:

1. Pick a day of the week and ideally narrow down a specific time slot for writing a menu and food shopping list. For me this is Sunday in the early afternoon when my eldest is still in school and the little one is napping. Quiet time where I can focus on just this one thing means it get done quicker and with ease. 

2. Make a recipe binder, folder system or something similar. I went into great detail about my recipe binder a couple of weeks ago but here's the gist of it- a basic binder filled with clear sheet protectors for recipe print outs, magazine tear outs and even general jotted food ideas. When it comes time to sit down for my weekly plan session all I have to do is flip the binder open and between that and the Pinterest app on my phone I'm all set for meal inspiration. 

3. Look through your pantry, fridge and freezer to see what you are stocked up on and what you can prepare using ingredients you already have. While doing this you will also notice the basics you are out of and avoid mid week runs to the grocery for items forgotten originally.  

4.  Download this free printable one week menu planner from and print at least 15 copies so you'll have one for at least every week for one whole month and extras. Save the download on your computer or in your email to print more copies when you need them. Store the blank ones in your recipe binder for safe keeping and keep the one you've filled out for the week at the front of the binder so you can easily reference it throughout the week. You can simply write this information out on your own or print another style meal planner, they are easy to find on pinterest. I personally really like the way she has it laid out on this one with a space for the dates and lines to write in meal plans for not just dinner but breakfast, lunch and snacks as well. I stick to planning dinners only since we tend to eat the same things for breakfast, lunch and snack over and over around here. If you are someone in your family is trying to eat a certain amount of calories planning those other meals as well will be ideal. The fact that the ingredient list is on the same page makes things neater as well. All you need to do is transfer the ingredient list to your master shopping list to take with you when you go to the grocery.

5. Keep it interesting. We all get into that rut of preparing the meals we're used to often. Try something new and change it up. You'll be proud of yourself and you'll impress the eaters in your home at dinner time. I like to keep to a rule of 2 dairy based meals,  2 meat based meals and 2 non- dairy, non-meat meals centered around fish or vegetables. This is not only healthier with a variety of nutrients and vitamins to nourish you and yours, but also keeps  mealtime from getting boring. 

This week, pick a day with 25 minutes to spare and do some meal research, looking through pinterest, facebook and magazines for recipes and dishes you think you and your family will enjoy. Pull out your menu sheet and colored markers/pencils if it helps you visually like it does for me. Then grab your choice of smoothie, coffee or tea and turn on your ideal music for relaxing. Sit in your favorite spot and write out all of your dinner ideas with a main and side for each day and then add all of your ingredients onto a shopping list. Just don't forget your list when you head to the grocery, too many times I have to ask my husband to send me a picture of my shopping list because I forgot to bring it with me. When getting dinners ready throughout the week you will notice how much easier it is to cook it and have it ready in a timely manner when all of the brainstorming is already done in ahead of time and all of the ingredients are already conveniently in your home, stocked in the pantry and fridge.  

I am still learning so many great techniques for creating a meal planning system as I go along but it's no longer my most dreaded time of the week, but my favorite. I will certainly share more as I learn. I hope that these tips will be helpful to someone. Please share your own suggestions on the subject in the comments form, we can all use some inspiration, I'm sure! 

Thanks so much for stopping in!

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