7 Weekly Meal Planning Tips to Make Your Life Easier

Life can feel overwhelming at times. Work, family, and other responsibilities constantly demand our time and attention. With so much on our plates, it’s easy to let meal planning fall by the wayside. Many of us resort to last-minute trips to the grocery store and takeout on busy nights. However, failing to plan for meals can create more stress in the long run. It leads to poor eating habits, impulse purchases, food waste, and, thus, blown budgets. 

However, making a weekly meal plan can bring stability and simplicity to this area of life. A 2022 study by the National Institute of Health states that respondents who planned weekly meals reported improved confidence in cooking and better self-esteem. 

Meal planning enables families to eat healthier, save money on groceries, and make better use of their time. Even busy professionals can benefit from having go-to meal ideas ready each week. Here are some tips for making weekly meal prep a breeze. With some planning and organization, you can take the chaos out of dinnertime and set your family up for success. 

1. Brainstorm Meal Ideas

The first step in weekly meal planning is brainstorming ideas for each night’s dinner. Browse recipe websites, flip through cookbooks, or skim through recent issues of your favorite food magazines. For instance, you may try to learn how to make instant pot Cannellini beans, which can be a nutritious and delicious base for various dishes. Not only are Cannellini beans healthy, but making them in an instant pot saves time and energy. 

Make a list of meals your family enjoys on repeat, like spaghetti Bolognese, sheet pan fajitas, or slow cooker chili. Don’t forget to include busy weeknight options like scrambled eggs or frozen pizza. It’s okay to fall back on simple meals when things get hectic. The goal is to have go-to ideas ready so you don’t have to scramble at dinnertime.

If you need inspiration, look to seasonal produce for meal ideas. In summer, take advantage of fresh corn with grilled chicken and corn salad. In winter, lean into root veggies with roasted chicken and potatoes. Planning around what’s in season keeps your menu varied and affordable.

2. Take Inventory of Your Kitchen

Next, start taking stock of what you already have on hand. Take a tour of your pantry, fridge, and freezer. Make a list of ingredients you have in surplus, like canned beans, pasta, or chicken breasts. It’ll help you use up what you have before buying more groceries. Checking your staples will also reveal what you need to restock for the recipes you want to make.

Taking inventory before meal planning prevents duplicate purchases and food waste. You’ll only buy what you need at the store for the planned meals. This tip saves money and reduces waste. So, before you plan, take a few minutes to see what you’re working with.

3. Pick a Day for Meal Prep

To reap the benefits of meal planning, you must set aside time each week. Many people find Sunday afternoons work best for planning the week. However, choose whatever day fits your schedule. 

On your designated planning day, review your calendar for the upcoming week. Make a note of evenings when you have late meetings or activities. These busier nights will likely rely on easy meals or leftovers. Planning around your commitments ensures you match meals to your time constraints. 

You’ll also have time to prep any ingredients or recipes in advance on your chosen day. For instance, you might chop vegetables for salads or cook a pot of rice for quick weeknight sides. A meal prep day paves the way for eating well all week.

4. Double Up on Recipes

A great way to save time is doubling up on recipes that allow for leftovers. For instance, roast two chickens instead of one and use the extra meat in salads or sandwiches later in the week. 

Cook a double batch of chili or soup and enjoy half now and half later. You can also double meal ingredients that allow for versatile leftovers, like roasted veggies, cooked grains, or extra chicken breasts. 

Planning for leftovers means you’ll always have ready ingredients for simple meals like frittatas, stir-fries, and grain bowls later in the week. Doubling up on key recipes streamlines your efforts in the kitchen.

5. Assign Meals to Days

With your menu and grocery list complete, assign each meal to a day of the week. Consider which nights will be busiest and plan for quick recipes or leftovers. Schedule slower nights for more involved recipes. 

You may also want to plan around popular weeknight activities—for instance, Taco Tuesdays or Meatless Mondays. Coordinating meal themes to certain days helps simplify planning week after week. 

Post your final weekly menu so that the whole family can see it. This way, you can keep everyone on the same page for meals and prevents last-minute food requests. It also gets family members excited about upcoming meals.

6. Set Reminders to Use Ingredients

Set reminders to use ingredients with a shorter shelf life to avoid food waste. Place a sticky note on milk, yogurt, and fresh produce like berries to remind you to incorporate them into meals in the next 3-4 days. 

You can also post reminders on recipe cards of upcoming meals to use items you already have, like “add bell peppers” or “top with avocado.” With a plan in place, you’re less likely to forget about ingredients before they spoil.

7. Evaluate What Worked

After a week of trying out new recipes, consider what was a hit or a miss in your meal plan. Track any changes in your family’s tastes as the seasons change.

Jot down notes on which recipes you’d like to repeat in future weeks. Note ingredient tweaks that could improve a dish next time. Reflecting on your wins and lessons learned will help refine your meal planning.

The more weeks you practice planning, the easier this process will become over time. You’ll build a rotating list of go-to meals your family loves. Advanced preparation will seem like second nature. With some dedication on the front end, mealtime can become a source of simplicity rather than stress.


Taking time to map out weekly meals offers a wealth of benefits. Meal planning leads to healthier eating habits, reduced impulse purchases, and more intentional use of ingredients. Your grocery budget will thank you, as will your schedule. While it takes effort initially, consistency makes meal prep second nature over time. Your family will adjust to the routine and look forward to weekly meals. Though no one can eliminate dinner stress, having go-to recipes and prepped ingredients provides stability.