The Anatomy of a Weekly Meal Plan {How To} (January)

When David works, Hailey and I tend to make it a productive weekend. We knocked out some organization tasks that needed to be done, meal planned and grocery shopped on Saturday and still managed to fit in a matinee showing of Frozen (again) on Sunday.

As I was planning our meals for the week ahead, I realized that I unknowingly follow a certain routine in doing so. I realized that this process is what takes the headache out of meal planning for me and wanted to share it with you guys! So, here it is…

the anatomy of a weekly meal plan

1. Open your calendar. Plan your meals around your life, not the other way around. Before I pick even one meal, I look over the week ahead and consider which days I’ll be strapped for time and which ones I have a little more wiggle room.

On the days we are at play group all afternoon, I usually plan a crockpot meal. Nothing is better than walking in at 6pm and having dinner DONE. If we have nothing planned, maybe I’ll pick a meal that Hailey can help me with, knowing we’ll have more time to play around.

2. Visit Though the weather is hardly ever accurate for the entire week, it gives me a sense of what to expect. A day that looks cold a rainy usually requires and soup of some sort, while 70 and sunny makes me want to light up the grill!

3. Peek in your fridge and freezer. Do you have any items (meats, herbs, vegetables) that you didn’t use the previous week that need to be used soon? Take note. Not only will it save you money on the grocery bill, it will help ensure you don’t waste any food.

4. Limit new recipes. Sit down with your favorite cookbook/blogs/pinterest boards, but don’t get carried away. I like to switch things up, but probably try a new recipe on 1-2 times a week. New recipes, even if simple, take more mental effort and focus than old standbys. Plan to try a new recipe on a day you have extra time. Sundays or Tuesdays are usually what works for my schedule.

5. Fill in the other days with family favorites. You’ll see spaghetti squash with meat sauce, sweet potato chili, layered fiesta bowls and homemade pizza over and over again on my meal plans because we love them and I could make them with my eyes closed at this point. Plan meals that come together quickly or easily and won’t stress you out.

6. Consider leftovers. We usually eat the amount that I cook, or I eat any leftovers for lunch, so we typically have a new meal each night, but if you usually have leftovers, hooray! Take a night off of cooking the next night.

However, sometimes I know I’ll have one things leftover (extra chicken) so I can repurpose that the following night. Example: roasting a chicken one night means that the next night is perfect for a homemade chicken soup.

Also, consider freezing for the future. If I make a huge pot of pulled pork and don’t want it two nights in a row, I’ll freeze it to eat in the next few weeks, which gives me an easy meal down the line, without any waste.

7. Be flexible. Life happens and schedules get turned around. Don’t let your meal plan be a stress to you. Typically if things get mixed up for us, I switch up which meals fall on which nights and try to make the meals that require the use of more fresh ingredients first. That way I can reschedule a meal for the following week and still possibly get away with using what I already bought.

For example: Spaghetti and salad is an easy meal to put off for a few days. Ground beef, onions, spaghetti squash and pasta hold up pretty well, so I can usually delay that meal a few days without wasting any of the ingredients I bought.

Also, consider freezing any meats, poultry or fish you didn’t get to that week and use it the following week. It will be a pleasant surprise to already have an item bought when you peak in your freezer the following week.

8. Prep as much as you can on the weekend. It’s amazing how having washed and cut lettuce or diced onions can make meal making so much easier. By the time dinner rolls around, it feels like you’re in a cooking show where all the ingredients are set and ready for you to cook with right away! For more food prep inspiration, visit Lindsay’s Sunday food prep posts!

weekly grocery haul

With all that being said, here is a peak at my plan for this week:

SundayGarlic Butter Shrimp & Quinoa with Salad

Monday– Spaghetti Squash and Meat Sauce with Salad

TuesdayCrockpot Lemon Chicken and Quinoa Salad with Artichokes

WednesdayCrockpot Brown Sugar & Roasted Garlic Pulled Beef Sandwiches with Roasted Broccoli

ThursdayLayered Fiesta Bowls

Friday– Homemade Veggie Pizza

Last night’s dinner was really delicious, but a bit heavy in butter.

garlic lemon butter shrimp and quinoa

Next time I’m going to try and reduce the amount used and see how it is. If a meal isn’t any good or isn’t a keeper for other reasons, I go back and delete it off my pinterest board so I don’t accidentally make it again. It’s a great habit to get into so you know you always have a collection of tested recipe that you and the fam enjoy!

What is your best tip for meal planning?

Or, if you’re new to it, what is the most intimidating part?



  1. says

    Great tips! I really need to give the food prep a try. I know it would help me if I could just get into the habit! Do you usually make your own dressing or do you have a healthy favorite you recommend? I find it difficult to find healthy salad dressing that my husband likes too!
    Kristen recently posted..Better than sliced breadMy Profile

  2. says

    In an effort to have healthy food on hand, be less wasteful, and save money, I want to start helping out a lot more in the kitchen for canning and putting food away.

    For one example, it’s easy and basically free to take the leftover carcass and bones from a roasted chicken, simmer that to make broth, then can that and put it away for later. If someone buys quality, healthy pastured chicken… you now know you have quality, healthy broth and not the terrible sodium-filled cans from the store.

    Another example is simmering huge batches of chili or stew and then canning most of it. Weeks or months later, walk to the pantry, pop a lid, eat stew. Since these cans are already cooked, they’re also great for those inevitable times when the power fritzes out for a few hours.
    Mike @ Midwestern Bite recently posted..Little Girls Like Pink and Lots of StuffMy Profile

    • Brittany Dixon says

      You guys are amazing at all you do, grow and store. I admire it and envy it, too! Canning soups and chili is up on my list of things I’d love to learn to do, so if you post about it, please send me the link!

      And yes to making your own broth- it’s so easy!

    • Brittany Dixon says

      Love the making a double batch idea! I plan to use it in the upcoming months and I prep some freezer meals… so crazy to be thinking about being a new mom again!

  3. Lauren B. says

    I basically do the same planning as you, although i could be better about doing one big prep day. One thing that has been useful is having a “Tried it, Loved it” board on Pinterest, so the things that I’ve made and loved and want to make again get Pinned there, along with any comments about tweaks that I made (i.e. cut down on the butter!). It’s really easy to remember what is a thumbs-up and what’s not.

    • Brittany Dixon says

      Such a smart idea to jot down changes you made when you repin! I always think I’ll remember and never do.

  4. says

    Great tips! I definitely follow them all and actually really enjoy menu planning and food prep. Even grocery shopping is fun to me! My number one tip is definitely to plan ahead and have back ups. I always keep a meal or two in the freezer in case I’m too tired to cook or something comes up and I don’t have anything prepared. Defrost and serve!
    Giselle@myhealthyhappyhome recently posted..MIMM – Sweet Potato Apple Chicken HashMy Profile

    • Brittany Dixon says

      Great point! I should make some back-up meals to have on hand. If things get thrown off too much, we either eat soup or grab something out. The idea of back-up freezer meals is so smart!

  5. says

    Love all of your tips! I don’t do as much on the weekends as sometimes I wish I did… I’m just all about simple meals. Usually one night out of the week (a weekday that I don’t have much going on or a weekend day), I choose a meal that looks delicious and is a little more time consuming. But other than that, I stick to meals that take 30 minutes or less to prepare and cook!
    Ashley @ My Food N Fitness Diaries recently posted..Food Never Tasted So GoodMy Profile

    • Brittany Dixon says

      Hey, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it, right? 😉 We make a lot of our favorites over and over again too!

    • Brittany Dixon says

      Glad I’m not the only meal plan lover out there… and yes, checking the weather probably makes me over the top (haha), but I can’t help it!
      PS- thanks for the link love in advance! I appreciate it :)

  6. says

    I love the idea of planning out an entire week of meals. I’m more of a day by day cook, and I do look in the fridge and pantry to see what I still have and then base the next day’s meal(s) on what I have on hand. Perishables are always the first thing I tackle because produce just doesn’t last that long. Thanks for all the great tips! I’m going to try and plan 2-3 days worth of meals and see if I can work towards an entire week!
    Marnie @ SuperSmartMama recently posted..Weekend Bike RideMy Profile

  7. Donna Giovannetti says

    How do you store diced onions? I’ve always wanted to pre-chop these but don’t want my refrigerator to smell like onions and the onions to use their potency.

    • Brittany Dixon says

      I store them in a mason jar usually, or a ziplock. I think it gives off more smell with a ziplock, actually. Truth be told, sometimes my fridge does smell like onions! It usually goes away in a day or so, but sometimes I definitely notice it!

  8. says

    While I definitely don’t have meal planning down yet (we had Chinese and subs this weekend – haha), I do the same technique for recipes on Pinterest. I keep all of my favorite on my Tried and True board and delete the ones I didn’t like (which I almost wish I could share so others won’t waste their time making them!)

    Your photo light is awesome! I know I already said that, but it is!
    Maria recently posted..Eating My Stress for Breakfast and Lunch…and Second Lunch: Part 1My Profile

  9. says

    I definitely plan easy meals on nights we have a lot of extra-curricular activities. Slow cooker or leftovers.

    The slow cooked chicken and pulled beef recipes you posted look delicious. Just pinned them!
    Shana Norris recently posted..10 Weekly Goals.My Profile

  10. says

    I recently did a post on how I plan meals too and while you were much more thorough, I totally have the same process! It makes planning fun to consider weather and special occasions :)

  11. says

    Love these tips! I have definitely been over zealous and tried too many new recipes in a week… it is exhausting! I am making sweet potato chili for the first time this week! I wish I had seen your recipe first. It looks delicious.
    April recently posted..The Cookie Jar of GraceMy Profile

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