Easy tips and frugal ideas for how to make a weekly meal plan from your pantry and freezer. Free printable menu planner and one week of dinner recipes.
There was a time when deciding what to eat for dinner really put a damper in productivity around this house. And not having a family meal planner took its toll on our grocery budget too.
These days, I plan a menu every single week and post it to the fridge. And if I'm late a day getting it up there, it really throws my family off track; that's how much they've come to depend on it.
Planning and eating out of our pantry and freezer is easier with a working pantry because we're constantly using and replenishing those foods we've stocked.
There are a lot of reasons why everyone should know how to plan a weekly menu.
WHY MENU PLAN?
- We're not guessing what everyone wants for dinner. We have a plan and we stick to it, no need to stand in front of the fridge wondering what's for dinner.
- It saves money. Planning a menu and grocery list allows us to stay within our budget, and we stick to the list while grocery shopping.
- It motivates us to eat healthier. We hardly ever eat out because of certain dietary needs and for financial reasons too. We're able to plan bits and pieces of things we can all eat into the menu.
WATCH MY VIDEO TO SEE HOW I PLAN MY MENU
HOW TO MAKE A WEEKLY MEAL PLAN
I've learned a lot working on our menu plans the last few years. These are some of the tips for menu planning I've been able to implement and use every single week.
Keep reading and you can get your own copy of our free printable meal planner.
- Use a printable weekly menu planner like the one I provide below (pictured above). That way you can post it to your fridge or in whatever place you and your family are more likely to see it every day.
- Before starting to plan meals, check your calendar or planner for meetings, activities, and busier days that week. You probably want to stick to easy meals on those busier days.
- Ask your family what they'd like to eat that week. When I ask my family, I usually only have to come up with maybe 2 meals because they give me ideas for the rest. Easy peasy!
- Try to cook at least 1 new meal if you have the ingredients. Broaden your culinary horizons. PRO TIP: Keep a secret Pinterest board for weekly menu ideas!
- Only plan meals you and your family will enjoy eating. If you're excited about it, you're more likely to stick to the plan and not deviate by ordering takeout or getting fast food.
- Be sure to take into account both your family's dietary needs and your budget.
- Take inventory of your pantry and freezer, and only plan meals for ingredients you have on hand. (And then plan to replenish those freezer and pantry staples.)
- Think about leftovers… How can you stretch leftovers to make more meals?
- Use a pencil so you can be more flexible, move meals around, etc.
- Save old menus for inspiration, meal ideas, etc.
LET'S TALK ABOUT WAYS TO STRETCH LEFTOVERS
I love to take certain foods and stretch them into 2 or 3 meals. For instance, a whole chicken…
If you cook a whole chicken, you can ration how much everyone eats; then take the leftovers and make chicken salad or chicken tacos or creamy chicken enchiladas or maybe a sheet pan of loaded chicken nachos.
Cook a pork roast, and you can make pulled pork or pulled pork pot pie. Same with roast beef.
Think of ways you can creatively use leftovers to stretch your food supply to its maximum benefit and use.
CREATE YOUR GROCERY LIST
When pantry meal planning, you really want to try to replenish what you use on a regular or occasional basis. I say occasional because you may want to take advantage of certain sales or coupons in order to replenish.
Now the bottom of my printable weekly menu below has a little spot for groceries. It's not for a full on grocery list but rather to add things to the list that you open up or run out of that week, so you can add those to your master grocery list and replenish those things.
For actual full on grocery lists, I sometimes keep a magnet notepad on the fridge; I can just tear off a sheet. Or I'll just use a piece of notebook paper. My Field Notes are another favorite addition to my purse and wallet.
When planning out my grocery list, I write it out by department in my store, starting with produce and working my way back through the store. That way when I'm shopping, I can go thru the store more easily and efficiently, adding items to my cart while I'm in each particular department.
I also add what I need to replenish to my list, unless I'm waiting for a sale on said item; and if so, I'll hold off on purchasing that particular item.
HOW TO ORDER GROCERIES
While I prefer to go to the store myself, there are times when it's just not possible. And that's when you can take advantage of different services that may be offered in your area, whether they're order online and pick up or order for delivery.
Some of these services include the following:
- Walmart Grocery Pickup – Enjoy $10 off your first order with Walmart Grocery.
- Sam's Club Pickup
- Costco Pickup
- Snake River Farms – for all my fellow meat lovers
- Crowd Cow – again, for all my fellow meat lovers
- Lobster Anywhere
- Amazon Fresh
- Amazon Pantry – household and dry goods only
- Amazon Subscribe & Save – great for household items
- Chewy – all things pets
- Google Express – dry goods only
- 1st in Coffee
- The California Wine Club
GREAT MEALS TO ADD TO YOUR MENU
Recipes for easy meal planning, using fresh ingredients, canned goods, or ingredients from the freezer. Great ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Perfectly Cooked Maple Brown Sugar Oatmeal
Simplify mornings with a quick and easy homemade maple brown sugar oatmeal. Dairy free Instant Pot oatmeal recipe using rolled oats and real maple syrup.
Peaches and Cream Instant Pot Oatmeal
Make ahead a large batch recipe for peaches and cream Instant Pot oatmeal, and start mornings with a family favorite, kid approved homemade breakfast!
Quick and Easy Chicken Fried Rice
How to make the most delicious homemade chicken fried rice. Quick and easy stir fry dinner recipe that's so much better than takeout!
Easy Instant Pot Chicken Noodle Soup
How to make an easy Instant Pot Chicken Noodle Soup you can depend on, sick or not. Add to your stash of easy chicken recipes!
Easy Crock Pot French Toast Casserole
Whip up a Crock Pot French toast casserole you can make ahead or same day. Easy slow cooker breakfast recipe for a crowd. Make it regular or gluten free!
Easy Bisquick Cinnamon Biscuits
Craving Hardees cinnamon raisin biscuits? Make your own with this simple and easy recipe for Bisquick cinnamon biscuits, the perfect breakfast sweet treats!
Melt-in-Your-Mouth Bisquick Cinnamon Muffins
Mix up a quick batch of Bisquick cinnamon muffins, dipped in butter and cinnamon sugar. Simple and easy, melt-in-your-mouth, breakfast and brunch recipe!
French Toast Casserole
How to make a deliciously easy French toast casserole, a make ahead recipe that's perfect for a crowd and makes a quick breakfast on busy mornings.
2-in-1 Instant Pot Meatloaf and Potatoes
How to make Instant Pot meatloaf and potatoes at the same time. Easy, one pot, ground beef dinner recipe, served with the best mashed potatoes!
Instant Pot Vegetable Soup
Make an easy Instant Pot vegetable soup with potatoes, okra, and other frozen veggies. Healthy pressure cooker recipe the whole family will love!
Classic Tater Tot Casserole
How to make a classic tater tot casserole with ground beef, vegetables, and mushroom soup. Easy delicious dinner recipe you can make ahead and freeze.
Not Your Mama's Easy Meatloaf Recipe with Oatmeal
How to make the best meatloaf recipe with oatmeal and ground beef. Simple, easy, delicious dinner idea that's quick to mix up. Recipe with how to video!
Easy Homemade Pasta Sauce
Homemade Pasta Sauce for spaghetti, lasagna, and other favorite pasta dishes. Simple ingredients and delicious flavor, good with meat or go meatless!
Creamy Potato Corn Chowder
Creamy Potato Corn Chowder with bacon and cheddar is so easy to make. Hearty soup that makes a cozy weeknight meal the whole family will love!
Easy Instant Pot Chili
Chilly nights call for a nice hot bowl of homemade chili to warm your heart and soul. Print an easy Instant Pot chili recipe! Best served with cornbread and a dollop of sour cream.
Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili
White chicken chili in the slow cooker makes an easy family meal. Filled with vegetables, white beans, chicken, green chiles, and cheese.
GRAB YOUR FREE PRINTABLE MENU PLANNER!
WHAT TO READ NEXT…
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2 thoughts on “How to Make a Weekly Meal Plan from Your Pantry”
Do you have a recipe for the pickles? It would be nice to watch a video on that. I have just started fermenting veggies and saw the pickles in your pantry on the working pantry video.
I do not have a recipe for pickles, April, but I think that’s a great idea for the future!