How to Make a Weekly Meal Plan from Your Pantry

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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.

writing dinner ideas on a weekly meal plan with rainbow colored pencil

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

weekly menu planner printable with pencil, eraser, grocery list on notebook paper, and Happy 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.
woman taking inventory of pantry staples with pencil and notebook in home working pantry

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.

grocery list with family meal planner, on notebook paper

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.

woman using iPhone app, Instacart, to order groceries online

Some of these services include the following:

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.

GRAB YOUR FREE PRINTABLE MENU PLANNER!

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WHAT TO READ NEXT…

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how to plan a weekly meal plan, weekly menu planner printable, and woman in pantry taking inventory of stock

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