A meal planning template can come in all shapes in sizes. Some are printouts great for monthly or weekly meal planning, I often use a menu planning whiteboard to get my kid organized and interested in packing a school lunch.

So whether your flying solo and dining on your own, or flying with a flock of hungry kids in need of food now, I have a meal planning template (or whiteboard) for you. If you’re unsure on how to meal plan, check out my Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning for the step-by-step tools to get started.

meal planning template

meal planner

Save money with a meal planning template.

Families of all sizes and on all budgets can benefit from a simple menu plan. Here’s why:

1. The cost of take out.

I can’t count the all dollars you’ll save for every meal you make at home, but I did calculate the cost of my lunch. By doing the math, I figured I’d save $2,450 per year (that’s five lunches a week) by preparing and making my lunch at home. If you’re curious about your dining-out dollars, go ahead tally the cost of your regular restaurant (or take-out meals), and multiply by the days you dine for the year.

Yep, eating out can cost a small fortune. Eating at home and making the most of leftovers and ingredients you have on hand can cost a lot less. Scouting the grocery sales and meal planning around these bargain items can save you big. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

2. Save time.

A meal planning template with a set weekly or monthly menu can mean fewer grocery shopping trips (hello, save on gas anyone?), cut dinner prep time since you’ve got all the ingredients for dinner, and reduce time spent staring into an open fridge (been there).

If you combine a meal plan with an Instant Pot, dinner could be done in under 30 minutes since you’ll have the ingredients prepped and ready to go, and ’cause the Instant Pot is darn fast.

3. Reduce food waste.

If you plan meals around the ingredients you have and coordinate with your grocery trips, you are less likely to have spoiled food as you won’t have uneaten food go bad in your fridge. Always check your best-before dates before you plan your menu and nothing will go to waste!

Related: How to reduce food waste and save thousands of dollars a year

4. Avoid meltdowns and other melancholy.

“What’s for dinner, Mom? How much longer for lunch, Dad? I’M HUNGRY!” Yeah, kids can be hungry little grumps. Prevent your kids from doing the monster mash and having meal-time meltdowns by planning your meals a week in advance and serving in an instant. Magic. Those without kiddlets can have dinner doldrums too. Avoid a late-from-work case of the hangry (hungry+angry) by having your meal prepped and ready to heat.

Check out The Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning for a step-by-step guide.

Do your food prep ahead of time — when you HAVE time — to cut back on time crunches (and soccer game nights) by making sure your veggies are chopped and ready to rumble and your chicken is thawed and ready for the BBQ. Plan your meals large enough to benefit from leftovers! Less time spent cooking means more time for other activities, like sleeping.

5. Make healthier meals.

A meal planning template can also help you eat healthier. If there’s something homemade and it’s ready to rumble in the fridge, you are less likely to make a last minute fast-food decision on the way home. If you plan it, you’re more likely to eat it.

6. Get the family in on the fun.

Involve your family in the menu-building process and your kids will learn better eating habits and might eat all the food on their plate.

According to Waste Free Lunches.org: “[Kids are] more likely to eat a meal that they’ve helped prepare. Involvement in meal preparation also teaches them where their food comes from, and it provides them with the confidence and skills they will need to prepare food for themselves later in life.”

healthy snacks

Related: Make crafty Butterfly Snack Packs to save 50% on packaged kids food

Meal Planning Templates For Everyone

I’ve put together three types of meal planning tools: A weekly meal planning template, a meal planning template for kids, and a DIY meal planning dry erase board project. Pick one, or do all three.

1. A weekly meal planning template

Ideal for sticking on the fridge or on a cork board near the family dinner table.

meal planning template

Free Download: Printable Weekly Meal Planner (pdf)

menu planner

Free Download: Printable Blank Meal Planner (pdf)

2. A meal planning template for kids

No more rushed brown bag lunches just in time to miss the school bus. Plan your kids’ lunches in advance and get them to build a menu plan with you. Use the kid’s meal planning template to have a conversation about healthy eating, balanced food choices, and fun snacks too.

meal planner

Meal Planner: Printable Kids Lunch Planner (pdf)

Related: 10 Healthy lunch box ideas for under a few bucks

3. DIY: Make a dry erase board meal planner

This project is great for cutting back on paper, perfect for jotting down ideas, and creating an on-the-go shopping list for your next grocery trip. A whiteboard is also great for family food vetoes, too.

meal planning template

Whiteboard Item Checklist:

meal planner template

STEP ONE: Measure. Use a ruler to mark and measure a grid three or four columns across (days of week, breakfast, lunch, dinner) and eight rows down. Leave room at the bottom for a shopping list. The size of each row and column depend on the size of your whiteboard.

meal planner

Note: I generally only plan our lunches and dinners since breakfasts often consist of oatmeal, fruit, cereal, or toast.

STEP TWO: Tape. Painter’s tape is easy to remove and shouldn’t leave residue on your whiteboard, so it’s my choice for creating an attractive and durable 7-day menu grid. Cut tape to correct measurements and stick it to your whiteboard. If you love re-drawing a grid every week, feel free to skip this step.

STEP THREE: Label. Use different colored dry-erase markers to represent the days of the week, dinner, lunch, breakfast, and leftovers.

meal planning

I draw red arrows to show when I’m planning to eat leftovers.

menu planner meal planner

The space in the bottom serves as my on-the-go shopping list. All family members can contribute and add to the list!

Check out The Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning {save time and money} for more step-by-step menu planning ideas.

Love love love,

Related Posts:
Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning
How to Organize your Refrigerator
How to Organize your freezer
How to Organize the Perfect Pantry
Impulse Spending on Food: What’s your Fluff Factor?
Defrost your freezer and warm up to cool savings
Use a Food Waste Diary to save money
10 Healthy lunch box ideas for under $2
How to Save $2,940 a Year on Lunch
1 Organic Chicken, 22 Healthy Meals, $49 Bucks