How to Meal Plan Like a Pro

I’m going to be super transparent here. I don’t have a “planner” personality. I love to do things on a whim. When it comes to the kitchen, my natural tendency is to look in my freezer at 5:30 pm and spontaneously make a decision for supper. The thing is, when I do that, our meals are not as healthy and definitely not as tasty as when I have a meal plan.

It’s time for me to get back into planning. I’ve tried various systems, but this one is absolutely amazing! It’s the system that was so fun and easy, it kept me meal planning for months, maybe even years. This system saved me from wasting food that we purchased. My husband and I were able to pick up groceries quickly and easily without having to make a grocery list each week. We could even easily send the list to someone else to have them pick up groceries if needed.


The two keys for success and consistency with meal planning are variety and simplicity. The system needs to be easily duplicated and simple to adjust as needed. For that reason, my system has evolved slightly through the years, but at this point, I wouldn’t want to change a thing. It’s absolutely perfect for our family!

I’m going to start by sharing System #1 for those of you who do not like technology. Then I’ll share how I tweaked it to make it even simpler using a smartphone.

Keep in mind that this will be a lot of work upfront, but once you have your system in place, it will save you time and energy for years to come.

System #1: The Note Card System

Week 6 Meal Plan and Grocery List

Supplies: Index Cards, Loose Leaf Rings, Laminator, Hole Punch, Pen, Paper

The Meal List Ring

Step 1: Gather your favorite recipes together in one place. Have your cookbooks, recipe cards, and Pinterest links within reach.

Step 2: For variety’s sake, pick approximately 5 different types of meals to cook each week. Assign one for each day, keeping in mind that you don’t have to eat a given meal on the assigned day, as you will have the groceries on hand for use any time during the week. The meal types that I chose included:
–Monday: Beef or Vegetable Dish
–Tuesday: CrockPot or Instant Pot Meal
–Wednesday: Chicken or Vegetable Dish
–Thursday: Casserole
–Friday: Pizza (this was back when we regularly ate pizza)
–Saturday: Beef, Vegetable, or Chicken Dish
–Sunday: Soup
*Fish would be an incredible addition to this list. It was not included in ours because most of us do not like fish.

Step 3: Choose a note card. On the top write Week 1. Down the left side write the days of the week, each on separate lines. Then choose a favorite meal from the category that fits for the day and write it on the line, making sure to include any sides that will go along with it. Also, include the location of where to quickly find the recipe such as “Schaben Recipe Book, page 73.”

Meal List Card

Step 4: Repeat this with each day of the week.

Step 5: On the back side of the card, write down other items you plan to prepare for the week, such as breakfast foods, breads, and lunches.

Step 6: Laminate the card, punch a hole in the top corner, and insert it onto a key ring.

Note: I recommend starting with at least 8 weeks of meals for a good variety.

The Grocery List Ring

Step 1: Choose a note card and write “Grocery List Week X” across the top, with “X” corresponding to the Meal List Week. For visual appeal, try using colored note cards with matching colors for each week’s lists.

Step 2: On the first line of the note card, across the top, create column headings for Produce, Frozen, Canned, Dairy, and Meat/Miscellaneous.

Step 3: Look through the recipes for each chosen meal of the week and insert the ingredients needed into the appropriate column on the card.

Grocery List Card

Step 4: Repeat with each week of meals.

Put Your System Into Action

Pick the “Meal Week” you want to make, grab the “Grocery List” ring, and head to the grocery store to purchase your week’s groceries!

System #2: The Smartphone System

Supplies: Smartphone, Wunderlist App, Pen

A little About Wunderlist: This free app is a great way to organize your life, creating to-do lists, meal lists, and much more. You can choose to make your lists shareable. When creating meal planning lists, it’s easy to have your spouse pick up grocery list items!

The Meal List

Steps 1 and 2: Refer to Steps 1 & 2 from the “Meal List Ring” of the Note Card System above.

Step 3: Create a folder in Wunderlist entitled “Meals.” Refer to this link for directions on creating a folder.

Step 4: Scroll to the bottom of your screen and click, “Create a list.” Name your list, “Week 1 Supper”. Choose the folder entitled “Meals” for where to store the list. Then click “Create.”

Step 5: Once you create your list, add each meal as a “to-do.”

Step 6: Within each “to-do” you can insert a picture of the recipe so you have quick access to it. Simply click the item and insert your recipe. If the recipe is online, insert the link in the note section. If the recipe is from a cookbook, take a picture of the recipe and click “add a file” to insert the picture.

Step 7: Repeat the above steps with each week of meal plans.

The Grocery List

Step 1: Create a new Wunderlist entry entitled “Week 1 Grocery List.” Include it in the “Meals” folder.

Step 2: Add each item needed on the grocery list as a “to-do” in the file.

Step 3: Repeat the process with all of your other weeks of grocery lists.

Step 4: Get groceries making sure that you don’t mark any of the items as finished. Otherwise, that grocery item will be deleted.

Your Final Folder should look something like this.

That’s it… a simple meal plan that can easily be updated, added to, and adjusted as needed! Trust me, the directions in this post may seem overwhelming, but the process really isn’t. Once you finish creating a plan, you’ll thank me. I’m positive that you are going to love it!

Now it’s time for me to update my plan to make our menu a lot healthier. My meal plan was initially created years ago!

Best wishes! Please let me know how it goes. I love hearing from you! Also, if this was a blessing to you, please share it. Your shares make it possible to reach and bless many more people.

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