Ali Edwards Capture life. Create art.

February 22, 2012

Weekly Dinner Menu Planner PDF

One of the things I’m working on around here is getting into a consistent meal planning routine.

I’ve made attempts in the past and it’s ebbed and waned. I’m feeling ready to put forth some real effort once again – not only in the actual act of meal planning but in the ritual of sitting at the table together.

For meal ideas I’ve been loving Pinterest (here’s a look at the recipes I’ve pinned), Melanie’s Menu Plan Mondays, or just asking what people are cooking for dinner on Twitter. I’m also loving re-reading (and trying recipes) from The Family Dinner: Great Ways To Connect With Your Kids One Meal At A Time.

I actually made this PDF dinner menu planner awhile ago and then could not for the life of me find it on my computer again. Well, I found it on Monday and I was so happy because it’s just what I needed to get going.

For our family the planning I mainly need to do is for dinner during the week. Along the bottom I included space for planning meals on the weekend as well. For me the weekends have become a time to plan for the upcoming week, make something ahead if possible, etc.

I also included a little note about “new food” for Simon. He has a bit of a block (okay, more than “a bit”) against anything “new.” He calls just about anything “new” when it’s not a part of his list of “preferred” foods. Having a “new” section helps me highlight what is really new and helps me to be able to visually show him that I don’t actually give him new foods every single day.

Download the Weekly Dinner Menu Planner here.

Here’s to hoping this will help some of you as well.


  • 1.
    dawn said…

    Thanks for sharing this with us Ali, looks good. Hope you will share more thru the months on how it goes for you and the kids. Every few months I say that we will change and start eating better but having 3 kids against my idea doesn’t help. I have no problem eating well and include variety in my diet, it’s just the hubby and kids who need to jump on board with me.

    I have been making monthly menues for 4/5 months now and it does help me to have it already planned out. We have less takeout this way if I have a plan. We have a list of foods we like and kinda like and I keep rotating them best I can. My next step is to get the kids in the kitchen more often to help prepare dinner but after all these years of cooking alone it’s hard for me to make the change.

    Good luck with your family dinners!!
    p.s. I like that you included “NEW FOOD” that is a great idea and it’s right where Simon can see it. My son needs that topic too. Thanks again!

    • ….
      Katie Cannon said…

      Dawn I totally understand. We just finished the 21 day Daniel Fast and it is no meat, processed foods, dairy or sugar. So had encountered resistance from the kids and hubby, but I found just changing up the menu each night helped a lot. I did succeed in getting them to eat the homemade veggie burgers that I made and hid all kinds of veggies and they really liked it. I plan on keeping the more healthy choice for my self and hope to keep them up for them too, just adding a little meat to make them happy.

    • ….
      dawn said…

      Hi Katie,

      Glad to see there’s another one trying to feel their family well. I like the part about no processed food, that is what I really try to do. Their lunches have all processed food and it bothers me but it’s all I know they will eat and I can’t be there to watch them. So at home when I have more control our menus are more healthy and balanced. They do better if I plan ahead and try to make sure not to plan two nights in a row of healthy food. This makes it a little easier for them so I do the best I can. It is hard to please so many at one time though. Good luck!!

  • 2.
    Haley D. said…

    Very cool printable! Thanks for sharing. I have a small dry erase board on my fridge that I’ve blocked into sections with a permanent marker. I use magnets of each day of the week for each block (and that way it’s easy to change the day to switch meals around if something comes up). The unexpected benefit of menu planning at my house is that our daughters (10 & 13) have quit complaining about what I’m fixing!

  • 3.
    Katrina said…

    die-hard menu planner here – and die-hard family meals proponent! we’ve eaten dinner at the table nightly for at least 10 years. i do think that it’s made a tremendous difference in my relationship with my kids as they’ve become teens/young adults. menu planning also became a necessity when i became a vegetarian – i find it much harder to just “wing it.”

  • 4.
    Sarah said…

    We always have eaten at the table, but now we’re 20′s we’re having easy convincience food more, and eating in the lounge as the table is covered with “stuff” I think taking a little time to plan might mean we eat better and more consciously. Love the printable- will be a cool addition to your project life too.

  • 5.
    Amy said…

    love this ali!!! it inspires me. i have taken meal planning to the ulitmate simplicity – the same thing every week. monday hamburgers, tuesday steak, etc… so much so that last night was “new” when we had rice with the steak. my husband must eat a very plain diet so this has worked well for him, but turned my kids into quite picky eaters. good luck!! i hope you’ll share some of your most successful recipes :O)

  • 6.
    MonicaB said…

    I was meal planning on a regular bases last year and it made my life so much easier at 5:00 pm. I haven’t been doing it and I really miss it. Thanks for the great tool to help kick my butt in gear and start doing this again. I have a very picky eater too and it gets frustrating trying to fed a family of 5, all with different taste. Best of luck with your meal planning!

  • 7.
    libby gordon said…

    I have made a weekly menu plan for several years and I post it on the refridgerator. My kids, one who is on the autism spectrum HAVE to know what we are having for dinner so this has saved my sanity. It’s a great habit to get into.

  • 8.
    Susan said…

    i’ve made a menu the last couple months for an entire month. i mostly just include dinner but sometimes a special breakfast is included. i also included date nights with my husband – then my boys know when to expect to cook their own meal (plus they love us going on dates); we include family swim night which includes eating out every other week. Since we host a small group on sunday evenings i also include dessert one night a week. all that said it has been amazing with grocery shopping planning, to just dealing better with life because i’m not wondering what i’m fixin’ for the evening. we’ve always eaten together, at the dinner table, as a family (even when my girls still lived at home) so i know the need or draw to have that connection, that routine, that tradition.

  • 9.
    Robin said…

    This looks like a great tool to help in the “what’s for dinner” battle! Plan to post it somewhere that the kids can see it. I find this helps keep me accountable to actually fix what I said I’m going to fix. I have a lot more motivation to stick to the plan (instead of doing something easier or maybe faster) when I know that the kids have checked the meal plan in advance and are expecting something. I get a lot fewer complaints and arguments about what we are having for dinner, too!

  • 10.
    jamie said…

    This is fabulous.
    I am always planning meals (with a family of 7 I have to.) But I needed to renew what I was doing. Love the format of this. And also really enjoying pinterest finds and working towards organizing that better as well as bettering our pantry. Even added that story to project life.
    Thanks again, Ali!

  • 11.
    Janie said…

    Thank you so much for the freebie.

  • 12.
    {vicki} said…

    I do just the opposite—I have more time to cook on the weekends so I cook several meals on saturday and sunday and then we eat left overs through the week. That way were eating healthy homecooked meals through the week but it only takes minutes to reheat and enjoy.

  • 13.
    Molly said…

    i can certainly use this. have made them myself in the past, but not used one consistently. thanks!

  • 14.
    Melissa said…

    Definitely making meals ahead when being a working parent is helpful. Takes the stress off the ‘run-home-get-dinner-on-the-table’ routine. I usually spend the weekends making up stuff for the week. Good Luck!

  • 15.
    Camilla Blue said…

    There are tons of printable menu planning sheets available online, but not very many so aesthetically pleasing. Love that everything you do is designed so beautifully. I will enjoy using it. Thank you for sharing with us all.

    • ….
      Ali said…

      Thank you – I appreciate that :) .

  • 16.
    Lori said…

    thank you!

  • 17.
    kristina said…

    Thank you, Ali!
    I also meal plan, but NEED to be better on the weekend. Have a blessed day! :)

  • 18.
    Melissa said…

    How is Simon at trying unpreferred foods? Is it something that’s gotten easier for him as he ages? I have an 8yo with autism and eating is our biggest hurdle with face with him. Short of hiring an expensive feeding therapist I don’t know what to do with him anymore. He will only eat dry crunchy carbs (dry Cheerios, crackers, pretzels, etc.), plain Mott’s natural applesauce, and peach Yoplait yogurt. That’s IT. Watching the rest of us eat causes him anxiety (which is an improvement from when he was little and would physically gag watching us eat), so he rarely sits at the table with us.
    He’s so amazing and has come so far, except in this one (pretty critical!) area.

    • ….
      Ali said…

      Morning Melissa – it has gotten better over time but it is still a major daily issue. I’d say it’s gotten significantly better in the last two years just in our ability to reason with him a bit more and have him understand that we aren’t giving him anything we wouldn’t eat ourselves and that we inter-mix new things with dinners he loves. His diet is a bit more varied than your son’s and he will try (after significant protesting – which has lessened just a little bit) new things. His aversion is to textures, smells, and the idea that anything is “new.” There have been times when this wasn’t the issue we wanted to tackle – but over the last two years we decided we wanted to focus on it more.

  • 19.
    Sammy G. said…

    I love this!!!
    I love being organized, it helps me prepare better what I am going to eat before I get home from work

  • 20.
    Megan Beverly said…

    LOOOOOVE the New Food section. That would be perfect for our family, too. I guess you’re going to force me to stop procrastinating now. Thanks, Ali!

  • 21.
    Cecilia said…

    I love seeing how others plan their meals. I use something similar:, that includes a shopping list based on the meal I’ve planned.

    I’ll admit that most weeks I simply fill this out in my head, but it at least gives me a framework for thinking about what to make/buy. Good luck with your meal planning!

  • 22.
    Christine said…

    Thanks for this Ali. I have a combo menu planner/shopping list that I found a while ago. It really helps me to have everything in one place, and shop the store sales when planning the week’s meals. But I LOVE your section about “new foods”. My girls are on the spectrum and we are having the hardest time getting them out of the french fries/pizza/PB&J phase. I’ve been making two dinners…something for me and hubs, something for them. usually they’re interrelated…but it definitely involves more planning for me. And frustration because more often than not, the food ends up in the trash. :)

  • 23.
    cj savage said…

    thanks SO much for sharing this ali! it’s awesome & you’re the best!

  • 24.
    liza said…

    Thanks Ali!!

  • 25.
    Steph said…

    I would like to second what Camilla Blue said…something about the way you design things really brings it home, lol! I’ve tried I don’t know how many times to do this, and I think your format may be just what I needed.

    My older son is 11 and pretty much just eats various combinations of cheese and bread (pizza, mac & cheese, quesadillas, tacos with just cheese, etc.) Having a space for “new food” will really help me be better about having him at least try something different each meal. Excellent addition to the planner!!

    I grew up eating around a family dinner table and my boys have too. It’s all about traditions for me…security, something they can count on: no matter what their day has been like, they know they will be eating with people who love them. :)

    • ….
      Ali said…

      Yep, those combinations of cheese and bread are Simon’s preferred foods too :) . Except mac & cheese – he’s not a noodle fan. It’s something he will eat though – once he gets that we are not serving anything else.

    • ….

      Well, my older one tried baked beans last night, lol!! His main course was still mac & cheese, but I consider it progress that he at least tried. And he *loved* the printed menu sheet…I wrote in there what we were having and he saw the “New Food:” section and was all over that. Ali=1, Picky Eaters=0.


  • 26.
    Dana K said…

    Thanks Ali. I’ve been trying out a lot of recipes from Pinterest. I’ve had mostly good results.

  • 27.
    Mary Jo said…

    Thanks for sharing the menu planner! My son has sensory issues, so “new” foods are a struggle here as well. But he is trying more things on a regular basis. So like the new category. :)

    I think I actually pinned one of the recipes you had pinned yesterday. A wrap with hummus that looked good :)

  • 28.
    Alice Golden said…

    Thanks so much for this… I actually woke up this morning with the goal of getting back into my weekly menu planning, so this is perfect!

    I found a few things helped with my boys when they went through phases like that… one was getting them more involved in the cooking and grocery shopping. I found when they were part of the process, rather than just sitting at the table and having something put in front of them, they were much more likely to at least want to try new foods. The other thing that really helped in terms of vegetables, was to have them help me garden. I still remember the summer my oldest grew green beans for the first time… insisted that we have them every single night while they were in season… my husband and I were pretty sick of green beans, but he never was! Also, we had a great pediatrician who was always full of helpful advice and one of the best things he used to tell me was “kids will not starve themselves”, so if they are hungry they will eat what you give them… you don’t need to make them special meals. I stuck with that (even with my middle son who was always underweight) and now my teenage boys are all great eaters who will try anything and love to cook.

    • ….
      dawn said…

      loved reading this, good for you!!

      can you please come and help me do this for my son, lol

  • 29.
    Lori said…

    Jamie Oliver’s Meals in Minutes cookbook has been providing inspiration for our dinners this year. Each meal includes a main dish, side dishes, and some desserts. I’m determined to try them all, but not in order, to take advantage of seasonal produce. I choose several a week, use my All Out Of grocery list to detail what I need, and we’re set for the week. Although this has been working very well for us, it would overwhelm some kids. But if your family is open to trying new recipes, I highly recommend it.

    • ….
      dawn said…

      I love Jamie Oliver and his menus and great ideas for kids eating healthy. Sadly noone else in the house agrees with me, lol

      That’s awesome your family is taking to this though and eating well. Have fun with all the menus!!

  • 30.
    Julie C said…

    This is great! Thanks! We are a super busy family with a pretty picky son. We make it a priority (so my kids don’t even know it’s an option to do otherwise) to wait to eat until everyone who is home is at the table. We used to be good at planning meals and need to get better at it since it saves money. My son is 12 and we used to do the separate dinner thing, but now he has to sit and try something plus his veggie or fruit before he can make himself a pb & j. I used to jump for joy when he would try a new type of candy…he still only picks candy from a pinata that he will eat. We don’t do many sauces (other than spaghetti) since he doesn’t care for them but he has really increased his foods….keep working at it you are doing great things for your family!

    • ….
      dawn said…

      This was helpful to know about your son and I like the rules you set. Sounds like it works.

  • 31.
    dawn said…

    Hi again Ali,

    I have a question for you or any of your readers that could help. My biggest concern about our menus is my 10 yr.old son and his not likeing “meals” as he calls them. He’s happiest with only 2 foods on his plate. He is a snacker/grazer has no real interest in food. This started about the age of 4 I think and just keeps getting worse.

    I thought that by now like most of his friends he’d be eating everything in sight. That’s what I heard boys did, my son does not though. My hubby and his 3 brothers were already into food by this age and constantly eating and always hungry I’m told.

    So do any of you have sons like this or any advise? Thanks so much.

    Ali I also wondered how does Simon do when eating out or at your parent’s house?

    This is a great post today, I’ve enjoyed reading all the comments.

    • ….
      Candace Lawlor said…

      I just happened to read this and thought that I would chime in because we went through the exact same thing with our 6 yo from about 4.5 to 5.5 years old. I never stopped trying him with “meals” – his plate always had several items on it, but as a backup plan, so that we didn’t have to create an issue out of every meal, I bought a magic bullet and started blending up carrots, broccoli, brussels sprouts, etc. and adding this blend to pizza sauce, pasta sauce – basically wherever I could hide it. So he could eat one item, but I knew he was getting much more than that. But I wouldn’t ever stop offering those veggies up on their own.

    • ….
      dawn said…

      Thanks Candance, this is a great idea. I hate that he doesn’t get enough veggies in his diet. I serve corn 2x a week and that’s it. I just eat my veggies on my own everyday since they are my most favorite food. It’s nice to know my son isn’t the only one who doesn’t like ” meals” and it’s just a little.

      Thanks again for your help, this would help ease my mind so much.

  • 32.
    Candace Lawlor said…

    Ali… thanks so much for the printable, it’s awesome! I have been planning our meals a month in advance now for about six months – right down to the healthy recesses for our six year old and snacks for our 20 month old.
    Two months ago, my husband started back on a fitness and nutrition routine that means his meals are drastically different from ours, so I’m now managing two menus while trying to keep our sit down and eat together time.
    In order to make it all work for me, I not only plan one month in advance, but I cook our meat once a month. At the beginning of the month, I precook all of our chicken, ground beef/turkey, etc… basically all the meats. Then I vacuum seal them packaged in portions according to the planned meals. Hubby’s chicken, steaks, etc get sealed in 6 oz. individual portions and ours get packaged according to the meal plan and labelled with the date. So if it’s going to be fajitas, I’ll actually slice up the chicken and throw the seasoning in with it.
    It usually takes me two evenings to do this cooking, then one more afternoon to bake homemade granola, healthy muffins, etc. for the 6 yo’s recesses. He’s allergic to artificial color + there is a nut and egg allergy in his class so recess planning takes some effort.
    Anyway, the point (to make a short story long, lol) was that this precooking and baking that takes me three afternoons/evenings at the beginning of the month, reduces my actual meal prep time to about 15-20 minutes per meal and that is honestly the only way I am able to accomplish two healthy meal plans + allergy accomodations. It might be something to give thought to!

    • ….
      dawn said…

      WOW this is so great that you do this. Love this idea of having everything done ahead of time. Good for you!!

  • 33.
    Carol W. said…

    Thank you for the menu planner. I too always sit to make a menu for the week because, as you know and we all are, very busy with life. I hoped this year I could be more organized but so far…nope. Look forward to see how this plans out.

  • 34.
    Kimberly Stevens said…

    I feel as though you have read my mind. One of the “organization” things (my OLW) I have been wanting to do is sit down and plan out our meals. I find it more difficult to wing it through the week- there is just so much going on. This is just what I needed to hopefully get started. Thanks so much for sharing!!

  • 35.
    Nicole said…

    Thanks so much for sharing this! I’ve also tried off and on to plan meals and have never found a system that works well for me. I’ve always loved your clean and simple style and this simple sheet may be just what I need. Thanks again!

  • 36.
    Alison E said…

    I remember when my son Steven was younger and for about 6 months his dinner diet was cooked peas, that was all he would eat. Fast forward a few years and we have peas nearly every single night for dinner, that way he will try most new things. There are some where he just flat out refuses to try them and others he has to have his say about how gross it is and that he doesnt want to eat it. Like Simon over time Steven has got better at trying new things but there are always the ones that he loves and would eat everyday if I let him. I have been meal planning for a couple of years now and its sooo good. I have a laminated meal planner on the inside door of my pantry. It good to know what I need to cook and its a visual for my boys to see what we will be having that night. Sum meals that have leftovers I freeze and have those for my dinners when the boys are at their dads.Having a meal plan helps keep the food shopping bill down as well.

  • 37.
    Jolynn said…

    Great idea. It seems like a daily struggle to come up with dinner. A harder struggle to find something new that doesn’t take loads of time.

  • 38.
    Alexandra said…

    I have really been in a rut lately with meals and menu-planning
    so thank you for the fabulous download.
    I printed 10 copies and saved it to my desktop so it’s easily accessible. I’m thinking of putting the print-outs on a clipboard in the kitchen – I need this kind of thing in-my-face or I will forget to make it a priority. I’m not a fan of the 4:30 panic that I get when I haven’t planned anything – this will help me avoid that.
    Thanks again!!
    P.S. I’m also thinking that completed sheets will be cool to add to Project Life here and there – fun to look back on what we ate – might even add comments about what the hits were : )

    • ….
      Ali said…

      I’ve got mine on a clipboard :) .

  • 39.
    Beth said…

    There was a great book published about 30 years ago, called “The Sidetracked Sisters Clean Up In The Kitchen” (or something like that). They introduced a fantastic menu planning system where you list all of the main dishes your family eats, then all at once, plan side dishes, etc. You write these menus out on 3×5 cards and store them in your recipe box, filed by main dish ingredient (beef, chicken, fish, etc). So, when you go to plan your weekly menus, you just pick out 6-7 different cards and you have the entire menu planned immediately. I also include the ingredients needed for the meal on the back of the card, so I just have to transfer those to my grocery list.

    The book is really fantastic, but unfortunately its out of print. I’m sure you can find copies of it on eBay though….

    • ….
      Michelle (aka mybelle101) said…

      What a great tip! I’m going to incorporate this into my meal planning! Thank you, Beth!

  • 40.
    Debbi G. said…

    this would be a great insert to include in project life :)

  • 41.
    Michelle (aka mybelle101) said…

    Hooray! This is perfect timing, as I am also looking toward meal-planning to help ease the strain of a busy life, and to make sure we eat more meals at home (rather than out and on-the-go). Thank you so much for sharing your PDF!

  • 42.
    Bebete said…

    Thank you so much Ali for sharing this!! I do try to plan ahead our meals and just end up writing them on a plain piece of paper. I’ll use these from now on. I love the way it is designed. I also love the new food sections. I have a 3 and 5 year old girls and they keep us challenged on trying new things.

  • 43.
    Jenny said…

    A friend and I did some freezer cooking a couple of years ago and lately (since I’ve moved) a few friends and I have done some on a large scale and smaller scale. It really helped, even if it wasn’t for everyday use, but in a pinch it was nice to have something ready–even just chicken packaged in our family serving size, or even cut so I could use it with noodles and not having to do it all that night. It saved on dishes too. It’s amazing, with a little planning ahead, how much food you can get prepped in a few hours. It saves on the food bill too because you are not buying things last minute.

  • 44.
    Irene said…

    Thanks for the planner. I have been doing this for about 2 years now (on scraps of leftover paper). The humble advice I give to you and your gentle readers is: 1) plan on a week night for the next week. I started doing it on the weekends, but one weekend trip can get you off schedule for two weeks and 2) when you cook, cook for two nights. For example, if I am going to have tacos and spagetti two nights in the week, I only brown meat once. I know the cooking purist will balk at this suggestion, but I promise for us working moms it makes having a homecooked meal on the table less hectic. Oh, and finally, I cook/bake all the bacon/sausage/sweets on the weekend, so I can heat it in a jif in the trenches during the school week. Hope my suggestions can help someone. They are offered in support.

    • ….
      Ali said…

      Thanks Irene – I’m actually trying to do it on Fridays – I think you are right about the challenges of weekend planning. It’s all about making it work when you can!

    • ….
      Teresa said…

      I’ve had people look at me funny when I told them I cooked my beef and then froze it in the portions I needed. It is so much quicker.

  • 45.
    madeline St onge said…

    Ali found this slow cooker site this week, haven’t tried anything yet but thought I would share it

    Thanks for the menu planner, will come in habdy even though it is only 2 of us here

  • 46.
    Ilana Polakiewicz said…

    Thanks, Ali!

  • 47.
    Yolanda said…

    I have tried weekly and monthly meal plans, but have always struggled with balancing leftovers or schedule glitches. My husband is quite picky and eats like a bird. My four-year-old is less picky, but eats very small portions (literally 1/4 cup and rarely more). So, I find that traditional recipes create too much food and I never manage to pick a great combination of recipes that don’t leave me with a crisper drawer filled with leftover vegetables.

    That said, with inspiration from Pinterest, this month I attempted a Cook-Once-a-Month strategy, primarily using prep ahead slow cooker and oven meals. It really worked for me. Although it took me about three hours to prep everything on one Sunday in late January, I spent no more than ten minutes preparing dinner for any day throughout the rest of the month.

  • 48.
    Brooke said…

    I’ve been finding that my dinner planning is a little like a roller coaster. Sometimes it’s up and working, others it dips down and I don’t plan so much. Right now I’m in a place where I do plan, but just a rough plan on scrap paper, nothing fancy. I go with salads at the beginning of the week (as I shop on Sundays) and go with things that require less fresh vegies later in the week (or I cut and freeze fresh vege). We do homemade pizza once a week, as I need a lazy day. Struggling to find whether that is Friday or Sunday.

    • ….
      Ali said…

      Homemade pizza is something I want to try. Do you buy the dough or make the dough?

    • ….
      Brooke said…

      As this is an easy meal for me I use a pre-made wholemeal pizza base. If I lived in America then I’d probably use something like Pillsbury Pizza Crust – we don’t have that kind of unbaked product available in Australia. That being said I have previously made a dough from scratch and as long as you realize it needs to rest then it’s really not hard at all. That kind of prepping dinner earlier in the day and then cooking closer to dinner time usually works really well.

    • ….
      Tinka said…

      Ali, there was a homemade pizza dough recipe posted on pinterest that only uses two ingredients. It’s from The Slow-roasted Italian…
      I haven’t tried it but it’s sure seems easy enough!

    • ….
      Courtney said…

      Ali, check your grocery store. Ours have premade pizza dough for sale that is made by the bakery. It’s way better than the Pillsbury stuff, and as good as homemade, but I don’t have to worry about the time to make.

  • 49.
    Karen C said…

    You are so funny! And so brilliant! Giving him proof that it’s not new! I wish I’d thought of that back in the days when my son was the same. What I held on to back then was the statistic that a kid has to eat something 17 times before it’s not new. I’m probably not remembering the exact number but it was bigger than I wished it was! Good luck with the new foods. I know it’s very hard.

    I have to have a menu plan every week or I make myself crazy wasting time. One thing is I always have a standby fast easy healthy dinner because stuff happens even with a plan.

    :) Now I’m going to smile for a while thinking of you showing him the old menu plans …

  • 50.
    Melissa said…

    Thank you!

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