How to plan a menu

With menu planning you actually make the meal twice:

1st time is when you make it in your mind while you are planning.

2nd time you make the meal is when you actually do it.

AND! — the 2nd time is always easier than the first.


What are the benefits

  • Less stress: making fewer decisions.
  • Efficiency: the more you do this the more you’ll use your oh-so-efficient automatic pilot mode.
  • Less waste: avoid buying too much, impulse buying.
  • Enjoyment: attaining a goal, being successful.
  • Variety: avoiding same foods.
  • Healthier: you have control over the ingredients.
  • Cheaper: using coupons, buying local and seasonal,
  • and eating in more often.

Source: Joni Sare and



1. Make a template

  • vertical or horizonal grid
  • 1-day menu? 3-day? M-F? 7-day? 2 weeks?
  • online templates (see links, below, under “Resources”)


2. Fill in the blanks, start with:

  • a star player and build around it
  • start with coupons (newspaper, online, store flier)
  • easiest (favorites),
  • hardest (least favorites)
  • a specific meal (ex: lunches)


3. Decide a cooking method:

  • stove top, oven, slow cooker
  • steam, braise, bake, broil, etc.

    4. Make a shopping list:

    • take inventory of what you have
    • make lists for each location, such as a list for the grocery store and another for the farmers market.




    • veggies (colors, flavors, size and textures)
    • proteins (veggie sources and animal sources)
    • flavors (spices, herbs, cheese, vinegars, condiments)
    • easy foods, speed cooking
    • hard-to-fit-in foods


    Cooking methods

    • Raw • Steam • Braise • Bake
    • Saute • Stir fry • Grill • Roast


    Cooking tools, gadgets

    • 2 sharp knives (chef and paring knife)
    • cutting board (2 is best, one for veggies, one for meats)
    • measuring spoons and cups (sometimes a scale)
    • bowls, pots, pans (large size and small size)
    • baking pan and sheet
    • wood spoons, rubber spatulas


    Small appliances

    • Blender
    • Food processor
    • Slow cooker
    • Toaster oven


    Planning guides

    • Google calendar
    • Phone apps
    • Online templates for menu planning, shopping lists

    (see links under “Resources”)

    examples of menu planners

    Menu planner

    Menu planner

    Menu planner



    • cookbooks •dieticians • nutritionists • chefs
    • menu planning help:

      Menu Planning Made Easy

    • Equipment list:


    Take inventory, organize, get supplies

    • pantry, fridge, freezer, counter, cupboards, garage
    • throw out unwanted items (outdated and unwise items)