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, yet have a structure
  • Healthier: you have control over the ingredients.
  • Cheaper: using coupons, buying local and seasonal,
  • and eating in more often.

Source: Joni Sare



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




Take inventory, organize, get supplies

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  • throw out unwanted items (outdated and unwise items)