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Free 12 Month Meal Planning Packet with 80+ Recipes

January 12, 2017
Meal planning

This year, I am trying out something brand new. I am meal planning.

I have never done this before but cooking is on the lower end of my favorite things to do and I was weary of having to figure out what to make for dinner every morning and then realizing I didn’t have the right ingredients to make it.

Making dinner is one of the last things I prioritized because I was just unmotivated to cook and would be too busy with other tasks to pay attention to the time. My husband would come home and there would be no dinner made and no plan for dinner. He likes to cook so he will usually make something if I haven’t, but often what he wanted to make wasn’t what I wanted to eat or, again, we didn’t have the ingredients for it.


As part of my 2017 goals, I have made a printable calendar for each month of the year and I am planning my dinner menu weekly. So far, it is working wonderfully and has radically changed my dinner making-blues.

I have reduced stress about what to make

I don’t have to worry at all about what’s for dinner because I already know. It has freed up my mind to focus on other tasks.

There is a handy reference on the fridge

My husband can come home and look at the calendar for reference so he knows exactly what’s for dinner and he can immediately start making it if I am busy with other tasks.

Here are some handy add-ons to enhance your meal planning, including pretty binder and magnet options, sparkle pencils to write in the meals and a check mark stamp to check each day off. I also found a magnetic fridge organizers to hold your writing utensils close by. Affiliate links are below, see full disclosure here.

The ingredients are available

Since the menu is already planned for the week I have already looked over the recipes and made sure that I have all the ingredients and if not, I already made a trip to the store so they are readily available in our cupboards.

It is satisfying

Although my days are still hectic as a work at home mom, I have the satisfaction that dinner is planned and just that goes a long way in giving me the feeling of a larger sense of order throughout the day. Below is a sample of what my meal planning packet looks like:


Here is the process I have adapted to make menu planning work for me. Remember, I have not ever done this before 2017, so I am implementing a new habit right along with you!

The Meal Planning Process

Print out the menu calendar

I have created this calendar that I print out one month at a time and I keep it on the fridge. I schedule the meals out weekly because it’s too hard to schedule out the whole month, but I like to have the whole month on the same piece of paper so I can add to it each week and make sure I am not repeating meals too often. If you can plan out the whole month at once, then go for it!

Schedule a time to plan

As part of our 2017 goals, my husband and I are having weekly couples meetings where we sit at the dining room table with our laptops and schedules to talk about how we are doing on our goals, how our budget is coming along for the month, and what is on the family agenda for the next week. We have it scheduled for the weekend when we are usually home and have some down time, but you can schedule your planning time whenever it works best for you.

During this meeting, I bring out my menu plan and figure out the meals for the upcoming week. I check the calendar to see what events we have coming up and how that might affect our dinner plans. For instance, if we are going to a friends house for dinner one night, then I write that on the printable calendar so I know I don’t have to plan a meal for that evening.

Grab your free meal planning packet for all 12 months of the yearClick To Tweet

Decide the meals

I have a rotation of meals I make regularly so I look through that list and just plug them into the week. Since I am simultaneously looking at my family’s schedule for the week, I can decide which days I can make a more time-consuming meal or if I need to make a crock pot meal since I won’t be home all afternoon.

Also, I ask my husband if there is anything he wants to make or a specific day he wants to make it. For example, he really likes to make homemade pizza but I don’t always have the ingredients for it so I need to know that ahead of time in order to be prepared.

Lastly, I look at what ingredients we already have on hand and try to make meals that include groceries I already bought. That way nothing goes to waste and I don’t spend unnecessary money when I do go to the store.

meal planning packet for free with recipes to try

Grocery shop

Once you have your meals written down, make a grocery list for the items you don’t have. I write the needed items on the calendar at the bottom as I am going through the menu plan for the week so I don’t forget ingredients and then I add in the date I’m going to grocery shop which is usually the same day or a few days later.

Have you heard of the Ibotta app? It allows you to earn free cash back just by shopping for groceries, clothes, household items, etc.  You can sign up through my referral link and start earning free money the next time you go to the store!

Ideally, you want to get all your ingredients in one grocery trip so that you don’t have to go too often and can save money in the process. When I am ready to go to the store, I can snap a picture of the grocery list and save it in my phone or I can copy it out on a separate piece of paper.

Here is a great way to make your grocery list automatically with excel. Plus there is an excel meal planner included and instructions for how to use it. You can get it for 40% off right now. Click here.

Be flexible

No matter how much we plan, life tends to throw curve balls, so ideally you would write out your weekly menu in pencil so that you can erase or change a day if needed. For example, if you have an impromptu take out dinner because you are too tired to make anything, or if you come down with the flu and have to take a rain check on making that fancy recipe.

I make sure to add one “leftover night” to each week so that if something comes up we have a free night of pre-made food, plus that way we are sure to eat all the leftovers before they spoil.

Create a meal rotation

Like I mentioned earlier, I have a rotation of meals I make regularly so I can just plug those in weekly. Included on my list is meatloaf, spaghetti, tacos, chicken pot pie, chicken enchiladas, pork roast, stir-fry, chicken alfredo, cheddar cheese potato soup and loaded shepherd’s pie.

If you have a running list of meals you usually make, then most of the ground work is already done for you. A page to write out your rotation of meals is included in the menu planning packet with space to add new recipes and columns to categorize the type of meals including crock pot, soups, oven bakes, sides, ect.

My goal this year is to try out one new recipe a month, at least, and if it’s something we like as a family, I will add it to the menu plan rotation, if not, I won’t add it.

If you make a certain meal often and you are getting tired of it, then just remove it from the rotation, either temporarily or permanently, and add a different one. I also rotate out meals depending on the season. For instance, I make soup often in the winter but in the summer, we take a break from soup and make food on our backyard grill.

Recipe Roundup

To help us all find some new meals to try, I asked my blogging friends to share their recipe posts.  Please click through these as you are making your meal rotation list and print out some fresh ideas for your dinner table:

3 Protein-Based No-Recipe Crock Pot Meals

5 Hearty and Mostly Healthy Winter Meals

5 Hearty and Mostly Healthy Winter Meals Part II

5 Comfort Food Recipes for the Cold Weather Months

20 Slowcooker Freezer Meals

25 Meatless Meals

Baked Cauliflower Tots

Baked Ziti with Oriental Slaw and Lemonade Pie Dessert 

Cheesy Sausage and Broccoli Soup

Chicken Crockpot Dinner (includes instructions on making chicken bone broth)


Cilantro Lime Shrimp and White Beans

Corn and Potato Chowder

Homemade Mac and Cheese plus a Squash Casserole

Homemade Sloppy Joes

Lasagna in the Crock Pot

Mexican Quinoa Casserole

Oven Roasted Broccoli

Roasted Pumpkin Soup

Seafood Spaghetti 

Spaghetti Sauce with THM S Option

Spicy Coconut Curry Shrimp

Sweet and Sour Muffin Meat Loaves

Sweet Potato, Feta and Nut Salad

Taco Beef Helper

Turkey Chili

Are you still with me? As a bonus here are 20 dessert recipes:

5 Must Try Desserts

Apple Crisp in the Crockpot

Banana Bread

Buried Treasure Cookies

Chocolate Biscotti

Chocolate Covered Banana Muffins

Chocolate Cake


Glazed Apple Cookies

Homemade Donuts

Hungarian Butter Cookies

Italian Pizzelles

Raisinets Cookies

Rocky Road Fudge


Triple Chocolate Cookies

meal planning packet for free

I hope you will try out this system and enjoy the results. If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear from you.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

  • Enlightenment for Schmucks

    I admire your organization. I learned to cook from my Mom, who has kind of that old-school mentality to cooking – throw in a pinch of this and a little of that. It’s great when you’re feeling creative, but sometimes you just want a freakin’ recipe! Thanks for these links – they’ll be a big help.

    • Thank you, organization is one of my stronger traits and I try to share my tips when I can. I have to have recipes since I can not cook without one 🙂 We all have our own gifts for sure since that is amazing to me that you can cook without recipes!

  • bitesofflavor

    This is GREAT! I love meal planning. This post is awesome and so well organized.

    • Aww, thank you so much, that speaks right to my organized loving heart 🙂

  • I think your approach to meal planning is great especially for those with children. While my hubby and I don’t have kids at home, sometimes we both are rather lax at trying to figure out who is going to cook. The kicker is that we both work from home, but become so enthralled with our computer screens, that it is often a last minute thing. On the plus side, we have started to eat much healthier in the past couple of months and I think meal planning will definitely help. Thanks for sharing!

    • You are welcome. Yeah it’s definitely a lot about mind set and planning ahead can help with having more organized and healthier dinners.

  • featherflint

    Yay, thank you so much for including so many of my recipes in such a comprehensive resource! This is a great guide & I can’t wait to try some of the other recipes. Good luck with your year of meal planning!

  • This is so helpful for my mom life! I also try to organize and plan my meals, but I often get burned out on the same old-same old. I definitely want to try your recipes AND your plan for meal rotation! I think it will definitely ease some of my meal planning stress!

    • Yay! Glad you found it helpful, I definitely have to switch up meals otherwise it does get old eating the same thing.

  • These are great tips. I’ve been sitting down and creating a meal plan for the week for a while now and we go grocery shopping on the weekends. It helps us out tremendously to have it all planned and ready to go. It makes my life so much less stressful in the afternoons. I may take it a step further and print out your calendar, too! I can’t wait to check out all those recipes!

    • Thanks! It does take a little more effort up front to get a meal planning system in place but once I’ve gotten the system down, each week is easier and quicker.

  • Love this post, thank you for the freebies! I find meal planning takes a lot of stress out of my life. I don’t do as well having a set in stone meal for each day, instead I brainstorm meals we can make first with things we have on hand and make a list of what needs to get bought to complete those meals/have enough meals for the week. Then I know I can make those things and have all the ingredients already and I can just pick one that suits my fancy that day. Another timesaver for me is to go ahead and put fresh meat in a ziploc bag with a marinade and freeze it so it’s all ready to go when I pull it out 🙂

    • I definitely try to use the ingredients we have on hand too because I try really hard to not let food spoil or go to waste! I have not tried the fresh meat with a marinade but that sounds like a great time saver idea!

  • WOW! What a comprehensive post with awesome free material! I love how organized you are, I’m definitely sharing with my momma friends!

  • Great ideas! I don’t meal plan, but can definitely see the benefits. I just haven’t committed to it yet! I love the calendar and thanks so much for all the great recipes!

    • You’re welcome.It’s definitely a hard thing to get motivated to do, at least for me it was but once I started I’ve been so rewarded with the results!

  • makinghermama

    Great meal planner!!! I’ve been meal planning for a while now and beautiful pages help me stay motivated!!!!

  • Great list of recipes! I will have to give some of them a try. I just started back meal planning (it’s one of my goals for the new year)!

  • I love the idea of the reference. That’s a life saver. Thank you so much for sharing this. Totally helps. 🙂
    Cass from

    • I’m so happy you found it helpful 🙂 I like to have a reference sheet b/c otherwise I forget what meals I usually make 🙂 #mombrainproblems haha

  • Love your site! And the meal planning guide is great! We get tired of eating the same old things all the time, so this could really breathe some life into our menus! Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Oooh! Recipes to look through! I think I just found what I’m doing this weekend. Thank you for sharing your tips and your planner, and the roundup of recipes with us!

  • penniesandplaydough

    I have been sort-of meal planning for a while – compiling a list of meals that will last 2-3 weeks before shopping for groceries. My goal is to actually schedule them out on a calendar to be even more productive! I like the printouts that you made to place on the refrigerator.!

  • Thank you so much for this awesome resource. I try my best to meal plan but sometimes I get tired of trying to figure out what to cook.

  • This is an amazing resource, Hannah!! I’ll be sharing later! And scheduling to pin! Thanks for including my recipes! 🙂

  • Some of these recipes look sooooo good. What a great idea.

  • Sounds like a great idea



  • I am extremely impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself? Either way keep up the excellent quality writing, it’s rare to see a nice blog like this one nowadays..


      Thanks. It is a free theme through WordPress.

  • Meal planning has always seemed so intimidating to me, but you make it sound easy!


      Haha thanks, it was intimidating to me too until I came up with this system and its working like a breeze once I made it part of my weekly routine

  • I’ve just downloaded this because my husband and I have been saying for ages that we need to meal plan, and since going to the doctors yesterday it seems as though we DO need to meal plan for my health (as well as the health of our son), so I’m going to be getting on top of it this weekend. Thank you so much for linking this up! Can’t wait to see what you have to share next week 🙂


      Great! So glad to help. I was excited to find your link up, it looks like a good one 🙂

  • Great idea! I did something similar when my children were young. What a stress-reliever it was! Thanks for sharing this. Now that my children are grown, I don’t need to do quite as much planning. Glad to be following you at Lori’s today!


      Thanks for reading! Yes it is making a world of difference for me, that is for sure.

  • I’ve been wanting to get more organized in my meal planning… This is perfect timing!


      Awesome! Best of luck and let me know if you have any questions 🙂

  • Thank you so much for posting this at the Party in Your PJs Link party! I’m only a few months late getting this habit started, but I really could use a roadmap to my cooking this year! Planning on printing this out ASAP!

    If you’re ever looking for another link party to post on, I run the #FanDayFriday Link Party and would love to help you share your posts with the other party members!


      Great thanks, I’ll look into it 🙂

  • Woah! I’m really loving the template/theme of this
    site. It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s very difficult to get that “perfect balance” between superb usability and appearance.
    I must say that you’ve done a awesome job with this.
    Also, the blog loads super quick for me on Chrome. Exceptional Blog!


      Thank you, that is great to hear.

  • So nice to meet another woman who’s not very big on cooking. This is amazing and might be something I need to look into. Thanks for sharing 🙂


      Yes haha I am so not a kitchen person 😉 Glad you found it helpful, I am loving it so far.

  • Flexibility is definitely the key for me!!! I meal plan a little differently than you, but we still get the same effect. 🙂


      There are plenty of ways to plan 😉

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  • Beka | Grace to Soar

    This is awesome! Meal planning and cooking are some of my least favorite things to do. Thanks for this great resource!

    • Me too! haha that is why I put together this resource for my own sanity 😉

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