Simple weekly meal planning template: Grab the free cheat sheet below.
Meal prep is going to be much different for the Mom of 3 then it is for a single guy or 18-year-old student.
The way you meal prep may change based on your goals, finances, or level of skill and confidence in the kitchen. And you and I both know it will definitely change based on time commitments.
The biggest mistakes are I see with creating a weekly meal planning template are:
- too much variety
- not eating foods you enjoy
- trying to make Instagram meals
- not accept the tradeoffs that come with meal planning
- not having plan b meals
Today we’re going to cover a simple way to meal prep that works for everyone under all conditions. And solves these big mistakes.
If you don’t do much meal prep. Build a planning habit first.
Before trying to make the perfect portioned meals for weight loss or dialing in your macros. Build the planning habit first.
Even if you’re planning pizza or microwavable meals. Get used to sitting down once or twice per week for 15 minutes to think about what you’re going to be eating.
The idea here isn’t’ to eat uber clean or to make gourmet meals. The win is in sitting down to create more awareness around what and how much you’re eating each week.
This simple act alone will give you a chance to see where you can get some easy wins.
Take a look at what you’re writing down. How can I make some of these meals 1% better?
Am I eating a sandwich and chips for lunch on most days? Maybe I can swap those chips with a piece of fruit or side salad. Do I always have a glass of orange juice each morning? Maybe I can eat an orange instead.
Are you always heading out for a happy hour and pizza on Friday nights? Is there an opportunity to go from 3 adult beverages to 2? From 3 slices of pizza to 2?
Meal planning template: What do I eat?
Grab an index card, the notes app on your phone, or create a google doc. Make a shortlist of your 3 to 5 favorite proteins, veggies, starchy carbs, fruits, and healthy fats.
- Protein: Chicken thigh, ground beef, eggs, unsweet greek yogurt
- Veggies: Asparagus, brussels sprouts, broccoli, green beans, carrots
- Starchy carbs: White rice, plantain, potato (sweet and white)
- Fruit: Blackberries, Apple, banana, pear
- Fats: Olive oil, avocado, almonds
If you have a family to feed sit down with them and ask each person to do the same. See if there is some overlap in food choices.
This is your go-to grocery shopping list each week.
You’ll now know exactly what you can buy each time you go shopping.
Meal planning template: How much do I eat?
I know this is where things can get confusing for most. Do you try and count macros? Should you only estimate?
If building the meal planning habit is your goal then this won’t matter as much. But if you’re interested in losing or gaining weight then it will.
While you don’t have to count calories, calories do matter. Regardless of WHAT you eat, HOW MUCH will ultimately determine weight loss or gain.
Creating calorie awareness is important and you can go about that in a number of ways.
I have clients that love weighing and measuring food portions. Some of them track it in an app. While some of them only weigh and measure. Then there are other clients that use their hands to estimate portion sizes. And some use a combination of both.
You can be successful either way. Reading labels and looking for things like calories per serving is helpful. Learn about foods by looking up their nutrition info online too.
Big tip: Weigh and measure fats, harder to estimate foods and calorie-dense foods
- Nuts and seeds
- Unsweet greek yogurt
- Olive oil and other cooking oils
- Butter and nut butter
I want to note that when measuring things like nut butter, always weight versus using a measuring utensil. No one ever takes out a tablespoon of almond butter and levels it off so it’s a perfect measure.
No. What we do is take out a bloated scoop. Then we dive in with a spoon and scoop out some that stuck to the side of the jar. That one tablespoon is now 3.
Instead, weigh the entire jar. Then take out a scoop and reweigh the jar. The difference is your serving.
A starting guide for serving sizes per meal.
- For men, start with 2 of each per meal.
- For women, start with 1 of each per meal.
Meal planning template: Make meal prep faster and easier on yourself.
For some reason, we like to make weird rules around what we can and can not eat. It order to “eat clean and healthy” we’ve got to buy fresh, organic, and only foods blessed by a virgin from some far off mythical land.
Confession time. I hardly ever buy fresh veggies. Frozen ones are precut. Thus, it takes less time for me to prep them. Most of my lunches are precooked chicken strips. Again, one less meal I actually have to make.
Yes, I may be paying a little extra for convenience but we do this in other aspects of our lives. I’m cool with doing it here.
If you’re told yourself meal prep is boring, too hard, or takes to long ask yourself how you can make this easier on yourself.
- Buy precut or frozen veggies
- Do the same with starchy carbs
- Sub fruit for starchy carbs
- Buy pre-cooked proteins
And most importantly, when you’re cooking. Pair it with something you enjoy doing. Watch Netflix, listen to a podcast or audiobook. Invite your kids to join in to help.
Cooking by itself can be a bitch. Make it more fun by doing something with it you enjoy.
Meal planning template: Everything can become a stir-fry
I cover how to cook proteins, veggies, carbs, and fats in this article about how to cook without recipes.
I have an entire guide on cooking healthy meals for beginners. But one of my favorite methods is the throw it in a pan method. Everything can become a stir-fry.
- Add one to two tablespoons of oil in a skillet or wok (or spray it with a cooking spray)
- Place beef, chicken or other meat into the wok or a skillet
- Sauté the meat for a few minutes
- Mix in your favorite vegetables of choice. Make a great stir-fry using cauliflower or broccoli.
- Stir it around a few times.
- Let it cook for 5-10 minutes until the veggies and meat are cooked to your liking.
- Eat and Enjoy! It’s as simple as that.
If you want to get into some more specifics. I cover how to cook proteins, veggies, carbs, and fats in this article about how to cook without recipes.
What is uniform eating and why I recommend this when first starting
Many people struggle with their diet because they’re not sure what to make. Or they don’t give much thought to it until it’s too late and they’re starving. Thus, reverting to convenience, what they’re familiar with, and old habits.
Some studies are showing that as food variety increases, so can calorie intake and weight gain.
You can fix this by eating the same few meals for a week and then adjusting them the following week. This makes planning and prepping much easier. This also makes for one less decision you have to make each week.
Start small by eating the same breakfast each week. Or you could level up and try it with all your meals.
Use the 1-2-3 meal method.
You eat the same breakfast all week long. Rotate 2 different lunches and 3 different dinners with one of those dinners being a social meal.
- Breakfast: Protein powder in oatmeal with almond butter and a piece of fruit
- Lunch: Chicken salad with olive oil and an apple or Turkey with mixed veggies and rice
- Dinner: Lettuce wrap burgers with a side salad and sweet potato. Salmon with asparagus and rice. Or dinner out at a sushi restaurant
A simple way to create meals for yourself is to use a template.
- One protein
- One or two veggies
- One carb (starch or fruit)
- One healthy fat
Adjust the serving sizes based on your needs and away you go! It is that easy.
You might not need to do this forever. But think about it until you’re making progress.
Uniform eating also helps you to know exactly how much you’re eating each week. Thus, making adjusting serving sizes easier based on how you’re progressing.
I know what you’re thinking – “I can’t eat the same thing every day.” Odds are if you took a good look at the diet you already are.
Plan and prepare meals twice per week
Any two days will work. Whatever works well for you and your schedule. I like Sundays and Wednesdays.
Why twice? To keep things fresh and give yourself the ability to change something up if you want.
Keep your planning and prep simple at first. Despite what you see on Instagram most meals don’t actually look like that. Buy chopped frozen veggies to save you prep time. Use fruit as a carb source sometimes instead of sweet potato. Rotisserie chickens and precooked protein and be useful when you don’t have time to cook.
Some simple recipes for a week of meal planning
I generally cook without recipes and don’t use one unless I’m trying to impress a date. Or am having friends over for a meal.
When a new coaching client signs up with me one of the first things I send them is a list of 30+ go-to recipes.
Below are three recipes you can use from the recipe index.
Reese’s Oatmeal, Serves 1
- ½ cup rolled oats
- ½ cup liquid of choice (water, unsweetened almond milk, etc..)
- 1 scoop chocolate protein powder
- 1 tbsp favorite nut butter (peanut, almond, cashew, etc…)
- Splenda or stevia to taste(optional)
- 1 tbsp flax meal (optional)
- 1 banana mashed
- Combine the oats and liquid in a large bowl. Microwave for 1 minute, stir, then microwave for one additional minute.
- Stir in the banana, peanut butter, flax, and Splenda or stevia; or if you prefer no sweeteners, you can skip them.
- Once the oatmeal is warm but not hot, add the protein powder and mix completely
Where I got it. Precision Nutrition’s Gourmet Cookbook
Strawberry, Spinach, and Protein Salad: Serves 1
- 1 cup of torn spinach leaves
- A cup of chopped strawberries (usually about 4 to 6)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon of basil
- 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
- Pepper and salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon of chopped cashews
- 1 to 2 palms of protein of your choice
- Add strawberries and spinach to a bowl.
- Add olive oil, lemon juice, basil, and pepper to a container you can shake. Shake mixture
Simple Skillet Dinner: Serves 2 to 3
- 1 pound of ground beef (90/10 or 85/15 is best)
- 1 head of cauliflower, chopped finely
- 16oz jar of pasta sauce
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of capers or sliced olives
- Brown your meat in a skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add finely chopped cauliflower and pasta sauce. Let the mixture simmer for 5 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender.
- Plate and add caper or olives to the top as garnish.
Here are three more go-to recipes from the blog.
Frequently asked questions
What if someone invites me to eat out with them? I don’t want to waste a meal.
Go to eat with your friend. The meal you had prepped you can push back until tomorrow. If you have any leftover meals you can eat it at the end of the week. You’ll now have 1 less meal to prep.
Also, by prepping twice per week versus once it allows you to be more adaptable when things like this pop up. You’ll have more fresh meals ready for you.
You could also ask the friend if they don’t mind pushing the dinner date back to Saturday or later in the week. This will give you a better chance to prepare for it.
Another idea is to start planning your own social meals with friends. Plan Friday night dinners. You can include these into your weekly meal planning template.
What if I don’t feel like eating what I made?
Reflect on why? Did you make something you don’t really enjoy in the first place? Are you having a high-stress day? What I’ve found is that it’s usually not the meal but something else.
How do you store the meals?
I use these plastic and glass Tupperware containers. If I have any leftover veggies I make sure to dry them off before putting them back into the fridge. This will keep them crisp.
How long do meal planning and prep take?
This depends on your, your skills, and what you’re making. Most weeks It takes me 30-60 minutes to prep meals for Sunday through Wednesdays and then 30-60 minutes for another prep Wednesday through Saturday.
You can reduce time by choosing simple “low prep” breakfasts like protein shakes, greek yogurt with protein powder and berries, and oats with protein and almond butter. Meals like these can be made in 5 minutes the morning of. Thus, one less meal you have to plan and prep on your prep days.
Take action with this article and your weekly meal planning cheat sheet
So here’s the part where you do something. So often we read something, nod our head, and say this is great. Only to move on to the next article to do the same thing. Never taking any action.
Let’s change that today.
- Use the 1-2-3 method this week. Or try your own form of uniform eating. If you’ve already been applying this – great! Keep it up.
- Pick one or two days to do your grocery shopping and meal planning. Keep these as your planning and prep days.
- When filling out the cheat sheet keep it simple.
That’s it. Your super-simple weekly meal planning template.
Photo by Cristiano Pinto on Unsplash