Looking for an Online (Free) Meal Planning Guide or Help Creating My Own

Updated on October 02, 2010
M.L. asks from Cottage Grove, MN
15 answers

Do you have any suggestions for a meal planning guide I could use for my family? I prefer something online and FREE.

I am sick of getting home from work and trying to figure out what to make for dinner. My husband is a stay-at-home dad. I want to be able to do prep ahead of time and then I can have him throw it in the oven before I get home.

I searched on Mamapedia and found some threads on this topic, but they were old and many of the sites no longer worked or charged $. I would prefer something that is free if possible.

Thank you in advance for your help! I love this site!

6 moms found this helpful

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So What Happened?

Thank you to everyone for your responses! I knew I could count on you for some ideas.

Monica S. - Good question. He thinks I am a picky eater. If I tell him what to make, he will... but that still requires me to figure out what we should eat. Hopefully, if I come up with a guide it will make it easier for both of us.

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answers from Washington DC on

Every two weeks I sit down with two blank pieces of paper. I write down ten meals that we want, and under each I put ALL of the ingredients needed. Then on the other sheet I write down what we actually need from the store. The kids help pick the meals and serach the pantry and refrigerator for what supplies we may need. So it's fun too. We have at least 6 EASY meals (hot dogs, sloppy joes, spaghetti, etc.) for busy week nights. And then we have a few other ones that we can make extra of and last for two nights. It works REALLY well for me. And we just pick the night before what we will make the next night. So we can thaw the meat, cut the veggies, etc....not sure if that helps, but it has gotten me on a better budget and makes it so I have the things I need every week!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Omaha on

I just bought a wonderful book! Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with America's Cheapest Family, by Steve and Annette Economides. They have a lot of ideas about meal planing, grocery shopping, etc. and how to save tons of money doing it!! Good Luck!
They also have a website: AmericasCheapestFamilly.com

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I have used www.saymmm.com in the past. I felt the same way about trying to figure out what to make each night and thought the meal planning would be the answer. What I found was that it still took a lot of time to meal plan, shop for specific items, etc. and that I never used it very much.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Kraft.com has some quick, easy ideas and a thing called "1 bag, 5 dinners". You can even print out the whole shopping list :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

Another one is www.mealsmatter.org I haven't played around with it a whole lot but it is pretty nice.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I feel so much calmer when I know what I'm going to cook ahead of time! I had an idea to write down all our favorite meals on index cards (include the cookbook and page reference). Unfortunately I haven't gotten around to doing this yet, but it sounds good in my head. :) List any unusual ingredients that you might not have on hand on the back. Before going to the store, decide what meals to make and see what you need to buy. Put your chosen cards in order of when you plan to make the meal and you can then take things out to thaw, chop veggies, etc. ahead of time, plus it's also easy to switch up the cards if you change your mind on the order.



answers from Eau Claire on

I just found this site through the aldi's store.
What it does that alot of others don't is allow you to scale to the number of people you are serving for. It also offers alot of low sodium/low fat recipes. Good Luck!



answers from Minneapolis on

Not to be controversial, but if your husband stays at home, why isn't he making dinner?

I was in a similar situation, getting overwhelmed and irritated trying to figure out what to cook, and planning ahead worked wonders for me. Like others, I look at my daughter's day care lunch menu and plan dinners that are different. I do this on Saturday, and then we grocery shop on Sunday.

Sounds like you are on the right track. Planning ahead has helped me enjoy cooking again and I hope it helps you, too!



answers from Minneapolis on

Thank you to everyone for your responses! I knew I could count on you for some ideas.

Monica S. - Good question. He thinks I am a picky eater. If I tell him what to make, he will... but that still requires me to figure out what we should eat. Hopefully, if I come up with a guide it will make it easier for both of us.



answers from Minneapolis on

this is what i do....once a week i pull out whatever meat i have-cook it all up-i always buy what rainbow has on sale-then after its cooked i portion it out an put in freezer-in ziplock baggies-then during the week alls i have to do is pull it out-nuke it or cook it with whatever i decide to have for dinner-saves time-easy planning-no fuss-its just me here-so if i dont feel like having anything-i dont.but this gives you the choice at the last minute an only takes a few minutes to heat up.



answers from Rapid City on

I'm working on getting better about meal planning, too. One of my good friends does it this way: each night of the week is a certain "theme". For example, Monday is beef, Tuesday is Chicken, Wednesday is a casserole, Thursday is Breakfast for Supper, Friday is Pizza/Calzones/Appetizer, etc. Think about what your family likes and set days accordingly. We love Mexican, so we can have a mexican night. Pasta, Italian, Asain, you get the idea. Anyways, this helps to narrow down the choices for meals from "What in this whole cookbook can I make for tonight?!?" to "What Mexican dish can I make tonight?" Then, set your menu for the week, go shopping accordingly, and do any morning or night before prep that you can. Or, leave alist for your husband, if he's home. (Thaw out a package of ground beef, chop and onion), then when you get home you can throw together taco meet and make tacos that night. Good luck!



answers from Milwaukee on

I use receipzaar.com and allrecipes.com. Both are free.



answers from Harrisburg on

You can try my pyramid.gov. I am sort of in the same situation as you and what I have done is printed a blank calendar and put on each day what I would like to prepare for that day, buy those ingredients and then prep the meat only the night before or in the am before work since this takes the longest to cook at times. Then when I get home, I cook the other stuff (pasta, rice or potatoes) and vegetables.



answers from Madison on

After moving, we decided that figuring out what to eat each night was just getting so old! So, what I did was write down every meal that we liked or wanted to try and just put them in a rotating schedule. I did 5 weeks of meals planning on one night being leftover night. We shop once a week (you can choose the day that works best for your family) and buy for the entire week. We found it saved us a ton of money as well as keeping our sanity. I would find things your husband likes to cook as well, so that on your really busy days, you can schedule him to make dinner. (We have a breakfast dinner night sometimes, which anyone can do!) We also try to expand our variety, so sometimes we research other meals and put them into the mix. It's worked really well for us!

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