I love the new trend of meal planning cookbooks. Crafting a menu plan each week is one of the best ways to save you money, time, and energy all week long in the kitchen.
Some cookbooks take a seasonal approach to meal planning, and others create plans based on how much time you have to make dinner. There is something for everyone, so I’m going to share my favorites with you and share a little of my own meal planning system.
Meal Plans in Cookbooks
Grab one of your most recent cookbook purchases. Check out the table of contents. How is it set up? Is it by season, type of meal, or something else? Now, check the end of the list. Is there a meal plan section? This is where you will find most meal plans in cookbooks. I read about 10 different cookbooks each month (thank you, library!), and many follow this new trend.
Why is this helpful? Well, in every new cookbook, you may find 100 new recipe ideas. It can be overwhelming. A suggested meal plan is a great way to hone in on a few recipes at a time. The author has already done the hard part of deciding what to pair together and for which meal of the day. If there’s one thing we all can use help with is making fewer decisions every day. (A decision diet is probably the only diet trend I’ll ever get excited about.)
Meal Planning Workbooks
As someone who has been meal planning for twelve years, I like to consider myself a pro for myself and my coaching clients. Not perfect, but I have years of experience now testing out a variety of meal planning methods. (and here’s a big secret…there is no “right” way to meal plan. you have to find your own system.)
Hands down, the best way for me to maintain a meal plan each week is to write it down on paper. And have it displayed in a visual location in the kitchen.
If you’ve been with this blog from the beginning, you may remember my chalkboard meal plan in our first home. I shared those meal plans weekly, and you can still find the original posts with loads of recipe ideas in this meal plan collection of posts. (thank goodness my photo editing skills have improved since then! here’s a throwback to my chalkboard menu I made myself, circa 2013! )
You can use a whiteboard, chalkboard, notebook, or planner. But there are some additional options, like a meal planning workbook. Here’s a look at my favorites.
100 Days of Real Food Meal Planner
This little workhouse offers a ton of tactical tools to keep meal planning organized for you. It includes some awesome recipes and a workbook section for you to write out your meal plan and your shopping list. You can tear it out or keep it in the book. (I’m a fan of keeping track of your meals, so you have a starting point when meal planning down the road.
This book from 100 Days of Real Food founder Lisa Leake also includes a fabulous laminated lunch meal planner for all of us packing school lunches. (though I’m totally letting my kids eat the free school lunch this year when they are actually in school…which is only 40% of the time.)
Got more questions about the meal planner? Check them out over here on Lisa’s page.
Love & Lemons Meal Record and Planner
I’ve had this little gem since 2018. It’s still a favorite, yet I forget to use it sometimes. But, it has space for all meals, not just dinner. For years, I have used it to keep track of all of our entertaining events like Thanksgiving menus, First Communions, and birthdays.
I’ll also make note of the evening events as I map out my meal plan for the week. Then I know if I’ll be driving around doing carpool during the meal prep time. (those nights are usually slow cooker meals!)
The Love and Lemons Meal Planner set also comes with a grocery list notepad so you can take notes as you meal plan.
The key thing with any of these systems is actually to USE IT. You can keep it simple and use a notebook. No matter which meal planning system you try out, I really think it helps to write down in advance and keep a journal of what happens in real life. You may see trends after keeping track for a couple of months.
Maybe you are never motivated to cook on Thursdays, so try to plan that night as leftovers or a slow cooker night. By keeping a meal planning record, you can figure out what’s working for you and what’s not. (that’s where I come into play teaching clients how to make changes that work for them.)
So which Meal Planning Cookbook is right for you?
Want an all-in-one guide? Then grab the 100 Days of Real Food Meal Planner.
Want more blank space? Choose the Love and Lemons option.
Ready to keep track in real-time? Grab a pretty notebook.
A little effort in meal planning can go a long way? Ready to get started? I’m cheering you on as meal planning is one of the BEST ways to achieve your health goals.