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.

menu plan in cookbook

Menu plan ideas from Let Me Feed You.

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.


The 100 Days of Real Food Meal Planner at the grocery store.

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!)

Love and Lemons Meal Plan cookbook

Love and Lemons Meal Plan cookbook

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 ITYou 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.

meal planning cookbooks

Everyone can use help learning how to simplify meal planning. These are five tips to make meal planning and meal prep simple and easy for any family.

Vegan Pumpkin Pasta from Pickles & Honey

Over the past few years I have gotten many emails asking for more vegan recipes in my meal plans. This fall I created on full vegan meal plan highlighting the best of autumn’s bounty. Pumpkins, root veggies, fall greens and more take the center stage in my fall vegan meal plan.

If you are unfamiliar with a vegan diet, it’s a plant-centered diet that does not use any animal products. Vegans opt out of dairy from any animal, and also honey made from bees. There can be great benefits from a vegan diet, but it can be challenging to sustain. Often I see a deficiency in B12, a key nutrient that gives us energy. If you follow a vegan diet, you need to have your B12 monitored and supplement with food rich in B12, like spirulina. B12 actually requires intrinsic factor to be absorbed in the intestine, along with the presence of calcium. Some vegans and vegetarians can develop anemia, and may require injections of B12. This is not to scare anyone away from a plant-based diet, it’s important for you to understand how to maintain a healthy balance if you suddenly eliminate a food group from your diet.

As you may have noticed from our trip to the local farms, we do not follow a vegan lifestyle in our home. However, I am trying to mix up what we serve and add more vegetarians options into our routine. We enjoyed an awesome lentil chili last week from The School Year Survival Cookbook. Next up is a chickpea ratatouille from the same book.

Key Benefits of a Vegan Meal Plan

  • increase of fiber can improve digestion and gut health, leading to less inflammation, better skin, sleep, and mood.
  • intake of a wider variety of phytonutrients will support a healthy immune system.
  • lack of animal products can also decrease the amount of inflammation in the body.

Vegan Dinner

Creamy Vegan Pumpkin Pasta– creamy goodness with a boost of probiotics via white miso

10 Minute Peanut Stir Fry-super quick and flexible for what’s in your fridge.

Spiced Vegan Minestrone Soup– from The Glowing Fridge

Chocolate Cinnamon Walnut Chili-also known as Healthy Cincinnati Chili from Nutrition Stripped. Who doesn’t love an excuse for more chocolate?!

Fall Vegan Chili Recipe Meal Plan

Gorgeous chili recipe from Nutrition Stripped. copyright 2015 Katie Newburn Photography

Vegan Lunch

Ultimate Vegan Pumpkin Soup-the color alone is amazing. Plus there’s lots of phytonutrients in pumpkin and squashes to help regulate cell growth, improve your skin’s appearance, and supports your immune system.

Roasted Chickpea Kale Salad and Creamy Dressing-love this one from Joyous Health.

Sweet Potato Apple Turmeric Soup-pop this one into your crockpot for an easy dinner at the end of the day, or prep ahead for lunches.

fall vegan meal plan pumpkin chia seed pudding

Vegan Breakfast

Overnight Pumpkin Chia Seed Pudding-these parfaits from The Flavor Blender are on my to-make list this week.

Breakfast Miso Vegetable Soup-love the addition of gut health supporting miso in this soup.

Vegan Snacks

Vegan Cheez-Its-cool way to enjoy a childhood favorite, without all the preservatives and damaged oils.

Stovetop Popcorn-our family favorite treat

Homemade Apple Pie Larabars– fun fall treat!


For more inspiration, check out years of past dinner plans here, my Pinterest collection here, or OrgJunkie for a link-up of weekly meal plans.

Hello back to school season! It’s time for a new meal plan that will help you save time, plan ahead, and make lunch packing a breeze. Well, that’s the goal anyways. Life tends to get in the way of our grand plans sometimes. Those early mornings are hard, aren’t they? But, it’s easier to start with a plan and adjust when necessary. My back-to-school meal plan can help you fill in the blank of what’s for dinner when you are making the grocery list for the week ahead.

The recipes I’m sharing use real food ingredients, although I too rely on some quality packaged items to round out my kid’s lunch boxes. They are used when time is tight, or it’s the end of the week and we are out of all the prepped goodies. The kids don’t mind when they get the occasional bag of pretzels or beef jerky sticks. I don’t mind either when I’ve taken the time to read through the ingredient list and weed out the junky versions. Eating well needs to be a balance, for everyone in the family. Time is tight and if you are making a couple of new recipes each week to expose everyone to new flavors, you’re on the right track.

In the coming weeks I’ll share with you some additional lunch packing tips that are specifically for kids. After the novelty of the first couple of weeks, we all need a little variety in the lunch packing routine!

Here’s a few recipes to help you get ready for those after school activities and map out your back to school meal plan!



Late Summer Minestrone Soup– one pot meal that’s quick and uses fresh, local ingredients from Aimee at Simple Bites.

Instant Pot Carnitas-from PaleOMG

Cashew Chicken Sheet Pan– another prep ahead option with paleo and gluten free notes included

Thai Basil Turkey Bowls– make this part of your Sunday meal prep for the week. Grab cauliflower rice in the freezer section to save time. 

One Sheet Pan Shrimp Fajitas– quick 20 minute meal from No 2 Pencil


Great “green” lunch from The Natural Nurturer. The mac daddy of all lunch boxes is the PlanetBox.


Granola Apple Peanut Butter Crunch Wraps– use my homemade granola listed below and swap in a nut-free butter for school to make this work.

Chickpea and Avocado Salad– from the Natural Nurturer

Chili Garlic Tofu Bowlslook for organic tofu to avoid GMOs.


Sausage Pizza Egg Muffins– from Paleo Running Momma

Banana Almond Chia Puddingmake ahead option from Grits and Chopsticks

Homemade Granola– leave out the nuts and add more seeds (like sesame for calcium!) and then use it as a nut-free school option.

Southwestern Breakfast Bowl -from The Do It All Mama. Make this one for dinner and have the leftovers for breakfast. Mix in some spinach to get in a serving of greens first thing in the morning.


Oatmeal Green Smoothie Muffins– totally making these again this week! Super fast to make with your blender.

Cranberry Coconut Energy Bites-swap in pumpkin or sunflower seed butter to make it school-safe.

Fruit Leather-use a dehydrator or your lowest oven setting to set.


*Healthy Batch cooking ideas– tons of ideas for all meals of the day. There are lots of ideas here you can add to your own back to school meal plan.

*I purchased the Real Lunches Real Easy III as I love having something new for packing lunches. It’s worth the $10. I’m not an affiliate but think it’s a great product and something you can share with your kids to get their input. I’ll be printing mine at Staples and having it bound together as a true cookbook.

back to school meal plan with quick and easy recipes

For more inspiration, check out the years of past dinner plans here, my Pinterest collection here, or OrgJunkie for a link-up of weekly meal plans. Leave a comment with your favorite family recipe to add a back to school meal plan.

Who’s ready for a fall harvest meal plan?! September is such a gorgeous month with beautiful produce and fresh products at the farmers markets. The air starts to cool, the sky looks bluer and the apple trees are ready for picking. This weekend we spent Sunday picking a very large haul of McIntosh and Gala apples. The crisp I made turned out great, however we ate it so quick I forgot to take a picture for a recipe post. Guess I’ll have to make it again!

The fall harvest meal plan this week highlights apples in a slow cooker recipe, plus some new ideas to as the grilling season slows down. In the coming weeks, the meal plan format here will change. I’m going back to school and starting at the Academy of Culinary Nutrition. I’ll have “cooking homework” and it may not jive with my traditional meal plans here. If you are game to join me during the raw food week…let me know! I’ll be sharing more about how to meal plan, highlighting new recipe ideas and offering healthy eating tips along the way.

click here if you want to get on the list and get my free Smoothie recipe book!

As you write out your grocery list for the upcoming week check out these healthy family friendly recipes from this week’s menu plan. Each featured recipe includes link to the complete recipe.



Monday: Easy Maple Mustard Chicken Drumsticks with Roasted Radishes and Asparagus. If you’ve never tried roasted radishes, this recipe will change your mind about these cute pink veggies.

Tuesday: Slow cooker Marmalade and Vinegar Pork with sauteed spinach and quinoa. Love when dinner is nearly done when we come in the door from soccer.

Wednesday: Turmeric Turkey, with quinoa and salad. Recipe is from the cookbook, The Stash Plan, which got me hooked on drinking bone broth every morning.

Thursday: Slow cooker Apple Cider Pulled Chicken with Quick Apple Slaw. This will be a sandwich night as people need to eat at different times. Use gluten free buns, or wrap in corn tortillas or just serve the pulled pork alongside the apple slaw.

Friday: CORN = Clean Out Refrigerator Night

Easy slow cooker apple cider pork


Thai Coconut Black Rice Pudding– I cooked a side of black rice and it wasn’t well received. Maybe they will all like it in this gluten-free, vegan dessert option.

Have an awesome week! Remember, you can join in the conversation over at our Facebook group: Eat Well, Live Well.


For more inspiration, see years of past meal plans here, my Pinterest collection here, or OrgJunkie for a link-up of more dinner ideas.

Two more days of summer vacation in our house. We are picking up the last round of school uniforms, labeling everything, making lunch plans and eating ice cream as we wrap up a fabulous summer season. For our friends going back to school today, nothing says back-to-school with a heat warning in Toronto this afternoon!

We have arrived at our one year anniversary living in Canada. Our family decided to celebrate with a BBQ this weekend, AND clean out the storage rooms that hadn’t been touched since we moved in. I found more stacks of recipe swipes in my desk, dishes I no longer need, and a stuffed animal missing since Christmas. It was a great reminder for all of us to clear out the excess so we can find the things we love a lot faster. If you need a little help cleaning up, you can read this post, listen to this podcast, or grab this book.

On to this week’s meal plan! 

Dinner {GF= Gluten Free, P=Paleo, DF=Dairy Free}

Monday: (delayed due to summer fun)

Tuesday: Grilled Salmon with White Bean and Arugula salad and peaches and cream local corn. 20 minute dinner recipe! GF, DF. (Grill basket suggestion for fish.)

Wednesday: Chicken Cutlets with Tomato Saute, GF, P, DF.  There are so many local cherry tomatoes at the market and this recipe is an easy way to highlight them. Quinoa on the side is already cooked and stored in the freezer in family size portions.

Thursday: Paleo Short Ribs, carrots and spinach. (Birthday dinner!)

Friday: C.O.R.N. = Clean Out Refrigerator Night.

Weekend: BBQ with friends and Beef Chili with No Crust Apple Pie to celebrate the return of Sunday football games.


Fall Apple and Almond Butter mason jar salad


Pineapple, Banana and Peach Smoothie Bowl


Apple Almond Energy Bites

Easy family meal plan recipe ideas

For more inspiration, see years of past dinner plans here, my Pinterest collection here, or OrgJunkie for a link-up of weekly meal plans.

Welcome back to another meal plan for the final week of August! I’m so ready for our fall routine to begin, although I will miss our leisurely mornings at home! Focus on meal planning tends to increase when a routine changes. It may be back to school season, the birth of a baby, or a return to work. If you are in any of these camps, now is a great time to carve out additional time to create a plan. Stay tuned for a meal planning challenge to help you make creating a menu plan an easy part of your weekly to-do list!

As you write out your grocery list for the upcoming week check out these healthy family friendly recipes from this weeks menu plan. Each featured recipe includes a link to the complete recipe source.

Dinner {GF= Gluten Free, P=Paleo, DF=Dairy Free, NF= Nut Free}

Monday:  Ginger Honey Cashew Chicken and Green Beans (one pot meal!) from Robyn at Real Food Whole Life. (and she has a great new healthy Quick Start guide that just came out for her newsletter subscribers. There’s some very easy to manage steps she suggests for enjoying a healthier life. You can find the details on her site here along with the recipe.)

Tuesday:  Apricot Dijon Glazed Salmon, Roasted Broccoli and Quinoa. (GF)

Wednesday: Honey-Orange Chicken Drumsticks in the crock-pot (GF), with Creamy Yogurt Cucumber Salad.

Thursday: Spicy Shrimp with Yogurt, favorite recipe from the Dinner a Love Story cookbook. Make a lot of the spice rub and save it for those nights when you need to make dinner fast! Grab the recipe here. Since dinner is quick, I have a little extra time to prep a zucchini and fresh corn salad. This is a great time to buy extra corn at the market and freeze the extra!

Friday: Pizza night or dinner out.

Weekend: Labor Day BBQ.


Testing out some new school lunches ideas we found here.


Lemon Chia Seed Granola


Zucchini Chips

 Healthy-meal-plan-to-help-you-plan-dinners-for-your-family (2)


For more inspiration, see years of past dinner plans here, my Pinterest collection here, or OrgJunkie for a link-up of weekly meal plans.

This week’s focus is an anti-inflammatory meal plan. So many people are suffering from chronic inflammation and this real food meal plan helps strip away some of the foods that mess with your digestion.

Cheers to all the men and their families celebrating Father’s Day this weekend. I hope it was filled with fresh food and yummy food from the grill. We celebrated with a trip to a local farm to get fresh picked strawberries, try out some lunch from the food truck festival and finish off with some strawberry shortcake. Now it’s time to share this week’s meal plan.
As you write out your grocery list for the upcoming week check out these healthy family friendly recipes from this weeks menu plan. Each featured recipe includes link to the complete recipe.

Zucchini spaghetti recipe

Dinner {GF= Gluten Free, P=Paleo, DF=Dairy Free, NF= Nut Free}

Meatless Monday: Cheese, Black Bean and Corn Stuffed Sweet Potato . (Omit cheese for anti-inflammatory.)

Tuesday: Honey Mustard Chicken Stir Fry GF, DF

Wednesday: Modern Tuna Cobb Salad– Cobb salads are the perfect way to clean out your refrigerator. A little produce, a little protein and you are good to go. Bonus- it’s a no cook dinner!

Thursday: Speedy Asparagus and Chicken Piccata  with millet on the side.

Friday: Burst Tomato and Zucchini Spaghetti with Avocado Sauce


Sesame Ginger Beet Quinoa Bowl– make it and bring it to the office all week, or a playground picnic. { swap the soy sauce for gluten-free Tamari if needed }


Triple Berry and Soaked Oats Smoothie


Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Pops (I suggest almond butter instead of peanut butter)

meal plan week 25 pinterest


For more inspiration, see years of past dinner plans here, my Pinterest collection here, or OrgJunkie for a link-up of weekly meal plans.

This week’s meal plan should really be called operation Clean-Out-Pantry. As vacation draws near for so many of us, now is the perfect time to use up what’s in our freezer and our pantries. Take some time this week to do an inventory of can go first from your freezer. Create your meal plan based on the protein you have on hand. Need a recipe? If you look on the right side of the blog, you will find a Search box. If you have chicken thighs for example, you can find all the recipes I’ve ever shared on the meal plan where you can use up chicken thighs. Easy, right?

Next week, focus on the refrigerator. Toss out all the old stuff, wipe down the condiments and do a reality check. Will you really use what’s in there over the summer? If not, let it go. You will be some happy to have more room when you come home from the grocery store with a full size watermelon to go in your fridge.

As you write out your grocery list for the upcoming week check out these healthy family friendly recipes from this weeks menu plan. Each featured recipe includes link to the complete recipe.

Dinner {GF= Gluten Free, P=Paleo, DF=Dairy Free, NF= Nut Free}

Meatless Monday: Whole-Grain Veggie Burrito Bowl, GF

Tuesday: Spring Vegetable and Quinoa Salad with Bacon, GF, P (swap butter for coconut oil to make it DF/P friendly)

Wednesday: Justin’s Paleo Meatballs (GF, P), zucchini or whole wheat noodles.

Thursday: Grilled Buffalo Chicken Tacos 

Friday: CORN= Clean Out Refrigerator Night!


Waffle Iron Turkey Melt Panini


Sweet Potato Toast– yes, it’s the new thing.


5 minute Lemon Garlic Hummus


Make some watermelon ice to give your water a facelift!

Healthy Simple Weekly Meal Plan


For more inspiration, see years of past dinner plans here, my Pinterest collection here, or OrgJunkie for a link-up of weekly meal plans.

Are you ready for another week of getting your meal plan organized?! It’s time to put pencil to paper, marker to dry erase board, or fingers to your keyboard. Whatever way you keep track of your meal plan, know that it’s okay to change your system if it’s not quite working for you.

Sometimes you need to make an adjustment as your season of life changes. For many, it’s the end of the school year and you may be juggling kid’s at home more often. Or trying to plan for camp lunches as well.

Maybe it’s time to sit down and plan some themes for your week, i.e. meatless monday, taco tuesday. Putting in even 10 minutes can make your week feel less stressful. If some part of your system isn’t working, try something new. Meal planning is effective if it saves you time and overwhelm. If it’s causing frustration, change course.

Take 10 minutes to write out what you plan to eat this week. (or just write down last week so you have a starting point!)

Here’s a little cheat sheet of different ways to record your meal plans each week:

  • Your planner or Google calendar
  • Monthly calendar (there’s a new one in the Wellness Library you can grab! Get the code here.)
  • Weekly meal planner
  • Evernote or Trello
  • Pinterest: create a secret board called Meal Plans and add recipes as you plan them. If they are winners, keep them in the folder. If not, delete the pin.
  • Dry erase board
  • Journal (which is what sparked the Dinner: A Love Story cookbook)
  • Plan to Eat app
  • Order meal delivery from Blue Apron, Plated, etc.

Do you have another favorite way of keeping track of your dinners? Share a note in the comments.

On to the menu for this week!

Rainbow vegetable kabobs

As you write out your grocery list for the upcoming week check out these healthy family friendly recipes from this week’s menu plan. Each featured recipe includes link to the complete recipe.

Dinner {GF= Gluten Free, P=Paleo, DF=Dairy Free, NF= Nut Free}

Monday: Sweet Potato Hash with Fried Eggs. (GF)  This takes a little longer than most recipes at 50 minutes, but it looks oh so good for a Meatless Monday.

Tuesday: Salmon Burgers

Wednesday: Spring Vegetable Soup (45 minutes total to prep and cook, GF + DF).

Thursday: Paleo Beef Short Ribs (P), and  Honey Roasted Carrots

Friday: Pizza night with our homemade dough.

Weekend: Yogurt Marinated Chicken, plan 3 hours for the marinade, (GF). This makes enough for a crowd, or for leftover chicken served over salad.  I recommend the Lemon Pepper flavor. Pairs well with Vegetable Kabobs. Once your prep is done, dinner cooks in about 10 minutes.


Healthy Buffalo Chicken Wrap. This recipe may end up on our dinner rotation this summer while we are at the beach!


Chocolate Buckwheat Waffles with Berries. This recipe caught my eye in a story about increasing the amount of whole grains in our diet. I’ve started to pickup buckwheat flour from our local, natural food store’s bulk bins and just buy 1-2 cups a week for specific recipes. For an even healthier version, you can swap out the unsweetened cocoa powder for 1 tablespoon raw cacoa powder.


Quinoa coconut granola bars. Just made these and they are a winner from Super Healthy Kids. Next time I’m going to make them with sun-butter and pumpkin seeds so the kids can take them to school.

how to make changes to your meal planning routine


For more inspiration, see years of past dinner plans here, my Pinterest collection here, or OrgJunkie for a link-up of weekly meal plans. Any Amazon links are affiliate links, thanks for shopping via my site.