MEAL PLANNING & PREP | 8 Types of Meal Plans [5 min]

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The 8 Types of Meal Plans (and How You Fit In!)

Over the years, I’ve seen and read about LOTS of different styles of meal plans. Some of these work, some I’m not a fan of. But here they are, in no particular order. Do you see yourself in any of these?

I’ll be outlining the 8 types of meal planners and helping you figure out which one you are or aren’t. If you want to find out what kind of meal planner you are, head to the link at the bottom of this page and take the ‘What Kind of Meal Planner Are You?” Quiz, or go to percolatekitchen.com/mealplanquiz

1. Meal Plan Rotation Plan 

This is the style of meal planning I recommend to people who are comfortable with the thought of meal planning, but they’re feeling overwhelmed with the action of doing it every week.

 Here’s how it works: Find 5 meals your family loves and that you know you can cook relatively quickly every night. Make those 5 meals every week, leaving room for leftovers (and maybe takeout!) until you get the chance to make a new meal plan. 

Best for: Families with lots of activities on the weekend, or parents who get home late and struggle with meal prep. This also works great for times in our lives where we’ve entered a busy season, and a previously used style of meal planning falls by the wayside. Think: your husband has a big project at work, so you’re flying solo most nights. Or your kids is in finals for a sport and practicing more than usual. 

2. Theme Nights

Beloved by Pinterest, using Theme Nights give meal planners creative license within a structure. It can be really helpful to find recipes within a specific theme, as opposed to the wide open internet and libraries of cookbooks. 

How it works: Pick 4 or 5 “themes” and assign a theme to each night of the week. When you’re meal planning, slot recipes that fit into a specific theme on its specific day. For example: Monday is Meatless, Tuesday is Slow Cooker, Wednesday is Mexican, etc. 

Best for: Planners who have a hard time finding recipes to make and feel overwhelmed with choices. If you’re trying to embrace more minimalism in your families’ life, this is a great way to streamline your planning and help narrow your choices so the whole process of planning goes much faster. 

Click to download the PDF worksheet: theme nights worksheet.pdf

Click to open up the Evernote template

3. Post-It Note Method

This is a fun meal planning style that goes along with the idea of Meal Plan Rotation Nights. 

How it works: Take about 15-20 of your families’ favorite recipes, and write the title of each recipe on a Post-It Note (or similar. Magnets are fun, too!) Add the post-it notes to a calendar, moving around the post-its over the course of the month to plan your meals.

Best for: Your family likes what it likes, and you like sticking to that- but still crave some kind of structure to your meal plans. This can be a great style of meal planning for those who don’t feel super confident in the kitchen trying new recipes and feel comfortable making dishes they know well and love- with a little room for improvisation at the same time. 

Click to download the PDF worksheet: post-it-note-weekly-meal-plan.pdf

Click to open up the Evernote template

Click to download an audio version of this video, or click “play” on the audio below: 


4. Beg, Borrow, Steal

This style of meal planning wouldn’t be possible without the internet! There is a world of fully written out meal plans out there, fo’ free, and all you need to do is find them. 

How it works: Use Pinterest, Reddit, Facebook groups, google searches, diet forums, and more to find where others have posted their meal plans. Many food bloggers (especially those in the areas of health and wellness) will post weekly meal plans, along with recipe links- so all you need to do is find a meal plan that appeals to you, and plug the ingredients list into your grocery list. This also works for paid platforms, such as eMeals, Once a Month Meals, Dinner Daily, etc.

Best for: You hate the whole process of planning for a meal, but don’t mind getting a little inspiration from others and trying new recipes. 

Click to download the PDF worksheet: beg borrow steal .pdf

Click to open up the Evernote template

5. Batch Cooking

One of my favorite styles, although it’s sometimes tough to work into a busy schedule. With a little maneuvering though, this method can save you a ton of time later in the week (or even the month!) 

How it works: Determine how many meals you can conceivably make in the time you have available, then prepare and/or cook all of them in one go. Services I’ve mentioned, like my members-only Prep Sesh, help a lot with this. I go deeper into batch cooking and preparing a batch cooking session in the next module. 

Best for: You hate cooking in the evening and love the idea of pulling dinner out, ready to go. If you can do a little forward planning and work, the payoff is immeasurable! 

Click to download the PDF worksheet: batch cooking breakdown.pdf

Click to open up the Evernote template

6. Cookbook Workthrough

I love this fun style of meal planning, although it can take some work to find a cookbook that has many recipes that work with your schedule and tastes. But once you find that cookbook, it’s fun to find recipes to use! 

How it works: Find a cookbook full of recipes you love. Every week, pick recipes for your meal plan from just that book. 

Best for: When you’re inspired by a type of cuisine but don’t feel like sifting through the internet to find recipes to try; when you find a cookbook that looks fun and easy to pull a week’s worth of dinners from. 

Click to download the PDF worksheet: ckbk-wkthru.pdf

Click to open up the Evernote template

7. Brand New 

I don’t recommend this style of meal planning- but if you’ve got tons of time, go for it! 

How it works: Every week, sit down and create a brand new meal plan from scratch. 

Best for: People without kids or lives? I’m joking. This style of meal planning is likely familiar to us all, although it adds a ton of stress into our week. 

8. Wing It 

I don’t recommend this style of meal planning either! It makes for a harried, stressful experience and makes getting dinner on the table every night stressful and haphazard.

How it works: Every night, figure out what you’re making for dinner about an hour (or less) before dinner is served. 

Best for: More people without lives or kids. Another form of stressful planning that almost guarantees money spent, time wasted, and stress. 

Where do you fit into all of this? How do you decide which style of meal plan works best for your family?