weekly menu

How To Plan A Weekly Menu

November 5, 2012

How you can too, plan a great weekly menu.

“Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”

How many times have I heard or read that somewhere? My husband is the king of last minute plans and subsequently deals with things in crisis mode.

I am the complete opposite (maybe it’s true that opposites attract), I hate crisis mode. I prefer smooth, easy, and no surprises. The key to avoiding most crisis situations is through planning. This is especially true for weight loss or weight management.

I recently made an observation that most of the people in my life that have never struggled with their weight are very consistent in planning what they will eat throughout the day or week. They also appear to be good at maintaining balance in their lives. Planning and balance go hand in hand. I don’t know many people who have one without the other.

I have struggled with my weight for most of my life. I even became a registered dietitian thinking that would help me. Having surgery was a last resort for me and a little over three years ago, I made the decision to have gastric bypass surgery and lost a lot of weight. I was then and still am determined to make the changes I need to make to maintain my weight loss. I thought it might be a good idea to pay attention to what those normal weight friends of mine do for meal planning and apply some of their food management skills to my own life. Most people are capable of planning a meal, but jobs, spouses, kids, meetings, or other activities can make their lives so busy that meal planning usually takes a back seat. That can make the fast food restaurant on the way home from work look much easier and less time consuming.

The planning I’m talking about (the planning I see my normal weight friends do) is more of a mentality and lifestyle. It takes some practice and some getting used to, but I promise it will be worth your while.

Tip #1:  Write down your menu for an entire week. One of my friends has a giant chalkboard on the kitchen wall, and every Sunday she figures out what she is going to fix that week and writes down dinner for each night. If you have young children, you can let them help you with the process and if you have teenagers, they will probably give you some suggestions of their own. Writing it down will help you plan what to pull out of the freezer the night before. You can also do the prep work the night before to make it quicker the next day. Writing your menu down will also help you make a shopping list, which is the next tip.

Tip #2:  Make a shopping list according to your weekly menu. Get your meats, vegetables, and any ingredients for a new recipe you might want to try. There are many recipe websites that can help you find new ideas. I always shop the same grocery store, and I use the weekly sale ads to help me plan my menus. If chicken is on sale this week, I may buy two packages and use the second one next week. I always try to buy items I use frequently when they are on sale, and I usually buy several so I have some on hand. Reverse Tip 1 and Tip 2 by making your shopping list based on the sale ads. Another friend showed me some websites that use the weekly sale ads to create menus for you. You can find regular menus, low-fat menus, whole food menus, and low-carb menus, to name a few. These websites are great resources to help you plan healthy, budget friendly meals and recipes.

Tip #3:  Keep it simple. In the beginning, keep your meals simple. Pick a meat, a vegetable, and a complex carbohydrate. Keep cooking methods basic like baking, broiling, roasting, steaming, or use a crock-pot. Once you get comfortable, you can branch out and try new recipes or dishes with more ingredients and preparation. Set a goal to try one new recipe a week. Some will become favorites and some failures. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new foods. My extra-organized friend chooses one or two days a month and prepares several freezer meals to pull out and just pop in the oven.

Planning your meals will become second nature with a little practice. Remember to stick to the guidelines for eating after weight-loss surgery. A key is eating most of your food at mealtime, eating your protein first, and practicing mindful eating. Meals that are prepared in a healthy manner will help you maintain your weight... and you can eat out occasionally too.

weekly menu
byrn hamilton


Bryn Hamilton RD, LD has been a Registered Dietitian for nearly 22 years and has worked exclusively with bariatric patients for the past seven years. She is certified in Adult Weight Management by the American Dietetic Association.

-Featured photo courtesy of Rochelle, Just Rochelle