This One-Time-Only Step Makes Dinnertime Go More Smoothly, Forever

Apartment Therapy Weekend Projects is a guided program designed to help you get the happy, healthy home you’ve always wanted, one weekend at a time. Sign up now for email updates so you never miss a lesson.

One way to put chores on a fast track to getting finished is to automate your home tasks: Make everything part of a routine that eventually becomes a natural habit, or create a checklist that gets cycled through every week, month, or year. By creating schedules or plans, you can free your mind from overflowing with to-dos you’re pressed to remember.

This way, when you go to perform your household duties, you know what exactly you need to do, avoiding the exertion of having to take stock and decide what you’ll take on in that moment. You can conserve all your energy for the actual task at hand—and the whole process is made more efficient.

Meal planning is one such way you can eliminate having to rethink what to do. In the kitchen, the question comes in the form of the nightly, and dreaded, “ What’s for dinner ?” Deciding what to make each night is exhausting in and of itself, before you even pull out the first pan! Taking the time to plot out meals and making sure you have the ingredients on hand once a week takes the guesswork out of daily mealtimes.

But there’s a way to make this healthy habit even more of a time and money-saving boon: systemizing the way you menu plan by coming up with a weekly meal planning template. Having a plan for your plan limits your options. (This is a good thing.) Instead of having your cookbook collection and the entire rest of the internet to choose from, a meal plan template narrows down your recipe pool, so you aren’t starting from scratch every week.

This Weekend: Make a meal planning template.

There are many ways to approach a weekly rotating routine, but the main idea is that each day has a themed component that repeats from the previous week. And within those themes, you can select specific recipes—ones you can change week to week to keep things exciting, even within a structure.

Here are some weekly suggestions to get you started:

Sample Meal Planning Template 1

Meatless Monday

Taco Tuesday

New Recipe Wednesday

Tuscan Thursday

Take-out Friday

Leftovers Saturday

Soup or Salad Sunday

Sample Meal Planning Template 2

Mexican Monday

Breakfast for Dinner Tuesday

Slowcooker Wednesday

Chicken Thursday

Pasta Friday

Sandwich Saturday

Leftovers Sunday

Sample Meal Planning Template 3

Casserole Monday

Vegan Tuesday

Asian Wednesday

Leftovers Thursday

Eat Out Friday

Pizza Saturday

Wildcard Sunday

Limiting your options also keeps things exciting because you’re forced to be creative within your meal template parameters. You’ll be more on top of things and your household’s meals will run more smoothly than ever.

Weekend Projects

You can catch up with weekend projects right here . Share your progress with us and others by posting updates and photos on Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #atweekendproject .

Remember: This is about improvement, not perfection. Each week you can either choose to work on the assignment we’ve sent you, or tackle another project you’ve been meaning to get to. It’s also completely okay to skip a weekend if you’re busy or not feeling the assignment.

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