Meal Planning is such an important aspect of running a smooth household. If you prepare the majority of the meals for your family you realize how much time and effort goes into planning meals, shopping for food and actually cooking the food. It is a lot. But by being organized and planning ahead we can save so much time and frustration. I have meal planned for years – even before we had kids. Otherwise, how do you grocery shop? I would sit down at the counter before I went to the store and plan out my meals for the week. Simple. And that system works. But, I have found that a monthly meal plan actually works better for our family.
Why a Monthly Meal Plan is a Good Idea
A monthly meal plan works better for several reasons. I find I am able to try more new recipes this way and vary our meals a little more. I can also batch prep meals for one week and serve them again another night later in the month. By looking ahead, I don’t use all the easy, favorite meals in one week and can vary the foods we eat. I can also consolidate grocery trips and buy more items in bulk – because I know what I’ll need for the whole month. Most importantly, I don’t have to sit down every Friday night and come up with a plan for the week. I don’t know about you – but I am tired of thinking about food and food prep all the time. Sitting down once a month and planning meals definitely saves me time and effort.
How to Make a Monthly Meal Plan
Coordinate Meals with your Schedule
So, how do I do it. First, I print a monthly calendar. I cross off any dates I know we won’t need to make dinner – we are going to a friend’s house, will be on vacation etc. Then, I add in any special meals – mostly birthday and holiday meals. Next, I make note of the nights I am working late and plan to have leftovers (or pizza) those nights.
Plan for Freezer and Crockpot Meals
Then, I look for the days when I know I will have extra time to cook – on these days I might plan a more elaborate meal or try a new recipe. I look for days that we will be very busy in the evening and plan to cook in the crockpot those days or use a freezer meal.
Keep a List of Meals your Family Enjoys
I keep a list posted in my office of all the meals that my family will eat. Or at least the majority will eat. This includes crock-pot, instant pot and regular meals.
Add Meals to the Calendar
So, once I have determined what type of meal we will be eating I can simply fill in the blank days from that list. I try one or two new meals a month – on nights when I have more time for cooking. There are certain meals we like that freeze well – so if I am making one lasagna I might as well make two and freeze the second one for a busy night later in the month.
Make a Grocery List for the Month
Once the calendar is filled in I make a rough grocery list for each week – looking in my pantry for what staples I might need. I can then decide if there are items I might be able to get at Costco rather than the regular grocery store.
Coordinate Meal Planning with Weekly Meal Prep
I do a lot of meal prepping – usually on Sundays after our Costco and grocery runs. I will share how I meal prep in another post but planning a month at a time makes meal prep so much easier. I can plan ahead what I need to do each Sunday so I am not surprised by the amount of time it takes.
Obviously life happens and our menu does change over the course of the month. But it is so much easier to not have to think about meal planning all the time. With a little prep work it is so much easier to feed your family homemade meals every night.