As a mom with many little mouths to feed, meal planning and cooking can become a huge, dreaded task. Creating a monthly meal plan takes away some of our weekly stress and can turn cooking into an enjoyable task instead of a dreaded one! I realized a few months ago weekly meal planning wasn’t working anymore. I was meal planning for one-two days between searching pinterest, looking through the pantry, and making a list and then taking another one or two trips to the store a week only to turn around a few days later to start it all over. I was burned out and frustrated. I started monthly meal planning and using this printable system and it has been such a relief!
It really is so easy to fall into the trap of buying convenience meals or for us, it’s going to grab carry out somewhere. Chipotle please?! But now I can simple write down “take out” on the meal plan (if it’s in the budget) and not feel guilty about it!
Now, I currently don’t do a once a month shopping trip, but 2 “big” trips every other week with a milk and egg type grocery run on the opposite weeks. Even if I have to go to the store once a week, the ‘hard work’ has already been done for me when I sat down to write out my monthly meal plan.
I’m not one to assign meals to each specific day of the week but as I look over my week I make a mental notes of things that would interfere with dinner or that I need to plan out ahead of time. For example, if we plan on being out of the house most of the day on Tuesday running errands then I would either use a freezer meal, the crockpot, or cook something simple (like a one pot meal) for dinner.
Have a list of family favorites.
Ninety meals each month. 90! I cannot come up with 90 new meals every month nor could I expect my kids to eat, and like every meal. Insert family favorites. If you can’t think of more than 7- ask your kids! I just asked mine and they said: lasagna, broccoli soup, and sloppy joes!
Make a list of meals that you ALWAYS have ingredients on hand for.
Even if it’s smoothies and cinnamon buttered toast (hey, that’s a favorite around here!). Think or go dig around in your pantry and look; if you couldn’t make it to the store for the next 3 days, what would you make with the items in your pantry, fridge, and freezer? Are those items things you always keep on hand? Some of mine are: meatloaf, sheet pan dinner (meat and veggies cooked together in oven!), ground beef stroganoff, smoothies, peanut butter and jelly, baked oatmeal, and quesadillas.
Try new recipes.
I try to make 1 new recipe a week. That’s four new recipes on your monthly menu plan (out of 90, remember?) It doesn’t have to be a dinner meal either! You could pick a new recipe for a Saturday morning breakfast or a new cookie recipe! If it doesn’t turn out right or no one likes it except the dog, I’m sure you could find a box of cereal in the cupboard! I also suggest creating a Pinterest board dedicated to recipes that you have made and liked (you can see mine right here) or use recipe cards and an old fashioned recipe box!
Repeat or Repurpose Recipes.
EXAMPLE: If I bought a whole head of cabbage and used half for stuffed cabbage rolls I can either make an extra batch of cabbage rolls to put in the freezer or plan on using the rest up in a cabbage soup the following week (or sooner if it will go bad). You will have less food waste and the fact you are buying one ingredient and using it in more than one meal saves money!… Let’s say the cabbage was only enough for one meal of cabbage rolls, everyone ate, and there some leftovers but not enough for everyone to eat again, then what? I would stretch it into soup, add more broth, cut up some veggies that I had on hand, pair it with some fresh bread – lunch or dinner – done and served!
Sound like something you want to try? Sign Up HERE for your FREE Monthly Meal Plan Printable!
Filling in your Monthly Meal Plan.
I know everyone has their own system when they meal plan so this is what *I* do! Most of the breakfast and lunch options are repeated every week, but on the weekends or non-homeschool days I may throw in a more time consuming meal (or new recipe). I am currently trying out a rotation system for breakfast and lunch and will update soon if we like it!
I automatically fill in:
4 pizza nights – homemade and with different toppings each week– family movie night tradition!
4 taco nights – nachos, tacos, taco salad, rice and beans, enchiladas, etc.
2 take out nights- only if it’s in the budget! Lately it’s been Chipotle or Panda Express
… So there is 10 of the 30 already! Some other ideas are leftover nights, soup and salad night, breakfast for dinner.
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I would love to hear any of your tried and true meal planning tips. Leave a comment here or email me firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, I’d love to help!
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