Monthly Meal Planning

At the start of our marriage, I planned weekly meals and went with my little paper list to the store every Sunday. This past school year, with all our freaking extra activities, I realized I needed to be a little more efficient with planning and shopping because it was a pain to think about it each and every week.  While I’ve figured out the planning side of things (that was always my strong suit), I am still working on how to reduce our shopping trips.

So, when it came to figuring out my monthly meal planning system, I, naturally, started Googling “Monthly meal planning” and found all the templates that cost a couple of dollars, and I even bought one, but, of course, it didn’t completely fit my needs.  On top of that, I learned that basic editing tasks may actual require an Advanced Degree because the PDF version I got made it hard to edit (especially if I wanted to Copy and Paste meals on multiple days), and I had to click Save As for each change- the regular save function didn’t work properly; it was all incredibly annoying.  I’m also one of those that likes lists and to see how someone does it, so I can figure out what works best for my family, and not a single one of these blogs gave me that kind of direction.

Like, where do I start?

Because I certainly don’t want extra uncooked meals or to be holding on to food that will spoil before we get to use it. And, we’re only a family of 3, so I throw out a lot of leftovers over the holiday breaks.  During the school year, it’s not a problem because I have teenagers who devour any and all of our leftovers, but when they’re not there to act as my own personal garbage disposals, how do we save all this wasted food!?

As far as planning our monthly meals, I am now on month 3, and I have my system pretty much figured out to where I can get my meals planned for the month relatively quickly.

This week is my planning week for July, and since I just finished my calendar, I figured I’d share my system and template for planning monthly meals with you.  It’s not the fanciest template, by any means, but it’s easy to edit, and it’s free- both things I love.

How I plan my Monthly Meals

  • Fill in Holidays/Activities you know are on the calendar and will affect meals
    • Practices, Games, Birthdays, etc…

Monthly Activities

During the school year, there are far more activities planned: soccer, dance, teacher things, but it’s summer, so it’s a little more sparse.

  • Fill in any automatic go-to weekly meal days

Regular Meals

For us, Fridays are pizza, and Saturdays are kind of a ‘fend for yourself’ kind of thing, or my husband and I go out because our daughter is almost ALWAYS at her grandparents that night (they live 3 streets over… #Blessed ) 

  • Begin plotting your meals
    • Count the # of blank spaces and select that many recipes.
      • It is here that you peruse new options or things you want to try.
        • I try at least 2 brand new meals a month.
    • Make sure you have a recipe for every blank day
      • I actually print the calendar at this point and fill it in with a pencil
    • Tips:
      • Look at previous month’s last 2 weeks so you don’t plan back to back meals

June 17 Meals

This was our end of June.  I just want to make sure we’re not having any of these in the 1st week or so of July.

  • Look that you don’t have back to back similar meals
    • i.e. I try not to put 2 Italian dishes on back to back days.
  • Choose 2 or 3 simple back up meals that won’t expire
    • Hamburger Helper or Frozen meals are your lifesavers here!

Meals RD

  • Review your calendar to make sure you’ve created a balance of meals that fit your schedule and taste buds
    • Maybe consult the family for their input.

We’ve recently learned our daughter hates our hamburgers (but school cafeteria hamburgers are delicious), so that’s going to come off the menu on the nights she’s home because I don’t like hearing complaining, and we have plenty of options to put in its place.

  • Type it up, print, and hang where ever your meal central is located!
    • You can add the side dishes as well if your heart so desires.  This month, mine did; last month, it did not.

20180623_105103

We have a weekly dry erase board in the kitchen where our menu hangs.  I write the meals for the week on the board in black, and activities are in purple- this Saturday we have a birthday party, and I know Pizza is going to be served, so we might go out Friday or just have a double-dose of pizza… because who doesn’t love pizza?

20180623_105324

I will say that while most of this is set in stone, it’s not always.  Sometimes things come up, and the menu needs to be rearranged.  When that happens I look at the meals that won’t spoil and push those aside for the ones that require produce or something that might go bad in the next week.  Those aren’t necessarily ‘lost meals’, they’re just back-ups for a Saturday night when my parents have plans, and my daughter stays home, or a day we get home from work and are just too tired to make what’s on the menu.

Having the monthly plan has allowed us more freedom and less stress when it comes to the age-old question, “what are we going to have for dinner?”.

My next task is to tackle how to translate my monthly meal planning into fewer grocery trips and more money saving (welcome to my life Freezer Prep Meals!) because we still go to the grocery store once a week… sometimes it’s unavoidable because the child loves fresh (not frozen) fruit, and that spoils.   I know people do Click List and all those little programs, but I, personally, like to shop for my food; I like to look at deals, and try and get the cheapest possible price, and I can do that much more efficiently in person than on an app.  I do use the Kroger app to save my list now, and it’s amazing because it tells you what aisle your stuff is on- makes the trip even faster.  But, we shall see what I come to figure out on how to lessen my grocery trips and money spent.

For now, I’m happy that I’ve figured out how to at least plan what we’re eating for the month, so we never have to mess with the dinner debate… like ever.

Since I’m all about making lives easier,

Enjoy my Free Month of Meals Planning template!

Blank Calendar

Click Here to Download

– The MF

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