I’m glad to welcome back my friend Heidi to share her favorite tips on how and why she meal plans one month at a time. Plus I love the free meal planning printable that she created for us!
How Planning a Month of Meals Makes My Life Easier
A strange irony of my life is that meal planning has become one of my least favorite tasks, yet I love to cook. Anyone else feel that way? I don’t fully understand why it has become so hard to force myself to take the hour (really that’s generally how little time it takes) to follow through with it because when I do, our household runs so much more smoothly. When I don’t, the idea of cooking dinner for my family becomes a downright drag.
Why I Plan A Whole Month:
1. I only have to spend time planning every 30 days or so.
2. I can reuse the same recipes each month. If my family is served the same meal only once a month I certainly won’t hear “we’re having _____ again?”
3. I like to shop at Costco once a month to get the bulk of my groceries and go to ALDI to pick up smaller items or produce on a weekly basis.
4. I always have all the ingredients on hand to get through a month or more of meals
10 Steps To Get It Done:
1. At the end of a month I pull out my printable meal planner and start filling in meals for the upcoming weeks. This is the first week of March so I spent an hour last week to plan for this month.
2. I consult my calendar to see which days we do not need dinner and fill in those spaces (date nights, dinner at family or friend’s houses, school or church activities, etc)
3. Since I’ve declared Saturdays to be “Soup Saturdays” in our house, I go ahead and fill in every Saturday with my go-to soups.
4. I like to make a crockpot meal once a week and I choose to do that on days I know are busy. Right now I work on Monday and Thursday, plus my daughter has ballet after school on Thursday – so that’s my crockpot night. I go ahead and fill in each Thursday with a crockpot meal.
5. I want Fridays to be easy. Pizza & a simple salad helps to keep things relaxing after a long, busy school or work week – I go ahead and fill that in on Fridays.
6. I’m trying to experiment with more meatless meals. Eating vegetarian once a week saves us money and keeps things healthy – I go ahead and fill in a meatless meal once a week.
7. For the remainder of the days, I look at the meals that my family likes to eat and try to match up ease or difficulty of the recipe with a busy or slow day (this may not always work because life can change in a flash but the idea is there).
8. With all this cooking there is always enough food for a leftover day – for us it’s Sundays. Kids are hungry after church and if I can quickly heat up some leftovers everyone is well fed and ready to relax while my youngest naps.
9. After I fill in my planner with our menu, I go through my recipes and make a master list of things I need at Costco, Aldi or another grocery store if I need to pick up some specialty items.
10. With this method I always have what I need to make a variety of meals. Often I have enough food to spill into the next month a little bit too. Life happens, plans change so sometimes we don’t always stick to this exactly but the bottom line is that I don’t have to stare into the fridge or the pantry and say “there is nothing to eat…”!
I choose to only plan for dinners. I have a big list of staple items that I purchase at Costco or ALDI and these items are great for daily breakfast and lunch which tend to be more basic in our home. If I decide I’m going to do something special for either of those things I can just add that to the notes section at the bottom of the planner.
The joy of this method is that I only have to think hard (about dinner) once a month. So while this does take some time up front, it ultimately saves money and more time later on!
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