Making a Monthly Meal Plan

Makeingamontlymealplan

Have I mentioned before that I pretty much hate getting meals on the table? Meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning…all of it. Except the eating. I very much enjoy the eating part. I’ve tried lots of things to make this whole daily ordeal more enjoyable, or at least take up less of my life. So my latest project is one more attempt at streamlining the whole meal preparation process. The biggest change from anything I’ve tried so far? Planning for the whole month.

I started by making a list of all the meals I would consider quick and easy. When I actually sat down and wrote them all out I found I actually had a pretty good collection. For the most part they are recipes that I can make from memory, have a small list of ingredients, and come together fairly quickly. Some recipes are crock pot meals that take a while to cook, but only a few minutes to dump the ingredients in at the beginning of the day. I’m sure each family would have a different list, but ours includes things like tacos, spaghetti, parmesan tilapia, and roast beef.

Easymeals

Then I made a list of easy and quick side dishes. I’m really bad about making the main dish and then realizing we have no vegetables once I get it on the table, so I knew I needed to think about sides ahead of time. I only have a handful that I’m planning to rotate though each week, but they are super simple. Mostly various types of frozen vegetables with some roasted sweet potatoes or carrots thrown in for some beta carotene.

Once I made my lists I realized I could fill out a whole month’s calendar and only repeat most of the meals twice. This sounded like a fabulous idea, but I knew I would miss some of our favorite but not quite as quick and easy meals. So I made a list of favorite seasonal meals. My plan is to put one “seasonal favorite” in a week, but with a list of favorites already made it’s still not something I’ll need to think very hard about. Some favorites that I’m planning for this fall include my stuffed acorn squash and chicken and rice chowder.

From there I filled in the calendar! I based the plan around our typical schedule for the week, so on grocery shopping days I always plan on just picking up a rotisserie chicken for dinner. On days when we tend to have more going right before the dinner hour I plan on crockpots that I can prepare earlier in the day.

Calendar

The last step was preparing a shopping list. Since I plan on repeating my “quick and easy” meals all year long, I knew I could go ahead and make a shopping list to refer to all year too. This took a bit of time, but I think I have a pretty thorough list now. I split it up into things that I can buy just once at the beginning of the month, and more perishable items that will need to be purchased on a weekly basis. My hope is that I can take one big shopping trip at the beginning of the month and get all the unpleasantness of that out of the way and keep all the rest of the trips short and sweet. Since I’ve only just started this system I have yet to find out if this is how it will actually work in reality.

Maybe in a few months time I can report back on how this system is working out. I’m hopeful that it will make at least some things easier and I’m already excited about the fact that the whole month’s meals are planned out.

Anyone have any fabulous tips for making meal planning and prep involve less time and stress? I’m all ears!

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**This is going down in the books as Project 1 for my 31 Projects goal!

4 Replies to “Making a Monthly Meal Plan”

  1. I hope this works for you! I’ve tried so many variations on this theme for so many years and I could never stick with it. Got tired of the same meals over and over or didn’t feel like making what I had planned when the time came. Hope your plan is a raving success!

    Mommy says:
  2. Looking forward to your report. I just do weekly plans, but find I’m so much less stressed not having to come up with an idea at 4:30. I can shop once a week and don’t have to make emergency shopping trips which are costly in both time and money.

    beth ann says:
  3. Hi, Amy Beth. My husband and I lived in Williamsburg for 20 years. He taught at UC with your dad and I was friends with your mom. I enjoy reading your blog and hearing about your adorable children.

    I started doing monthly menu planning when we moved to Williamsburg in 1987. It was just the three of us but I was trying to save money, working and it was crazy trying to come up with supper every night. It takes some trial and error but over time you will come up with the ways that work best for you. I still do a monthly menu 28 years later….some insights after all these years:

    once I got really serious about my monthly menu when we had unexpected things come up that involved changing my dinner plans my first thought was “oh, no, there goes my menu” and I would go into a tailspin (well maybe not really a tailspin but you get my drift) Over the years I have learned to be flexible and change things around when needed. My best advice would be to make meals that can be served for more than one night. My family was willing to eat leftovers so I planned my menus accordingly. I might change up the sides to go with the chicken or pork but at least I had my entree covered. If I made mashed potatoes I made enough for two meals. Soups and spaghetti sauce is great for that. If you are grilling chicken breasts, grill a couple of extra and have grilled chicken salad one night. When you are planning your menu for a month you can figure out what night the leftovers work best. Or freeze your leftovers and spread them out over time. We don’t eat a hot breakfast in the morning so one night a week we had breakfast for supper. Our daughter called it supfast. Pancakes or eggs or french toast with bacon or sausage and fruit and you have a good meal. It is still my go to meal if life has been crazy and there just isn’t enough time to fix something because of unexpected circumstances. After all these years I still find it strange to hear someone say “I don’t have any idea what I am going to have for supper tonight”. My husband used to joke when we were with friends about how I would know what we were going to have for supper two weeks from now. Sometimes I think people thought I was a little nuts….but it worked for me and I think if you asked my family they would say we had a lot of good meals and good times around the table. I know you find a good plan that works well for you. It just takes some time. I also try to plan meals after looking at the grocery stores ads and seeing what is on sale. If chicken breasts and pork loin are on sale I buy them and freeze them to use for that month. Happy menu planning and let me know it goes!!! Tell your mom Darlene said hello!!

    Darlene Young says:
  4. Thanks for the great pointers, Darlene! Good times with the family around the dinner table is definitely something I hope my kids remember too.

    Amy says:

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