Meal Planning for a Month: Plan

meal plan for a month

We've been covering the basics of meal planning and now are ready to tackle the big kahuna- namely, meal planning for an entire month (in one sitting). It took me 15 months of regular, weekly meal planning to feel like I could tackle doing an entire month at once. The principles of the planning are the same it just takes a little longer, but it is oh so sweet to have to only do it once a month. 

Before you plan your monthly menu make sure that you have: 

1. A minimum of 10-15 meals on your "dinner repertoire". These are recipes that you know that you and your family love, that are fairly simple, and that you feel comfortable cooking. This list should not include that super complicated dish that you made off of Pinterest a few days ago. This staple list are your tried and true recipes. Click here to learn more about making your own list.

2. Planned an occasional two or even three week menu
I think it's important to work up to planning an entire month so if you're feeling comfortable in planning a weekly menu, go ahead and try planning a two-week menu. The first "month" I ever planned was November 2013 and we were going to be gone for a week because of Thanksgiving. I had been comfortably planning weekly or biweekly menus at this point, and I was glad to have a three week plan to bridge me over to the full month.

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Alright, let's do this thing. 

Sit down, arm yourself with a blank monthly calendar, your staple dinners list, your computer (or cookbooks) if you're planning on trying some new recipes, some colored pens or highlighters, and a chunk of time. 

First off, back to the first step we covered in Meal Planning 202

1. Write down all the obligations that you are aware of
This includes date nights, Bible studies, meal groups, trips away, work days. Plan meals for these days first. I plan all my work day dinners first because like I mentioned in my earlier post, Alex  is usually responsible for getting dinner ready when I work. Staple meals (i.e. spaghetti & meatballs) or crockpot dishes (i.e. BBQ chicken sandwiches) are usually the meals that are scheduled for days I work because they're easy and delicious. 

If you know that some of your dishes will make leftovers, go ahead and pencil in "Leftovers" for the next day or later in the month (if you plan on freezing the leftovers). 

sample monthly menu
(This was my calendar for January- you'll note that I penciled in date nights, our meal group with church, and work).

2. Choose the new recipes you want to try and schedule them 
I usually only try 2-3 new recipes a month, sometimes less and sometimes more depending on how ambitious I'm feeling. Schedule these 2-3 new recipes on days that you know (or at least think) that you will have the time and energy to cook them up. My new recipes for the month are always scheduled on a day I don't work and usually earlier in the week when I'm more likely to have energy and motivation to be in the kitchen. 

3. Pencil in the days you'll eat out 
We try and go on 2-3 date nights per month that usually include dinner. I'll go ahead and write these into the schedule (usually on a Friday or Saturday night). Often our date nights change from when I originally schedule them, and when that happens I just move the meal that was originally planned for when we go out  to the day that was a planned date night. 

4. Pencil in meals for all remaining days. 
After adding all your nightly obligations, new recipes, leftover  and takeout days, you should only have a handful of days left. I pull out my staple dinners list and fill in the rest of those days with recipes that are already tried and true. 

A few last thoughts before we talk about the shopping part of this gig in the next post: 

-I try to plan meals that share ingredients in the same two week time frame. For example. enchiladas and smothered burritos are regular occurrences in our household and both need most of the same ingredients. Because of this, we'll usually have enchiladas one week and then burritos early the next week. This ensures that I can use any leftover ingredients that I may have from the first week's dish in the second week's dish (i.e. black beans, chicken, green chile). This takes practice- don't get frustrated if you can't work it out the first couple times around. 

-I try to have 2-3 "backup" meal ideas a month. These usually are frozen pizzas, sandwiches, or breakfast for dinner. These backup meals are just in case I don't have leftovers when I was planning on them or if I'm too tired to make what was planned. These backup ideas shouldn't need much prep or extra ingredients, that way if you don't use them, you won't be wasting any ingredients. 

I'm not going to lie, the planning part of this whole ordeal is the hardest part. Once you've got your plan (and your lists which we'll go into more detail about in the next post), the shopping usually goes really smoothly and quickly and then you are done for another FOUR weeks!

Once you've done your plan, it's time to learn how to organize your grocery list and shopping trip.

Is it overwhelming to plan an entire monthly menu at once? What other tips do you have? 

{Linking up with Tuesday Talk at Sweet Little Ones blog!}


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7 comments :

  1. If I could fist bump you right now, I would. I can barely plan one week ahead, let alone a month. Also my creative meals are like tacos, spaghetti, pot roast....aka super uncreative. You're inspiring! Maybe I can plan more than 4 days in advance too!

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  2. Hey I'll take a virtual fist bump, I love fist bumps! Haha *fist bump* and when I started trust me more than a week was so overwhelming that a lot of weeks I would (cry) literally. Just start writing down all the meals that you make and like and find easy to make. That way you have a list to pull from and plug in for other days (I wrote a whole post on this last week), but it's literally the thing that helped me be able to reach this point. Also, I've never cooked pot roast or even thought about it so I think it's creative!!

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  3. Can't wait to read that post!! And pot roast is not creative--it's lazy. Everything in one dish and baked all together? A lack of effort meal.

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  4. Oh I wrote that post already haha it's at http://sometimesphotojenik.blogspot.com/2015/01/meal-planning-101-creating-dinner.html?m=1 (if you can't click on that just go back like 2-3 posts and you should find it! It's called "creating a dinner repertoire") and an all in one dinner is my type of dinner! My whole motivation in meal planning an entire month is so I only have to do it once because I haaaate doing it! Lol

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  5. You are awesome! I'm working on doing one week at a time...trying to stick all dishes with the same ingredients (like sour cream, carrots, or something I don't buy regularly) together. I'm also trying to do one casserole, one pasta dish, one Mexican meal, etc each week. I could eat the same thing all the time, but I know my husband likes to change it up. Maybe I'll try to do a month in February?! :)
    Thanks for linking up with us!
    Katie
    www.sweetlittleonesblog.com

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  6. Your meals sound delicious!!


    Elizabeth
    allkindsofthingsblog.com
    Home of "Pincrazy Thursdays"~

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  7. This is such a great post. I've only been able to do weekly meal planning. A month of planning sounds crazy to me at this point but maybe someday. :) Thanks for the tips!

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