When it comes to a monthly meal plan, you want to think of your meal plan as your game plan. Without a game plan, your team members (aka your family) are going to have no idea what to to do (or eat in this case).
And your game plan is simply, what you are going to eat this week (and then that can easily become, what to eat this month).
Mastering your meal plan can be stressful, and trust me; it took lots of trial and error before I was able to meal plan as efficiently as I do today. The payoff is that you’ll have more money which you can use for other fun things such as vacations or purchasing cars for all cash (no car payments) or even saving up for your kids college!
Yes, meal planning is THAT important. I calculated it once that if you eat out only twice a week… it could be costing you over $7,000 a year! Whoa! You can get a lot for $7,000!
Here is how you can master a monthly meal plan too.
Create A Master List Of Simple Meals
This master list is like your holy grail when it comes to meal planning. This identifies which meals your family likes the best.
When I’m not sure what meals to make my family for the week, this is my go-to spot for all my family’s favorite meals.
No more thinking up meal ideas or trying to figure out what your family will eat, it’s all already listed here which helps it takes less time to plan out, and less brain power to think of ideas. Win-Win!
Consult Your Calendar First
Before you plan anything, you want to make sure you know exactly what is going on during the week so you can prepare your meals based on your schedule.
If Tuesday nights are always busy because of a sporting event, you want to make sure you have a quick and easy meal ready for it. Maybe Tuesdays become your crockpot night!
On my Master Meal List I have 5 crock pot meals we all love: Carnitas Pork, Chicken Parm (well… maybe that’s not really what it’s called, we throw several chicken breasts plus a few jars of tomato sauce in the crockpot and top with cheese… and call it done!), Beef Stroganoff, Cheesy Chicken Burritos and Chili.
I can rotate between those crockpot meals every Tuesday! See how easy it can be? Just by picking 4-5 Crockpot meals, you’ll have your monthly meal plan accomplished for every Tuesday! I know it’s a different way of thinking, by day instead of by week. But I’ve found our family does the same activities on the same day each week so it’s easiest to plan each meal by the specific day.
Use New Recipes In Your Monthly Meal Plan
While having the same old tried and true dishes might sound like the best way to meal plan because they take the least amount of thought, it can also make your monthly meal plan go stale fast.
I like to incorporate just one new meal into our meal plan every month. You’ll want to be sure and save this meal for the night or day when you have the most time.
A new recipe can sometimes take a little longer than expected, so you don’t want to be caught up in the kitchen for hours on a busy night.
Just one a month seems to make everything seem new again! And it’s all I can handle with our busy schedules right now.
Shop From Your Stockpile First
I cannot stress enough how important it is to shop from what you have first before making your grocery list.
Buying ingredients that you already have on hand is such a waste of money!
This will also help you determine what meals you will make based on what you have on hand. You may find you have 2-3 meals already sitting in your pantry further saving you money!
Plan To Use Everything You Buy
If you are buying a loaf of bread for lunch sandwiches, see what other meals you can incorporate with that loaf of bread.
Can you make grilled cheese sandwiches one night? Or pre-make deli sandwiches for lunch on the weekend?
Use up what you buy to make sure you don’t waste any food. This is also an obvious way to save money on your groceries.
You Only Need 10 Meals
Did you know that most families consistently eat the same ten meals all month long? It’s true!
Figure out what those ten meals are for your family and rotate them throughout the month!
Think about how easy that makes planning meals for an entire month. All you have to do is 10 meals, 3 times each.
Here’s 10 meals from my family to help you get started:
1. Hamburger Macaroni
2. Smoked Sausage with Peppers & Onions
3. Meatball Parmesan
4. Chicken Scampi
5. Mexican Lasagna
6. Fajitas (rotating chicken or beef)
7. Grilled Chicken with Veggie stirfry
8. Beef Tacos
9. Chicken Alfredo
10. Cheesy Noodles with Sausage
This is where it gets even easier (light-bulb moment ahead): For my family, I’ll make item #1 with Beef and then again with Chicken… same thing with the Fajitas. Just changing out the meat makes the recipe feel like it’s completely different!
I realized that I could do this with my family when I noticed that we were eating the same meals everytime we went to certain restaurants. For example, every time I go to Carrabba’s I eat the same meal, the Shrimp & Scallops. And I always get the BLT when we eat at Subway. If can eat the same meal at each restaurant we eat at, then I can easily rotate the same meals at home too!
Keep A Pad Of Paper Handy or Chalkboard
Wherever you create your monthly meal plan, you should keep a pad of paper handy or set up a chalkboard in your kitchen if you have space.
That way, whenever you run out of something you use regularly, jot it down.
This can help you determine what things you need to buy for the coming week in addition to your meal plan to make sure you aren’t running out of your pantry staples.
I love using my chalkboard as I can just snap a pic before heading out the door so I have my instant list with me!
Have Regular “Pantry Challenges”
A Pantry Challenge is when you challenge yourself to eat using only the items in your pantry and not running up to the store for more ingredients. They are a great way to help you eat what you have on hand!
Instead of looking at the sales flyers when you make your monthly meal plan, challenge yourself to eat what you have at home first (what you’ve already bought) to help make room for new food.
One fun game we play regularly to help with this is similar to Iron Chef. We choose 3 ingredients out of our pantry and plug them into this the Supercook website. They pull up popular recipes that use those ingredients (only) or you can add in a few more. In about 5 minutes you’ll have a plethora of recipes to make with pantry items you already have on hand. Genius!
Wrapping Things Up
Meal planning doesn’t have to be as hard as some people make it out to be! You don’t need to spend hours making your grocery list and putting together your meals for the week.
Keep it simple, and you won’t have any difficulty getting dinner on the table for your family each night.
YOUR TURN: Have you had a pantry challenge before? How many meals were you able to make just from your pantry? Let me know in the comments below!
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