5 awesome tips for how to meal plan once a month! I share the method I use for monthly meal planning as well as other tips to make meal planning easy!
I’m a huge advocate for meal planning – so much so that I’ve even created a course called Meal Planning Bootcamp!
But I know that not everyone likes meal planning as much as I do.
I mean, they like the benefits… like saving money, saving time, and saving your sanity every day at 4 pm.
But not everyone likes the actual process of meal planning.
It still has to get done though, especially if you’re trying to save money on healthy food… but what if you could meal plan less often and still save money? Wouldn’t that be nice?!
Turns out, you can do that with monthly meal planning!
I made a meal plan once a month for YEARS and was able to get the process down to a science, as well as get our grocery budget down to a lean $300 for four people! (That includes organic food, by the way!)
I’ve taken the exact method I used for monthly meal planning and broke it down into five steps so you can get all the benefits of having a meal plan, without all the stress and fuss of meal planning every week!
How to Make a Monthly Meal Plan
Step 1. Look at the family calendar and see what’s going on.
Before you do ANYTHING ELSE – before looking up recipes, before making shopping lists, before you even look at a sales flyer – look at your family calendar.
The idea here is that you only have so much time to make dinner each night. And on some nights, you have less time.
If you have doctor appointments or baseball games or cheer practice or church potlucks or neighborhood cookouts or if some company is coming over… all of these things affect your meal plan.
It’s really important you take this into consideration before you write any meals down.
Step 2. Write down the meals you always have on the same day.
Maybe you go out on Wednesday nights when kids eat free. Or maybe your parents host family dinner Saturday nights.
Whatever meals you have on a regular basis, write those down first. This can be any meal of the day, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, AND dessert.
Step 3. Brainstorm a few meals based on what you already have.
Look at your fridge, freezer (I love these freezer containers, by the way), and pantry to see if you can turn certain items into meals. You can save A LOT of money if you eat what you already have, so don’t skip this step.
Step 4. Brainstorm a few meals based on weekly sales flyers.
Once you’ve used up what you already have, see what’s on sale and how you can use it that month.
The goal here is to focus on what’s on sale this week and use it for the rest of the month.
Step 5. Review your meal plan and update where necessary.
At this point, you should have most of the days filled in, but if you still have a few blanks, fill those in with family favorites, family requests, meals you’ve been wanting to try, ideas you saved to your Pinterest board or recipes your favorite blogger has recently shared.
You’ll also want to make sure you have enough variety and that you’re meeting your personal and nutritional goals? Consider things like:
- Did you end up with the same meat for 5 nights in a row?
- Or pasta for a whole week?
- Did you plan enough meals using beans?
- Do you need more salads? Or more soup?
Here’s your chance to move some things around so that you actually enjoy the meals you picked. Feel free to swap the protein, change the grain, or substitute the produce for something similar in order to feel like you’re eating something different, without reinventing the wheel every night.
Other Tips to Make Monthly Meal Planning Easy
- Use more perishable produce like mushrooms, lettuce, and squash sooner in the meal plan, and hearty produce like onions, potatoes, or carrots later in the month.
- Use each “specialty” ingredient AT LEAST twice. For example, if you need feta cheese for Greek Pasta Salad on week 1, come up with another meal that uses feta cheese later in the month. (Greek Couscous and Kale Salad with Blueberries, Walnuts & Feta are great options!) This lets you buy in bulk AND reduce food waste – both proven strategies for saving money on food!
- Re-evaluate your meal plan halfway through. Double-check the plan against the family calendar, make sure that what you planned at the beginning of the month still works, and make sure you still have everything you need. Re-arrange the meal plan as needed – remember it’s not set in stone. Make it work FOR you!
- Pause the meal plan to eat leftovers. There is NO SHAME in skipping a meal you planned in order to eat leftovers. You can either move that meal to the end of the month or shift the meal plan forward by one day. In either case, eating leftovers is another proven strategy for saving money on food, so do it!
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Need More Meal Planning Tips?
Also, I share monthly meal plans on the blog for free! You can see our monthly meal plans on this page.