Creating a monthly meal plan can save you some serious time!
You might be thinking that starting a monthly meal plan is somewhat daunting, but we’re gonna break it down into three easy steps so you can actually get it done!
Benefits of meal planning
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are lots of benefits to regular meal planning. Here are a few:
- with a meal plan, you know what you need to buy
- grocery shopping becomes more efficient
- you can avoid repeat trips to the grocery store
- it is easier to avoid impulse purchases
- you eat less fast food
- it is easier to make sure you’re eating a balanced diet
- you avoid the stress of wondering what to eat for dinner everyday at 5pm
Free monthly meal plan printable
We’re gonna get into the 3-step monthly meal plan process in just a second, but first you need to know about the free Monthly Meal Planning printable pack!
This easy-to-use guide will take you through all the steps you’ll read about below and make creating your own monthly meal plan as easy as can be!
It’s available in the Jen Bradley|MOMs Free Printables library, along with tons of other resources to help you organize your life as a mom. Click here to get your monthly meal plan printables or on the image below to get access!
Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that I may make a small commission if you click through or purchase at no cost to you. For more information, click here.
Monthly menu plan – Step 1
The first step to creating your monthly meal plan is to make three different lists of all the meals you like to make for your family.
To make this task as easy as possible, there are 2 pages in the Monthly Menu Planning printable pack dedicated to helping you write these lists! Click here to get your own copy from the Free Printables library!
The first one will be a list of meals that you eat year-round that the majority of people in your family enjoy. (I’ve yet to meet a family where all of the kids like all of the same things …. what would that even be like?!)
Your goals is to come up with at least 30 meals for this list.
If you’re having trouble coming up with 30 meals, get your family involved and ask them for their input too!
Cold weather meals
The second list is for meals you love to serve when the weather is cold.
Think of warm, yummy comfort foods like casseroles, soups, pot pies, crockpot meals, and warm sheet pan dinners.
Your goal is to write down at least 15 different cold weather meals you could make for your family.
Warm weather meals
The third list you will make is for meals you enjoy making when the weather is hot.
Think of grilled meats and veggies, cool salads, picnic foods and quick one-pan stovetop meals.
Just like the cold weather list, you’ll want to have at least 15 meals on this list for warm weather meals too.
Your monthly menu plan – Step 2
Next, you’ll need a monthly calendar. You can choose to use a digital calendar or a paper calendar.
If you’re a paper and pencil kinda gal, here are a few awesome monthly calendars for 2021:
This minimal and affordable monthly planner is a great option if you think you’ll be planning your meals while you’re away from home – perhaps sitting at a sports’ practice or a homeschool co-op.
Finally, if you don’t want to purchase a paper calendar, you can always use the one that’s included in the free Monthly Menu Planner printable pack!
If you prefer a digital calendar, that definitely works too! I’ve kept mine in Numbers on my iPad for the past two years, and it’s been great!
(In 2021 though, I’m opting to use the Spaces Planner to consolidate my entire life!)
One of the best things about using a digital calendar is that once you’ve been keeping your monthly dinner calendar for one year, you don’t ever have to type in all of the meals for a month.
Instead, you can simply change the year of the calendar month and keep the exact same menu!
(Trust me, no one will remember what you ate a year ago!!)
This little time hack literally takes seconds. With a digital calendar, you can have a monthly meal plan faster than your kids can ask, “What’s for dinner?”!
Populate your calendar with meals
Once you’ve chosen where you want to keep your monthly meal plan, it’s time to populate your calendar with the meals you’d like to serve each day.
Be sure to use a pencil and write in one dinner meal for every day of the month.
(If your family typically goes out to eat once or twice a week, that’s totally fine. Write that in too!)
To make this process easier, you may consider trying theme days every week.
Here are a few fun theme ideas to try:
- Meatless Mondays
- Taco Tuesdays (or anything Mexican)
- Italian Wednesdays
- Friday pizza night
- Saturday YOYO (your on your own!)
- Breakfast for dinner Sundays
As you’re creating your monthly meal plan, you’ll also want to take into account which nights you need a super quick dinner option and which nights you have a little more time to prepare dinner.
(Hint: on your busiest days, you’ll want to look for slow cooker or Instapot meal ideas!)
I know it may seem daunting to choose what meal you’ll be making in 30 days’ time, but give it your best effort and stay tuned for Step 3!
Monthly meal plan – Step 3
Once you have your entire monthly calendar filled with meals, it is a great idea to have a place to post your meal plan a week at a time!
You’ll find this cute weekly meal planner printable (in five different colors) in the Monthly Meal Planning printable pack!
I highly recommend sticking it in a frame and using a dry erase maker to write directly on the glass.
If you’re looking for a one and done option, here are some awesome menu boards for your kitchen:
After you have your weekly menu board, you’ll simply need to consult your monthly plan at the start of each week and write it out on your weekly display.
If you notice that some unexpected events have popped up, or that you’ve got a ton of extra grilled chicken leftover, you can quickly and easily modify your plan.
For example, if you know the weather is going to be chillier than usual, you may add a meal from your cold-weather list in place of something you’ve previously planned.
Having a baseline, rough-draft monthly menu will save you time and effort because you’ll only be editing your plan instead of re-creating it every week.
How a monthly meal plan saves time
Creating a monthly meal plan instead of a weekly plan saves time because of the concept of time blocking.
What that means is that you consolidate your tasks instead of needing to pick them up repeatedly and starting fresh.
With a monthly meal plan, you can quickly see what meals you’ve had for the past month. This saves time because you don’t have to wonder what you fixed for dinner last week and waste time making sure you’re not repeating again too soon.
To learn more about maximizing your productivity by time blocking as a mom, read this article!
How monthly meal plan can save money
Not only does planning our meals a month at a time save time, it can also help you save money.
(When I started to plan meals a month at a time, I was able to cut my grocery bill by $500 a month. For real, y’all!)
When you plan your meals a month at a time, pay attention to leftover ingredients that can easily carry over from one meal to another. Schedule a meal to use them up instead of letting them sit in the back of your pantry for months on end!
Finally, keeping a good list of what you need to buy for the meals you’ve planned will help you avoid overbuying and impulse purchases at the grocery store.
Final thoughts about creating a monthly meal plan
Creating a monthly meal plan doesn’t have to be the daunting task you think it might be.
Remember to follow these steps:
- Create your three lists of meals
- Plug them into a monthly calendar
- Edit and display them on a weekly calendar
And don’t forget to grab the Monthly Menu Planning free printables to make this process go as smoothly as possible!
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