When it comes to creating a monthly meal plan, there are countless benefits. From helping your family save money to keeping that picky eater fed to saving your own sanity, I cannot recommend meal planning enough.
While there are very few rules to meal planning (you get to choose what you cook- no one else), there are some tips and tricks that I have picked up on the way. In fact, I narrowed them down to 5 easy steps for successful monthly meal planning and I wrote it all out here for you.
Follow these steps and you’ll quickly learn why I love meal planning as much as I do- I promise.
Keep reading to learn the 5 easy steps to creating a monthly meal plan that your family will love…
Why Meal Planning Works
Setting up the goal for a monthly meal plan is an excellent addition to the monthly goals that my partner and I set up for myself. There are so many benefits, but mostly it helps remove a lot of stress that seems to revolve around the responsibility of cooking every day.
No longer am I wasting hours each day trying to plan out what we will eat. Instead, I plan out a few hours at the beginning of the month and plan it all out then. I love it.
My family is also a group of tiny control freaks (maybe you have the same) who always feel the need to contribute their ideas for any meal. It can be so overwhelming sometimes!
To have the meals already approved and posted on the fridge is one of my favorite tools to help my family be involved but also less opinionated with their meals.
It is also a great way to stay within your monthly budget if you’re using the cash envelope system (if you’re not, you totally should be!!).
What You Need to Know Before Starting
As someone who has set meal plans for their family for a while, I have picked up some important tips and tricks on the way. Whenever I have a parent ask me what to consider when they are looking at creating a meal plan, these are my top tips for them.
Know What Your Family Will Eat
When you begin to write out a monthly meal plan, it is important to recognize that you need to try out the method with tried and true meals to help you and your family get used to the process.
Trust me, my first try at meal planning I added a pumpkin chili to the plan- something that no one had eaten before- and the surprise flavors did not go over well.
Stick to the basics until you are ready to start branching out. You can also learn how to eat healthy on a budget!
Plan Eat Out Days
Planning your meals for the entire month means planning those meals that you eat out as well. On Fridays, for example, school starts about an hour later.
So I always plan on leaving and grabbing breakfast at our local coffeehouse on those mornings. That way, I don’t have to cook and I can sneak in some extra caffeine before the weekend starts.
Set a Budget and Stick to It
One of the amazing benefits to setting a monthly meal plan is to stay within your budget for the month on meals. Setting a budget will help you choose meals that will stick to that budget for the entire month by reducing trips to the store and planning cost effective meals.
Ready to write your own Meal Plan? Keep Reading to learn about my Top 5 Tips to Successful Monthly Meal Plans…
How to Write A Meal Plan in 5 Easy Steps
Making a meal plan for the month doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does take a little bit of time. Set aside a few hours before the beginning of the month to help you follow these 5 Easy Steps to Monthly Meal Planning.
Check Your Pantry and Freezer
When you begin the process of figuring out your monthly meal plan, the first step that I recommend is to look in your pantry and freezer to see what you already have! Oftentimes, there are one or two surprises that you forgot about that can be added to this month’s meal plan.
The other reason to check your pantry and freezer is that you may realize that you are out of the family favorite food like your famous spaghetti. You want to make sure that you add those noodles to your grocery list before you head to the store so that you have enough to cook the planned meal all month long.
Pick Easy Recipes You Can Repeat
Life is honestly hard enough. Why make things harder by choosing recipes that take up too much time or energy?
Stick with the basics, those healthy recipes that your family loves to eat over and over again. That way, you have a guaranteed plan that will keep everyone happy and full.
Prepare for Days You Don’t Want to Cook
This rule for creating monthly meal plans is so important- because those days hit us all. You’ve been running around all afternoon to soccer practices and play dates and you are exhausted.
Knowing that you already have some food in the freezer that you can pop in the oven will help prevent you from overspending at the drive thru.
Write Down the Entire Plan
Having the entire monthly plan written down and placed somewhere easy to see is one of the best things that you can do to help keep you and your family on track for the month.
My family puts ours on the fridge so it’s never a surprise what the meal is, but I have friends who keep their meal plan written on a dry erase calendar.
Head to the Store With a List
Okay, you have decided what you are going to cook for the month, written it down, and checked in your freezer and pantry. That’s awesome!
Before you make any more moves, the best thing that you can do for yourself and a successful meal plan for the month is to make a list for the grocery store.
Go through all of your recipes that you have chosen and write down everything that you will need and mark if there are duplicates (which there probably will be) then mark what it is you already have. I know that it seems tedious but this is so that you don’t buy more than what you need.
I promise after the first month it gets so much easier because you will already know what you have versus what you need to buy more of.
Benefits of Meal Planning
There are so many benefits to setting up a monthly meal plan for your family. Whenever I begin to feel overwhelmed with how much I have to get done each week, I try to simplify certain aspects of my life and I have found that meal planning does that.
Mental Load is Reduced
By planning ahead the meals for myself and my family, I am no longer consumed with the idea of what to feed everyone next. No more planning out what to cook for dinner on the walk home from the bus stop- because you already know!
Everyone Knows What is For Dinner
You know those afternoons when everyone’s pestering you about what is for dinner? It can be one of my biggest pet peeves!
Having the meal plan written out and posted in a public place, however can change all of that.
When you make a monthly meal plan, all you have to respond with is ‘go check the chart’.
It’s Easier to Plan Around Diets and Allergies
No matter what, in my family there always seems to be someone who needs something special in their meal. Whether its allergies that you need to consider or a special diet that a family member is trying, a meal plan helps you stay in control.
My partner, for example, likes to track their macros a few times a year, which is great! As long as I know ahead of time, I can plan the meals to help him succeed by selecting meals to help them reach their goals.
Helps You Stay Within Your Budget
Almost anyone looking to advise on staying on budget will encourage you to make a meal plan. Why?
When you plan ahead, it will stop you from the random trips to the store for just one thing, where you end up leaving with many, many things.
You know what I mean, you go in for paprika and you leave with Aisle 4- we’ve all been there. You should definitely learn how to shop for groceries on a budget as well!
Meal planning helps you stay within your budget by purchasing cheap foods along with some bigger ticket items that last for the month. Some nights might be mac and cheese with hot dogs so that you can afford the steak for the weekend BBQ.
Once you have made the decision to try out meal planning, there are plenty of meals to choose from- so remember to keep it simple! Here are a few meal ideas that I add to the meal plans every month.
You may also want to check out these dirt cheap meals to keep within budget!
When I am planning breakfast out, I always try to consider how busy the morning will be that day and what else will be going on. For example, if I know the weather will be nice then I will likely job outside and will need some extra energy.
On other days, it might be a quick yogurt cup or some scrambled eggs.
I like to make lunch a pretty heavy meal so that we have enough energy for the afternoon. That means a big salad, a hearty sandwich, or even some grilled chicken.
If your kids are in school, make sure you look at their menu as well. If you want to incorporate a few lunches a month as well, I say go for it!
For dinner, we cook a lot of spaghetti and meatballs, chicken tenders, or tacos. On occasion we might throw in a ‘breakfast for dinner’ theme, but we try to keep that for special nights.
For snacks, I like to keep things as simple as possible. For me, that means pairing a protein with a carb so that everyone stays fuller for longer.
A great example of that is a fruit with some nut butter or a peanut butter sandwich with some milk.
There are plenty of ways to create a monthly meal plan, and the simpler that you can make it the better. Plan meals that your family loves, only buy what you need, and get ready to see improvements in countless areas of your life.
You will not regret trying out a monthly meal plan for your family!
So tell me…. What did I miss? Any must-have meals that you have to include in your own meal plans? Tell me below!