In our home, I have to plan out our meals for the entire month. This method works best and saves us the most money. I get most everything at one time and keep it stored in my pantry and freezers. Then I typically have to make another quick grocery stop for some fresh fruit, vegetables and milk after it runs out. Typically after two weeks.
How do I do it?? It takes some planning. Yes, I could just think that day what I wanted to make and run to the store and pick up what I was “missing” from my pantry but that would not be the most frugal thing to do. I have to plan ahead.
Back in the day, I would plan out our menu for the week. I would do Fridays as our errand day. As I was out, I would pick up those groceries needed and it worked. Then I had more and more babies and going to the store every Friday got to be too much. I had to plan out my meals even further. Thus I started shopping once per month and it worked. It was a little busy with lots of little ones but it was just as busy doing it once a week. I figured I was already crazy going to the store with all my little ones I might as well go full force and get all my food for the month?!!?!? (Can you believe I used to take a quadruple stroller to the grocery store to hold my little ones?!?!? They can almost all walk and stay by the cart now….time sure does go fast—hold on Momma’s with little babies)
Okay, so I have been doing this for years. I have my routine, I know what to plan, its easy for me. But what about for someone that doesn’t do this yet? How do they go about beginning to plan their meals?
You start small. You plan out your meals for the week. Think ahead to what sort of activities you have going on which days and decide which type of meal works best for those days. For us, I know that Mondays are busy after the weekend so I plan on letting the children help make dinner that night. They love to make breakfast type foods, and I do not. Waffles, pancakes, and eggs are typical Monday meals. On the days that I know I will be home all day, I might do something more time consuming like lasagna or meatloaf. You decide what sort of activities you have and then you can start planning.
I have given you a free printable PDF weekly menu to start your planning.
It is simple, straight forward. Just fill in the days with the meals you want to make. I would normally just plan out my dinners as they are bigger. For our lunches we just eat leftovers or sandwiches. Write down any special instructions that you want to remember. For example if you have cheese nacho chips on Sundays BBQ and you have to keep a handful for taco salad later in the week–write it down so you won’t forget.
If you have any meat prep to do when you first bring it home like putting chicken breast in a resealable baggie with a bottle of Italian dressing and then freezing it for later in the week—write it down.
Think of doing a bigger dinner like roasted crock pot chicken on one day. Then the next, cut up pieces and fry them with pepper and onions, making fajitas with rice the second day. One of your lunch meals can be a rice, chicken, cheesy casserole. Be creative. Use up the food that you have. Our meals often get very creative, especially at the end of the month or for lunches. We did a pot of soup one week and I didn’t have anything to really go with it. But I did have a can of biscuits and some ham lunchmeat. I took and rolled the biscuits flat like a pancake and the girls put a piece of ham and some shredded cheese on them and we baked them in the oven. The family loved them!!
The key is get creative. Keep it simple. I used to love to look through tons of food magazines to get ideas for meals and try out new ones each week and guess what?? My husband and children did not. As much as I love new and different foods, no one else does. They like the same. So I stopped fighting it. I also stopped wasting food and the time it takes to look through the recipes. I just do what the majority likes. Each month I try and throw in a new meal if I come across it or someone gives it to me but not all the time.
I myself, eat a little different than my family, but it is not something that takes a lot of prep. I will make my Asian Kale salad and have that in my refrigerator to eat for meals or stir fry some vegetables and rice for a meal and then use that for multiple ones. I don’t mind eating kale everyday—I love it!!
If you are new to cooking for your family, go check out some recipe books from your library. Or do a pinterest search of someone who likes your sort of foods. Take a day or two and gather your ideas and start planning. If you have a group of friends, ask them what they are making this week. I have done that many times over the years as I would get “forgetful” of what to plan so I would ask some of their favorite recipes. Every week when our homeschool group would get together, I would ask, “What’s everyone cooking for supper tonight?” It is helpful to get ideas from real people who make it often.
I would recommend some basic, easy cookbooks. Stay away from tons of ingredients that are going to get expensive. You can do a lot with dried beans, rice, and some spices. Meals do not have to cost a lot.
It shouldn’t be too hard to get a week’s worth of meals. Think soup, casserole, burrito wrap something, chicken, something with beans and rice, sandwich something, and pasta. Just ideas—then fill in your week’s worth of foods.
If you are already experienced in doing a weekly menu you can step it up to a “two week menu” and then move to a “monthly” menu. Do whatever you can do and what is comfortable to do. We do a lot of repeats because it works and everyone likes it. It is okay to have Taco Tuesday—everyone looks forward to it.
Here is a video clip of how we do our monthly menu planning for the month.
I have also included a FREE printable monthly menu for you to fill in with meals and food prep ideas.
Have a blessed day—-smile for your family!!