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Monthly Meal Planning

I wasn't really planning on blogging about this, but I've gotten a few questions on Instagram about monthly meal planning.

Morgan and I wanted to make our food budget a priority this year, so starting in January we started with a monthly meal plan. Basically, I plan every meal -- breakfast, lunch, and dinner -- every day for the entire month. Almost all of our shopping {except for some weekly staples} is done in one large trip at the beginning of the month.

Then, all of our dinner prep is done in one day, separated per meal into freezer bags, and popped into the freezer. When we are ready to eat, we take it out and either heated up, cooked in the oven or throw it into the crock pot. After a month, I'm completely hooked.


So, here's how to do it {or at least how this newbie does it}:
  • Print out three blank monthly calendars -- label them breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
  • Collect meal ideas
For breakfast and lunch we pretty standard list of things that we eat on a regular basis. List them all out by meal. For dinner, I turned to Pinterest or Jayne at The Naptown Organizer. When I'm searching, I'm looking for meals that are specifically meant to be made in larger quantities and frozen. There are tons out there -- just search freezer meals. 
  • Figure out meal quantities. 
For breakfast and lunch, I start by looking at my pre-packaged meals first. Things like chicken nuggets or oatmeal. For example, I know the oatmeal I buy comes with 5 packs in the box. Therefore, I know Henry can eat it 5 times in a month. Or, I know we can split the chicken nuggets we buy 3 times. I list the quantities next to my list of meals. 

This is a little trickier for dinner. I have to ask myself, how much do I want to eat this meal, and how much does the recipe make. I try for meals that I can eat 2-3 times per month, no more. I roughly plan for around 1/2-3/4 lb of beef/pork/turkey per meal or 2 chicken breasts -- and realistically split from there. Then, list quantities next to the meal list. Ensure you have enough meals to cover all the dinners you need for the month. 
  • Place the meals on the calendars
So, if you have oatmeal listed as 5, place it on the calendar 5 times. And continue until your calendar is full. Keep in mind your real schedule when you do this. Mornings {or evenings} I know that we have to be out the door early, I'm not planning on making pancakes or eggs -- that's a cereal kind of morning. I also keep variety in mind -- Morgan and I don't want to eat chicken meals five days in row, for example. 

  • Create a list.
Now, look at every recipe or meal and figure out everything you need to buy. List everything. This is the perfect time to make sure you really do have soy sauce, or corn starch, or whatever. Dig through the pantry and don't leave anything off. I promise the extra work is worth it! Don't forget to put freezer bags on your list, you'll need them.

  • Shop -- buy everything on your list {and a treat for being awesome!}
  • Cook and Freeze.
Shortly after your shopping trip, sit down with all your recipes and start preparing. Cut all the veggies, prepare all the sauces, slice all the meat. Some meals require the meat to be cooked ahead of time, some will cook in the crock pot/oven on the day you are eating the meal. That really depends on your recipe/meals. 

When everything for a meal is done, put it into a freezer bag. Label the bag and include any extra instructions {cooking times, etc.} to the outside of the bag. Place in freezer. Continue for every meal/recipe.
  • Eat! 
Enjoy the fruits {and veggies} of your labor for the next month! Yes, its a lot of work ahead of time, but then you're pretty much done for the whole month! One tip, make sure to move your meal for the NEXT day to the fridge the day before you want to eat it. That way, you don't even have to worry about defrosting your meal, just cook and eat. 

So, that's how this newbie does it! Any questions? Or tips from experts? I would love to hear them! 

Comments

Maureen S. said…
Thanks for the tips! We have been trying for awhile to figure out a good way to plan and schedule our meals too. I think this might help!

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