Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Monthly Meal Planning


{Gloria here!} I am a planner.  Lists are my friends... and order makes me comfortable. :D  When I first heard about monthly meal planning, I was a little overwhelmed, thinking "Wow... where do you start with that?" It sounded too hard.  I wasn't sure I could pull it off.

Once I started to use it, I fell in love!  Having the meal ingredients on hand and my pantry stocked was a super good feeling!  I didn't stress about what we were going to have for dinner. It was right there, all planned out.

Want to give it a try? :)

You need 4 things:
  1. A list of favorite meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) that you and your family like to eat.
  2. A Master Grocery List
  3. A Master Inventory List
  4. A one-month calendar


This post at Paisley Petal Events contains links to 18 different cute, FREE, printable calendars! Some of these would work splendidly for planning your monthly menus. (Julia likes the one from Miss Tina best!)

Print one of those cuties off and let's get started. 

First... you have to make your meal, grocery, and inventory lists.  This is a one-time effort and once this is done, you are off and running! :)

Okay, so first, make a list of your favorite meals. This will help you remember all your meal options while you are making up the menu. Write out breakfast menus, lunch ideas and dinner options: main dishes, side dishes, vegetables and desserts if your family eats them regularly.  (We don't eat dessert often, only on special occasions, so that isn't on my list.) 

Now for the grocery and inventory lists!

Here are my original lists. They are not very pretty... but they work really well for me!




Write up your own inventory list of all the foods and grocery store items that you regularly keep on hand.
As you can see from my example, this is everything that you use in your house and purchase from the store: food, personal products, ziploc bags, cleaners, spices, etc. This might take a little while to complete, but don't stress about it, you can always go back and add things later.

Why write it all up? Because you only have to do it ONCE, instead of every month. Then you can simply print out a copy and (for the grocery list) highlight the things you need with a highlighter, or (for your inventory list) mark tally marks next to each item that you have in stock !

Your grocery list will look something like the inventory but a little more streamlined.  On the inventory, I also listed things in my freezer like baked goods, cooked beans, produce from my garden, and other items that were stored for meals.  Those don't go on the grocery list, only things that you need to buy.

Here are the grocery and inventory lists.





You're doing great! Let's keep going!

Now, take an inventory. Go through your pantry, fridge, freezer, and everywhere you keep supplies, (like the bathroom!) and write down what you have, or what you need to keep in stock but don't have! :)

Then, with your cute printed calendar and your inventory, start planning your meals. I try to use up what I have on hand first.  Write down what you will have on each day.
We eat simple breakfasts so I don't put that on the calendar.  You may only have cereal or toast with scrambled eggs. Just make sure you purchase enough of those to last you for a month.
Having a lunch menu will help to chase away stress over what to eat.  But, maybe your children eat school lunches... in that case, no need to mark anything down.
For the evening meal, I write down the main dish, side dish and veggie.

You can plan your menu several ways.  If you only have seven different meals, you can eat the same meal on each day. For example- Sunday is chicken, spaghetti and meatballs every Monday, etc.  You could go through your list and write down the dinner ideas and repeat the list until you fill up your days.  Or, you could have a type of meal per day... Italian one day, beef dishes another, pork meals another, you get the idea.  Just go with what works for you!

Also, keep in mind your schedule.  If you know you will be gone all day one day, plan an easy dinner or maybe a crockpot meal. If you have activities  like sports and/or church activities, mark those down and plan accordingly.

If you want to start out doing just a week, that is great!  After you have successfully done that for a couple weeks, try going two weeks, and slowly work your way up to a month.

Some of you may be ready to jump into a month, so go for it!

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After getting your meals planned out, you're ready to make your grocery list, checking your inventory list and meal calendar as you write it up.

I usually print a grocery list for each store at which I shop and write the name of the store at the top. (For us, it's Wal-Mart and Ingles.)  It saves confusion as I try to get the best deals from multiple stores.  Go systematically through each day on your calendar. For example, Sunday is crockpot chicken, potatoes and green beans.  I will count up how many times I need chicken for the month, see how many chicken meals I have in the freezer and then highlight chicken on my list and note the number I need to purchase next to it. Then I count up how many times I need potatoes and check my inventory and highlight it on my grocery list if I need potatoes.  You will have to estimate how many potatoes your family needs for a meal and about how many bags of potatoes you will need. I work my way through the calendar this way.

 After I have finished with the menus, I go through my inventory list to see if I need staples, like dish soap, shampoo, trash bags, etc. and highlight what I need, planning enough of everything to make it through a month.

Plan your actual GRAND EXCURSION (the shopping day) when the stores are not as busy. Also, plan to have some time when you get home to put away your groceries and make up some meals ahead of time. It will save you time and stress.  If you need a lot of items like me, take some helpers (my children are the best at this) with you.  Before you go through the checkout line, grab an empty cart, put it in the line first and have a helper put the bagged groceries in the cart while one helper loads the conveyor belt.  Meanwhile, You keep an eye on the screen to make sure the prices are correct and all items are rung up correctly.

When you get home from shopping with all your goodies, have your helpers help you put away your groceries neatly in the pantry and other storage areas.  :)  I take the meat out of the original package and put it in baggies so it is easier to thaw later.  I make our meatballs the next day and freeze them so they are all ready for cooking.  You may want to cook beef for meals like tacos ahead of time before freezing.  You get the idea.

Don't forget the SALES! I shop sales! When something I need goes on sale at my local grocery store, I am all over it!  I will buy extra to last a few months, especially if the item only goes on sale occasionally.  If you are savvy, you will notice that things like pasta and olive oil go on sale about every 3-4 months.  So try to stock up when the price is low!

I love shopping once a month.  It usually takes about 2-3 hours to get all our groceries.  I figure that I save that time x 3 for the weeks that I don't go to the store (6-9 hours per month!!)  Just think of all the fun things you can do with that extra time!!  Once you get the hang of it, you will never want to go back!

Plus, the stress of "what's for dinner" is totally gone!  It's all planned out.  Yes, sometimes life happens, and the menu needs to be changed, but you know you have the necessary ingredients for other meals right at your fingertips!  A well-stocked pantry is a joy!

We hope you enjoyed this menu planning post.  If you have any questions, please feel free to ask, we are always happy to help!






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25 comments:

  1. Great list! Pinning!
    Maria
    Krafty Cards etc.

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    1. Thanks for pinning our post, Maria! Pinterest is our favorite way to get the word out about great ideas. :)

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  2. What a fabulous post...I love the organization and the attention to detail! This would be perfect to link-up to my new series - "Create It Thursday." It's live now! http://www.lambertslately.com/2013/05/create-it-thursday-1.html

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    1. Haha! Yep, that's Mama... organization and attention to detail! She's amazing. :D Thanks for the invitation to your link-up series! :)

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  3. Oh wow this is amazing! Thank you for this. I try to do it weekly and it's too much, this looks MUCH easier, as you say once it's established.

    I would absolutely love if you could come and share this over at Motivational Monday please.

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    1. Thank you! We will give it a look see!
      Gloria

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  4. What great printable's to make your shopping easier!! Thank you for participating at SHOW-licious Craft Showcase!!

    Marti
    http://sew-licious.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks! We love to make shopping easy! So nice you stopped by to comment.
      Gloria

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  5. This is a great idea and I have been wanting to do this for forever. Thanks for sharing the steps and resources to get going. I am pinning for that rainy day. Have a sweet Monday! Wanda

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    1. Oh, thanks for the comment. I know what you mean, this post motivated me to get the notebook fixed up!
      Gloria

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  6. Well done, oh fellow lover of lists!! Very well done indeed! :-)

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    1. Ah, fellow list lover, nice to meet you! Appreciate the comment from someone who knows about good lists!! Thanks for stopping by!!
      Gloria

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  7. Awesome tips and amazing printables! Thanks for sharing at Give Me The Goods Monday!
    Jamie @ somuchbetterwithage.com

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    1. You are so sweet to comment here! Appreciate the kudos!
      Gloria

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  8. Congratulations...this post is featured on Create It Thursday this week! Thanks for contributing such a fabulous idea! http://www.lambertslately.com/2013/05/create-it-thursday-2-plus-features.html

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    1. Wow! Thanks for the feature! We have your button on our side bar now! Appreciate it so much!
      Gloria

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  9. Awesome printables! Thank you so much for sharing at last week's All My Bloggy Friends :) I can't wait to see what you share this week!

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    1. Thanks, Jamie, we'll be there soon!
      Gloria

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  10. Weekly menu planning is a lifesaver for me! I would love to try this idea, but I have a few questions. What about your produce? Do you have extra fridge/freezer space? Do you make the meals ahead if time? Thanks!

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    1. Yes, this is a lifesaver for me, too. About produce, I usually buy what I know we will eat before it goes bad and then when I am in town for other errands, will pop into the store and grab some fresh things as needed. But it still is easier than a 3 hour weekly shopping trip. ;)
      Yes, we have an extra freezer and it helps so much. That way I can buy meat, etc. when it goes on sale.
      Yes, when I get home from the shopping or the next day, I make up meatballs and freeze them, cook meat for tacos and whatever else is on the menu and freeze it.
      We are not big casserole people but you can usually make those ahead and freeze them, too. I have a friend who uses ziploc bags and lays them flat to fit in a standard freezer and she gets a lot in that way.
      I hope this helps! :) I am happy to answer any questions. I just love doing this and I think it would really help most people once they got the hang of the system.
      Thanks for commenting and hope you have a great day!
      Gloria

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  11. How do you handle fresh items like avocados, lettuce, berries,mushrooms, tomatoes, and fresh herbs like parsley and cilantro?

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    1. Good question, Laurel! Sometimes we will make a short pick-up trip to get some fresh goodies around the middle of the month. :) But it's much easier than taking a whole shopping trip and we don't mind. :)

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  12. Wow I wish I would have found this blog 2 years ago! I am not a very organized person, and I am trying to remedy that! This post is amazing! I know that even someone like myself would be able to successfully execute this!

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