When creating a meal plan for the month, there are a few very important tasks we need to follow.
In this post, I’m going to share how I make a monthly meal plan for our family of 5 in less than 10 minutes.
Before we get into it, you may want to check out the YouTube video I created when I made our meal plan for the month of September. I used all of the steps below, so you could see our meal plan develop in real time.
Meal Plan For The Month – September
How A Monthly Meal Plan Saves Time
Listen. We all know meal planning saves time in the long run, but when you are just too busy for just about everything in your mom life, this is the ultimate hack.
You have to worry about school pick-up, lunch, after-school activities, dinner, weekend games and clubs, plus all the other things you need to do for your own well-being. Meal planning shouldn’t add to that stress.
By making a meal plan for the whole month, you’re taking one huge thing off of your plate for 4 weeks. Sounds awesome? It is.
Monthly Meal Plan Steps
There are 3 essential steps you need to do in order to make a complete monthly meal plan.
- Write staple meals first
- Plan around the protein
- Alternate breakfast and lunch
These will all make more sense as we break them down below, but creating a monthly meal plan is about streamlining each and every meal you can. Let’s discuss.
Write Staple Meals First
Are you a Taco Tuesday family? Do you have pizza for dinner every Tuesday or Friday night? When it comes to take-out, is it your family tradition to pick a place every Sunday evening. Plug in those staple meals.
For our family, we have pizza every Friday, Mac and cheese with spinach every Monday in the fall and winter, and Pancakes every Sunday morning.We also have church on Thursday nights, so we have family dinner out that day. Our Saturdays are reserved for Cereal Saturday, so we let the kids have our cereal of the month on those mornings. Yes, cereal for breakfast one morning a week. Pick your battles, parents.
I immediately plug those meals onto my meal planner printable or in my planner.
Once I do this step, I’ve reduced the amount of meals I have to plan from 84 to 64. I’ve also just taken 2 minutes of the 10 to write these onto the sheets. Easy.
Plan Around The Protein
When I wrote the post sharing how to meal plan in 5 minutes, I made a point of mentioning the importance of protein. We get so stuck in the meal planning tasks of picking sides for dinner, that we neglect that protein.
Deciding what protein you’re going to have is the real key, since the cooking of that protein will effect the flow of that particular day. Will you use a slow cooker or Instant Pot? Does it need to be defrosted before you get home? Is it a quick cooking protein, like fish, or is it a protein that will take longer?
Look at your meal plan sheets. Think of the proteins you have in the fridge and/or freezer right now. Which ones can you plug into your meal plan? It’s totally fine if you just put “chicken dish” or “ground beef dish.” The key is making a decision on the protein so you can prepare it the night before it’s time to use it.
In our family, we love to have a vegetarian dish on Monday, ground meat dish on Tuesday, Chicken dish on Wednesdays, Fish dish on Saturday, and a hearty protein on Sunday (pork tenderloin, pot roast, or a whole roasted chicken are favorites).
Alternate Breakfast and Lunch
Here’s how I stopped stressing over breakfast and lunch: alternation. We have the kids pick 2 or 3 breakfasts and lunches they would like to have for the month, and then we alternate them on the monthly meal plan.
For example, our current favorites for breakfast are oatmeal and eggs with toast or fruit. I’ll plug in oatmeal first, then eggs and toast, then oatmeal, then eggs and fruit, then oatmeal, then cereal Saturday, then Pancake Sunday. Boom. Done!
For lunch, it works the exact same way. 2 or 3 lunches they are feeling that month, then alternate on the meal plan. Please don’t over-complicate these two meals. They are the simplest ones to meal plan, so keep them simple.
If you need a list of frugal breakfasts and lunches for you and your kids to pick from, here are two helpful posts:
10 Frugal Make-Ahead Breakfasts
Frugal and Easy Bag Lunch Ideas
Let’s Talk Leftovers
The question I get when I teach this system in our Meal Plan Rockstar course is “what about leftovers?” We LOVE leftovers! We use them at our leisure, and since we are already plugging easy meals onto our meal plan for the month, we can place those leftovers anywhere we want.
You can decide to make a dedicated leftovers night during one of your non-staple meal dinners. You can also bump a lunch and use the leftovers on that lunch day. Don’t stress over leftovers. They’re like a “get out of cooking jail free” pass. Use them however you want.
Bonus tip: Can the leftovers be frozen into individual meals? Freeze them and use them in next month’s meal plan.
The Snack Situation
If you’re a snacking family like we are, deciding on snacks is a big part of your meal plan. Here’s a confession: we totally phone in snacks. Microwave popcorn, cookies from the store, or whatever nutritious snack I can grab on sale is what we have.
If I have time, I will make homemade granola bars, or create a snack from any leftover fruit towards the end of the month. I pick one snack for the week, and that’s what we have.
Life is too short to stress over snacks. Pick one and be done.
In Conclusion – Meal Planning Made Easy. For Real.
If you follow the meal planning steps above, you can create our own monthly meal plan for your family, and it will be completely customized to your liking. No need to buy anyone else’s meal plan; you just made your own!
Have any questions about how to truly make this work for you? Please ask them below. I’m here to help you think this through, and make meal planning for the month as simple as possible. See you in the comments!