How to Meal Plan for a Month {or More!}

Confession time:  I hate grocery shopping and meal planning.  But, my family gets a bit cranky when they don’t get food, so it’s a necessary evil, right?  I’ve tried everything I can think of to take the stress out of those “What’s for dinner?” questions at 5:00 each day, and after years and years of stress, I have finally found a method that works for me!  I meal plan for a month or more at a time!

Monthly Meal Plan HeroYou see those happy faces up there?  Yea, cuz I’m happy now about meal time!  It’s not stressful anymore – WOOT WOOT!

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  “Isn’t it harder to make a meal plan for a month?  Wouldn’t it be easier to just do it for a week at a time?”

I see what you mean, but here’s the thing.  I hate it.  So the less I have to do it, the happier I will be.  And everybody knows…

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So momma likes a monthly meal plan, because momma only has to think about it once a month!  YAY for nice mommas!!

Today I want to show you how I made this meal plan method work for me, then you will have an opportunity to download 41 FREE RECIPE CARDS to get your own monthly meal plan started!  (Cuz I’m a nice momma, so I give stuff away.  You’re welcome.)

1.  Recipe Curation

That’s a fancy way of saying that you need to stockpile your recipes first.  Start with your favorites – those go-to easy meals that you make regularly and everybody enjoys.  Write down as many of those as possible.  I added things like spaghetti, ham & green beans, and turkey & gravy.

Next, curate some recipes you’d like to try using Pinterest, Google, and great recipe sites like Betty Crocker, Kraft Foods, and Tasty Kitchen.  I’ve got some good ones on my Pinterest board Yummyliciousness that you might like.

Your goal here should be to come up with roughly 30 recipes in varying meal types.  It’s good to have a combination of meals, like chicken, beef, and pork, casseroles and slow cooker, etc.  If you know you’ll be cooking most meals on busy week nights, try to stick to quick and easy meals to keep the week night rush to a minimum.

CLICK HERE FOR GOBS OF WEEKLY MEAL PLANS

2.  Recipe Organization

I use a couple different methods for organizing my recipes for a monthly meal plan.  First, I keep a list of all of my recipes in Google Drive – just the names of them, not the actual recipes.  Mine are divided into categories and I use this to rotate my meals each month, like this:

CaptureI try to avoid cooking the same 20 meals or so every single month, so I mark off which ones I’ve cooked recently by highlighting or placing an “X” next to the name.

To organize my printed recipes, I have a simple recipe box that I shared with you last week:

DIY Recipe Box | Sweet Tea & Saving GraceI use the same categories as my document in Google Drive and just slide the recipe cards in each section.

3.  Making the Meal Plan

If you’ve made it this far, you’re past the hard part!  HOORAY!!!  You’ve got a nice fat stack of recipes ready to go, and you’ve got them organized.  Now, let’s make a meal plan!  {I totally hear that in my head in the voice of Regis Philbin from “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire”.  Don’t ask me why…}

Personally, I like to put pen to paper, which is why I still love and use a physical daily planner.  So it only makes sense that I love and use a physical meal plan calendar.  Find a cute free printable calendar – I use this one, but this one and this one are cute, too, and would totally work.

*Sidenote:  If you only want to write your meal plan on the calendars, they are good to go as-is.  However, if you want to type your meals all pretty and stuff like I did, you’ll need to go to PDF2JPG.net and convert each month to PDF.  It’s free, super quick, and gives you a full-size JPG to edit to your heart’s content.

Moving on…

I start by printing a black & white copy of my monthly calendar and use it as a rough draft to sketch out my meal plan.  I first mark off the days that I know I probably won’t be cooking – I usually give myself a mid-week break and a weekend break.  It looks like this:

001I’ve kind of developed a pattern, and you might do the same to make it easier on yourself.  Typically, we have a chicken dish on Mondays & Thursdays, beef or pork on Tuesdays & Fridays, one slow cooker meal each week, and grill out about once a week or so.

Once I’ve completed my rough draft, it’s time to make it pretty!

4.  Pretty It Up

 Now, if you’re fine with your hand written meal plan, you won’t need this next part.  You’re good to go.  You could use Sharpie’s or colored pens to dress up your printable calendar and hang that bad boy on the fridge.  Me?  I really like the way it looks all printed out in color, so I like to do this part.

After you have converted your PDF calendar to JPG like I mentioned a minute ago, you can upload that to PicMonkey and start adding your meals into the calendar.

The first thing I do is add little smiley faces on the days when I won’t be cooking:

output_NNuycbNot cooking makes me happy.  🙂  Just use the overlays in PicMonkey to create your own happy non-cooking days!

Then I just type in my meals on each day.  Mine are even color-coded based on my categories.  The colors vary a bit from month to month, only because I can’t ever remember which color goes to which meal type.  It just helps them stand out a bit when I take a peek at my calendar.  I totally forgot to save a copy of my August menu, but here’s what July looked like, just to give you an idea of how I lay out my month of meal plans:

July 2014 Meal PlanAlright, now we’ve got our pretty little meal plan for the month.  All you need to do now is print it out and hang it on the fridge!

0025. Keep It Organized

What works for you might be different, so figure out a method that you can stick to and do that.  I hang my monthly meal plan on the fridge inside a page protector, then post a week’s worth of recipes to the fridge under the calendar.  I found the daily magnet stickers at Target a few years ago, so I use those to hold the recipes for each day.

Every Sunday, I put away last week’s recipe cards and pull out the next week’s cards.  I make my grocery list using those cards, then stick them on the fridge using the corresponding daily magnet.  It looks like this:

001Do we always stick to the meal plan?  Nope.  Things come up, life happns, and sometimes we have to rearrange.  The good thing is that I always have at least a week’s worth of groceries on hand in case we need to whip something up in a hurry, and I no longer have to wonder what I’m cooking anymore.

This method has also saved us money on groceries.  When I see something on sale, I can check my monthly meal plan to see if I might need multiples of an ingredient, then buy it while it’s on sale.

Now, for the moment you’ve all been waiting for….41 FREE PRINTABLE RECIPE CARDS!  WOOT WOOT!!!

UPDATE:  I’ve created recipe card templates PLUS a tutorial on creating your own recipe cards.  Click or sign up below to get it all!

I made these using PicMonkey, and I’m giving them to you for FREE – all 41 of them!  Ain’t I sweet?!  Just click the image below ! You can print these as 4×6 pictures at your local one-hour photo location!

 Meal Planning Signup Image
 
CLICK THE LINKS BELOW TO DOWNLOAD #ALLTHETHINGS
 

There you go!  That’s 41 recipes that will definitely fill your monthly meal plan for at least a couple months, right?!

NEED SOME MEAL PLANS TO HELP YOU GET STARTED? CHECK THIS OUT – 13 WEEKS OF QUICK & EASY MEAL PLANS READY TO GO!

Meal planning doesn't have to suck. These are quick & easy meals that will be easy to fix during a busy week. Plus, there's a printable shopping list to make things even easier!

40 Responses

  1. I love love LOVE these!!!! I have been trying to keep up with a monthly meal plan as well just for sanity, as you describe so well in this blog post!!! I have been wanting to create my own recipe box/book of family faves for quite some time now and I think this is the perfect way to do it! I love that they can so easily be hung on the fridge for the week rather than searching through the cookbooks/Pinterest/wherever else you know the recipe came from or coulda came from lol!!! If you don’t mind me asking, did you use a certain template through the site or do you think it’d be relatively easy to duplicate what you’ve done so I can add to them?? I love how cute and colorful they are!!!! As far as favorite recipes go, we have a TON! My family LOVES to eat…I’ve taken pics of almost all of our faves (in hopes of one day creating our own personal box or book like mentioned above) and have them on Instagram….in your free time, check them out http://instagram.com/kaileynellasmom and if anything catches your eye, let me know…Im always more than happy to share the recipes I use =D Thanks again for these awesome recipe cards and the cute box idea!!

  2. Hey Katie! I don’t have a template – really need to make one though. I just used PicMonkey to make 4×6 cards and I added all the dots and stuff. I’ll try to whip up the templates for each color in the next few days and I’ll email them to you, then post them here. Great idea! And I’ll definitely check your Instagram to see what makes me hungry 🙂 Thanks girl!

  3. I too hate meal planning and grocery shopping! These are some excellent ideas and tips and a plan I’m certain even I can implement! Thank you so much for sharing this valuable information!

  4. Thank-You so much for the Very useful
    information.I love to cook,and I love to grocery
    shop.But I have to say now that my husband has retired
    it is a very difficult and exhausting.I think that I need HELP.

  5. thank you for your wonderful recipes. I, like Katie, will be waiting for the recipe template for my own recipes. I am also wondering if your recipes are suitable to cut down for two people?

  6. I really lack in the cooking/planning area. This is something I’ve been looking for I’m so excited to do this! Thank u!

  7. You are superwoman!!! Off and on through the years I have tried to create menu plans…I do great for a couple weeks, then I fall off the wagon. 😀 You have such a neat system, though! I have 3 kiddos and I really do need to get on top of things for this school year, as it’s going to be one crazy ride. LOL

  8. LOL no, not superwoman, just woman-who-hates-groceries-and-meal-planning. I found a shortcut 😉 Thanks Erika!

  9. Thanks Stella! The templates are on my ever-expanding list of things to do, but I promise I’ll share as soon as I have time to make them!

  10. Hello…I really like your idea, and your printable cards. I have been playing with PIC MONKEY and have no success with it. I would like to make cards similar to yours to add to the collection. When you have the template of your cards, I would love to use it. It would be greatly appreciated
    Marcy…Mother of 3, Wife of 1, Full time worker….this could really help..lol

  11. If I’m understanding this correctly, the only benefit to meal planning weekly is to try to match meal plans/make double batches for freezing based on weekly sales ads, yes?

  12. This is awesome! I love your recipes so far! The only thing is that I can only see the beef and pork and the chicken ones. No slowcooker or seafood ones. Is it something wrong with my links or yours?

    Thanks again!

  13. Hey Heather! My links were jacked up…again! I’ve had this issue before so I changed the way they were uploaded and you should be good to go now! Please let me know if you run into any other issues. Thanks so much! Glad you like the recipes 🙂

  14. LOVE these!!! Thank you so much for sharing. I, too HATE grocery shopping and meal planning, etc. I don’t mind the cooking part 😉 Excited to get the template too so I can add my own recipes. I really like the days of the weeks magnets too. Hope I can find at Target.

    Susan

  15. Easy Chicken Pot Pie: (Don’t remember where I got this recipe)
    Rotisserie Chicken – Peel Skin and shred 2 chicken Breast
    1 Frozen Mixed Veggies (Allow to Thaw)
    1 Frozen California Veggies (Allow to Thaw)
    1 Can Cheddar Soup
    1 Jar Chicken Gravy
    2 Cans Biscuits (Topper)
    Preheat oven 400 Degrees
    Mix First 5 Ingredients – Place in 13X9 Casserole Pan
    Place in Oven – 30 minutes (or until Bubbly)
    Pull out of Oven- Top with Biscuits (Trick to non-soggy Biscuits is to make sure liquid is HOT)
    Bake 11 Minutes (Or until Biscuits are brown)
    Serve

  16. Thank you Angelia! This sounds delicious – perfect comfort food for the chilly fall and winter months 🙂

  17. Awesome awesome blog entry! I have been looking for a way to organize all my meals and make a meal plan-i’m sick of me and my family wasting so much food!

    Have you had a chance to make the template for the recipe cards yet?

  18. I love this, and used this the last few months. Thanks! I came back to see if there was a 2015 calendar. I’d love to start planning January out. Any change you’ll share 2015 calendars for us?

  19. Hi Tanya! I am so happy that you are enjoying the meal plan! I don’t personally have a specific annual calendar that I use, so you can probably find one on Pinterest. I know TomKat Studios puts out a great one each year but there are tons out there. If you find one you love, feel free to share it here or on my blog’s Facebook page! 🙂

  20. I guess it’s actually your monthly calendar. The pretty one you upload to PicMonkey and add smiley faces. I love using that one! I think you created it? Maybe I need to dig around more to find it? 🙂

  21. Hi Rachel! There is a link towards the end of the post that will take you to a tutorial for adding your own recipes to the recipe templates, and those templates are also in the document you’ll get by clicking the link to the tutorial. There are 4 colors. That’s all I’ve made, so I hope that helps! Thanks!

  22. I had this saved post saved FOREVER but never really had the time to look at the post from start to finish! Now that I made the time to look at it I HAVE to tell you THANK YOU 🙂 I have been slacking on meal planning for my family but I think with the ideas you shared…..recipe cards and calendar printout with the PDF to JPG converter for PicMonkey….I may be wanting to make more time again to plan out our meals!

  23. YAY!!! That makes me so happy Stephanie! I’m so glad you found this useful. Meal planning for a month at a time really has saved my sanity. I also decided to start delegating a few meals each month to my husband and almost-teenage daughter, so I maked on the calendar which ones they are responsible for, and I get a little break!

  24. I meal plan for the month too. I try to do the bulk of my shopping at one time, and get everything I’ll need at one time. That way I don’t have to shop as much. Plus, at the end of the month, my grocery store usually has some really good deals on meat, so I try to stock up. I love your idea of printing the recipes on pretty cards and putting them on the fridge. Definitely going to have to start doing that. Also love the calendar idea. I’ve just been writing out s list on a piece of paper. Liking this idea so much better.

  25. It’s so nice to get the shopping done in bulk and the planning done in bulk, too. Grocery shopping and meal planning are my least favorite chores, sot eh more streamlined the process, the better! 🙂

  26. Am I just being inpatient or are these not available for printing? I haven’t received an email yet. Thanks!

  27. Sorry, me just being inpatient. Got them, so excited to start the new year on top of things. Thanks for the free printables!

  28. The link to request the recipe cards seemed to work, but what I received was a link to download the April encouragement pack, which was very nice, but was not the recipe cards. Is this still available?

Comments are closed.

MEET KIRSTEN

I'm Kirsten & I'm happy you're here! Sweet Tea & Saving Grace supports women seeking to find balance in the busy, deepen their faith, and instill joy and love in their homes, lives, and blogs by providing encouraging and inspiring content and valuable resources. My prayer is for you to leave here better than when you came. Be blessed!

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