Just the phrase “meal plan” makes me cringe-y. Yep, I know, they can save you money. I realize it makes grocery shopping more efficient and 5pm less stressful, yet I still don’t enjoy the actual task of meal planning.
Which is why, when my friend Marla gave me this ultimate meal plan idea I was amazed. It takes all the yuck out of meal planning and truly makes a life a lot easier. It even works with our hybrid dinner method (hint: the kids eat first)
This is what she taught me:
Take one afternoon and write out all of your family’s favorite meals. I think we all have those meals that we tend to make more than all the others. For us it’s things like this:
Easiest weeknight meals for families
- Instant pot dump recipes
- Mini meatball skewers
- 10 Minute Pot Roast
- Chicken (or shrimp) and zoodles
- This Stir Fry recipe
- Chicken bites (the kids LOVE!!!)
- Perfect Carbonara Sauce
- Pizza pasta
- Mild Stuffed Peppers
- Chicken pot pie
- Baked spaghetti and meatballs
- Mini chicken sandwiches
- Pesto chicken ciabattas
- Fish tacos
- Cheesy Goldfish Garlic chicken (The kids love this one!)
- Mexi-Mac Skillet
- Easy 5 ingredient jambalaya
- Chicken Spagetti
- Potato soup
- Fettuccine alfredo
And a few others. My list is slowly growing with more dinner ideas, and that’s the point! You want to get your list up to 30 or at least 25-28. Then, each month you just shuffle the meals around to where you want them. It should take you about 5 minutes a month, once you have a pool of 25+ favorite recipes to pull from!
As you make your list, begin putting them in an order that you’d like to eat them. For example, I tend to make our cheddar chimichangas a night soon after we’ve had baked chicken. This way I can use leftover baked chicken to stuff the chimichangas.
When you’ve arranged your list in an order that makes sense…you’ve now got your meal plan for the month. The beauty here is that it’s the last meal plan you’ll ever need.
If you are like our family, you end up having some of those favorites several times a month. With this method, you’ll only do each favorite once a month, so no one gets tired of anything, but you also don’t have to stress about finding something new or coming up with a dinner at 5pm.
If you come up with less than 31 meals use one night of the week for leftovers, eating out, frozen pizzas or experimenting with a new meal on a weekend!
I love that this method can be as fluid and customized as you’d like for it to be, but it is also a fabulous way to keep you out of a dinner rut while still serving things you know your family will eat!
If meal planning has been your struggle, I have a brand new ebook to help you! This book includes 10 FAMILY FAVORITE recipes that are child approved. Then, it has pages of games you can print and play with your family at the dinner table and even a few pages of conversation starters to help your family connect around the dinner table. Grab your copy below!
Simple, but brilliant!
If you REALLY want to save time, you can try one of these ridiculously easy meals you can just DUMP in the instant pot!
Do you have a meal planning strategy? What do you think of this one?
Want to save more on groceries beyond your brilliant meal plan? Try these tips!
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Tove Maren says
O M G – this is seriously brilliant – and the best part is that you can throw the information in a spreadsheet and move it around as needed. I am going home to do this. I have wanted to start meal planning, but I didn’t know how to start. THANK YOU!
I like this idea and plan to try it thanks
This is awesome. I do something similar. I just make a list of about 25-28 meals and then each week we look at the list and decide (based on how busy we are that week) what we will have each nigh. Then we’ll take whatever we need out of the freezer to thaw/marinade for the week. I don’t put my list in order by when we’ll eat it, just THAT we’ll eat it. So I may have chicken written on there 4 times in a row, but we may not eat it in that order. It also lets me know how many chickens I should buy when they are on sale. Like you said, some things we eat a lot (we have spaghetti once a week), so I make sure I have sauce, noodles, etc for 4 meals of spaghetti each month. It works out well for us. We have had months though where we got to the end and only had some casserole left for the next 3 meals that we really didn’t care for, but it was healthy and we felt it needed to be on the list. I took it off the next month and replaced it with something we would actually eat. :) Trial and error, but we’ve figured it out.
This is a great idea! I love trying new recipes too much to stick to something like this though. I make new stuff all the time, I love planning and cooking though. I do have pizza every friday so I have one night a week where I don’t have to think too much!
This is so simple and brilliant. I’m mad I haven’t thought of it before. I can’t stand meal planning, so I always end up going to the store a few times a week. The only issue I see is that I like to try out new recipes quite a bit. I guess I can still plan for that.
i do this on a fornight basis. I have all our favourite meals written down and sit down with my 5 kids and we go round the table & they each decide a meal and I slot it into a day that suits the times we get home. Then we go round the table again to make up the next week. Then I do the fortnight shop with ingredients & other supplies we need & if it’s not on the list I don’t buy it.
We list our favourite meals by protein (red meat [not ground], pork, chicken/turkey, fish/seafood, ground/burger, vegetarian, etc…). Then we pick a day of the week and assign a protein to it…
So, Mondays are our ground-burger meat day. So whatever we eat that day, it would involve a burger meat…. So, meat loafs, meatballs, certain casseroles (everything works great in casseroles), etc…
Tuesday is red meat day…. That’s venison or beef .. but not ground or roasts. So, we would do steaks, stirfry, etc… here.
and so on.. :)
Sundays, we alternate between pizza and crock-pot meals (like pot roasts). Since Sundays are super busy, I try to not cook too much that day.
This works for our family and we rotate through all the protein types so it helps stretch the food budget further. (Example: I don’t end up using all the chicken in one week and have to go to the store again.)
Sylvia Albert says
I don’t like the way YOU do it!
This is sort of the way we do it too. I make a weekly plan listing the main proteins we will be using. I also write in the flavor profile (Mexican, Italian, etc) so I know what other ingredients I might need. For sides I am very generic too, Veg and Potato or Pasta/rice. This allows me to take advantage of whatever sides are on sale or in the case of veggies, what looks good or came in our farm box that week.
Jackie, that’s how I’ve done it in the past and it worked for us. I need to start it up again. I like this monthly idea too though!
This is great. I would be nice to have a winter& summer one because we don’t eat as heavy of meals when it’s warm out. I will be working on my 2 lists this weekend.
Thanks for sharing
Hannah @Supermommy!...Or Not says
I menu plan every week, but I have a master list of our favorite meals that I pick from. I also have a list of quick easy meals for the kids that I can throw together at the last minute without resorting to pb&j every day.
Hannah, I have similar method with you. I started from master list of favorite meals, then move to meal planning every week. The good thing is, like Paula said, once you have plan your menu for a month or two, you don’t have to plan again. You just look at there, and shift or add new menu as necessary.
Sylvia Albert says
I don’t like the way YOU do it!
Google “Menu Plan Monday”
Someone started the website idea years ago and it’s very helpful. Has a spot for fellow bloggers to share their menus every week along with other ideas. Provides a lot of new recipe ideas.
I have a “master list” of meals my family loves. I rotate them according to the ones my husband loves versus likes. When he is home to eat with our family, I make the love ones. We are a LEO family, so family time is extremely important to us with his crazy schedule. I also make extra for lunch the next day.
This is exactly what I do! I sit down at the end of each month and create a list of 30 or so meals and assign them to each day of the next month. That way I can make my grocery list accordingly and stock up on meats and any non parishables the beginning of the month. It makes weekly grocery shopping simple and usually just have to get fresh fruits and vegetables for that week. It has been so helpful in preparation, our wallet, and making dinner less stressfull. I make sure that late work nights, practice or game nights have simple, easy meals or leftovers. It makes it so easy that sometimes my husband even takes over making dinner!! Win!!
I pretty much do this, but I do a month long. Sundays are crock pot meals (because of church), Mondays are chicken based, Tuesdays beef, Wednesday soup and sandwich, Thursday wrap, Friday is pizza, Saturday misc. Which is usually breakfast foods, hotdogs on grill, maybe get together with other families. It works out for me beautifully!
Lynn Mathers says
My mother did this 55 years ago and we lived off this recipe list for 30 years. She still has the original meal list and it contained 35 meals. We switched up the meals every month but the grocery list was always the easiest to come up with
This isn’t helping to plan anything. This is just a tutorial on how to write a grocery list.
I’ve been doing this for years and it works great! Very efficient use of food – I throw almost nothing out, and that equals saving lots of $, and no guilt for throwing away food. A little planning goes a long way!
This is basically my way I plan but I also add a soup and sandwich night for nights we have somewhere to be so it’s simple without paying to go out (which our budget can’t afford). Breakfast night ends up somewhere every couple weeks as does our Friday homemade pizza night. I really does help life go more smoothly.
Sarah @The Teacher's Wife says
Awesome idea! Why didn’t I think of it? :-)
Ilike this idea and plan to try it. Thanks
Thank you! I did it and it feels so good to have a plan for the whole month. I want to refreshen the list every season. I included lots of crock pot meals for fall!
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I go one step further. Under the name of the meal , indented, or in a different colored ink, i list the ingredients i will need to make it. Aids in making sure i have what i need.
fifa 17 points says
Wow, lovely portal. Thnx ..
I discovered this page in the dark, but i read it to find this fabulous method.
In fact I’m doing exactly like that.
1 year ago I discovered that we were always eating the same meals.
So I did new recipe to find more that we love. I am now turning with 41 meals with meat/fish, 11 vegetarian, 17 with few meat/fish.
Twice in a month I try new recipe. I try vegeterian food…. Having this list written permitted me to deal with my organisation.
I first wrote what we eat in a month, than I added some new recipes to finaly organize them by thema (with meat, vegetarian, junk food, rapid recipe, sunday meal (= long to prepare)….
I hope my message is clear, my english is not so good.