The Art of the Monthly Meal Plan

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The dreaded question: What do we want to eat this week? Almost as soon as the question leaves my lips, I can hear my husband groan. As much as we both love eating, meal planning always seemed like a chore. I think my husband especially hates it because I end up vetoing most of his choices.

“No we can’t have spaghetti this week, we just had chili and that is way too similar!”

“Ugh, I really don’t feel like eating pork chops again, it feels like we just had that!”

“No no no, we can’t do country fried steak this week. I’m trying to eat healthy again”

Can you sympathize with my husband? Thinking of seven different meals each week sounds like a simple task, but it easily became a frustrating and time consuming chore. Now mix in a picky toddler, a picky three-year-old and a mama trying to make healthy choices, and it can become down right maddening.

But lo and behold, the monthly meal plan! I know what you’re thinking. “Katie if you can’t think of seven weekly meals at one time, how in the world can you think of 30ish meals at a time?” For some reason, the big picture of the whole month seems easier than the small picture of a week! Now that we’re in the last few weeks before summer vacation, it’s nice to simplify this aspect of our lives before life gets REALLY hectic.

Making a monthly meal plan has helped me become more efficient at grocery shopping and helps me stay within our budget. For example, we have dinner plans with my family and a church potluck next week, so that’s two nights in one week that I don’t have to plan a dinner. Know what that means? I can splurge on steak for another night!

Another reason I love the monthly meal plan is that it helps me add variety in our menu by seeing what we eat consistently. I’m more likely to try new recipes if I see that we eat tacos and pork chops every week.

Interested in starting a monthly meal plan? Here are some tips that have helped me get started:

  • Print out a blank monthly calendar. Pinterest has some cute ones, but I think the Microsoft Word templates do just fine. Some people also put theirs in list form.
  • Create some “basic principles” for your meal plan. These don’t have to be hard and fast rules like “Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, etc” but they can be if you like! Some of my basic principles include having a meat every day (per my husband), having a soup and or casserole dish once a week, and having leftovers at least once a week from said soup or casserole (helps keep cost down!). I also try to cook healthier meals most of the week and set one night a week for an “indulgent” dinner. This includes favorites like chicken and dumplings, country fried steak and a nice big carbo-licious pasta dish.
  • Mark off days where you won’t be cooking, like date nights and other events. I also mark days where we have to be somewhere in the evening and may not have an hour to cook. We have church every Wednesday night, so on most Wednesdays these days I plan for something quick and easy like tacos, a crockpot meal, or leftovers.
  • If you don’t have one already, make a running list of your family’s favorite meals to refer to when you get stuck! This helps me get out of a dinner rut.
  • Begin filling in! I start by putting in our “usuals” for every other week. We eat tacos more than people probably should, so to keep us from getting taco’d out, I plan for every other week.
  • Be flexible! I always do mine in pencil so I can rearrange if necessary.

There you have it! I don’t understand the physics of it, but for some reason it takes less time and less frustration to plan a month’s worth of meals than it does to plan a week’s worth of meals. Happy Planning!

What are some of your ‘go-to’ kid friendly meals?

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Katie has lived in the Columbia area for most of her life and loves calling the Midlands home! After graduating from USC (Go Cocks!) with a degree in Early Childhood Education, Katie taught at a Christian school in Lexington, where she met her husband, Chris. After having her first child, Katie traded the classroom for staying at home, where she still gets to practice her passion: teaching young children, this time her own. Katie recently had her second child, only months after returning to work as an early interventionist in the Columbia area. Katie is blessed to be able to stay at home with both of her littles, Caroline (2) and Micah (4 months). If she’s not chasing her babies, you can find her serving her church family, baking a yummy dessert, pretending to enjoy exercise, doing some sort of craft or reading a good book.

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