More Monthly Meal Planning


I get a lot of visitors to my meal planning posts and many of you email questions, so I thought I would add additional tips answering the most often asked questions.

You can read my previous Monthly Meal Planning article for more information about how I prepare our meal calendar monthly and then shop and make-ahead many of the foods.  I don't necessarily follow the Once-A-Month-Cooking philosophy, but I do plan ahead in a similar way.

As I wrote in my previous article, the end of every month I sit down with a blank calendar for the next month, my recipes, and a list for grocery shopping and I plan one month's worth of meals.  I spend one day grocery shopping for the entire month as well as prepping many of the food items {i.e. breads, mixes, sauces,  prepping veggies or fruits, etc. - more on this at a later date}.

Here are a few additional things I do:

  • I plan around seasonal produce.  In the Spring, Summer and early Fall I try to use only our garden produce.  If I do shop for veggies or fruits, I try to get them at our local farmers market and try new veggies or new ways of cooking veggies.  For Winter, you can read my Stocking the Freezer and Pantry article.
  • When planning my month of meals, I try to keep recipes that will take more time for weekend meals and the quick & easy recipes are used during the week.
  • I try to set aside one or two days per month that we try a new recipe from one of the many cookbooks I've collected or the recipes I've torn out of magazines, printed off the internet, etc.  Otherwise, these recipes continue to collect and the pile grows larger.  If we really enjoy the recipe, I add it to my collection, making any changes I may have made during the process.  If we don't enjoy it and I feel with changes it may be a good recipe, I note the changes I would like to make and the recipe goes back into the mix of "to be tried".  If we don't enjoy it and I feel there's no hope, I toss it.
  • One of the goals I've made for this process is to try and eat less pre-packaged foods.  Quick and easy they may be, however, it's often healthier to try and make it from scratch so I try to choose foods each month that I make from scratch.  {I just taught myself to can this year and replaced all the tomato products in my cupboard with homemade as well as canned jalapeno slices, jams, jellies, juices, and more}
  • I plan my grocery shopping around that weeks flyers as much as possible to save money.  Additionally, I do clip coupons for the things we still purchase pre-packaged, or paper and toiletry products.  It's important to only clip coupons for the things you typically use so you save money.  Purchasing items you never use because you have a $1.00 off coupon is a waste of money unless you are able to get the item for free.
  • I made a price book to help myself with which store I should by which items in.  Unfortunately, the prices are changing quite a bit lately, but the book definitely opened my eyes to how much I was spending by only shopping at one particular grocery store.
  • One easy way to begin the monthly {or weekly if you prefer} meal calendar prep is to plan your week by protein/type of meal.  Example:  Monday = meatless, Tuesday = poultry, Wednesday = crockpot meal, Thursday = seafood, Friday = pizza/calzones/tacos/fajitas, Saturday = beef/ground turkey/pork, Sunday = soup/chili & sandwich.  We typically utilize our leftovers either to make an entirely different meal {using the leftover protein and/or veg} or for weekday lunches.  If you don't do this, you could certainly have a designated day of the week as "leftover night".
  • I sort my recipes on the computer by season {spring/summer and fall/winter} and then by type of recipe - main dish/veg/starch/etc.
  • By preparing a monthly meal calendar and doing your shopping at the beginning of the month, you are ensured to have a well-stocked pantry and have the flexibility within the month to swap out meals if needed.  Don't feel like meatloaf tonight, even thought that's what's on the calendar?  Why not swap it out for next week's beef tacos?  Also, I try to have 2 items that I completely prepare ahead of time and freeze.  These items are planned within the month but if something happens and I'm unexpectedly home very late or something else comes up I can swap them out with another meal and they are totally prepared.
  • Make sure you do your grocery shopping after meal planning.  Otherwise, you will inevitably end up back at the store picking up items you need for a particular meal the day you plan on making it.
  • In the end, whether you prepare 1 week or 1 month ahead of time, if you follow your prep list you'll save money on groceries because you're only buying what you need and you will no longer throw things out that you forgot you bought because they've gone bad. 

1 comment:

daisy said...

Love your system, Staci! So glad you've tweaked it and it works so well for you. We are alot alike that way.