Meal planning your dinner menu for an entire month at a time will save you time, sanity, and money! Check out how it’s done, and snag my free printables below!
I don’t know about you, but when that 4 o’clock hour rolls around I start to get a little bit of anxiety. I’m not a huge dinner eater. I’d just as soon snack for dinner on any given day. But with a family of 6, and a hard-workin’ hubby, skipping a real dinner isn’t usually an option. (Although I definitely do pull that card out of my back pocket on occasion! 😜)
So, come 4 o’clock, I usually start realizing that I should have had a dinner plan by then. Enter stress. Enter anxiety. No meat is thawed, the vegetables in the fridge are scarce… will the little farmers riot if I whip up some spaghetti again??! 🤣
This used to be my daily rigamaroo. Not fun, people. Not fun.
And then I started meal planning. I started off by doing it one or maybe two weeks (if I was feeling ambitious) at a time. It worked for the most part. But some weekends I got lazy and didn’t make my plan for the next week, or didn’t make it to the store when I thought I would… so plans kinda went out the window for that week. And carving out time every week to plan ahead got a little tedious, so then I’d hit a slump and be back into my daily stress at 4 o’clock. lol.
But when I finally learned how to plan my dinner menu for an entire month… well, let me tell ya’ll… I’m pretty sure the heavens opened and the angels started singing! This was a game changer.
Why I Meal plan dinners a month at a time
- It takes hardly any more time to plan for an entire month than it takes to plan for a week or two at a time. Seriously… you can knock this out in 30 minutes, easily!
- I save time by not having to sit down regularly to plan more meals again, because I don’t have to plan again for a whole ‘nother month!
- I save stress not worrying about what I’m going to cook for dinner that night! (And I know I’ve already got the ingredients on hand.) Woot woot!
- I save both time and money by not having to go to the grocery store as often.
- And I save money by shopping with a grocery list (sticking to the list) and being able to buy larger quantities for less.
I don’t need any more reasons than that. Honestly, I’d consider it worth it for the “less-stress” factor alone. But saving time and money are definitely awesome perks as well. 😉
How to Meal Plan for an Entire Month
So, how does one go about planning dinners for an entire month?! It’s easy! You simply sit down with a calendar and a list of common meals your family eats, and start plugging in the data. Easy peasy.
Here’s how I do it:
- I print off a printable calendar that is specifically for my meal planning (and lucky you, I’ve got a FREE one for you to print!)
- I print off my printable shopping list so I can write down ingredients I’ll need as I go
- I bring out my family recipe book so I can get some inspiration
- I also bring out my monthly meal plans from the previous month or two (also for inspiration)
- Then I grab a pen, a cozy blanket, and park myself in front of a Hallmark movie! 🤣 Okay, okay… sometimes I just sit at the table like a normal person. But a Hallmark movie is more my flavor.
Patterns Make it Easy
When I start filling in the days on my calendar, I usually end up following some sort of pattern that rounds out my weeks. Patterns make it SUPER easy to fill in a month.
For example, Taco Tuesday. (’nuff said?) Every Tuesday I generally put in some variation of a taco meal. Taco salad, taco soup, tostadas, or just plain ol’ tacos. Boom. Tuesdays done.
I also try to make sure there’s at least one salad meal each week. Chicken Chef Salad, Southwestern Salad, Taco Salad, Cha-Cha-Chas (I’m pretty sure that’s something my mom made up), etc.
Fridays are usually more of a ‘fun’ meal for us. We’ll do either homemade pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, or something quick and easy.
Saturdays are generally leftovers, or a ‘catch your own rabbit’ type of day. And Sunday I turn the kitchen over to hubby and his culinary masterpieces. He’s such an awesome ‘fly by the seat of his pants’ type of chef. I have cooking envy. 😜
And then I just fill in the remaining days with a soup, a pasta, a chicken, a beef, or fish, etc.
A bonus to planning a month at a time is that you get a good balance of all different types of meals. I’d probably never cook a ‘fish’ dinner if I didn’t plan a month at a time. I don’t mind fish, but it’s just not my go-to. But when I plan meals for a whole month, I try to make sure I get one or two fish dinners on the calendar.
And ladies and gents… just like that, you’ve got a month worth of meals planned out. *insert angels singing*
The shopping list
The last part of meal planning is to create a shopping list. This way you know you’ll have the ingredients when you need them.
I shop for two weeks at a time–at least in terms of the ingredients that aren’t perishable. Less trips to the store equals less miscellaneous garbage that I splurge buy.
So the first thing I do is transfer the first two weeks of meals to my cute little weekly planner that I’ll keep on the fridge. (I reference that each day to see if I need to bring any meat out to thaw, or prep anything for dinner that night, etc.) Then I look at the recipes for each of those meals and write down any ingredients I need from the store.
If there’s something in week 2 that won’t last the whole time (i.e. lettuce for a salad), I don’t worry about getting it yet. I always end up needing to make a quick trip the next week for a few fresh items, but at least it doesn’t end up being a huge trip all over the store.
And after two weeks are up, I quickly fill out my next two weeks (using my monthly calendar as my guide), create my shopping list for those two weeks, and I’m ready to go for another round of low-stress meals! It really is amazing what a difference this makes!
So give it a try! If the daily stress of “what’s for dinner?” has ever gotten you down, you will likely LOVE meal planning for an entire month at a time.
I always recommend keeping a very well stocked pantry. My goal is to always have at least enough food on hand for 3-months worth of regular meals. (And even longer than that for ‘survival basics’ type of food… rice, beans, oats, wheat, etc.)
So if you are in a position to buy a little extra when you go to the store, add an extra can of corn, an extra can of tomatoes, peanut butter (or whatever are common ingredients for you to use), etc each time you shop. Before long, your pantry will be fully stocked. And the next time a catastrophe happens, you can skip the craziness at the store because you’ll already have your supplies on hand. 😉
I can pretty much make any of my meals without needing to go to the store (minus fresh ingredients), but I still add all the ingredients for my meals to my shopping list because I want to replenish what I use in order to maintain my well-stocked pantry. So don’t just use what’s in your pantry without restocking. 😉
Download FREE Printables
Want your own FREE meal planning calendar and shopping list? You’re in luck! I’ve created two different themed planners for y’all to download and enjoy! I sure hope these will help you on your way to some stress-free evenings!