Once a Month Meal Planning & a Pantry Challenge

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Once a month meal planning is a great way to make good use of your pantry and freezer’s resources as well as make sure that dinner gets on the table in short order.

Today is a new day. A new year. A fresh start in a myriad of ways. A time to dream some big dreams.

For me, part of a fresh start is feeling like my head is on straight. Feeling like I haven’t messed up (too badly) yet. Feeling like I have a plan to make something good happen.

I think people must have this wild illusion about me that everything’s in order and everything’s planned. That is so not the case. Please don’t worry that I micromanage my life. Spontaneity comes in the front door as soon as my plan flies out the window.

Which is more often than I care to admit.

That said, I love to plan. Planning helps me come close to feeling like I’m in step with the present and not trailing woefully behind. You know the feeling?

And never do I feel more behind than when my family is hungry, the sun has set, and dinner is nowhere near ready to serve. Meal planning helps me avoid that feeling. And planning for the month helps me even more because I save little minutes throughout the month.

Meal planning is not difficult. Even a wimp can do it. And once a month meal planning is not too complicated either.

Here’s how to plan a month’s worth of meals:

  1. Print out a calendar for the month. (There are several to choose from in here.)
  2. Fill in any special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, or other events where you’ll be eating elsewhere or planning a special meal.
  3. Fill in the weekly regulars that you might serve. For us, that means soup on Tuesday and pizza on Friday.
  4. Survey your cupboard, refrigerator, and freezer for the makings of more meals. Jot down a list of the meals that come to mind. Plug these into your calendar, spreading out like dishes throughout the month.
  5. Consult the grocery sales flyer and determine which items you might pick up the store this week and plot those meals into the calendar.
  6. Got blanks? Consider serving breakfast for dinner, offering leftovers one night a week, or planning a quick take-out night.
  7. Remember life is subject to change. The meal plan is to help you, not be master over you. Feel free to go with the groove of the day when it veers from the meal plan.

See? That wasn’t hard, was it? Once a month meal planning doesn’t take a lot more time than weekly meal planning and it helps you get your head on straight.

Hop on over to Good Cheap Eats where I’m sharing my meal plan for the month as well as details on a pantry challenge. Dozens of readers are joining in.

We’re challenging ourselves to use the resources we have in house and lower our grocery bills as we’re able. There are no rules, except for the ones you make for yourself.

How do YOU plan for mealtimes at your house?

About Jessica Fisher

I believe you can get great meals on the table -- and still keep that pretty smile on your face.

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  1. Angela Shrader says

    I’m excited for the New Year. Got my meal plan on. I’m off the next 2 days, so gonna inventory my freezer for the coming months. And I’m gonna start back couponing! This is the year for me!

  2. i’m off to a good start…cleaned out the pantry this morning as well as the lazy-susan. tossed half-eaten boxes of misc. items with expired dates on them, wiped down shelves, put like items together, etc. next is the freezer. going to work on using what i’ve got this week.

  3. Let’s do this! I have to come up with a meal plan….giving myself one more day. We all came down with The Sick this past week and I’m ordering pizza tonight since hubby is on a night shift.

    • Jessica Fisher says

      Bummer about The Sick. Hoping you’re on the mend.

      The Husband’s Days Off are prompting more eating out than I originally planned, but ya gotta go with it.

  4. I used to do monthly meal plans all the time – but I got away from it in the last couple of years. One of my goals for the new year is to get a better handle on the finances in our household – so that means back to the monthly menu’s and also I’m going to learn how to coupon (who says you’re too old to learn new things at 60???). If you would like to see what I do please feel free to follow along on my blog. Thanks for getting the monthly menu idea out there- most people only talk about weekly menu’s, and while that might work for some, the monthly menu always worked better for me and my family.

  5. Amanda says

    I’m so excited to regularly get back to meal planning, things are so crazy at the end of the year! I even put it all on my new blog, so hopefully it will help me keep accountable to myself!


  6. We monthly meal plan around here as well, which started as we are paid monthly and it helps keep our budget on track. Recently, I’ve assigned each day a starch to plan the meal around, and it has made my meal planning so easy. We now have a rice, pasta, potatoes, tortilla (I make a lot of Mexican) days. Round that out with pizza once a week, a day of soup, and a day for other stuff, and we”re set! I love it.

  7. I plan a menu once and month and publish it on my blog because I find that publishing the menu and having my readers expect it keeps me accountable. I can’t fly by the seat of may pants. LOL

  8. I never can get the monthly menu plan to work right… For starters, if I planned out 30 days of meals tied to a certain day, chances are 20 of the 30 would garner complaints from my husband…

    So I plan 30 meals in a list format, stick the list to the fridge after I shop, and then offer his choice from the list.

    Of course then that presents the additional problem of him picking all the “good” stuff the first week or two, which by the end of the month garners the complaint “everything left is nasty” and we end up going out to eat… At the end of the month… When we can least afford it. *facepalm*

    It’s gotten to the point where *I* will pick 2-3 items from the list & let him choose between them.

    Men are so much like kids LOL… Give them the illusion of control and they are happy as clams.

  9. Instead of planning meals so much, I bulk cook many portions of a meal to toss them together later. Ground beef is cooked in bulk and then frozen. It can be tossed into lasagna, spaghetti or Hamburger Helper in a pinch. It can also be easily warmed with water and seasoning to have taco meat in under 10 minutes or whipped into sloppy joes.

    I also like to bulk cook breakfast items like pancakes, french toast, sausage and scrambled eggs that can be quickly heated in the morning.

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