Once a Month Meal Planning

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This happens about this time every year. Every year. We transition from easy, laid-back summer into the craziness of school. And I realize that something’s gotta change. My time management. My coffee-intake. And my meal planning.

There’s just more to do than I could possibly do, so I have to switch gears. And about this time every year, I decide, forget this weekly meal planning thing, I need to do this once and make it last all month.

So, that is what I did Friday night. The girls and I were home watching, How to Train Your Dragon while the boys were at hockey. The girls and I had been at hockey. But, the fascination of watching the pink puck lasts only so long for three and four year olds, so I escorted my little ladies home. We did baths, beauty treatments (ie blow dry the long hair) and got settled with a movie.

And because I am in multi-tasking mode, I pulled up the monthly meal-planning sheet from OLAM on my laptop, and with my fall themes, I plotted our meals for the rest of the month while I watched adorable Hiccup struggle to do what’s right.

Oh, yes, yes, I did.

Critics will say numerous things from “That would bore me. I like to be spontaneous,” to “how will you know what’s on sale?”

Well, yeah, I know.

But, with freezer meal components, like pulled pork, meatballs, and taco meat, we won’t get too bored because I can switch those things around with different sauces and sides. And I can pretty much guesstimate what will go on sale. With a load of frozen meals made-ahead, I will also have a supply to rely on.

It’ll be okay. I promise. And it will work for you, too.

So, without further ado, our meal plan for the month:

  1. Pizza Night, ChiChi’s Salad, Apple Cider Floats
  2. Football Food – Jalapeno Poppers Dip, Brats, Green Salad, Carrots
  3. Meatloaf/Roast Turkey, Mashed Potatoes, Cranberry sauce, Green Beans
  4. Grilled Dijon Chicken, Rice Pilaf, Green Salad
  5. Bean and Rice Bowls, Homemade Pico de Gallo, Chips
  6. Chicken Noodle Soup, Popovers and Jam
  7. dinner out
  8. Enchiladas, Lawnmower Taco, Green Salad
  9. Lasagna, Garlic Bread, Green Salad
  10. Meatballs and Gravy, Mashed Potatoes, Steamed Veg
  11. Pizza on Focaccia, Green Salad
  12. dinner out
  13. Minestrone, Buttermilk Cornbread
  14. Pasta with Red Sauce, Green Salad, Biscuits
  15. Bean and Rice Bowls, Homemade Pico de Gallo, Chips
  16. Garlic Brie Bread, Grilled Sausages, Green Salad
  17. Quesadillas, Veggie Dippers, Layered Fruit Salad
  18. Pasta with Red Sauce, Green Salad, Garlic Bread
  19. Beef and Barley Soup, Popovers
  20. Grilled Fish, Quinoa Pilaf, Salad
  21. dinner out
  22. Pizza Night
  23. Hamburgers, Fries, Green Salad
  24. Pasta with Red Sauce, Steamed Veg, Focaccia
  25. Grilled Chicken and Couscous Salad, Pita Breads, Salad (could morph into gyros)
  26. Chihuahua Chili and Buttermilk Cornbread
  27. Chef’s choice (read= I ran out of ideas)
  28. dinner out
  29. Pizza Night
  30. BBQ Pork Sandwiches, Side Salads
  31. Taco Soup, Chips, Veggie Dippers

What’s cooking 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. This is my stretch goal for oh, about 5 years from now 🙂 But thanks for posting! Reminds me that it’s possible!!

  2. I decided to do my own meal planning this month after I saw yours. thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Debbie says

    I don’t know how you can come up with a whole entire month but you did it again! I am impressed and may even steal a few ideas!

  4. In the past I regularly menu planned a month at a time and found it to be such a great way to save time. I also had theme nights (slow cooker / soup / beef / pasta / chicken / pizza) and it seemed pretty easy to plug in ideas.

    I need to get back to planning that way because I really loved it – it also let me grocery shop once for most of the items I’d need (after checking my stockpile) and it then let me shift meals around quite a bit if we needed to.

  5. I did the same thing this month… I’ve got some blanks still in my plan, but I have most of the days planned out. What a good feeling!

  6. I just finished up my montly meal plan and posted it over at my blog. I had taken the summer off but like you, had to tackle the menu for this crazy season! Glad it’s done and ready to enjoy this beautiful fall weather!!

  7. I’m in awe! I wish we could get to the point of doing monthly meal plans, but as our schedule seems to be so up in the air sometimes, the most I can ever muster is two week planning.

    • Jessica Fisher says

      Two weeks is still a great start. This really became possible thanks to freezer cooking. With a freezer full of premade meals and meal components, planning for the month is easy.

  8. Yep, I plan our meals one month at a time (and it’s just my husband and me)! Couldn’t live any other way, honestly! 🙂

  9. Christine A says

    I have been thinking about planning meals for the week for quite some time now….it is still a thought! NOW, with 31 meal ideas, I think October is going to be a success!!!!

  10. I was doing this too and then my son started kung fu and it threw a wrench in our system. It’s 4 nights a week and doesn’t end until 6. By the time we get home it’s 6:20 and we are starving. My son is in bed by 8 and to take a shower and get ready for bed he needs at least 30 min. Doesn’t leave much time for dinner prep and eating!

    I have been trying to make everything earlier in the day and do a final reheat for dinner or use the crockpot. I have had to change my meal plan around quite a bit as we adjust to the new schedule. I am hoping I can get a handle on it so I can continue my monthly planning!

    Just a tip. I got a $2 white board that sticks to the fridge. I drew a grid and wrote the days of the week in sharpie, then every month I write the dates in a throw my dinners on there with the dry erase. Works great!

  11. I always plan our meals monthly — otherwise I’d get distracted/forget and we’d all starve or blow up from drive-thru junk. I even save each month’s menu (from previous years) in my household binder and use it as a jump start. This is helpful when transitioning from summer to fall (because I haven’t made chicken and dumplings in months and would otherwise forget that I know how). When there’s a great sale on chicken or whatever, I’ll buy it and incorporate in this month’s menus as appropriate or save it for next month. Works great!

  12. I’ve only started menu-planning in the last couple of months, so I’m slowly working my way into it – one week at a time.

    I must admit, I do enjoy sitting down with a cup of tea on a Saturday morning while Squiggle is down for a nap, Lucky is washing the cars and I have the patio to myself to browse my recipe books, freezer & pantry inventories and plan for the following week.

    I wouldn’t want to lose that weekly excuse to trawl the recipe books 🙂

  13. I plan for a full month too. Not only does it help budget wise as we only get paid once a month, but I plan around what I have on hand. Pretty much anything else that goes on sale during weeks 2-4 of the month gets forwarded to next month’s menu plan. I like the monthly planning. I’ve tried doing it other ways, but that’s what works for me!

  14. I cannot stand to do once a month planning. I tried really hard to do it and it was awful.

    Finally my husband said if it is that hard why don’t you go back to weekly.

    Goofy girl – just because it works for a lot of people doesn’t mean it will work for me. You gotta do what works for you – I still love looking at what everyone else is planning though!

  15. Jennifer D says

    I have been reading your blogs for awhile but finally in august decided something had to give. I have always meal planned a week at a time. In august with school starting and work and sports , etc I decided to start doing a month at a time. It has been fabulous. I actually sat down last week and did October and November and feel free. It makes shopping and cooking so much more enjoyable for me. Thanks for the inspiration!!!!!

  16. jennifer says

    Sunday: Spaghetti with meatballs, garden salad, garlic bread.
    Monday: Baked chicken, mashed potatoes, brown gravy, steamed broccoli.
    Tuesday: breaded pork chops, noodles, veggie.
    Wednesday: Homemade potato soup with cornbread muffins.
    Thursday: Sausage and rice with veggie.
    Friday: homemade pizzas. (out of town?)
    Saturday: chicken noodle casserole (out of town?)
    Sunday: Meatball subs and chips. (out of town?)
    Monday: Hotdogs, chili cheese tater tots, veggie sticks w/dip. *TRICK OR TREAT!!!*
    Tuesday: pinto beans, fried potatoes, sliced veggies, cornbread.
    Wednesday: breaded/seasoned pork chops, noodles/or side, veg.
    Thursday: Parmesan chicken with spaghetti noodles and marinara sauce, veggie.
    Friday: homemade chicken noodle soup.
    Saturday: who knows……LOL.

  17. Lynette says

    IT is a stretch to buy/plan for 1 whole month at a time! Somewhere between baby #2 and baby #3 being born (18 mos apart) and trying to grocery shop AGAIN with a brand new infant and all – I decided to plan months out 1 at a time, and go shopping for that WHOLE month once a month too. Now that doesn’t include veggies, fruits or milk – but it did save me a lot of extra trips to the grocery store to “save” on what’s on sale. Yep. Something aren’t on sale at those times, while others are – and it probably still balances out, if you add in time/gas chasing all those sales all over town.

    The thing I always did with my meal plans, was set it as a 30 meal plan. I would lay out a tentative schedule, and pick out all 30 meals – BUT I could pick which meal as I wanted, because I knew that I basically had everything in the house I needed to make ANY of those meals any night. Now if I needed Green Pepper’s or Celery for 2 or 3 meals, than if those veggies came on sale that would be the week I would buy those, and make those 2 or 3 meals for that week – and they might have been planned for the NEXT week, but I could move my weeks around as needed. Love it. Need to get back to doing that once a month!

  18. Inspiring. I can’t seem to menu plan a week at a time! One thing I’m wondering — how do you plan monthly around seasonal fruits and vegetables? I use a lot of fresh ingredients and get a local produce delivery every two weeks. I never know what’s going to be in the box until a few days before, so it’s hard to think ahead and sometimes things spoil. Just wondering if you had any suggestions or if anyone else is in the same boat.

    • Jessica Fisher says

      I get a weekly box and I face a similar challenge. I know a few days in advance, so typically I can move some things around. I know that there will be salad and some kind lots of squash in the coming weeks. Usually I make sure that there are main dishes to go with salad, sauteed vegetables, and a soup that I can throw stuff in as well. I’m also starting to process whatever I can for the freezer as soon as I get the box. Then the pressure’s off.

  19. Fritzann says

    I love to plan ahead meals, but it always seems that we are having the same thing. I am allergic to anything that is related to or came from an egg, so options can be limited. Will you send me singer tips on freezing meals? I guess the big question is do you fully cook the meals then freeze or prepare and freeze for later cooking?

  20. I’ve just started doing this also. I find that it doesn’t take as long as I thought it would and easy to change around if something came on special. Lock myself in the office and just do it so nobody interrupts me!

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