Last month I shared my free monthly meal planning template here on the blog, and since then have received so many questions from friends and readers on the subject. In hindsight, it would have made more sense to first introduce the concept of creating a monthly meal plan and share with you my experience on how I picked up this new habit… but truthfully I was just so happy to start using my monthly calendars that I wanted to make them available to you as fast as I could.
So here we are, sharing in reverse.
I know the idea of meal planning isn’t very novel, especially for moms. Whether you’re a young mom, old mom, new mom, or experienced mom, most of us moms feel we’re busy balancing all of the things, and many find great joy in finding new ways to beat the busy. Meal planning and meal prepping are two common topics in the mom world.
But what I think is relatively novel (and apparently quite shocking to some of you!) is the idea of planning an entire month’s worth of meals in one sitting. I don’t remember exactly when I first made the transition from weekly meal planning to monthly meal planning, but it’s one of my favorite routines, and I can’t imagine going back to life before this.
In fact, on occasion when I’m late to the game and a new month starts, and I head into a week realizing that my monthly meal plan isn’t complete yet, I actually feel a bit panicked. The stress of planning meals, putting together a grocery list, and getting to the store before my husband and daughter realize we have zero food for breakfast, lunch, or dinner makes me a little sweaty.
So I do my best to stick to the plan. About a week or two before each new month starts, I sit down with my handy dandy, never far from reach, can’t live without clipboard, print out the proper monthly meal plan calendar, and get to work.
The Benefits of Creating a Monthly Meal Plan
It takes me about 2 hours to complete, which quite nicely is about the same length of time that my daughter naps each day. So, in a typical month, I work work work during one toddler nap, and by the time naptime is over I’ll have:
- A family calendar with notes on who will be where on what days/nights
- Family dinner planned for the entire month
- Links saved for each dinner’s recipe (if online), along with ingredient lists
- The foundation for my weekly grocery lists
That my friends, is well worth it.
In addition to feeling organized, on top of my family’s plans for the month, and super well prepared when it comes to grocery shopping, and dinner planning, there are other clear benefits to meal planning for a family as well.
Meal Planning Saves Me Time
If I told you that meal planning for an entire month at once actually saves me time, you might call me crazy. Usually when this topic comes up with my friends (or family), the typical response is shock and awe. But… how? Isn’t that… impossible? That sounds… so overwhelming.
And the truth is, it took me a few months to find a good rhythm. But now that I have this process down pat, it saves me an incredible amount of time each month.
Gone are the 4 o’clock frenzies when I realize I don’t have a dinner planned.
And the last minute rushes to the grocery store because I don’t have ingredients I need.
Gone are the days of sitting down every week, or many multiple times a week, to think about who will be home or gone which nights, who needs what meals fast and on the go when, and which nights we’re hosting (or not home entirely).
I sit down once a month to meal plan. Yes, it might take me close to 2 hours. And I lose one day of nap time freedom. And I still tweak my grocery list each week. But the overall time spent thinking about meals, researching meals, planning meals, searching for recipes, making and adjusting grocery lists, and going to the grocery store has been dramatically reduced since we began meal planning for a whole month.
Meal Planning Saves Us Money!
Here’s a simple fact for those of you who show up at the grocery store without a grocery list planned in advance. Plan your meals ahead of time, make a very specific grocery list, and stick to your list exactly as is the next time you go grocery shopping. I dare you to tell me you didn’t see cost savings.
Now, create a weekly meal plan and go to the grocery store JUST ONE TIME that week. Yes, you’ll need to plan more in advance. But how does your grocery bill look in comparison?
Now, take it up a notch. Follow my method for meal planning an entire month, and go to the grocery store one time each week. Stock up big time at the beginning of the month on canned items and non-perishables, and stick to your plan! Stick to your grocery lists!
Don’t get me wrong, we leave plenty of wiggle room in our meal plan, and we make adjustments week to week. We even on the fly will decide to ditch dinner at home and grab something on the go.
But I promise you… if you take up the new habit of monthly meal planning and (for the most part) stick to it month to month, your grocery bill will go down. Money saved, money earned. Yes please.
So hopefully this post piqued your interest, and convinced you that creating a monthly meal plan is totally worth it. Better than weekly meal plans, and absolutely better than no meal plans at all.
Feeling up to the challenge? Hop over to my first post to download an entire year’s worth of monthly meal plan calendars, fo’ free. But if you’re not quite ready to give it a shot, I hear ya. It took me awhile to come around to this idea too. If that’s you, stay tuned for my next post on meal planning. I’m going to describe in far more detail my exact process for creating a monthly meal plan.