After my husband and I got married and started having babies, I began to love organizational systems. Perhaps it was born out of need (aka sheer desperation), but things like making a meal plan, writing a budget, and having a schedule all became my best friends.
When there are young children in the home, whatever can become a system should become a system (in my humble opinion). Leaving things to chance ensures that they won’t go how you want.
Some systems that we’ve implemented include: a monthly budget meeting where my husband looks over the budget I’ve written and makes changes; bedtime routines that stay consistent (for the most part); and this meal plan system.
I’m giving you the printable PDF file that you can download here.
The first page is for making your meal list for the month.
This is where I write down all the dinners I plan on making for that month. I make this list during the last week of the month before (so January’s meal list is made during the last week of December, etc.). I start by writing down my tried and true dinners (i.e. chili, enchiladas, spaghetti, etc.). Then I ask my husband what meals he’d like to eat the next month. That helps me fill in a few more. Finally I go to Pinterest. This is where many of my dinner ideas come from.
I usually scroll through recipe ideas, click on ones that look good and see if they require any really weird ingredients that I don’t usually buy. If they do, I keep looking. Or figure out a way to make it with something more common.
Once you have your list of 30 meals for the month, you’re ready to make your monthly grocery list.
Note: I included space to write down 30 meals, but I never make 30 different dinners in a month…I only use the first page and then plan on making each dinner twice. Sometimes I only choose 10 dinners to make 3 times each.
Monthly Grocery List
I do the majority of our grocery shopping at Costco. I go once a month. After I’ve looked through my pantry and freezer to see what we have, I write down all the main groceries we’ll need for all the dinners on my meal list. Make sure you include everything you’ll need for the month, excluding anything to buy fresh.
Next, make your weekly meal plan.
Look through your meal list and pick 7 for the first week of the month. Your weekly grocery shopping list is made up of any fresh ingredients you’ll need for those dinners. Each week you’ll choose 7 meals for the next week and buy the fresh ingredients needed.
**Shopping Tip** Shop the perimeter of the grocery store to avoid the processed foods that are displayed in the center aisles of the store.
This system works very well. Sometimes I don’t go through the process of choosing the meals for the month and therefore the whole thing kind of falls apart. That is the foundation to this great meal plan system.
Ideally, I make enough of the dinner to last for leftovers the next day. And if I’m really on top of my game, I’ll make a double portion and freeze half for another day. But that’s kind of more of a dream than a reality! I buy big bags of frozen vegetables to use as side dishes and usually add something like garlic bread, rice or quinoa to round out the meal.
I hope this system is helpful to you. Let me know in the comments and please share on social media! Download your free printable meal planning guide here!