What is your least favorite chore as a parent? Meal planning and the weekly grocery trip used to be one of mine. However, since I started doing once a month meal planning, it’s definitely gotten a lot better!
Instead of sitting down every weekend and thinking “What are we going to eat this week?” I now plan out our meals on a monthly basis. This means I sit down once a month and decide what recipes we’re going to eat for the entire month. Yes, that’s right, the entire month!
Sometimes they get switched around a little depending on our schedule, but I plan the main meals we’ll have, for the most part. Here’s my process, below. Don’t be intimidated by the steps, it’s really quite easy once you do it a time or two!
- Decide how many “real meals” you need to make over the month. Each week we tend to have 1-2 nights of leftovers, a pizza night and a night where we eat out or have something like sandwiches. This leaves about 2-3 recipes/week, which I need to make. I pick out which 9-10 recipes I’m going to make and then write them out on a calendar so I know what I plan to make each week.
- Print out the recipes. Yes, I said print out. This makes it easier to compile your grocery lists and use while making the actual recipe. If it’s in a cookbook, that’s fine. I just make sure I write down which cookbook and the page number on my calendar.
- Go through each recipe and with a marker, put a red dot by non-perishable ingredients like your pastas, canned foods and grains, which can be bought at the start of the month and last until you make the recipe. Put a green dot by perishables, i.e. lettuce, berries or milk that you’ll need to buy fresh each week.
- I then think about what other non-perishable items I can buy at the start of the month. For example, we tend to use a loaf of bread each week so I can buy 4 to last us the month. Same goes for items we regularly go through like napkins, sponges and snacks. It took me a month or two to figure out what kind of items to put on this list and how many to buy, so don’t worry if it does for you too!
- I then compile my first grocery trip list where I’ll buy all of the non-perishables (red dot ingredients) that I’ll need to make all of the recipes that month as well as other non-perishable staples we use during the month (mentioned in step 4) as well as the perishables (green dot ingredients) I’ll need for the first week. This will probably be a big list – don’t be afraid!
- Go grocery shopping. Be prepared for it to take longer and be more expensive than usual. I don’t use a grocery pick-up service, like Click List, but something like that might be helpful since it’s a bigger trip.
- On the remaining weeks this month, you should only have to buy your weekly perishable ingredients, which should be a shorter and easier trip! Yay!
I know it may seem overwhelming at first, but it’s been a real lifesaver for me. No more wondering each week “what are we going to have for dinner this week?” It’s already been decided and as a bonus, I already have most of the ingredients and food needed for that week!
If you want to take this a step further, you could even pick a few recipes which are freezer-friendly! You could make them at the start of the month and then have something ready to pull out of the freezer when dinner time rolls around later in the month!
Do you meal play by the week or have you tried doing it monthly as well? Do you have any tips to add to my process above?