How many of you just said, “Wait..what?” I know that was exactly what I did the first time I read about a person who does that. A little annoyed mixed with a little “I have no time for that” combined with a pinch of “That is way too much work.”
Then I got pregnant with Mya and had two toddlers running around. I was tired and a little bit overwhelmed with my Sundays being consumed with meal planning, grocery lists, and shopping. I genuinely love a Sunday, but when you put all that planning into one day, I felt like I wasn’t resting like I should be.
Then, of course, you know what happens next. I started to repeat the same meals almost every week, lost my creativity, and just started dreading everything to do with mealtimes. So I gave it a shot. On the last day of the month, I sat down and I started mapping out the upcoming month and planning my dinners for the whole 30 days…and I’ve never looked back. I realized it was simpler, I was able to do it faster than if I did it weekly (or sometimes more than once a week), I was choosing healthier options, and if I put in the work in the front-end…it.was.done!
So here’s how I meal plan one month at a time with all the tips and tricks I can give you to try it out for yourself. Just try it once and I promise you, you’ll see just how much easier meal planning suddenly is!
Step One: Buy Yourself a Calendar
Okay, easy. And actually have fun with this one. Go out to Home Goods, TJ Maxx, or Target, and snag a monthly calendar that you love. For under $15, you can find the most darlings ones! I always like to buy the large 8 1/2×11″ calendars for meal planning because I need the extra space in the boxes to write things out.
This year, my calendar is this Sugar Paper calendar from Target (the same style and layout with a different cover)…
This calendar really is just for meal planning for me. I actually have three calendars that I use daily: One large calendar on our kitchen wall for family events and appointments, one meal planning calendar, and one smaller agenda (seen above) for all things Growing Up Kemper. I’m not one to use my phone calendar much because I’m just not on my phone enough to even continuously check my calendar there. Plus my boys have an obsession with swiping away notifications before I see them, so what really is the point of the Apple calendar for me? 🙂
I’m an old-fashioned paper planner that I write everything on with my trusty teacher Flair pens kinda girl. 🙂
Step Two: Write Out Your Monthly Schedule
Have a birthday you know you’ll go to dinner for? Soccer games? Work event? Dog Grooming Appointment? List it all out. List everything on your meal planning calendar that you have on schedule that month that will in any way, shape, or form impact your day. It doesn’t matter if the doctor’s appointment is at 8:00 in the morning, write.it.down.
First, you can tell this is a COVID month because when has a summer calendar every looked this blank?!
But most important, you can see what I write down on my calendar first. I list birthdays, appointments, practices, and events. This helps me know the days that I will be home for dinner and days that I’ll be away. Ones that tend to be much busier and ones that we will spend at home.
Here’s what I’ve found: The busier the day, the more tired you are at night. Even if all your events and work may be in the morning, you’re going to be tired that night. Don’t underestimate just how hectic an entire day can get when it starts off busy. Give yourself grace and know that that specific busy day is going to be a slow cooker meal or it may be a carryout night.
Write your appointments down so it’s all right in front of you and you can evaluate your month.
Step Three: Write Out Just Your Dinners
Now is when it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty. This is when you need to start figuring out those dinners.
I start with the days I will be busy. What kind of meals will best fit that day? Am I going to be gone most of the day? Slow cooker meal, it is. Will I be out with friends and Jerod’s feeding the kids? A meal I know he loves to make. A night without kids? Let’s plan a night out.
When you list out all the things that you have going on in a month, you can easily look at your schedule and determine the types of meals you can prepare.
Once I have those busy nights planned, I go to weekends next. I love grilled meal on Fridays and a big Sunday meal to round out the weekend. Saturdays are my days to really just stick to the basics, or even schedule in a carryout meal that night.
Next up, I look for any meal that I can double up on the meat to use two nights in a row. For instance, I want to make pulled pork one Sunday in the slow cooker. I’ll buy a roast large enough to do 2+ meals so we can have pulled pork sandwiches one day and then do Mix and Match Mama’s Pulled Pork Pizza the next.
Finally, I start filling in the rest of the days with meals that I can spend a little more time on and prepare in the evenings. No rush on these ones. I’ve got the time, so let’s do something creative on these nights. This is when I tend to scroll Pinterest or go to my favorite blogger’s site for their latest creation.
Wasn’t all that tricky, huh?
Step Four: Fill In Your Breakfast and Lunches
I do this step each week as I’m making my grocery list. I will go through and write out what breakfast I’ll be making and what Jerod will have for lunch. I never list out my lunches or the kid’s lunches because I tend to snack and the kids tend to love the same things for lunch almost every day. I just like having something available for Jerod (which tends to mostly be leftovers) since he’s still working from home.
This step takes me maybe five minutes each week before I write out my grocery list. I can handle that!
So here’s the deal. The first time you do this, it will take you a little a longer because it’s your first time. I’ve been doing this for months now and now I not only have a system down that makes it so efficient, but I also have a full catalog of our very favorite recipes all in one spot. If I run out of ideas, I look back at previous months and can find a favorite in no time.
I don’t have a slew of recipes that have long been forgotten. It’s all right there. I don’t have a Pinterest page that is flooded with dinner ideas. They’re written in my calendar. And as I find new recipes that look great, I can write them in the upcoming month ahead of time to make it even easier when I sit down to plan. As soon as I pin a recipe, I find a day I want to make it and write it down. Maybe it’s three weeks from now, but I write it down and know it won’t be forgotten.
You can do this! It saves me HOURS of meal planning and gives me so much more time back on my Sundays. Give it a shot! I’m here to help!