Monthly menu planning keeps me motivated in providing healthy meals for my family. Nothing is worse than getting ready to make dinner only to find that I do not have the ingredients. When I plan a monthly menu the ingredients are ready and I do not have to think about what to make. Making a monthly menu also helps keep variety in our family’s diet and helps keep us from eating out.
We are paid on a monthly basis, so I do the grocery shopping once a month and can gauge the cost to buy milk and fresh produce throughout the rest of the month. This makes it easy to make my monthly budget for groceries. Previous to doing a monthly menu I would often go over on my monthly budget by buying extra snacks or unneeded food.
Monthly menu planning takes some work, but is easy once you get used to it. The first secret to going to the grocery store once a month is to keep an extra one around, an extra ketchup, mustard, box of crackers, spaghetti sauce, can of corn, etc. Once I build my “extra one” storage then when I pull out one of the extra groceries I simply add it to my grocery list to buy next month. I use this same process for shaving cream, floss, toothpaste, shampoo, etc. This way we never run out of things we need, and I can spend my time doing things I enjoy (which is not going to the grocery store).
The second secret to monthly menu planning is making it easy. I know some women use Google Calendar and create a menu calendar. I use paper so that the whole family can easily get in on it. My favorite website is Calendars That Work. This website allows me to quickly download a calendar for Word that I can print out. Then I fill in each day with a pencil with the whole family around at breakfast. That way everyone has input into what we will eat for the month. I throw in our favorites plus one or two new meals each month, this way I keep variety in our menu. I use the option that prints the calendar on only half the page. Then, I can use the blank side to make a grocery list for the next month. If we open up a new ketchup bottle, then we add it to the list.
The third secret is keep it flexible. Yes, I fill in a meal for everyday, but that doesn’t mean I stick to only that meal. If we are busy and I planned a harder meal, then I simply move the harder meal to a day that I have more time. So, anytime I make a meal I put an X through it on the menu.
That monthly grocery shopping is a little miserable, I often fill two carts. But, it is all worth it when I do not have to worry about having the right ingredients, or knowing that I do not have to go back to the store for a whole month. I love that feeling.