Menu Planning, One Month at a Time

Let’s talk food for a minute. Everyone needs it, everyone enjoys it, some people even enjoy preparing it. (Crazy, I know) I’ve got six people in this house that seem to think three meals a day is a normal event. When, might I ask, did this happen? I make breakfast (most mornings), get it cleaned up, start some school and laundry, turn around and BAM, it’s time for me to start lunch. Get that one cooked, fed, cleaned up, do some random chores and wah-lah, it’s time for me to start dinner. Who created this schedule anyway?!

If you’re anything like me, it can become a bad habit to find yourself at 11:30 and 4:30 each day wondering what in the world you are going to cook. You stand in the pantry, staring at shelves of ingredients, begging them to speak some creative language to you that inspires a meal different from what you ate three nights ago. You wander from pantry to fridge to freezer and back to the pantry again. Surely walking laps and staring mindlessly at the same things will spark some culinary genius that’s hidden deep inside. Surely….. right?

You quick jump on Pinterest to scour your food board only to realize that all of your recipes call for chicken, of which you are out, or they call for 3 hours of cook time and now you are down to 45 minutes. So you quick search for quick and easy dinners with 3 ingredients or less, only to find that they all call for spinach and bags of some ingredient that you don’t have. At this point the children have started circling like sharks and you have promised them that dinner will be ready soon, no you may not have a snack, put that banana down, go in the other room until dinner is ready, of course Mommy knows what she is making for dinner! (insert plastic smile here), no I am not going to tell you because it’s a surprise! Panic has set in and suddenly you find yourself eating pancakes. Again.

Oh the circle of life. Every. Single. Day……Unless of course it’s been a month that I took the time to plan a monthly menu before I went grocery shopping. We only do this once a month, the whole town and shopping thing that is. When you go once a month it’s not even called grocery shopping, it’s called ‘laying in supplies’. And it’s a big thing. Now, we are pretty darn proficient at it, having done it for enough years now, but it still takes planning if I don’t want to have a full month of the scene I laid out for you above. And the goal is to avoid that if at all possible!

So that means planning, planning, planning. I can’t just jump in the truck and go to the store if I find I need something. EVERYTHING has to be taken into account before shopping. It sounds scary, but the good news is how much money it saves you by not going to the store every time you realize you need one or two things for dinner. The bad news is that it takes, need I say it again?, planning. *sigh*

So, you’re ready to give up the vicious cycle of never knowing what’s for the next meal? Or thinking you know what’s for the next meal only to find out that no indeed, you are out of tomato sauce and noodles so you won’t be having spaghetti for dinner after all. Or are you just sick and tired of repeating the same meals every 10 days because you’re in a rut? (been there, done that way too many times. Did I mention pancakes?) If you are a yes to any of the above I am going to do my best to help. I’m not promising anything ground-breaking here, but the urging of a friend of mine has prompted me to just share some basic tips that I have learned over the years since we have been living this way.

I would love to ease some of the meal planning / grocery shopping madness if possible. If this sounds like something you are interested in, stay tuned, because I’m going to need to break this up into several posts or we would be here for hours! (Pssst, this is where subscribing is going to come in handy, that way you don’t miss one of the posts in this series!)

How to Menu Plan, One Month at aTime

To get you started, find a notebook and write down some recipes that you would like to make this month. I have six columns on my monthly list, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks, Sides, and Desserts. I start by writing down meals that I know we love, but not every single one that I can think of. Save some of those for next month. I try very hard to try at least one new recipe a week, a lot of times I can manage 2-3. Especially when I’ve planned ahead. After I’ve written down what I would like, I poll the crowds for some meals that they would like to have. By the time I’m done with that, there aren’t many spots left to fill and that is where my Pinterest board comes in handy. We are compulsive pinners for a reason, right?

Now, tip number one, don’t write down 30 different breakfast recipes and 30 different lunch recipes. It’s ok to repeat! I have 11 different breakfasts this month, and yes, one of them is cold cereal which will be the one that is repeated multiple times. I try very hard to plan 30 different dinners, but that’s just me, maybe you want to have tacos 2 nights this month, great! Don’t stress yourself out trying to think of 30 different dinner desserts. Unless baking dessert is your favorite thing to do, you probably aren’t going to get to all of those recipes and it can start to look like a to-do list instead of a helping tool. This menu is here to help you, not to be a task-master.

So start there, make a list with the columns that fit your schedule. Write down some recipes, ask your family what their preferences are, look at some cookbooks or online resources. Don’t go crazy, just write down some ideas. We’ll go over how to get that menu onto a shopping list next time.

Love from here,


How to Menu Plan, one month at a time


5 thoughts on “Menu Planning, One Month at a Time

  1. Ugh! I remember those days (though I loved the ‘kids being there’ part!) Now we’re just two..and it doesn’t get any easier! I think OLD is a factor! “What do I cook today that I haven’t cooked for the past 50 years?” My daughter celebrates ‘Turkey Taco Tuesday!’ That’s great! They love it and it takes care of one meal most every week! I’m listening Bobbie! Can’t wait to hear more planning tips! -Jean

    • I was wondering about that whole cooking for two thing last night while I wrote this. My grandma said for a long time that it was really hard for her to scale back her cooking to accommodate just two people. She still usually has enough food to feed a whole family and then just freezes it for future meals. 🙂 Thank you for reading and for your encouraging comments! 🙂

  2. I’ve started meal planning for my new “on the road in the semi” life. Due to limited space I think one week at a time will be good, and less stressful. Tips?? Mom

  3. Pingback: The Shopping list, or, menu planning part 2 | From a Montana Front Porch

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