How to Set Up a Monthly Meal Plan
If you want to stick in your grocery budget and plan your meals ahead, then you need to read this post on how to set up a monthly meal plan! Put all the meals you want on a calendar for the month so that you never run out of ingredients! This is a frugal way to prevent splurge purchases while at the grocery store. Stick to your grocery list by planning your meals ahead of time.
Hey y’all, Tiffany here.
Our first step was to figure out how to do our grocery shopping. So many websites talked about couponing, but we had no idea what we wanted to buy! But we perservered and found the secret to a $42 weekly grocery budget – one of the keys is this monthly meal plan!
We had a hard time sitting down each week to make a menu, and as a result just got frustrated. We would buy things on sale that we would never use, but we bought them because we had a coupon and that’s what we were supposed to do to save money.
We finally decided that first we had to figure out what we were eating, and then shop for that as opposed to eating what we bought.
Get Your Monthly Meal Plan Supplies
lazy brilliant idea was to not do just a week’s worth of menu planning, but to do an entire month. To help with that, we bought a blank montlhy whiteboard calendar and blank magnets.
We also got some cute dry erase markers and Sharpies so we could color-code our calendar.
Choose Meals for the Montly Meal Plan
Phillip and I sat down and made a list of meals that we both enjoyed. They also had to be meals that one of us knew how to make, too! That was trickier, because I am not a good cook, and I was going to be the one primarily responsible for getting dinner on the table.
On each magnet we wrote one of the meals. We tried to color-code it based on category. This was a bit tricky, so actually gave up on doing it after a while. However, some of the categories included type of meat (fish or chicken?) and style of dish (casserole or crock pot?).
I also included a few general magnets that said things like “new recipe on Pinterest” or “date night.” This added some fun and variety to our dinners. If we really liked a new recipe that we tried, it got added to its own magnet. Then put them on our monthly meal plan calendar.
Schedule Your Meals
Even though it has been about 7 years since we started doing this, we still use this monthly meal plan in the same way! At the beginning of each month (or rather, the end of the previous month), we arrange the magnets on the calendar make out a month’s worth of planning.
Having the magnets has been a tremendous help. One thing I struggled with before doing this was sitting down to make a meal plan and having absolutely no idea what types of dinners we liked to eat! It wasn’t that I didn’t know; it’s just that my mind went blank every time I sat down.
The magnets are also extremely useful if I need to change the plan for a certain day. Let’s say that a doctor’s appointment went long, and I didn’t get home until 5pm. If dinner that night was supposed to be lasagna, then I can just switch that magnet with spaghetti on another night – easy peasy!
You’ll also want to make sure you schedule meals from your pantry, especially if you’re trying to keep some short-term food storage items on hand.
Shop for Your Meals
Once we have our monthly meal plan calendar ready for that month, we make a giant grocery list of everything we would need to for that month to make the food (minus anything we already had in our small stockpile and any produce that would go bad).
Our next step is to keep an eye on prices. In the beginning, we found that since there were just two of us, buying in bulk at Sams or Costco wasn’t going to save us very much. It definitely wasn’t worth the cost of a membership and gas money to make a separate shopping trip! Now that our family has grown, however, sometimes purchasing in bulk is better.
We also found that the best deals on things that we used on a regular basis were at Smith’s (or Kroger’s or King Soopers, depending on where you live). Not only can you save money by getting one of their shopper’s cards, but you can download coupons onto their card from online. PLUS you can earn points to get money off of gas if you gas up at one of their gas stations (which were the cheapest ones around anyway).
We kept an eye on the ads each week, whether or not we’re making a shopping trip. That way if things we would usually eat (noodles, meat, etc.) go on sale, we can just pick them up that week and freeze/store them. We also have to buy groceries during the month, like produce, that won’t last long enough to buy at the beginning of the month. We try to freeze as much as we can, even the milk and bread if it is on sale.
We always check the day-old shelf and manager’s special sections. One time, we found Angus ground beef 80/20% for just $1.33 per pound, and there was about 60 lbs of it! Another time we found 93% ground beef for less than $1 per lb!
Using a monthly meal plan calendar has saved us a ton of money for a lot of reasons:
- We go to the grocery store a lot less, saving money in gas and splurge purchases
- We know what we’re going to cook each night, which means we am a lot less likely to run out and grab fast food instead.
- We can easily double a meal and Mr. Crazy has lots of leftovers to take for lunches to work
- If we’re am too tired to make what I had planned, we just switch nights with something else that’s easier.
It takes some work to set up, but monthly meal planning has cut down on our food expenses tremendously. We’re less likely to make splurge purchases (which is always worse when you’re hungry!), and we can stockpile on things we regularly use.
During this process, we also found the key to a $42 weekly grocery budget for a family of 4-5.
Now two kids and six years later, this is still our favorite way to plan meals and do our grocery shopping!
An earlier version of this post Tiffany wrote can be found on The Crazy Shopping Cart
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