*This post on creating a monthly meal plan is sponsored by my friends at MyGreatRecipes.com.
For the last couple of months, I’ve been working on a solution to the “what are we eating tonight?” problem. For a long time, I was putting together my family’s meal plans week-by-week. When we just had one fairly self-sufficient teenage kiddo, that worked well, but as soon as life would happen (and we all know life happens), I’d skip planning for that week. Sometimes, I’d skip planning for a couple weeks. Before we’d know it, we would be eating takeout too much, buying things we didn’t make at the grocery store, and turned out pantry into a hot mess. After our 2015 baby arrived on the scene, things were even more chaotic! Enter the idea for the monthly meal plan.
Every Problem Needs a Solution
I needed a solution, and for that solution, I decided that I would come up with a menu plan (and put together the shopping lists) a month in advance. I also streamlined the way I looked at the week, making it much easier to plan each day in the month:
- Mondays are Meatless
- Tuesdays are for Tacos (and other Southwestern/Mexican foods)
- Wednesdays are for Wraps, Burgers, and Sammies
- Thursdays are for Italian Food
- Fridays/Saturdays are “Fabulous” (Asian foods, Indian foods, African foods, Mediterranean foods)
- Sundays are traditional American fare
I look through the month ahead and note any holidays I’d like to cook for (i.e. Mardi Gras, Pi Day, St. Patrick’s Day, etc.) that require a special menu.
But Where Do You Find Meal Ideas?
Some of my meal plan items are family favorites, some come from my extensive cookbook collection, and some come from blogs I follow. This is all well and good, but it’s not easy to search all of those places for recipes when I’m trying to get the menu planning task done.
Recently, I became aware of the MyGreatRecipes app. This is a visual app that allows you to search for different types of foods, pull up recipes, and share your favorite recipes. For example, if I want to plan a special St. Patty’s Day meal, I can search for such dishes, and get a list:
I like how the format is like Pinterest, since I’m a visual person. When you select a recipe and click on it, you can view the person’s rating of the recipe as well as related recipes.
This makes it super-easy to find recipes for my meal plan.
Putting My Monthly Meal Plan Together
In addition to scheduling out meals, I also try to schedule out our month – that way, when it comes time to put recipes with days, I know whether there is a class for one of the small people, whether it’s a late-work day for my husband, or whether I’ll have a tight deadline for a client. I try to plan accordingly – simple or slow cooker meals when we’re going to need to eat later in the evening, meals with recipes my husband can follow easily, or planned take-out meals when things are going to be hectic for all of the cooking adults in the family.
I have a special tab in my Outlook calendar for the menu plans. Here’s an example of how a month’s spread looks. The week of takeout had to do with us going on a short trip to tour a college for the teenager.
I paste the link to the recipe in the comments section of the “event” on my Outlook calendar so the information is there and ready to go.
Creating a Grocery List in Advance
It’s going to sound crazy, but the next step I take after creating my month of meals is to break down the month into weeks and create a shopping list for each week. This way, all I have to do is double check my pantry and print the list when we are ready for our weekly big shop. MyGreatRecipes makes it really easy to compile a grocery list in the app.