Monthly Meal Planning [with FREE PDF Templates!]

Let’s just get right into it with this, I don’t want to waste your time babbling in an intro today. We’re talking about how I meal plan for a whole month. By planning an entire month of meals at a time, I save literally more than 50% on feeding my family. I’m not even exaggerating.

Monthly meal planning has cut our food budget in HALF. Plus we eat better now! (not clickbait) We spend less on groceries and eat higher quality, healthier meals.

Beyond saving money on groceries, monthly meal planning also:

  • Solves the daily “what’s for dinner?” question.
  • Saves tons of time not going to the grocery store every other day.
  • Saves even more time by prepping ingredients in bulk.
  • Stops you from hitting a drive thru on your way home, or signing into UberEats.
  • Encourages you to eat healthier.
  • Decreases food waste.

Because let’s be honest.

On a busy night, when you’re getting home late, one of the kids is sick, somebody has a school project they “just remembered,” & you just don’t have time to figure out what the hell to cook, spending $30 on pizza delivery keeps your sanity.

Which is totally cool. You can totally include a buffer in your budget for those days.

I always remember to budget for pizza. It’s included in my actual budget. Click here to read more about that. 

If we didn’t monthly meal plan, we’d still be spending $800/mo on food (for T W O people 🙄 wtf right?)

We do one huge grocery shop & get everything we need for the month that is shelf stable or can be frozen. Then we go to the store once a week for produce & fresh foods.  That’s it. No running to the store every day nonsense.

monthly meal planning template grocery lists pdf

 

Free Monthly Meal Planner and Grocery List Template PDF

Click the image to sign up!

You’ll automatically receive an email with the link to download the Monthly Meal Planning Bundle ♥

The bundle includes:

The Monthly Meal Plan Calendar, a Weekly Meal Plan Sheet, a Grocery List by Category, and a Grocery List with blank headers to label your own categories.

 

 

 

 

How to Monthly Meal Plan on a budget, quickly:

Here’s the order of operations:

  1. Jot down your go-to meals. Your fall back, no brainers, quick and easy recipes. Especially the ones you don’t need a recipe for.
  2. Check out your grocery store’s sale ads.
    • for inspiration of things you can make using what’s on sale [If you can grab ribs super cheap, add that to your list. Looks like you’re having ribs this month]
    • to determine what proteins to plan your meals around. If you like both chicken & beef tacos, but only chicken is on sale – pick chicken tacos. No brainer!]
  3. With your list of go-to’s, do you have enough ideas to last a month? Your personal desired frequency of repeating meals will determine this. If you do, skip step 4.
  4. Check your Pinterest board (or one of mine) for some dinner ideas. I notoriously Pin recipes to try, but rarely actually try them. Write down some of the things you actually want to try, and add them to your list.
  5. Arrange your chosen meals into the calendar. Pro tip: if you plan ahead, it doesn’t matter exactly what day of the week you write each meal in. You can be flexible!!

 If you want to weekly meal plan, I have a template for you to get super detailed.

If you want to plan your breakfast, lunch, dinner & snacks by day every single week, I’ve got you covered.

We rotate through the same breakfast & snacks, and usually eat leftovers or quick-fix lunches. Everyone is different, so my meal planning kit can suit different needs! If you love planning nice lunches to take to work 1: I admire you, and 2: You can do that easily within this kit!

 

My grocery list (by category) template with checkboxes is essential.Grocery List Template with Checkboxes PDF free download

 

 

[The checkboxes are hearts. That detail took me significantly longer to include when I designed it. It mattered that much to me. I’m ridiculous. 😂]

Having checkboxes on my grocery list is the only way I’m getting out of the store without forgetting anything. I hate going back to the grocery store. Going to the store less = less impulse purchases = saving more money.

 

 

 

 

Fill out your grocery list by category to save time in the store.

I don’t have a ton of tips here, but I do have a few I should mention.

  • Be sure to use what you have first.

If you have 2 giant packages of ground beef frozen, by all means you should plan to use what you already have before you buy more. No food waste!

  • Under the Meat Category of my shopping list, I’ll write down each type of protein I know is needed for all the meals.
    • Then I go through the calendar full of meals and place one tally mark to represent each pound of meat needed.
    • Example – Chicken tacos: I’ll use one pound of chicken breast. One tally next to chicken breast. Beef & Broccoli – 2lb of steak. Two tallies next to steak. Continue until all protein amounts are listed, then total.
  • If you can afford to, plan to buy bigger quantities of shelf stable items that you need. Always check unit prices!
      • For example, a 1lb package of white rice is about $2 around here. We love rice & eat it often! So I recently bought a giant 25lb bag of rice for less than $15. That will save me $35 in the long run.
      • 4-packs of canned items are often cheaper than buying 4 individual cans.
      • The big cans of things like tomato sauce are often much cheaper than the 15oz ones. Even if they’re a little less convenient.
      • Bigger spices, condiments, oils, jars of peanut butter. All that!
  • I have a pretty good memory of the layout of my grocery store, so I like to organize my list (within the categories) by the way I’ll walk through the store. The ethnic foods aisle is before the canned goods, so I write down those things first & so on!
  • If something can be bought now, prepped, then frozen until I need it later in the month.. I’d rather get it during my monthly shop and have it prepped in advance, rather than having to pick it up during one of my quick trips. Plus, you can take advantage of more sales that way.
    • If bell peppers are on sale but I’m not planning to use them in a stir fry until next week, you bet I’m buying them now, washing/chopping and freezing them for easy use later.

How much do I spend on groceries?

We’re a family of three, two adults (that eat a lot lol) and one almost 18mo old girl that still mostly prefers eating just little snacks and nursing – not whole meals. We budget $300 a month for groceries, including baby food/snacks.

That may be super high (or super low) compared to your food budget, and that’s fine! I could cut back a little on our budget & still be fine, but I do have a lot of dietary restrictions. Considering that, I don’t mind spending a little extra money on specialty foods & allergy friendly products. They’re always super expensive compared to the traditional alternatives. I could go into a whole rant about that, but I’ll spare you.

I mentioned earlier that I have a separate budget for pizza. I wrote a post about that here, talking about our *actual* budget – the numbers we actually spend every month. It’s not just for pizza. We call it our takeout budget. Without that, I’d go crazy. Yes we could save a lot of money by never getting takeout. But GIRL. I am tired. Getting takeout sometimes keeps me sane, and prevents me from feeling burnt out. I’m by no means saying everyone should have a takeout budget. Do what works for you.

There is another post on the blog outlining the basic structure of our budget.

We use a zero based budget, and you can learn more about that by clicking here.

I plan to do a follow up post outlining an entire monthly meal plan

Mostly to show you the things we really eat & how much they cost! Keep an eye out for that post soon. I always think it’s interesting to see what other people are eating.

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