Monthly Meal Planning

Today we’re going to talk about how I save hundreds of dollars a month on feeding my family! Without crazy couponing. Although we do some minor coupon shopping, which I’ll delve into in the future. Requiring minimal effort, only an hour or so a month. It may take a little longer your first time around, but it quickly becomes second nature.

Sound good? Let’s get into it!

Basically, I’ve come up with a system (if you want to call it that) where we save literally hundreds of dollars a month on groceries by meal planning. Monthly meal planning to be specific. This serves many purposes for us, in addition to saving us money.

  • Solves the daily “what’s for dinner?” question.
  • Saves boatloads of time not going to the grocery store every other day.
  • Saves even more time doing meal prep for several meals at once.
  • Stops you from hitting a drive thru on your way home, or signing into UberEats.
  • Encourages you to eat healthier.
  • Decreases food waste.

We could easily spend $30/night on takeout for dinner (and we have!), plus $100 a week running to the store for miscellaneous items that don’t even end up making more than one meal. You do that math, I’m way too embarrassed to admit how much we used to spend on food.

Now, how to start.
I’m going to share a few [free] downloadable, printable templates I made for you to use as a tool to get started. Although you can just do this on notebook paper, if something looks pretty I’m more inclined to use it.

Sign up to the email list to automatically receive your free copy of the meal planning kit!

Meal Planning Kit

Now that you’ve downloaded your blank templates,

Take inventory of what you already have in your fridge, freezer and pantry. Come up with meals using what you already have first! What looks like a random assortment of junk in your kitchen can easily become the basis of your meal plan for the month, if you just pick up the ingredients you need to complete meals.

Monthly meal planning would be intimidating without a list of your family’s favorite meals.  What do you like to eat? First, use the “Our Favorites” sheet to jot down all your tried & true recipes. Add meals using what you’ve already got first! Come up with enough meals to make dinner every night. The number you need depends on your family. Do you mind eating the same stuff week after week? You might only need 7-10 meals. Are you more like us where there’s a couple dishes you’ll eat twice a month, but you generally want something new every night? We come up with about 25 ideas.

We typically look at our grocery store’s sale ads, and plan meals around what’s on sale! If we can get ground beef for $1.99/lb, we’ll add more meals that use that. If we can get boneless, skinless chicken thighs cheap, we’ll plan more chicken dishes.

Breakfast for us is simple. I love eating oatmeal and/or fruit for breakfast. My husband goes through phases of not eating anything in the morning, or wanting homemade breakfast sandwiches. Lunches for us are either dinner leftovers, sandwiches, or wraps. Snacks are typically things like trail mix, granola bars, fresh fruit, veggies with my homemade vegan ranch dip, or occasionally half a package of Oreos. (Balance, I guess?)

Once you have a solid list of your favorite meals,

Grab the “Monthly Meal Plan” sheet. Then take a look at your schedule. Are there days you won’t be home, and therefore won’t need to cook? Mark off days like this so you aren’t wasting food!
Now just start filling the days in with meals. If two dishes use a lot of the same fresh produce items, we’ll plan them for the same week to avoid waste. Consider prep-time, and how busy you are each night of the week. If you need dinner in under 20 minutes on Tuesdays, then maybe homemade ravioli & fresh baked bread isn’t the best choice. We plan quick, easy to throw together options for week nights. Slow cooker recipes, things that can be prepped in advance. More complex dishes are saved for weekends when my husband can help me with the baby! But do what works for you! Some people do theme nights, like taco Tuesday, homemade pizza on Friday, etc. Whatever floats your boat!

Now to make your shopping list!

Your free printable kit came with a Monthly Shopping list. First, take a look around your pantry and freezer. Always use what you have first!
In your printable kit, you’ll see your monthly shop list and your weekly shop list. Start listing off all the non-perishable or freezeable items you’ll need for each meal in the monthly list, tallying duplicate items to make it easier. If your family uses about a pound of meat per dinner, tally up how many dishes you’re using each type of meat in, etc. List the fresh produce/perishable items on your corresponding “Weekly Shopping” list.

I write an estimate of how much I think each item will cost to be sure that I’m staying on budget. I’ll talk more about our budget in another post, and discuss how we came up with a number that works for us.

It’s as simple as that! Plan your favorite meals, schedule them throughout the month, and stick to your plan! You’ve already gone to the store and bought all the food you need for the month. You know well in advance what you’re cooking tomorrow night, so there’s no excuses!

If you have any questions, or would like to know more, leave a comment!

Share with a friend that needs to save money too!
& click the image below to save to Pinterest for later!How to save money and cut your grocery bill in half! How this frugal family saves hundreds every month on groceries, without coupons!

 

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45 Comments

  1. candy
    October 12, 2018 / 4:48 pm

    These are all great ideas and we have been meal planning for many, many years. You did a great job.

    • kaylahaas
      Author
      October 12, 2018 / 5:15 pm

      Thank you Candy! I’m happy to hear its worked for you for years! 😊

  2. October 12, 2018 / 5:01 pm

    Awesome tips! I try to meal plan for the week but I would love to get better at it. Totally need your meal planning kit 🙂

    • kaylahaas
      Author
      October 12, 2018 / 5:17 pm

      Thanks Jenna 😊
      Definitely grab the meal planning kit! Pretty stationary & coordinated worksheets are my favorite!

  3. October 12, 2018 / 6:16 pm

    Definitely snagging this kit! I can tell a big difference when I don’t meal plan so thanks for reminding me to get back on it!

    • kaylahaas
      Author
      October 12, 2018 / 11:10 pm

      I always regret it when we fall off! Thanks for reading 🙂

  4. October 13, 2018 / 8:10 pm

    Love this! Totally down for saving money on groceries. I am right there with you – whenever we don’t plan ahead we end up spending wayyyyy too much!

    • kaylahaas
      Author
      October 13, 2018 / 8:19 pm

      It’s too embarrassing to admit how much we used to spend when we didn’t plan 😳

  5. October 13, 2018 / 11:35 pm

    We have completely lost control when it comes to grocery shopping. I have wanted to do meal planning forever and just never know where to start. You have some really helpful tips here, thank you!

    • kaylahaas
      Author
      October 13, 2018 / 11:51 pm

      Once you start, you’ll be so thankful you did! Let me know if you want any ideas on meals to get you going, I’ll link you to my Pinterest board ♥

  6. October 15, 2018 / 12:59 am

    I think I might need to start meal planning because I am trying to lose weight. I will probably visit your blog again for your helpful tips.

    • kaylahaas
      Author
      October 15, 2018 / 11:55 am

      That inspires me to share about how I lost 40 pounds! Thanks for reading Zena ❤

  7. October 17, 2018 / 11:25 am

    I love meal planning but where we are living now our freezer is SO small so we haven’t been doing it as much. We are buying a house now so once we close not only will I have a larger freezer but I can add a chest freezer in the basement so I will be hitting up your blog big time then!! LOL

    • kaylahaas
      Author
      October 17, 2018 / 11:30 am

      I’ve asked my husband for a huge chest freezer for Christmas about 100 times! If he gets us one, I’ll be posting tons of meal prep stuff. Congratulations on buying your house! I hope closing goes as smooth for you as it was for us!

  8. October 17, 2018 / 10:08 pm

    I love your system! It’s the pits when I haven’t planned ahead and dinner time rolls around! We resort to cold cereal at that point, ha, ha! Your system looks great for ALL of the reasons listed!

    • kaylahaas
      Author
      October 18, 2018 / 7:21 am

      Thank you so much Amy! Cereal for dinner is so fun!

  9. October 17, 2018 / 11:08 pm

    When we go over budget on groceries it is because I did not meal plan the way I should. These tips and templates are super helpful when trying to stay organized and run an efficient household. Thank you!!!

    • kaylahaas
      Author
      October 18, 2018 / 7:20 am

      Thank you so much!!

  10. October 18, 2018 / 12:24 am

    Great post! I am in the process of regrouping after some complicated months. I was just starting the process of menu planning again. I too agree it saves so much time and money. The 1-hour investment in planning for me saves hours the rest of the week. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • kaylahaas
      Author
      October 18, 2018 / 7:20 am

      I’m glad I was able to inspire you!

  11. October 18, 2018 / 7:35 am

    Oh I love this, subscribing. I meal plan but just in a regular notebook.

    • kaylahaas
      Author
      October 18, 2018 / 8:04 am

      I used to, too! But if something can be in a cute binder or on matching worksheets, I get so much more excited about it!

  12. Brittany
    October 18, 2018 / 7:34 pm

    I keep saying I need to get into meal planning but I just haven’t yet!

    • kaylahaas
      Author
      October 18, 2018 / 8:08 pm

      The hardest part is writing out your list of all your favorite meals! Once you get that out of the way, you’re good to go! And you can re-use the same list every month. 🙂 So worth the effort!

  13. October 24, 2018 / 10:12 am

    I love these suggestions! I’m not big on planning ahead, but this makes so much sense.

    • kaylahaas
      Author
      October 24, 2018 / 10:44 am

      Thank you for reading, Beth!

  14. October 24, 2018 / 10:44 am

    This is such a great strategy! It helps so much! I like how you listed all of the benefits of having a meal plan. Gonna go meal plan for the week!

  15. Alexandra
    November 9, 2018 / 7:36 am

    This is such a brilliant idea! Too often am I left last minute wondering what to cook – like tonight, for example. And I ended up with second rate take away that costs the earth! I am definitely going to use your tips and be more organised in the future 🙂

    • kaylahaas
      Author
      November 9, 2018 / 10:46 am

      That’s the worst part, when you don’t plan and have to spend a ton of money on take away, and its not even that good!!

  16. November 9, 2018 / 3:01 pm

    Fantastic post.
    I have wanted to meal plan for so long but never knew where to start. Your blog post is so informative and I couldn’t love the downloadable more!

    • kaylahaas
      Author
      November 9, 2018 / 9:15 pm

      Thank you so much Lauren! It really is so much easier than it seems!

  17. November 9, 2018 / 4:57 pm

    This is the cutest printable! Thanks for sharing!

    • kaylahaas
      Author
      November 9, 2018 / 9:14 pm

      Thanks Lara! I’m glad you liked it! 🙂

  18. November 9, 2018 / 5:30 pm

    I usually meal plan by the week. But I think your method makes a lot of sense. If I can buy something in bulk, then I could use it multiple times per month. More than once a week and my family complains.

    • kaylahaas
      Author
      November 9, 2018 / 9:14 pm

      We used to do just a week at a time too, but I felt like I was constantly planning lol! I feel like it barely takes me longer to do a whole month instead of a week.

  19. November 10, 2018 / 8:48 am

    These are great tips! I have been planning to do a much better job at this. With your printables, now i have some more motivation!

    • kaylahaas
      Author
      November 10, 2018 / 12:07 pm

      Thats exactly what I hoped they’d do for people, yay!! So thankful you enjoyed it 🙂

  20. November 10, 2018 / 10:36 am

    We were just talking about how much we spend on groceries! Can’t wait to use these printables!

    • kaylahaas
      Author
      November 10, 2018 / 12:06 pm

      Thank you Kelly!!

  21. November 10, 2018 / 10:41 am

    Hey Kayla,
    Great tips! I tell people this all the time that cooking at home obviously saves you money, and is also way healthier! Agreed, it’s so easy to just buy takeout, but better plan ahead. Love your content! Keep it up!

    • kaylahaas
      Author
      November 10, 2018 / 12:06 pm

      Thank you so much Maria!!
      Takeout is never even good enough to justify the price!

  22. November 10, 2018 / 5:23 pm

    I really needed this post! Always struggling with what to make!
    Many thanks for sharing your ideas & tips, Kayla.
    I have to admit, we had takeaway tonight (but as a treat after a long week) but otherwise, I love making food at home.
    xox Nadia
    (Miel and Mint blog)

    • kaylahaas
      Author
      November 11, 2018 / 3:39 pm

      Thank you for reading Nadia! Sometimes I’m so sick of cooking but I’m always happy to save money lol!!

  23. Heather
    November 11, 2018 / 9:11 am

    I used to be really good about Neal planning, but I let life get in the way. Thanks for the reminder to get my rear in gear and get back to planning ahead!

    • kaylahaas
      Author
      November 11, 2018 / 3:39 pm

      It’s so nice to have a plan & not have to decide what to cook last minute!!

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