For as long as I can remember, I have always tried to meal plan on a weekly basis. I hate the feeling of realizing my plan for dinner is ruined by missing one crucial ingredient. And going to the grocery store multiple times a week is not a fun way to spend your time, even if it is a quick trip! I’ve attempted to meal plan a month at a time before and failed. But this time I got it right. So far, I’m nearly done with my second month and I will not go back! Here I’ll share how I did it.
It all started sometime around the middle of April when I was finally off crutches and Landon resumed our normal household duties. Mine being meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking. It didn’t take long after that to start realizing how much I hate spending the end of my week trying to figure out what to eat the next week. Who knew the 5 week break from surgery was so nice just from a meal planning perspective?!
Make a List
Anyway, I then remembered I had a list! Before surgery, I had made a list of some of our go-to meals that I felt I could instruct Landon to make from the couch if I felt really awful. Luckily, I was able to help him a little in the kitchen but the list was the perfect foundation for making a month long meal plan.
I am not a “foodie.” Which means I do not see spending every night in the kitchen as a fun time. For pretty much our whole marriage, we have relied on leftovers as breaks between cooking. Plus with the two of us, a pound of meat easily gives us 4-6 servings so we definitely have leftovers.
Consider Your Schedule
I’ve always meal planned Sunday through Saturday so that is the pattern I kept with. Landon golfs on Tuesday nights and eats way later so I tried to make sure Tuesdays were always leftover days. We also have been trying to go on more actual dates so I also put that in for one night a week. Lastly, if we knew we were gone for the weekend, I made sure not to leave any leftovers behind.
There are weeks where we don’t eat exactly what is planned. But I planned for that! I wanted things to be interchangeable. So if I had date night scheduled for a Thursday but we ended up planning to go to town for errands on Friday night, I made Friday’s meal on Thursday instead. Or there were some weeks we never went out to eat so I made two nights worth of fish instead of one. Fish, breakfast for dinner, and homemade pizza are the meals I consider “flexible” since I can easily double them, make them a second time, or add one in if we end up not going out to eat. (I promise to share my easy fish meal soon!)
Create A Month Long Meal Plan
After considering all the things I mention above, I opened up Xcel (my favorite but you could totally use paper!) and started plotting meals in. Since grilling season had finally arrived, I had more options than just my original list which helped. I honestly don’t know how long it took me to plan May. It felt like 5 minutes but it could have easily been a half hour. Probably not more than that.
I then created a grocery list of all the ingredients I would need for all the recipes and categorized the items. This list has been great to check my fridge or pantry for something before making my grocery list for the week. Yes – I meal planned for the month but I like fresh produce so I still shop weekly. I am able to stock up on non-perishable ingredients in the beginning of the month to use at the end of the month though.
After I had May done, I felt so accomplished! And I realized I had left some meals out so I just dove right in to planning those for June! I plan to adjust May’s a bit and use that for July so I won’t even be starting from scratch.
Feel the relief of having a month planned
I cannot stress enough how amazing it is to just check the meal plan for the week and make a grocery list from that rather than have to think of things myself. It’s like how Steve Jobs always wore a black turtleneck to ward off decision fatigue, but for your food.
I will note that I did not include lunch in this plan. Landon and I both made the decision a couple years ago to purchase lunch at work instead of brown bagging it so we don’t need leftovers for that. I also did not include lunch on the weekends. Some meals give us more like 5 servings so we each just have something different for lunch. Otherwise, we often make a late big breakfast on Saturdays and then just have dinner earlier if we are home.
I highly recommend trying this out for yourself! The pain point of meal planning is gone. I actually find it a fun puzzle to make a month at a time which is an amazing feeling! Are there other areas you could rethink to reduce pain points in your life as well? I plan to find more solutions for mine!