I have a great system for planning meals. It's easy, it's quick, it works. The…
Monthly Meal Plan in 10 Minutes Using Your Family Favorites
Meal planning is the absolute worst, amirite? I mean, seriously. I have tried SOOOOO many different methods and plans, free and paid, and most of them have just not worked for my family. Well, I’m here to tell you I found a way to make the impossible possible!
There is a way that you can create a monthly meal plan in 10 minutes using your family favorites. Yes, it’s true! Ten minutes! Using the meals your family loves, craves, and requests regularly.
How I developed this method
I have spent years and years struggling to find a way to always have dinner planned and cooked for my family on a daily basis. It doesn’t sound like it should be that hard, but if you’re reading this, you know it can be absolute torture.
I would sit down to try to come up with dinners – for the week, for a pay period, for a month…. You name it, I’ve tried it. I would spend hours, literally, trying to come up with something. My husband and I tried to work together at different times to get it done. But it would often be hard trying to find a time when we were both free to get it done. When we were both available we would sit for hours and hours trying to work together.
Then we tried Emeals for a time. And it worked, for a little while. But then we found we just weren’t enjoying the meals, and we were missing some of our tried-and-true favorites.
I thought meal planning was an arduous process that I had to be able to devote several hours to. Time that I usually just never found. So we ended up in this rut of constantly eating out due to lack of planning and not having anything on hand to make something with. We were spending A LOT of money on eating out. And, needless to say, it was very unhealthy. I knew there had to be a way to plan a month’s worth of meals, in a short amount of time.
Over the years we have tried lots of recipes and found some that have become staples in our house. We also have some that we grew up eating and enjoy still. So I have this collection of recipes, in my head or in a binder, that I can always use.
One day, after both my husband and I became frustrated at yet one more night with no plan and resorting to fast food again, I got fed up. I sat down and scribbled out a month’s worth of meals and it took me about 10 minutes. I was so surprised that I could do it, and proud that I got it done. We were going to eat home-cooked meals that month! I stuck that calendar on the fridge and my family enjoyed seeing what was planned. And they got excited because it was all stuff that we loved! Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it, too? Or in this case, Pizza Pasta.
And you know what happened? The next month, I was able to do the same thing. We had enough recipes in our repertoire that I could fill up another calendar using different meals. Some were copied from the previous month for nights that we missed, or skipped. (Sometimes we had enough leftovers we could skip, or something came up and we went out.)
Now, it’s been several months and this plan has proven to work. It’s something that I can continue to do for the long haul, and I know that these meals are going to be enjoyed.
How the plan works
At the end of the month, I sit down with my recipe binder, the previous months’ meal plans, and my computer. I open the Word document calendar that I created for the previous month and save a copy for the new month. I change the dates and clear out anything we ate that month, and leave anything that we skipped.
Then I go through the family calendar and add in special events or days when I know we will be eating out or planning a special meal, like a birthday dinner. After I do that I ask for any special requests. If we are having friends or family over one night my husband likes to make something special, usually grilled or smoked. So I fill in those meals.
Next, I fill in meals that are Instant Pot meals or super quick on the days when I know I’m especially busy. On Sundays, I like to prepare big, hearty, what I like to consider fairly special dinners. These include Meat Loaf, Swedish Meatballs, Lasagna, etc. They are more time-consuming and labor-intensive, and I know we are usually all together at home on Sundays.
The days that are left I just fill in. There’s no special rhyme or reason to this part. It’s just looking at the menus from previous months and filling in the empty slots. I try to make sure I don’t repeat anything we had the previous month so that we don’t tire of any meals. I will also look through my Pinterest pins and find recipes I’ve saved and haven’t tried yet, and add in ones that I feel might work for that month. You never know when one of those recipes will become a new family favorite!
How to implement the plan in your home
To get started on this plan in your home the first step would be to make a list. Write out every meal you make that your family loves. Everybody has some meals that they grew up eating and learned to make from mom, or they invented and it turned out to be a hit, or just everyday simple meals, like spaghetti.
Once you have your list, add the side dishes to each one. Some of them you might already have. For example, we have Stroganoff almost always with green beans, cooked the way mom used to do. So that’s pretty much a given. Anything else, go through and add some side dishes. That way when you are adding the meals to the calendar you don’t have to try to guess what to have with them. They’re already there. Spaghetti with peas and carrots, and garlic bread. Meatloaf with mashed potatoes and carrots. Red beans & rice with cornbread. When you have the complete meals ready, all you have to do is put them in a calendar.
Hopefully, you can come up with at least 30 meals. If not, you will get there. Just work with what you have. The rest you will gather from Pinterest, or another site you like to get recipes from. Of course, you can try mine! I have some recipes saved that my family loves that are easy.
Grab your list, get on your computer, or just write out a calendar of meals. Fill in dates that are already planned, such as birthdays, date nights, holidays, etc. On days when you know you are particularly busy, enter meals that are crockpot or Instant Pot or super simple and easy to make.
On the rest of the days, fill in what you have left. If there’s not enough, repeat what you have already, or try new recipes! When you try new recipes and the family raves, save them so you can add them to your regular repertoire.
Print out your calendar and stick that thing on the fridge! Feel proud! Feel accomplished! You did it! It’s an amazing feeling knowing you have a plan that you can use to provide home-cooked meals to your family. And it will be easy to do again next month!
If you would like to use a blank calendar you can download mine. You can download the PDF version and just make some copies and handwrite all the meals in it, or use the Word version and keep it saved on your computer.
Meal Planning Form – PDF
Menu Plan – Blank – Word version