Today’s post is a special treat, written by my dear friend Jordan! If you’ve been around the blog for a while, then you’ve seen other posts she has shared here at Just Bee. Jordan has also written about creating a baby registry, hope for midnight mamas, and fighting anxiety with God’s truth. Today she’s sharing about meal planning!
If I had to list my least-favorite household duties, meal planning would probably make it very near the top. So, it should come as no surprise that I’ve tried a million methods, hoping each would be “the one” that would transform the task from a pain to a dream: no plan at all, once a week planning, plan subscription services online… you name it, I’ve tried it. I like to think I’m a little like Thomas Edison. I haven’t failed, I’ve found 99 ways NOT to make a meal plan!
Out of the throes of my agony (okay, that’s a bit dramatic) came what I thought didn’t exist: a meal planning system I actually enjoyed! And stuck with! I discovered “once a month meal planning.”
THREE BIG PERKS
- LESS TIME PLANNING & SHOPPING
Rather than dragging out the cookbooks every week, I can get all the work done in one fell swoop. Most of the shopping is done once per month, with mini trips once per week for fresh ingredients. The actual planning part of my month only lasts around 30 minutes – even I can handle that.
- MAXIMIZE CLUB MEMBERSHIPS & SAVE MONEY
The Bible teaches that all we have is actually God’s (Psalm 24:1), so I want to maximize each dollar, freeing up funds to give. This meal plan allows me to hit Costco & Aldi once a month, both of which are a fair drive away from my house, both of which offer ingredients at a fraction of a price of my local grocery store. Additionally, I had never had a use for say, Costco’s 8-pack of chicken broth, until I used this method. Now, instead of purchasing one box every week at a higher price, I can take advantage of bulk prices by planning ahead. I’ve also found that we have significantly fewer “we-have-nothing-to-eat-let’s-get-take-out” nights. The savings really add up!
- LESS STRESS
The Bible also teaches us to do everything in order as keepers of the home (Titus 2:3-5). My stress level around meal planning has almost disappeared completely, and I never get stuck in the “Ah! What should we eat for dinner tonight!?” panic that I used to. An orderly home means less stress for everyone.
Have I convinced you yet? If so, here’s how to start.
Once A Month Meal Planning
- Count how many meals you’ll need, minus one or two, for an entire month. Look at your calendar and count how many meals you’ll need. Consider nights you know you’ll be away from home (date night, social gatherings, vacation). Create a list with the appropriate number of bullet points. Be sure to subtract one or two for unexpected outings or leftovers nights.
- Pick your recipes. Break out your computer, cookbooks, and list of family favorites, and start filling them in on the bullet points. Don’t be afraid to repeat a meal more than once (we eat pizza once every week, and spaghetti at least twice per month). In fact, it can be great to double a recipe early in the month, and serve it again at the end of the month (soups are your best friend). Remember to note which cookbook and page the recipes are found on for easy reference later. Intentionally choose recipes that will use up what you already have on hand (stretch those dollars, ladies!). Finally, be sure to remember holidays, parties, and fun desserts or snacks you’d like to make.
- Make your grocery list. You will shop for all ingredients that will stay good for the whole month on your first big grocery run, so get everything on the list. Don’t forget to write down spices! A month’s worth of chili powder might clean you out. Fresh produce or dairy that won’t keep should be purchased the week you will use them. Also, learn from my mistake: don’t buy so many frozen items that your freezer won’t close!
- Plan for breakfast & lunch. I buy a lot of oatmeal, orange juice, and English muffins at the beginning of each month, along with lunch and snack items. Again, remember you’ll need enough of the shelf/freezer stable items for the entire month! So, go ahead and buy that 60 pack of applesauce pouches! Don’t forget to add toilet paper, laundry detergent, and other household needs – these things are cheaper at club & discount grocery stores too!
- Revise and write a second draft. Sound like 8th grade English class? Go through your list now and cross off every shelf or freezer stable item you already have. At this point, your list will be super disorganized and messy. Re-writing makes shopping so much easier. I like to categorize the items on the list (Dairy, Frozen, Bakery, Meat, Grocery. etc.). At this point, you’ll also need to add the fresh items for just one week’s worth of meals: the gallon of milk, the apples, lettuce, taco fixings, or anything one of the recipes you’ll eat this week needs.
- Go for the big shop! Sometimes, I’ll leave little girl home with daddy on BIG SHOP DAY because I hit 2 or 3 stores (COSTCO, Aldi, and Cub). You can make a day of it – maybe even grab a Starbucks with all the money you’re saving!
- Go on “mini shops” throughout the month: Once per week, look at the meals you are planning on cooking, see if they call for any fresh ingredients, and do a quick run to your nearest grocery store. I often get out of the store for less than $30 on these trips.
- Repeat next month! One beautiful thing about this plan is that if you don’t use all of the meals you planned, you can just roll them over to the next month. The ingredients you already have for them are shelf or freezer stable, so there’s less waste. Love it.
So, there you have it: once a month meal planning. I hope it brings you the same relief it brought me!