How to make a monthly meal plan with Meal Planner App
Published December 02, 2022
For those who like to plan ahead, Meal Planner App is here to help you make a monthly meal plan.
For many people, meal planning can be stressful and time-consuming. It's not lost on us that meal planning can encompass everything from budgeting to navigating health needs. Needless to say, people can dread the meal planning process, and we understand why.
That's also the precise reason we exist.
At Meal Planner App, our goal is to make meal planning less stressful and less time-consuming.
When it comes to meal planning, we find there are varying degrees of how prepared people want or need to be. For those who like to visit farmers markets weekly and choose what to cook based on what's fresh and available, a weekly meal plan works best. For those who like to budget their money monthly, it makes sense to also plan meals monthly since the two go hand-in-hand. Then there are those who like to live dangerously and figure out a meal plan each day!
While we try to make it simple and easy to meal plan for any style, we want to share some tips for making a monthly meal plan.
Start with the right tools
We all know that there are many benefits to having a meal plan, but building a meal plan for an entire month can be a daunting task. Like anything else that's worth doing, we believe the best way to succeed is getting the right tools in place to help you win. At Meal Planner App, we believe our online meal planner is the best tool to help you win.
Unlike other apps and meal planners, we go with you wherever you are since we're a web-first app. That's a topic for another time, but it essentially means we go with you on your smart phone, on your computer, and on your tablet, all without needing to install custom software or worrying about device compatibility. The benefits of this mean that you can plan your meals with all the screen space of your computer, use our grocery list on your smart phone while you're grocery shopping, and keep your tablet on the counter to view your recipes while you're cooking.
Now that we've got the right tools for the job, let's put a plan together...
Budget for the month
We don't claim to be budgeting experts, so we'll leave the budgeting tips to people like George Kamel and Rachel Cruze. However, what we do know about budgeting is that the food category is the easiest to overspend. That's why we recommend figuring out your food budget before your meal plan, and let your budget be the guardrails for how much you can spend on food.
Now that you've got resources for budgeting, it's time to make the most of your monthly meal plan.
Make use of your freezer
Having and using a freezer is essential for meal planning for the month, but don't be discouraged if you don't have a large freezer. You can still make great use of a freezer, no matter the size.
The two things you'll want to freeze are ingredients (such as veggies and meats), and prepared meals.
Freezing ingredients is a great way to save money and plan ahead. Buying frozen veggies and meats can sometimes be cheaper than buying fresh, and it's a great way to take advantage of buying ingredients while they're on sale. Does your local grocery store have a sale on chicken thighs? Buy more than you need now, and save money you would have spent later. Just don't forget to thaw them before you need to use them.
Yeah, we’ve tried cooking with frozen meat too. Not pretty.
Freezing prepared meals
A great way to plan for the month is to plan on eating the same meal more than once. Just cook a double portion, put the leftovers in the freezer, then reheat it when it's time to eat it again.
Soup makes a great candidate for a prepared meal to freeze because reheating simply means heating it on the stove or in a slow cooker— couldn't be easier. If you're looking for creative soup ideas, we recently published an article about soup recipes for fall and winter.
If you have cold feet about using your freezer, here's another strategy to help you make a monthly meal plan.
Utilize ingredients with a long shelf life
Dry goods and canned foods are able to last a long time in pantry, and planning meals that use them can help you fill out the month.
In addition to canned foods, a few items that last a long time in the pantry are flour, rice, and beans. In our home, we make use of these by baking often, and by cooking rice and beans for dinner almost every week.
Beans get bonus points since they can be easily reheated for leftovers, and they're usually very cheap.
Another strategy to make a monthly meal plan work is by creating and embracing routines. They can be as big or as small as you want, but having a routine can help add structure to your weeks and help you make it through the month with your meal plan intact.
In our home, we have three routines that we stick to almost religiously. The first, is we plan on making Tuscan Chicken Spaghetti every week. That's random right? Well, we found out early on that our kids love it, so we decided we'll make it every week. The second is we make pizza every Saturday. Yet another meal that the kids love, but the grownups get to have some variety by adding new topping combinations every week. The third routine is baking sourdough bread every week. This gives us fresh bread on a weekly basis to make sandwiches with for lunch, or avocado toast for breakfast.
Having these routines also takes some of the thought work out of planning meals for the month. Between the spaghetti and the pizza, we have nearly 8 dinners planned at the beginning of every month, and we don't need to waste energy trying to reinvent the wheel with our meal plan.
Another way to implement routine is to make a meal planning rubric. Simply put, a meal planning rubric is a way of assigning a theme to every night — Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Wing Wednesday, Burger and Friday, etc. While some of those themes may sound silly or out of reach for you, try to think of a way to remove even a fraction of the thought work from your meal planning. And if you want variety, consider this: Taco Tuesday doesn't have to mean a traditional taco every Tuesday. We've made Instant Pot Korean Beef Tacos to change up what we eat on Tuesdays, but we don't have unlimited possibilities of what to choose. We're having tacos.
Having these routines baked into our month helps us stick to our plan.
Stick to the plan
As we mentioned before, food is the budget category that's easiest to overspend. One of the biggest reasons this happens is that people don't stick to their meal plan. Sometimes we have a rough day and don't want to cook at home, so we dine out. Sometimes friends invite us out, and we don't want to decline, so we dine out. Sometimes the food we planned all the sudden loses its appeal, so we dine out. Sometimes because we dined out, the food we bought goes bad, so we dine out again!
You get the point.
If you don't believe us, try this trick. Every time you deviate from your plan, write down what you chose instead and how much it cost you (including groceries if you chose not to eat them). Add this up at the end of the month, and your jaw will drop.
When you trust the process and stick to your plan, you'll be saving an average of 325% on food. In today's economy, those are significant savings.
Sticking to the plan takes discipline, and discipline is never easy in the moment. It always helps to find some accountability when you're doing something difficult. That's the biggest reason we started our Inspiration page. We wanted a place for people to go where they can see other people winning with their meal plans and get ideas to try new things when they feel stuck in a rut.
At Meal Planner App, we really want you to win with your monthly meal plan. Our goal is to make meal planning less stressful and less time-consuming. We believe it's the best tool in your meal planning tool belt. Try it out free for 30 days and see for yourself!
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