So how do you plan a month of meals? Start simple! What are your goals with this? Is it to eat healthier, spend less, decrease waste, or just save time? It could be just one of those reasons or all of them but you will start the same way. Make a list of meals your whole family likes. For some there is only a handful of those and for others its not an issue. For us, it's a big struggle. So I keep a binder of meals. The first page is a list of meals we all like, next is a list of ones that only 3 of us like, and last is ones that I will only make for Hubby and I.
Lets say you have four meals that everyone loves, put at least one of those meals in every week. If you have eight, put at least 2 of those meals in every week and so on. If your family is one of the blessed ones that everyone likes everything then feel free to skip this step. :) For the rest of us, do this step to help everyone see that while we do want to eat better and try new things there is nothing wrong with going back to what we like. Its like a guarantee "good meal".
Now what I like to do is to space out the type of meals evenly. So if we have a pasta two days in a row, we are not having it again for a few days!
I mentioned above that I make a list of meals that only hubby and I like. I put one of those meals in every week. On that night I make the kids something like Fish Sticks, Chicken Nuggets, Kraft Mac & Cheese... you get the point. They eat at the normal dinner time while getting to watch a movie. Then after they go to bed, hubby and I have an "Indoor Date Night" where we get to have the meal we like in peace while watching a new movie.
So lets see, we are up to hopefully 2-3 meals a week...
Now we are going to put in some meals that we make all the time. We all have them, they are our "fall back meals". My top two are the Homemade Mac & Cheese and Chicken & Rice Pilaf. I try to put these in when I see days that I have very little time to actually think about what I am making and even less time to actually cook and eat it before one or all of us needs to be out the door.
Next we are going to put in some "healthy" meals. As you can see we don't follow any diet and really have no rhyme or reason to what we are eating. We make food that we like, that is easy to cook, easy to clean up, and won't cost an arm and leg! With that being said, we have been working on eating more "Real Food" and more "Paleo". We tend to do a mix of those. I personally don't believe in cutting out a whole food group unless you have a medical condition that would benefit from it but I do believe that we should eat more Vegetables, Fruit, Meats, and that the food we put in our body should be as healthy as it can be(why we try to do "Real Food"). I do not have the money to do a 180 with the food we buy so we started off small and are working our way to a healthier lifestyle. So when I say "healthier meals" I am talking about meals that would be considered Paleo. They have a protein and veggies. Not much else. At this point we do one of these meals a week, and we will work our way up until we are doing this every other night.
Lets throw in some meals that we can easily make two batches of so we can freeze for later! My favorite ones to do this with are Meatloaf, Hashbrown Casserole, and Enchilada Casserole. Every time I make any of those I make at least one more meals worth so that I can bring them out on those days that you just.can't.cook.
Now lets throw in a soup here and there (depending on how much your family likes soup). And some pizza, an eating out night once in a while, a potato bar and salad bar night(where you make the main thing and everyone puts on any toppings they want that you have set out).
Now lets go look at that list of meals you made. Is there anything on there that you haven't added? If so add some of it!
And last, try something new! This year I want to try at least one new dinner recipe every month in hopes to add to the list of meals that my whole family likes.
By now you should have a full months of meals planned out.
How do I buy it all? I go to the store about 2-3 times a month. My first shopping of the month is the biggest because I get everything that I can freeze then on top of anything that will last the whole month. The other times I go are for things like Veggies, Fruit, and Milk(stuff that won't last all month). A lot of times I save money by getting all the frozen stuff at once because I can buy the bigger bags/containers of things that are a lot of times cheaper by ounce.
I hope this post has been helpful to you and that it will give you a starting point for your meal plans. If you have any questions about how I do my meal plans, I would love to hear from you and will do my best to help out.