Meal planning is one of the best ways to ensure you’re eating healthy foods while saving money, but there’s no denying it can be a bit of a pain. So why not get it all out of the way at once? Creating a month-long meal plan may sound daunting, but it will save you plenty of time and frustration in the long run. We’ve got the step-by-step instructions you need to make it happen.
Grab Your Calendars
Before you start writing a grocery list or thinking of what meals to cook, you’ll need your family’s calendar of events and a blank calendar.
On your family calendar, note any dates where you won’t need to prepare food for a certain meal. Consider days when your child will be getting lunch at school, you have a date night planned or you’ll be at a friend’s house for dinner. Transfer these details to your blank calendar so you’ll remember that there’s no need to cook on that day.
You’ll also want to note:
- Any special occasions that may require certain meals (such as birthdays or holidays)
- Any regular meals your family has, such as Taco Tuesday or Pizza Friday
Take Inventory of What You Have
Now that you’ve got an idea of your schedule, open your fridge, freezer and pantry and take inventory of things like produce, fish and dry goods. Jot these items down on a piece of paper or a note on your phone, so you can refer back to them when you’re looking for recipes that use what you already have.
Plan Your Dinners
Dinners are usually the most involved meal of the day, so plan those first. After you’ve accounted for any regular meals or special occasion meals, look back to your family calendar and note the days where there are meetings or activities in the evenings or afternoons, such as dance rehearsal or hockey practice. Since these nights are busy, you’ll want to make quick and easy meals on these nights, so write down a fast dish on each square.
If you need some speedy meal inspiration, check out these quick Mexican dishes, quick Thai dishes and these Tilapia recipes that take less than 30 minutes to prepare. Homemade freezer meals, crock pot dishes and frozen fish are also great options when you’re short on time.
As you’re choosing your meals for the week, write down the ingredients so you know what you’ll need to pick up at the grocery store. Once the nights with activities are filled in, finish your dinner planning by filling the blanks in with other easy dinner recipes; we’ve got plenty of ideas here. Don’t forget to use recipes that incorporate the ingredients you already have.
Plan Your Breakfasts, Lunches and Snacks
Now that you’ve planned your dinners, you can move on to the easier task of planning your breakfasts and lunches. If you’re like most people, you probably have some variation of the same meal every morning, whether it’s oatmeal, cereal or an omelette, so add your usuals to the plan.
As for lunch, why not cut back on the amount of effort it takes to cook by bringing leftovers to work during the week and saving the cooking for the weekend? You can supplement your leftovers with a healthy snack. Just be sure to add all the ingredients you’ll need to your list.
Schedule Your Grocery Store Trips
Now that you’ve planned your month of meals, all that’s left to do is shop! Take a look at your list of ingredients and cross out anything that you already have at home. Then head to your favorite grocery store.
You can buy all the non-perishables at the same time, but you’ll want to schedule in a few trips closer to your prep dates to buy produce, fresh fish and meat and any other ingredients that won’t last the whole month. To minimize trips to the store, schedule meals that need lots of perishable ingredients close to your shopping dates.
Planning a month’s worth of meals may seem like a challenge, but it’s a straightforward process that saves both money and time in the long run.
The Healthy Fish Meal Planning Calendar
Plan your dinners with our handy meal planning calendar—you can just print it out and put it on the fridge.
Not sure what meals to include in your plan? We’ve rounded up some ideas: