How to Meal Plan in an Hour a Month
Find 7 simple steps below to help you learn how to meal plan in an hour a month!
Groceries are one of the areas where most families spend the most money. And buying food is a really easy way to bust your budget. That is the bad news. But the good news is that if you have not been meal planning before, you can save a ton of money by starting to plan your meals!
Meal planning is a great way to save a bunch of money because you will be less tempted to go out to eat or to buy quick convenience foods from the deli on the way home from work. Meal planning all of your meals in an hour or less a month is a great way to save both time and money!
Tip: Save the image above to Pinterest so that you can easily refer to this article on how to meal plan in an hour a month later!
7 Simple Steps to Meal Plan in an Hour a Month
Follow these 7 simple steps to meal plan in an hour a month (or less!).
1. Use the super easy, free weekly meal planner printable.
To keep things easy (especially if you have never used a weekly meal planner before), sign up for the free weekly meal planner below!
2. Take advantage of the printable meal planner to create a list of your family’s favorite meals.
Included with the meal planner printable (if you didn’t sign up above to get it yet, do that now :)) is a place where you can (and should! :)) list your family’s favorite meals. This will be one of your most important tools to make meal planning for a month a snap. With the list of your family’s favorite meals right in front of you (and you can of course add to the list over time), all you have to do is fill in the slots on the weekly meal planner for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with ideas from the list. This way, you’re not wasting a lot of time every week coming up with new meal ideas.
Find a list of more than 100 meal ideas (and links to recipes!) that you can make in 30 minutes or less for $5 or less!
3. Consult the calendar as you do your meal plan in an hour a month.
As you create your meal plan for the month, have your calendar open beside you. This is especially helpful for planning dinner meals and weekend meals so that you can account for dinner invitations and other activities where you will not need to prepare a meal and to help you know if you need to prepare something especially quick some days because of after-school activities or the like.
Check out these related articles:
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4. Repeat your favorite meals every week or every couple of weeks.
Especially when you first start to meal plan, or if you are in a time of life that is just really busy, don’t be afraid to repeat meals. So when you plan your second week’s worth of meals, stick with a few (or several! or all!) of the same meals that are your family’s favorites that you included for the first week.
I have heard that most families have only about a dozen meals that they eat regularly, with the occasional new or different dish for variety. (That is true for our family, as well!)
And there is nothing wrong with that! If there are tasty, inexpensive meals that your family loves to eat, you don’t need to spend the time and money and mental energy to come up with new meals every week. You can save that for when the kids are older or you are retired or life otherwise slows down!
5. Consider having weekly dinner theme nights.
You can also simplify your meal plan considerably if you stick with a theme for each (or most) of the nights of the week. For example, when we were in college and working to get out of debt, Monday night was more better mac and cheese night (macaroni and cheese with vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, peppers, onions—we still eat this meal a couple of times a month!).
So you might plan a meatloaf Monday (or meatless Monday, or mac and cheese Monday), taco Tuesday, pizza Wednesday (another of our favorites—this is actually one we currently do), leftovers Thursday, casserole Friday, and so forth.
6. Be flexible (and create your meal plan using a pencil :)).
Because your plans will sometimes change as far as activities you have going on, invitations to dinner, and so forth, remember to be flexible with your meal plan, as well. Create your meal plan in pencil so that you can easily erase and move things around (or just use arrows, if the changes are pretty simple and it won’t make things too messy.
7. Consider what to adjust as you create your meal plan for next month.
As with most other things, your meal planning will become easier (and become pretty quick and routine!) once you have done it a few times. The more times you do it, the easier it will get!
After you create your first meal plan for the month, consider how you might want to adapt things for next month. For example, maybe you love the weekly theme nights, but you discover that Italian takes a little longer than the other nights, and so you switch that night to Thursday when you rarely have away-from-home activities.
Or maybe you planned a leftovers night, but then you realize (or remember) that you like to eat your leftovers for lunch the next day.
Pro tip: Consider intentionally making enough food for your dinners that you regularly have enough left over to take to work for lunch the next day. (If the extra food seems to tempt you to have seconds when you otherwise wouldn’t, set the extra food aside before you serve dinner so that it won’t get eaten and foil your leftover plans. :))
As you meal plan for the next month, simply adapt your meal plan and accompanying shopping lists to reflect the changes you realize you need to make. In three months or less, you really will get a handle on meal planning. And it will make this part of your life so simple (and less expensive)!
Meal Planning Made Even Easier: Consider Using an Inexpensive Meal Planning Service
If you feel overwhelmed at the thought of having to create a meal plan and add one more thing to your to-do list, then an inexpensive solution is a service like Emeals or $5 Meal Plans. Emeals costs as little as $5 per month and $5 Meal Plans costs just $5 per month. With these services, they do all of the planning for you.
They plan the meals you will eat and include the ingredients you will need to buy and the recipes you will need to follow to prepare them. Pretty cool! With $5 Meal Plans, the dinners themselves also cost less than $5 per meal to make! And both come with a 14-day free trial, so if this sounds like a good option for your family, you can check out emeals here and $5 Meal Plans here.
And with a plan like those from Freezeasy, you can save even more time by preparing 10 simple and nutritious meals in an hour that you can then freeze. When you’re ready to eat them, simply throw them in the slow cooker or the oven, and voila! With plans for as little as $8 per month (and no more than $10 per month), your money is well spent if it keeps you from going out to eat or buying expensive grocery store convenience foods. Learn more about Freezeasy here.
If you’re regularly spending several hundred dollars on groceries or hundreds of dollars eating out, one of these services could really help you get on the right track and save your food budget.
One of the biggest budget categories for most families is groceries, but the awesome thing is that it is also one of the areas where you can cut back the most! Using a simple weekly meal planner printable like the one available above (and sticking to it!) is one of the best ways to save money on groceries each month.
Learn 7 simple steps for how to create a meal plan to save time and money!
Read this article to find more than 50 ideas for how to save money on groceries!
What tips do you have for how to meal plan in an hour a month? What are your favorite go-to meals? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas! Leave a comment below to let me know!
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