Running off a MONTHLY meal plan might sound daunting. Yet, when I start mentioning less trips to the grocery store, eating healthier and less waste, you start thinking it’s not so bad of an idea.
Considering that Americans throw away approximately $165 billion worth of food each year, we need re-think the way we’re doing things. If you weren’t raised in a family that made an organized weekly trip to the grocery store, you might not know how to plan for a week, let alone a month. You may be like me when I was starting out and make sporadic trips to the store with no real plan. And that’s how we end up throwing out so much food.
Let’s take our meals (and planning!) back by thoughtfully putting together meal ideas and then buying the ingredients to make them. It might take a little more work on the front end, but your health will thank you. And so will your wallet when you see how little you are wasting by planning meals out.
I’ve put together my top 10 hacks to set you for success in planning your meals for the month.
- Pick a time once a month to plan out the meals for the month. Don’t overlook this crucial part of the process. By setting apart 30 minutes to an hour to fill in a monthly calendar with your meal ideas and a list of ingredients you’ll need to make them.
- Shop the warehouse stores. Places like Costco and Sam’s Club will be your best friend. Not only will you buy large quantities of meat, but you can also stock up on all the basics like big bags of rice, bread and cans of beans or vegetables. You might even want to take advantage of a service like Instacart to deliver your monthly trip to the warehouse.
- Plan your protein source (meat) to last at least 2 meals. If you’re going to do the work of cooking some chicken in the crockpot, make extra and use the same chicken to make two separate meals that week. For example, you might eat chicken tacos one night and chicken noodle soup the next.
- Create a well stocked pantry so you have some wiggle room with the meals. When you have a variety of spices as well as dry goods like rice, pasta and beans, you can change up the meal if you want to. You may have planned meatballs to go in a pasta, but you don’t feel like pasta that night. You could serve the meatballs over rice with a gravy instead with items from your pantry.
- Consider ordering a produce box. Using a company like Farm Fresh To You, will have the produce that won’t last a whole month delivered right to your door every week. You can specify how often the box is delivered as well as the types of fruits and vegetables you’ll receive. This kind of service really compliments a monthly meal plan.
- Freeze the items you can. You’d be surprised to know that you can freeze items like rice and milk. Do a little work to figure out the foods you can freeze and you’ll be saving all kinds of time. You could make big batches in your rice cooker and freeze them to be used throughout the month. Freezing would also allow you to buy the milk you’d need for the entire month.
- Repeat family favorite meals once a week. Don’t feel like you need to have a brand new meal every night of the week. If everyone loves pasta, create a weekly pasta night to keep things simple.
- Plan only one dinner per night. This means toddlers don’t have a short order cook. Parents decide what’s for dinner and you won’t be throwing things away or making a pan of chicken nuggets for those that don’t want to eat that particular meal.
- Make room for leftovers in the plan. Don’t feel like you need to make 30 unique meals every month. I like to have one night a week as a designated clean out the fridge night. Or you could make several big meals and do a cook one night, leftovers the next night schedule.
- Remember you’re not married to the plan. The monthly meal plans should be a help, not a burden. If you want to switch things up, head to your pantry. If you decide to eat out one night instead of making the meal you planned, maybe you can make the planned meal for lunch on the weekend instead.
More from MPMK
Need help feeding your toddler?
Sign up for our newsletter to get a handy stick-it-your-fridge list of our favorite meals for toddlers and a link to all of the recipes!